Tag Archives: virgin

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


 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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 Today in Catholic History:    

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

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

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

 

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

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, after his announcement he declares:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

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

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

 

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

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Joseph, Let’s See What We Can ‘Dream Up’ For You!” – Matthew 1:18-24†


 

Six (6) Days till CHRISTmas.  Are You Ready?!

  

   

Make plans to come home to your family, even if it involves some forgiveness.  Come home to the Catholic Church, even if it involves some forgiveness – perhaps in BOTH directions!  No home, NO Church is perfect.  It’s simply a place where imperfect people treat each other with a kindness no one has earned.

  

 

  

    

Yesterday was my youngest Son’s anniversary.  Sadly, an anniversary we do not necessarily celebrate.  My 11-year-old was diagnosed with type I diabetes 6 years ago. 

He is a typical, and sometimes VERY TYPICAL pre-teen.  The difference between him and his three brothers is that he wears a device on his belt with a catheter going under his skin, providing him with the required amount of insulin he has to have to metabolise the “sugars” in his food.

The flip side of this “coin of fate” is that he has become a very sensitive, intelligent, conceptual, and caring person, whom I often say is the most mature person in the family – – and that includes my wife and myself at times.

Thank you God for the grace of his diabetes.  (Now, please give a cure!)

  

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   401 – St Anastasius I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1370 – Death of Urban V, [Guillaume de Grimoard], the first Avignon Pope (1362-70)
†   1744 – Birth of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/West-Friesland
†  1749 – Death of Francesco Antonio Bonporti, Italian priest and composer (b. 1672)
†   1891 – Charles Uncles becomes the first Black Catholic priest ordained in US, in Baltimore
†   1914 – Death of Johann F Ritter von Schulte, German catholic lawyer, at age 87

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision stresses the right relationship of justice.

  

“From the very beginning, Franciscans were seen as ‘fraters’ (and ‘sorores’) ‘minors’, lesser brothers (and sisters).  The Franciscan tradition emphasizes a genuine meeting of justice and charity.  Franciscans do not try to domesticate the prophetic words of the Gospel but rather are called to live out a renewed vision of life and relationships based on justice. Like all Christians, Franciscans are called to read the Signs of the Times, critique abuses of power, and follow an ethic based on the inviolable dignity of all people.” 

The following is from St. Bonaventure’s reflection on St. Francis’ image of himself.  St. Bonaventure writes:

In his own opinion he was nothing but a sinner, though in truth he was a mirror and the splendor of holiness.  As he had learned from Christ, he strove to build himself upon this like a wise architect laying a foundation.”  – St. Bonaventure, Major Life, Chapter VI

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Two Jesuit novices both wanted a cigarette while they prayed.  They decided to ask their superior for permission.  The first asked but was told no.  A little while later he spotted his friend smoking and praying.  “Why did the superior allow you to smoke and not me?” he asked.  His friend replied, “Because you asked if you could smoke while you prayed, and I asked if I could pray while I smoked!”

 

 

(from http://www.thebricktestament.com Website)

Today’s reflection is about Gabriel appearing to Joseph and directing him to take Mary as his wife and telling him that the child she will bear will be called Emmanuel.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”  24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.   (NAB Matthew 1:18-24)

 

We are at the fourth (and last) Sunday of Advent.  Our Gospel reading at Sunday Mass finally permits us to begin contemplating the mysteries of the Incarnation Catholics love to celebrate at Christmas:

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Matthew 1:18).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective, and not Mary’s.  In the preceding verses, Matthew had listed the genealogy (family tree) of Jesus, following His family tree (or lineage) to King David; and then even further back to Abraham (Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam).  In the chapter immediately following this one, Matthew recounts the visit and adoration from the Magi visitors from the “east”, the Holy Family’s rapid flight into Egypt after Jesus’ birth, and King Herod’s massacre of the “Holy Innocents” – the infants (two years of age and younger) of Bethlehem who were found and executed mercilessly in order to satisfy King Herod’s greed and selfishness and to relieve him of fear of another king replacing him.  The other stories we often associate with Christmas, – – the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the choir of angels appearing to the shepherds and sending them to the infant Jesus, – – are found only in the Gospel of Luke.

The virginal conception of Jesus is at work in the Holy Spirit: the third “person” of Godhead.  Matthew sees the virginal conception as the transcendent fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

We should not skim too quickly over the difficult circumstances described in today’s Gospel.  Peel away the top layers of the “onion” of theology and bible study; look under these top layers to find a hidden message meant only for you to discover (a revelation)!  The way Joseph and Mary faced these circumstances tells us a humungous amount about the Holy Parents – and their faith, love, and trust in God.  I have high suspicions that Jesus’ earthly ministry was infinitely and definitely shaped by Mary and Joseph’s parenting and nurturing skills.  

Joseph and Mary are “betrothed.”  This is often described incorrectly as an engagement period; it is much more than an engagement.  In first century Jewish history, Mosaic Law, and cultural tradition, a “betrothal” was the first part of a marriage contract – – a covenant.  It established a couple (the man and woman) as husband and wife in a legal, but not in a physical way.  (Hmm; Sometimes I think my marriage is like that now! – only joking Honey Pie, Sweety, Snookums!)  A betrothal was followed at a later time, usually some months later, by the husband finally and physically receiving his wife into his home.  At this time a normal married life began (per our modern traditions) for the Jewish couple.  Any breach with infidelity or unfaithfulness to this covenant was considered “adultery”.  

A “righteous man” was the term for a devout observer and follower of the Mosaic Law and Jewish religion – – such was Joseph.  Joseph wanted to sever his marriage bond with Mary whom he initially suspected of a morally gross violation of sacred law and tradition.  In reality, the “law” required him to sever his relationship, however, the Mosaic Law used for this requirement or interpretation (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) did not clearly pertain to Joseph’s situation: The Deuteronomical reference flowing states:

“But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Mary was never “unchaste!”  She was a virgin, (and remained a virgin for her entire earthly life)!  The Law therefore did not truly apply to her, (and Joseph realized such after his dream revelation), even though Mary is truly found to be with child while still betrothed.  

Mary had to face an enormous challenge to her faith and trust in God.  She was asked to assume a burden of tremendous and unending responsibility.  Pregnancy outside of wedlock was not tolerated well, if at all, in those days.  She easily could have been rejected by Joseph, by her family, and by all her own people.  Mary probably knew that Joseph and her family would not understand without a revelation from God.  She nonetheless believed and trusted in God’s promises.  (Remember, she said to Gabriel, “May it be unto me according to your word!” – Luke 1:38)

   

  

Joseph had to be troubled with the situation, and most likely took this upsetting matter to God in his prayers.  He was not hasty to pronounce judgment or to respond with hurt and anger.  For this, God rewarded Joseph with direction and comfort, AND with a divine assurance that He Himself had “called” Joseph to be Mary’s husband.  God Himself had “called” Joseph to take on a duty that would require the utmost of faith, confidence, and loving trust in God. 

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary was overcome by a heavenly command delivered by the Archangel Gabriel.  God intervened through this “messenger” in a way that Joseph could understand, believe, and act on.  After this divinely motivating dream, Joseph immediately not only took Mary into his home, but also accepted the child (Jesus) as his own legally, emotionally, fatherly, and spiritually.  

The “natural” genealogical line (on Joseph’s side) may have been broken in physical terms; however, the promises to King David are fulfilled primarily, naturally through Mary, and supported legally through Joseph’s “adoption” of his son Jesus.  Jesus belongs to, and is part of Joseph’s family.  Jesus is now rooted (Hmm, from the root of Jesse; see Isaiah 11:1), received, and welcomed into the line of David, and through the eyes of Mosaic Law.   Jesus is forever rooted in continuity, association, and relationship with all the notable figures of Israel.

In listing Jesus’ genealogy (in Matthew 1:-1-17), Matthew broke with the Jewish tradition of listing ONLY the male descendants.   He breaks tradition by mentioning four (4) women (and mothers): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bethsheba.  Another split from Jewish tradition and heritage were these women’s behaviors and histories, which definitely did not reflecting the ideal models for womanhood (but neither do some of the men in this genealogical list).  Consider the following:

T   One woman was alleged to be a prostitute (Rahab),

T   Another became pregnant by a scam she played on her father-in-law (Tamar),

T   Three of these women were “foreigners” (Rahab, Ruth, & Bethsheba), and

T   One was a victim of lust, or a consenting collaborator to adultery and conspiracy (Bethsheba).

    

Joseph was unwilling to expose Mary to shame, for he knew she was still a virgin.  Joseph and Mary are both cooperating with God’s plan.  For this trust they both had in God, they are both recognized as the perfect models for Catholic and all Christian followers of Christ.  They both knew what it truly meant to be faithful servants of God.

Four (4) of the five (5) dreams in the birth story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture were Joseph’s.  It seems this man lived through his dreams!  The only other dream in the story of Jesus’ birth was directed to the “Magi” in Mathew 2:12. 

Gabriel, an “angel of the Lord” was the usual “messenger” in the Old Testament and now again in the New Testament.  He is the designated messenger by God for communication with human beings.  The message given to Joseph in his dream tells us much about the child that Mary bears and Jesus’ role in God’s plan.  

Joseph truly dreamed about his future.  As mentioned above, Gabriel came to Joseph four (4) times (see Matthew 2:13, 19, & 22).  Could these dreams be meant to recall the dreams of another Joseph (with the multi-colored dream coat), son of Jacob the patriarch from Genesis 37:5 and 48:19?  Could a closer parallel be found in the dream of Amram, who was the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in “Antiquities 2, 9, 3”
(http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM):

“A man whose name was Amram, one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews, was afraid … was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do.  … Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication.  He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favors.  He said further, that he did not forget their piety towards him, and would always reward them for it, as he had formerly granted his favor to their forefathers, and made them increase from a few to so great a multitude.  … She was afterwards by him enabled to conceive seed, and bare him sons.  … He became well known to strangers also, by the greatness … make thee famous; for that child, out of dread of whose nativity … shall be this child of thine, and shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians.  His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also: – all which shall be the effect of my favor to thee, and to thy posterity.”

The name “Jesus” (a Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua”) is interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”  Jesus IS the fulfillment of the prophecy heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah (7:14):

“. . . The virgin shall be with child . . . and shall name him Immanuel.”

Emmanuel” translates to “God is with us.”  Emmanuel was the “how” of God’s promise of deliverance to Judah to come, as prophesied by Isaiah seven (7) or so centuries before Jesus’.  In knowing prophesies of old, Matthew saw this biblical “Emmanuel” as being fulfilled in the personhood of Jesus.  To strengthen this position, the name Emmanuel is also alluded to at the end of Matthew’s Gospel wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence:

I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(Emmanuel versus Immanuel: WHAT GIVES?!  “I”mmanuel is a transliteration of the Hebrew (OT) and “E”mmanuel is the Greek spelling for the Hebrew (NT).  A simple way to remember the difference is “’I’ before ‘E’, except after the years B.C.!”

Whenever you’re sad, lonely, or afraid, how inspiring and mood elevating it is to have said to you, “I am with you!”  Out of an unlimited, endless, and vast love, God sent His only Son to share our destiny and to live, teach, die, and rise again, solely to save us from the causes of sin (which is spiritual death).  Jesus is “God – With – Us”!

Even when Joseph and Mary’s circumstances seemed unclear for them; when they felt inadequate for their roles, – – they trusted God.  They trusted God individually and together as a couple and family.  Healthy relationships and families are built on a solid foundation of mutual trust in, respect for, and love – – for God – – and for one another.

How important is trust in your personal and family life?  Do your children and spouse trust you?  Do you trust your children and spouse?  Do you trust God in everything?!  Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when confronted with circumstances that seem insurmountable?

Pray that your life is built on a SOLID foundation of trust, respect, and love – as was so perfectly modeled by Joseph and Mary.  Let us celebrate Christmas, – – the Feast of the Incarnation, – – with most joyful hearts.  Let us renew our faith, hope, and love in God, and how He works “in” and “through” us.

God thoroughly departed from human expectations of the time and brought about something new and different – – Jesus Christ!  During this Advent and CHRISTmas (or CHRIST@MASS) season, take some time to contemplate on how God is trying to accompany and guide you beyond your believed potential.  God wants to help you see all people and creation in a new, kinder, and loving way.  He wants you to see His face in all people, and especially in the poor, marginalized, and outcast of society.

It is never too late to get ready for God.  It is never too late to see God in others around you.  Just ask Him to give you a new perspective on the ordinary and unexpected (but always amazing) situations in your life.  When you feel “inadequate” for a role, task, or situation – – turn to Jesus.  Never, ever forget that God is with you – Emmanuel!

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)

 

In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office.  When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.

The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice.  A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant.  He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege.  Still, he pressed for reform and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries.  Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309 until shortly after his death.

He came close but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.

As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule.  Shortly before his death in 1370 he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 19 & 20 of 26:

 

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

 

 

20.     The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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


 

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

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the Christmas Nativity Scene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, after the announcement is made,:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hail Mary

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“That Darn Butterfly Flapped His Wing In the Rainforest, and Now I’m Overweight!”– Mt 1:18-23†


 

Did you sing happy birthday to Mary.  Today’s Gospel reading is about the nativity of Jesus, but the Mass is in honor of our Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Everyone, please give me input on what you like, didn’t like, would like, or any other “like” I may have missed!  I am totally serious – I am writing this reflection blog for you as much as for me.  I truly need your input!!!  Please, please, please leave a comment on this blog site, or on my Facebook page.  Thank you again, I love you all.  Dan

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
    
†   70 – Titus, General of Rome, sacks Jerusalem. See also: Destruction of Jerusalem.
†   701 – Death of Pope Sergius I
†   801 – Birth of Ansgar, German Catholic archbishop (d. 865)
†   1565 – The Knights of Malta lift the Turkish siege of Malta (the Siege of Malta started on May 18).
†   1853 – Death of Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (b. 1813)
†   In Malta today – Feast of Our Lady of Victories (il-Vittorja); anniversary of the 1565 victory of the Knights of Malta over the Ottoman Empire; anniversary of the 1943 surrender of Italy to the Allied forces, marking the end of World War II hostilities on Malta.†  

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Counting the days till CHRISTmas.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Mt 1:18-23)

 

108 days till CHRISTmas!  One of my unique gifts in life is that I can pretty much tell you almost instantly how many days till this beautiful and magnanimous day at any time throughout the year.  I love the CHRISTmas season.  The pomp and circumstances, the beauty, the peace, and the message all create a special place in my heart for me. 

When I was young, I lived for the secular side of this holiday: the cookies, the gifts, the eggnog, the gifts, the decorations, the gifts, the music, and the gifts.  Now I live for the spiritual side: the pageant of God coming to us as promised for centuries before (but I still like getting gifts at any time).

Decorations are being set-up in the major stores as I write this.  Holiday commercials on television are rare for NOW, but have started already.  And soon, a local radio station will start playing CHRISTmas music 24/7 until New Years Day.  Oh, what a beautiful season of the year.  Why can’t we always have the spirit of this season throughout the entire year!  That would be so nice.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ birth.  His life is a true reality in body, blood, soul, AND divinity; and is still true regardless of the time of the year, or for the year for that matter.  Jesus needs to be reborn in our hearts and souls on a daily basis.  We need to convert our wayward actions, and commit to following Him on a daily basis.  Decorations and music from a specific season are not needed to encounter the beauty, joy, AND the TRUE REALITY of our blessed Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Can you picture how much care and divine planning God took in bringing His plan of coming to us in a human and divine form – for our salvation – to fruition?  How many events, actions, and interactions had to take place before Jesus could come into our lives?  How many people had to play out their roles in order to prepare the way for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises?

How many events, actions, and interactions had to come together before we were born?  Events in the world such as past war, famine, slavery, and travel affected our birth and being.  Hmm — That darn butterfly flapped his wing in the rainforest, and now I’m overweight! 

Seriously through, God’s interaction, His plan, shaped our families the moment we were each born.  None of us are an “accident.”  We are all instruments in God’s divine plan.  We did not just “show up” for we had a history prior to our birth and a future even after our deaths!  Besides the act of murder that is performed with each abortion and euthanasia act, I see the devastating component of the purposeful destruction of God’s plan.

Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is in fact, the work of the “Holy Spirit” of God: the Advocate, the Paraclete – the third person of the Holy Trinity.  Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is swept away by an angelic command through a dream, telling him to take Mary into his home and to accept the child as his own.  

The promises made to King David centuries before are fulfilled through this particular man named Joseph.  Through Joseph’s adoption, the child belongs to the legal and thus genealogical family of King David.  

Matthew shows the virginal conception of the young teenage Mary as the fulfillment of prophesies found in the Old Testaments book of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”   The Holy Spirit acting on, in, and through this young Mary was manifesting the future birth of our Messiah.  His birth alone fulfilled God’s divinely given stipulations as prophesied in Old Testament writings regarding “Emmanuel’s” [Jesus’] mission on earth.  Also, Matthew stresses that in the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God – this young and sin-free Mary, an important substance of fact is fulfilled in the words of Isaiah’s divine prophetic wisdom: Mary’s Immaculate Conception had to be without any doubt of faith and without carnal action for Jesus to also be born sin-free. 

Jesus’ ancestors didn’t have a clue that they were going to be significant in history, and forever immortalized in Holy Scripture.  I bet Mary didn’t understand or even totally perceive her role and significance as she was growing up in her home town of Nazareth.  As she embraced her role later in life, she saw the wisdom emanating from Jesus, and adored His counsel and love as her Son and God

What is meant by the term, “Betrothed to Joseph” in verse 18.   Betrothal was the first part of a “marriage covenant” between Jewish people in that time, place, and era.  It established a man and woman legally as husband and wife.  But, the couple at this point usually still lived in separate households, and the marriage was not consummated at this time.  But, by being legally married any subsequent “infidelity” was considered an act and sin of adultery and subject to the penalty of divorce with possible death by stoning for the guilty.  A “betrothal” was followed some time later (even months or years) by the husband’s taking his wife into his home.  At this time, our perception of a normal married life finally begins in a form we would recognize by today’s standards.  This also the time, the husband learns the married man’s mantra: “Yes dear!”

Being a devout observer of Mosaic Law, Joseph was considered a “righteous man.”  He initially wanted to sever his union with Mary whom he suspected of violating the law.  Realistically, Jewish law may have required him to do so.  In Deut. 22:20-21, “But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her un-chasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.“  But, does this biblical law truly pertain to Joseph’s situation; though pregnant, she was still a virgin!?  Unwilling to expose Mary to shame Joseph was also unwilling to order the penalty for adultery: death by stoning.

“The angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament was a common designation for God in interaction with a human being.  An angel coming to a human in a dream, specifically Joseph, happens several times in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Mathew 2:13 has the angel ordering Mary and Joseph to flee with the infant Jesus to Egypt after being warned in a dream.  Matthew 2:19, tells of the dream to Joseph in which the angel advises him that Herod had died.  And finally, Matthew 2:22 has the angel advising Joseph to take his “Holy Family” to Galilee and not to Judea in a dream.   

For me, these dreams recall those of the Joseph from the Old Testament (Genesis).  This other Joseph, in his multi-colored robes, also had prophetic and divinely directive dreams. 

The conspicuous similarities between the birth stories of Moses and Jesus are striking. There are obvious parallels existing between the New Testament nativity story and the tale in Moses Exodus:

1. In Matthew 2:13-14, Herod was going to search for the child to destroy him, so Joseph took the child and his mother and went away.  In Exodus 2:15, Pharaoh sought to do away with Moses, so Moses went away.

2. Herod’s massacre of the boys in Bethlehem corresponds to the Pharaoh’s command to throw the Hebrew children into the Nile River.

3. In Matthew 2:19, Herod dies.  In Exodus 2:23, the King of Egypt was a position that existed in some form from approximately 3200 BC to the mid 20th century.

4. In Matthew 2:19-20, the angel of the Lord (in a dream) says to Joseph (while exiled in Egypt), “Go back to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”  The language is similar to Exodus 4:19, “The Lord said to Moses while in Midian, ‘Return to Egypt, for those who were seeking your life are dead.‘”

A closer parallel is the dream of Amram, the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in the “Antiquities of the Jews.”  The Midrashic (a Jewish way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings) tales of Moses offer additional counterparts between the birth of Jesus and that of Moses:

1. The impending birth of each is announced to Herod and Pharaoh respectively, and both rulers are filled with “dread” at this news.

2. Amram (Moses’ father) is told that his wife will give birth to a son who will save Israel.  Joseph is told that Mary’s son will be called Jesus “for he will save the people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” was the Hebrew name Joshua (and the Greek Iesous) meaning “Yahweh helps,” and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

3. The birth of Jesus is heralded by a star, and at the birth of Moses there is great light.

4. From the start, both Jesus and Moses are recognized as extraordinary people.

5. Joseph marries Mary while she is pregnant.  An interesting parallel can be found in a cryptic statement of the Talmud that Amram married (actually remarried) while his bride was already pregnant (with Moses).

“Emmanuel” translates from Hebrew to “God is with us.”  God’s promise of deliverance to the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time is seen by Matthew as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.  The name “Emmanuel” is also alluded to at the end of the Matthew’s Gospel (28:20) wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence by saying,”. . . I am with you always, until the end of the age.” 

The promise of Jesus’ real presence for all time echoes the name Emmanuel given to him in today’s infancy narrative.  Emmanuel -“God is with us” – will always be with us, “until the end of the age.” (Bible trivia: The phrase, “the end of the age” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel [13:40, 49; 24:3; and 28:20]).

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, I have strengthened my belief that our lives are interlaced into God’s plan for the world.  Look outside the “box” of our lives, and look around at God’s plan.  He has great things designed and intended for each of us. 

Earlier, I reflected on Mary’s evolution to the realization of Jesus’ role in salvation, and how she sought His counsel and love.  His counsel and love is for all of us also.  We just need to choose to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and then watch as His plan unfolds before our very eyes!

 

“The Serenity Prayer”

 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.

St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.

 

Comment:

We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.

This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.

Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.

 

Quote:

“Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father’s immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse” (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).

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

 
    

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

 

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

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

 

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

“Mommy Dearest: Literally!” – Lk 1:26-35†


Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord!
 

April showers bring May flowers: wait, it is only March.  March showers brings, um, … er… wet children walking to school?!
 

Today’s reflection is Mary’s acceptance to be the mother of God.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” – Amy Carmichael
 

Today’s Meditation:
 

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  (NAB Lk 1:26-35)

  

The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus parallels that of the announcement to Zechariah, about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both, the angel Gabriel appears to a woman (one elderly and the other barely teenage) who is troubled by a vision of an angel appearing before them.  They are both told by Gabriel “not to fear.”  After the announcement, they object to the announcement (the first stating impossibility, and the later out of humility) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Zechariah was made deaf and mute, and Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit).

Mary’s questioning of her pregnancy, by denial of sexual relations, leads to Gabriel’s declaration about the Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus.  The conception of Jesus takes place through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and by the power of God.  Therefore Jesus has a unique relationship to Yahweh, the “Most High” of all creation.  He IS the “Son of God!”

The primary focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on His identity as the “Son of David,” and the “Son of God.”  Jesus is referred to as the “Son of the Most High” by Luke, the writer of this gospel reading.  If you remember, he also referred to John the Baptist as the “prophet of the Most High.” “Most High” is a title used frequently by Luke for God.

Mary obviously had an important role as well in the life of Jesus, which was predestined, even before her own birth.  Mary was born without original sin; a condition of the soul only shared with one other: her son, Jesus.  When Mary accepted to be the mother to our Lord, she also accepted the entire human race as her children.

Sinners, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and even laborers and fishermen (including the Apostles) had a mother in Mary’s heart.  Mary probably even had these sinners in her abode eating with Jesus, as He wished to be with the lowliest of the lowly in society.

If God can make a young girl, barely a teenager, and make her the mother of us all on earth; the mother of our Church on this world; and the Queen of the Universe, with her body and soul in heaven, imagine what can be done with us!

“Mary, thank you for saying ‘yes.’  You are my mother, my intercessor, and my Queen in heaven.  Amen.”

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Dismas
 

All that is known of Dismas is that he is the Good Thief crucified with Christ on Calvary. The other thief is known as Gestas. A completely unsubstantiated myth from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy that enjoyed great popularity in the West during the Middle Ages had two thieves who held up the Holy Family on the way to Egypt. Dismas bought off Gestas with forty drachmas to leave them unmolested, whereupon the Infant predicted that they would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem, and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise. His feast day is March 25th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25:
 

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

“Paradoxes in Behavior & Attitudes” – Lk 6:20-25


Sunday morning and it is snowing again.  The quiet beauty outside my kitchen window is relaxing to me. 

 

I have been up all night with a very sick wife.  She either has a bad case of the flu, or food poisoning.  She is now dehydrated, dizzy, and muscles are hurting, but is refusing to go to ER for fluid replacement.  For being an ER nurse, she can be stubborn and a ‘royal’ pain at times.  PS. – I love my wife so much:  Happy Valentines Day Honey Buns.
 

Today, we are talking about the different versions of the “Beatitudes.” 

Bibile Study

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. — Angela Schwindt

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.  Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.  But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.  (NAB Lk 6:20-25)

 

I always thought the “Beatitudes” were the same in all the Gospels.  Surprisingly, they are not!  The end goals are the same: finding Jesus, and finding the way to Jesus in heaven and eternity.  Matthew has a conceptual approach to changing our attitudes towards others; and Luke, being a physician and analytical, was direct and realistic in his approach.  I am more attracted to Luke’s shorter and “you need to do this” approach to the Beatitudes.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching on the plains: intermingled with His people.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is above all around Him, on a mountain.  Jesus probably preached the Beatitudes many, many times during His ministry on earth.  Can you picture Jesus standing on a soapbox, on the corner of a busy intersection in Jerusalem, as well as in the Temple?

Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” is the counterpart to Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” found at Mt 5:1-7:27.  It is addressed to the disciples of Jesus, and, like the sermon in Matthew, it begins with beatitudes and ends with the parable of the two houses, later in Lk 6:46-49.  Almost all the words of Jesus reported by Luke are found in Matthew’s version, but Matthew includes sayings that were related to specifically Jewish Christian problems, and Luke’s audience was predominantly Gentile Christians.

 The introductory part of the Luke’s sermon consists of blessings and woes that address the paradoxes of the economic and social conditions of humanity (the poor–the rich; the hungry–the satisfied; those grieving–those laughing; the outcast–the socially acceptable).  In Matthew, the “Beatitudes” emphasized the religious and spiritual values taught by Jesus (“poor in spirit,” Matthew 5:5; “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Matthew 5:6). 

In Luke’s sermon, “blessed” extols the condition of persons who are blessed by God.  The “woes” threaten God’s displeasure on individuals blinded by their situations that they do not recognize, and appreciate the real values of God’s kingdom.  In all the blessings and woes, the present situation or condition of the person, will be reversed in the future.

The path to follow in order to get to Christ should not have the goal of being a Fortune 500 company, or to be known to all the world as a celebrity.  We need to remember to seek God on our individual paths, and to ask for His help and guidance constantly.

“Lord, help me to understand, and believe, the Beatitudes of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel, and what they teach us.  Please help me to choose the path leading to you.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“I Have the Secret for Sinning!” – 1 Jn 2: 1-2


Fifty years ago today, the “Music Died!”   Buddy Holly, Ricky Valence, and the “Big Bopper” died in a plane crash.  My kids did not know who any of these great performers were!  I feel so old.

Today’s reflection is about sin, and how we can deal with it. 

Bible Study

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A quarrel is like buttermilk: once it’s out of the churn, the more you shake it, the more sour it grows. — Irish Proverb

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.   (NAB 1 Jn 2: 1-2)

 

I may consider this the most important verse I have read in the bible so far.  I am a sinner, and I know of no one alive that is not a sinner.  Both of my parents were sin free, but have left this earthly presence to be with God in heaven?!  OK; maybe not sin free, but close to it!

Some people, including me, have used the term “human nature” when it comes to our tendency to sin.  This statement is wrong.  Our human nature was to be without sin, and our bodies were to be immortal.  Due to the sin that occurred in the Garden of Eden, known now as original sin, we lost our immortality.  We also became susceptible to the urges of the devil in the desires of body, vanity, and wealth.

God obviously loves his creations.  He did not destroy the third of His angels that mutinied, but only evicted them from heaven.  After the devil corrupted  Adam and Eve, he still did not destroy the prince of darkness, but created obstacles for them, and made man’s will capable and strong enough to defeat the devil.

Adam and Eve were not immune from Gods wrath with regards to disobedience.  Because of their sin, they also were evicted from their home, but given the knowledge and means to live a mortal life.  God also decided to come to earth in human form, to redeem us from sin, and to give us hope for our eternal future.

Jesus did not come for another 5000+ years after Adam and Eve’s incident.  Why did God wait so long?  Only He knows for sure: anything else is speculation.  God does not handle time the way we do.  I know somewhere in the bible is the phrase something like, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.”  Eternity has no start or end time, and neither do we!

What I do know is this:

Jesus was born to a virgin free of sin;
He came to save us from original sin;
He was scourged, and crucified on the cross for our sins;
He died and was burried;
and on the third day He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven.

Our slates our cleaned if we believe in Jesus Christ as our advocate and savior from sin.  We still have tendencies to sin, but we also have the capabilities to ask for forgiveness.  God loves us so much that He will forgive us of anything if only we ask!

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

 

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #3:

 

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