Tag Archives: wear

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


 

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History     

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

That’s why Amos declares to Amaziah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Catholic Church is a:

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

SOULS
           (meaning “fishers of men”)!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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

(Prayer for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

***

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

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

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

 

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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“Enough Already, ENOUGH! Worry About It Tomorrow – Or, Maybe Not At All!” – Matthew 6:24–34†


 

Why is this Sunday called “Septuagesima”?  How did Lent come to be 40 days in length?

Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy, began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was therefore called Septuagesima” – the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima , Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

http://calefactory.org/books/goffine/septuagesima.htm

 

 

 

With this blog reflection, I have added a new “temporary’ section titled,”New Translation of the Mass”.  I will rotate and repeat 11 changes in the congregation’s part of the Mass, until the beginning of Advent this year.

Hopefully it will be interesting and educational.  Please let me know.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1862 – Saint Gabriele dell’ Addolorata, patron of Italian Catholic youth, dies at age 23
†   1891 – Birth of Anne Samson, oldest-ever nun documented (d. 2004)
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution “motu proprio Quo aptius”
†   1994 – Maronite church near Beirut bombed, 10 killed
†   1995 – Death of Philip Sherrington, opus Dei Priest, at age 51
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows; Saint Leander; Saint Honorine

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.”  – Blaise Pascal 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

On February 6, the Church celebrates the memory of the first Christian martyrs of Japan (protomartyrs), all 26 of whom were crucified on a hill just outside Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. This group consisted of 6 Friars Minors, seventeen Japanese Franciscan Tertiaries, three other Japanese, Jesuit priest Paul Miki, and his two catechists. Among the friars, the most known was Pietro Battista, a Spanish priest who had been sent to evangelize Japan along with other Franciscans from the Philippines in 1593.

They worked tirelessly proclaiming the gospel, and building churches and a hospital in Meako. In November 1596, more Franciscans had arrived in Japan when their ship ran aground because of a sea storm. Among them was Felipe de Jesus who was traveling from the Philippines to his native Mexico to be ordained as a priest. Since he began collaborating in the mission, he was also condemned to die when emperor Taycosama, who had initially accepted Christian missionaries, imposed an edict condemning to death these friars coming from the Philippines and their companions.

The group was forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki, a distance of over 800 km, enduring cold weather conditions, and suffering imprisonment, torture and public scorn. Once they were crucified, their executioners pierced them on both sides with two spears crossing each other inside the chest and coming out of their bodies by the shoulders, causing them to die almost immediately.

Felipe de Jesus was the first one to be executed and became the first Mexican saint. In one of the letters Peter Baptist wrote during his final days, he stated: The sentence pronounced against us was written on a sign and carried before us. The sign read that we were condemned to death because we preached the law of Nauan (i.e., the law of Christ) contrary to the command of Taycosama and would be crucified when we reached Nagasaki. For this we were happy and consoled in the Lord since we had forfeited our lives to preach his law.

These martyrs provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our Christian commitment to proclaim the gospel in our present world not only with our words, but also with our lives. They were courageous and faithful in witnessing Christ through evangelization, service, and accepting persecution gladly and with relentless hope.

Their witness also helps to illustrate the content of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace 2011 (numbers 6-10), especially regarding the public dimension of faith. This dimension should be acknowledged and respected by all societies as a path for true peace and integral human development.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching about the meaning of “Enough”.  His message is: “Don’t worry about tomorrow”.  Jesus tells all to not look at the past too long; rather, let tomorrow take care of itself.  Pay attention to today.

 

24 “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  28 Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.  30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  32 All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  (NAB Matthew 6:24–34)

 

Our ultimate goal is God; and to attain this goal, one needs to commit oneself – – fully, totally, and entirely to God. (Could I stress the complete surrender one needs any better?!)  One cannot have two supreme and opposing goals. 

Today’s Gospel reading is the final (third) part of the instructions from the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus.  Today, He is teaching on the way of life in the kingdom of Heaven on earth.  This reading, and its associated reflection, is about trusting God and performing “acts of loving service” to our neighbor’s on a daily basis. 

(The first two parts of the “Sermon on the Mount” and its associated reflections can be found at):

Part one: “Blessed are the …. AH, You Know ‘em! So, start LIVING ‘EM!” – Matthew 5:1-12a:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/%e2%80%9cblessed-are-the-%e2%80%a6-ah-you-know-%e2%80%98em-so-start-living-%e2%80%98em%e2%80%9d-matthew-51-12a%e2%80%a0/

Part two: ♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/%e2%99%ab%e2%80%9call-we-need-is-love-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah%e2%80%9d%e2%99%ab-matthew-538%e2%80%9348%e2%80%a0/

 

What do the phrases “serving two masters” and “being anxious” have in common?  They each have the same internal source: a division within oneself.   The word “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds”. 

“But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

(It sounds a little schizophrenic to me.)  “Anxiety”, as used in today’s Gospel reading, is when someone tries to live in two “kingdoms”: God’s kingdom, and a materialistic (some may say Satanic) “kingdom.”  Anxiety and God’s kingdom are in conflict with each other; yet, we find ourselves apparently needing to do both.

However, Jesus is telling us “NOT TO WORRY”!  Anxiety and worry can pull us away from our relying on God just as assuredly as deliberate acts of evil!  We know we chose to follow God’s principles and values, His path; OR, we find ourselves following the world’s principles and values, which, at the moment, may appear to be the right thing to do.  That, which we choose to do, becomes our “master”.   Jesus is informing us that there are some true absolutes; He reveals that we come to a point of choosing between God, OR, “mammon”.

“Mammon”?  What is “Mammon”?  (Hint: It is NOT a pagan God of old.)  It is an Aramaic word (Jesus’ native language) meaning “wealth” or “property”.  Jesus is stating that we can have only one “FIRST” priority in life; either God or earthly processions (without God). 

The word “mammon”, in reality, does not have a negative connotation.  Jesus is NOT saying we must forgo earthly material processions and wealth.  He is only saying that God needs to be our preeminent and foremost priority in life.  One can have both God and “mammon”; but can only “serve” one or the other.  We human beings are not self-sufficient; we are dependent on something outside ourselves.  Jesus, in no way, denies the reality of our human needs.  In fact, Jesus teaches us that our first or top-most priority, that of seeking God and His kingdom, assures us He will provide all material “wealth” and “property” needed (all our human material needs).  For Jesus reveals an awesome fact:

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32)

Jesus goes on to say:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) 

However, He forbids us from making earthly material processions an object of worry, fret, and restless care.  In doing so, we would in effect, become a slave to materialism instead of a “slave” to God and His divine will and providence.  In a sense, we would be practicing a form of idolatry in placing earthly material objects “first”, over God’s love and providence.  We have to keep God first in all we do, all we say, all we see, and all we think.

As for me, I believe I am in the palm of His hands, and He will work for my “good”:

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I just pray every single day that I don’t “spit” into His hands, which are holding me!

Since we DO need material “goods”; we do know God works “good” in all we do, therefore, that is why Jesus tells us NOT TO WORRY, no less than four times in today’s Gospel reading!  So, Jesus is simply reminding us NOT to be anxious or “worry” over our needs and wants.  

Look at the beauty of nature.  The birds “do not sow or reap”.  The flowers “do not work or spin” cloth.  Yet they are still provided for by God.  Human beings are worth much more than any other creations of God – we are given a soul, and the graces of free-will and reasoning.  So, how could God not provide for us, as He does for all other creation?  If what we place first in our lives is God and His kingdom, along with His providence and justice, we will have what we need. PERIOD!

I think Jesus is really awesome when He shows us the value of the very ordinary things in life: eating, drinking (of course, only milk and diet Mt. Dew), and our choice of clothes.  He is teaching us, even still to this day, to put our entire trust and love in the providence of God, our heavenly Father; and simply to surrender ourselves into the arms of our Father, God.

Jesus asks:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:27)

Jesus is actually asking His disciples if worry can add anything to one’s physical size, length of life, or quality of one’s actions and beliefs.  Compared to eternity in heaven or hell, Worry is an emptyconcept; it has no value when God is a priority in one’s life.

We need to realize that to do the job of “self-reliance”, we need one positive help (God’s grace/truth), and one negative strategy (Don’t worry).  For example, we can’t prevent all sickness and injury in ours and others lives, not to mention death.  So, just stop worrying!  It actually should be liberating for us to know that our well-being and that of others as well, does not depend SOLELY on us!  God is at work in our lives individually, and continuously – – oftentimes invisibly, in the background (if not around the corner) – – to provide for us and others, and to make up for what is lacking in our lives.

 

The words “of little faith” (verse 30) are found in five places in Matthew’s Gospel, but only once in one parallel verse from Luke’s Gospel:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”  Luke 12:28)

It is used by the Gospel writer, Matthew, for those who are Jesus’ disciples; yet, whose faith in Him is not as deep as it should be (sounds like a lot of people I know, even today, within the Catholic faith.).

“He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

“When Jesus became aware of this he said, ‘You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?’” (Matthew 16:8)

“He[Jesus] said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:20)

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

What does Jesus mean by seeking the “righteousness” of the kingdom?  Righteousness is an awareness of orderliness in relationship to God; it is also an awareness of Jesus’ sovereignty.  Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, proclaims Jesus to be the “mightier” one (cf., Matthew 3:11) who was to come, and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  For us, as disordered, sinful humans, righteousness given to us is in the saving ability and activities of God in our lives.  Righteousness comes to us in our willingness to submit to God’s plan for our salvation.  Our seeking and receiving sets us apart onto God’s property, making us holy.  (Holiness means being set apart for a specific purpose.)

 

I found it inspiring that Pope Paul VI specifically commented on today’s reading with relationship to the idea of poverty, when he said,

“Why poverty?  Is it to give God, the kingdom of God, the first place in the values which are the object of human aspirations.  Jesus says: ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.’  And He says this with regard to all the other temporal goods, even necessary and legitimate ones, with which human desires are usually concerned.  Christ’s poverty makes possible that detachment from earthly things which allows us to place the relationship with God at the peak of human aspirations.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, January 5, 1977)

I began to realize that His relationship with God was the peak of Jesus’ human aspirations.  That priority set Him apart from all His brethren.  Jesus’ seeking first the kingdom set Him apart as the ONE “master”, who alone, has the power to set us free from slavery of the disorder of sin, fear, pride, and all those other bad things, vices, and disordered desires.  That “master”, the Lord Jesus Christ is saving us daily from all that would keep us constrained in such fears, anxieties, and sins by our worrying.  God provides for his creatures in the natural order of His creation, as well as in the order of grace.  So, how much more can we expect our heavenly Father – – our creator – – to do in order to sustain not only our physical bodies, but also our spiritual minds, hearts, and souls as well?  It is His nature to love, heal, forgive, renew, and to make whole again His image of Himself in us.  His way, saves us when we choose to place Him and His kingdom of righteousness FIRST in our lives.  

So, by not worrying, we are freed to address each day’s problems as they come.  Therefore, do not harbor worries and frustrations; they consume the mind, heart, and soul!  Instead, be confident that we are each individually, in God’s loving and magnificently merciful care.  He will most certainly care for us, if we allow Him!  Do not worry then about what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow. 

One who pays heed to the wind will not sow, and one who watches the clouds will never reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

“Do your duty ‘now’, without looking back on ‘yesterday’, which has already passed, or worrying over ‘to-morrow’, which may never come for you.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 253)

In foregoing worry, we are given a grace of wisdom based on God’s Fatherly providence, as well as on our own life experiences.

 

In our life-span, we learn to care for our own needs, and the needs of others.  As we grow, we learn to take responsibility for ours and others’ needs.  Sometimes, caring for one’s need means being unable to do other tasks which we would much rather enjoy.  At times, I am certain we are all enticed, coaxed, and/or tempted to NOT take responsibility for our given obligations.  We are tempted to put our own needs ahead of others.  

What are the consequences of making such a choice in our life?  Food for thought: How you spend your time, your money, and your THOUGHTS, will reveal to you what is MOST important in your life – – and what “god” you truly follow: God Himself, OR god the idol of things! 

The previous sentence highlights “your Thoughts”; it was a revelational doozy for me!  I could understand, and diligently support, the concepts of spending one’s time, talents, and treasures to show one’s love for God.  But our “thoughts” as proof of our dedication to God?!  Yep; one’s preoccupations, one’s consuming interests, and even one’s daydreams are truly and definitely important indicators of what one worships in life! – WOW!

Can you think of a time in which you have experienced God’s care for yourself and your family and friends?  God cares for us, on an individual and communal basis, every single day (every single moment) of our lives and the lives of others!  He will never, ever, forget us!  God looks after the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field.  Please remember, and thank God daily, that we are worth much more than ALL the other things within His creation.  

 

Prayer of St. Francis

 

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862 )

 

Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.

His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.

Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.

Comment:

When we think of achieving great holiness by doing little things with love and grace, Therese of Lisieux comes first to mind. Like her, Gabriel died painfully from tuberculosis. Together they urge us to tend to the small details of daily life, to be considerate of others’ feelings every day. Our path to sanctity, like theirs, probably lies not in heroic doings but in performing small acts of kindness every day.

Patron Saint of: Clergy and Bitterness

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)

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.
The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.
In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

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

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule: 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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

 
    

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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