Tag Archives: Wisdom

♫“‘Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Jesus-Son Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?’ ♫ – – Well, He’s In the Temple, Listening And Asking!!” – Luke 2:41-52†


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Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

Pope Benedict illustrationFor the faith of Christians: that in this Year of Faith, Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.

For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.

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Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the  Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator.  He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition.  Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans.  I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:

Blessings to all!

Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s?  Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside.  Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary singing-christmas-carolspeople could best understand.  Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy.  However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s.  Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol.  The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.”  It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice.  Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.

It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350.  Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.

A child is boren” in the English of today:

Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?  Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor.  Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from When Did We See You, Lord?”  by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

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Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking.  When was the last time you truly listened and asked? 

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(NAB Luke 2:41-52)  41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”.  We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what LFamily-12uke tells us about the birth of Jesus during.  Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2).  Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.  

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family.  In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends.  When Jesus is 6ddfb299120a9ca051e900744975446afound, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions.  In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding.  This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead. 

With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple.  This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”.  Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.  

Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:

Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom (Luke 2:41-42). 

This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  The reason for this feast wJesus_as_boy_jpg_w300h300as to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:

You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.  Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’  Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);

And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.  As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);

Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened.  “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April.  At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.

Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith.  This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast.  How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazaretdirect-map-nazareth-to-jerusalem2h is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map).  However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles.  This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.

On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women.  Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child.  No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing.  They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.

Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiesimpsons_scaredncing.  Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found!  I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes.  I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.  

Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”.  The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives.  This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.

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Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught.  “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions untitledasked of them.  The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:

  • ·        exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
  • ·        eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
  • ·        finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;

And finally,

  • ·        through parables:
    • o   as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
    • o   as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;

and, 

  • o   as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.    

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:

“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching.  Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.  Words are not enough, deeds are required.  …  Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.  One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.  For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]”  (CCC, paragraph 546).

One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables.  It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.

So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions.  However, His questions and answers attc06racted a great interest from the “teachers”!  Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men.   If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!

Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).

Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!!  Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to00007803_h her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life.  There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER!  Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation.  The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.

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Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:

Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). 

Iuntitleda am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation.  If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”. 

Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:

Why were you looking for meDid you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel.  In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!!  It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His defirstwordsforiphonetermination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family.  Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him.  But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!!  Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):

But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).

They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes.  Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions.  Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will d7%20Sorrowso on many other occasions in His and their lives:

Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father.  While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.  

Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life.  We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan.  With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter.  It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life.  It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace.  Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!!  I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!

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Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:

[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God tlove-obey1he Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed!  We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls.  God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public.  His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.

ThJesusGrewe final verse of today’s reading is insightfully interesting for me:

And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:

The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80);

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.  The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father.  I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.

Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph.  Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His browthehomelifeofjesusluke2-51”.  Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years.  However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian.  We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him!  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us.  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom.  God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan.  Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him.  WOW!!

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T. summarize titlehe dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships.  Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name.  (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.)  Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus.  Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a poiwords-hurt-feelingsnted question, “Why?”  Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!”  Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress.  However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response.  When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety.  Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful.  Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”.  Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters.  Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother.  Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.

In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love.  As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assjs2isi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love.  If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!  

We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us.  If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us.  Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.

So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – –  family forever and ever.  Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him.  Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.

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T. conclusionoday’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family.  We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discoveJesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49red Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth.  The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous.  When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern.  But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life.  In essence, Jesus says to them:

“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”

In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God.  Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.

Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members.  Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them.  Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”. 

Torange_man_thinking_questionake what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked: 

Son, why have you done this to us?”  (Luke 2:48);

Why were you looking for me?”  (Luke 2:49);

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).

Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You.  Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.

Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool n06-07-buildingrelationships[1]eeded by me for this great journey with, in, and through You.  Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.

Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself.  When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me.  When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible.  In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.

With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name.  Amen.”

Based on a prayer at the following website:
http://www.flyguychronicles.com/2011/02/a-relationship-prayer/

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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…”♫ – Luke 11:29-32†


 

“Wednesday of the First Week of Lent” 

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  During all the fun, frivolities, and “partying”, please reflect on the true purpose and person of celebrity:  St. Patrick Himself.  He is an awesome man of faith, hope, and trust.

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As a father of four teenage boys, and a husband to a very beautiful woman (in body, heart, and soul), this Saturday (March 19th) is a special day for me.  It is the Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of families and fathers. 

Though St. Joseph says absolutely NOTHING in Holy Scripture (my wife says I should follow his lead) in words, his actions say so much about love, trust, and hope.  Remember what St. Francis said:

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   597 BC – Babylonians captures Jerusalem, replaces Jehoiachin with Zedekiah as king.
†   1072 – Death of Adalbert of Hamburg, German archbishop
†   1249 – The Servite Order is officially approved by Cardinal Raniero Capocci, papal legate in Tuscany.
†   1517 – Pope Leo X signs 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1620 – Death of St. John Sarkander, Moravian priest, died of injuries caused by torturing
†   1649 – Death of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1593)
†   1878 – Birth of Clemens August Graf von Galen, German archbishop and cardinal (d. 1946)
†   1988 – North-Ireland Protestant fires on Catholic funeral, 3 killed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II asks God for forgiveness for the inactivity and silence of some Roman Catholics during the Holocaust.
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Heribert of Cologne (died 1021); Saint Agapitus

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

 

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 Joke of the Day:

 

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.  The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though they are very large mammals, their throats are very small.

The little girl stated “Jonah was swallowed by a whale”.  The teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is impossible.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”  The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

 

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Today’s reflection is Jesus’ association about “sign’s” from Jonah and Solomon in regards to God’s wisdom and message.

 

(NAB Luke 11:29-32) 29 While still more people gathered in the crowd, he [Jesus] said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.  32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

 

Ever wonder what Jesus would say to our generation if he was physically seen by all, and could actually “talk” to us as a whole group?  Just imagine what the world would be like if we could tune in our radio to “’AM Heaven’ – ‘333 on the radio dial’”!  I believe Jesus would give us the same stern warning He gave to the people of His “human” time; a warning given after the people demanded a sign of His divinity and the future from Him.  Are we still “demanding” signs from Him today? 

At a fast food restaurant this weekend, a nice gentleman whom I personally know as being a devout Christian asked if the earthquakes of the past few years, the tsunami of this past week, and even all the middle-east turmoil happening recently could be a “sign” of the end times.  It certainly doesn’t look good to have “mother earth [sic]” so upset, but in reality, “only God knows the future!”

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)

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In Luke’s Gospel, the “sign of Jonah” was a discourse for the need of repentance by a prophet, Jonah, who came to Nineveh from a far away country.  The “sign of Jonah” was interpreted by Jesus as being about His death and resurrection.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus relates a warning regarding Jonah’s mission:

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.  At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.  At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’” (Matthew 12:38-42)

Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (in present day Iraq).  The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s warning from God when he spoke to them during His three day sojourn across that large and modern city (for the time period) preaching his warning and prophesy.  After hearing Jonah’s promised warning and prophesies, they repented from their sinful activities.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is evident in Jonah’s mission.  The people confessing and repenting were the key goals of Jonah in his mission.

The Holy Spirit grew out of Jonah, entering into the inhabitants of Nineveh, and then grew in them as well.  I love what the Evangelist John says about being born in the Holy Spirit:

What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

(Jonah must have given one “whale” of a testimony!  Sorry, I simply had to use this pun!) 

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The Queen of Sheba (from southwestern Arabia) recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 10: 1-10).  Jonah was God’s “sign” and His messenger for the people of Nineveh (cf., Jonah 3).  The Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit offers us a grace of freedom from sin, and a gift of wisdom through the “word” and the presence of the same Holy Spirit in our lives.  To receive this gift and grace, we only need to choose to listen to Jesus, and to follow the path He has set out for us. 

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It was typical and distinctive of the Jewish people to demand a “sign” from God’s messengers – – the prophets – – in order to authenticate their claims.  The religious leaders of the area (the Scribes and Pharisees) pressured Jesus to give proof for His claim that He is sent by God.  In reality, they actually needed no further evidence, from heaven or anywhere else.  All they needed to do was to just listen to Jesus’ beautiful and fully alive words, and to watch His actions, and His love that He displayed towards all He came into contact.  

These Scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied, nor pleased, to accept the sign of God’s divinity – – Jesus Christ – – actually and physically standing before their very eyes.  They were closed minded, and closed hearted!  They had previously rejected the message of John the Baptist in regards to Jesus being “from above and above all”:

John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him.  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease.’  The one who comes from above is above all.  The one who is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of earthly things.  But the one who comes from heaven (is above all).   He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.  For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.  He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”  (John 3:27-36)

These same Scribes and Pharisees are again rejecting Jesus as God’s “Anointed One” – – the “Messiah”.  In doing so, they refused to listen to, and to pay attention to, His teachings and message for them.  I wonder if their refusal to listen and pay attention was actually part of God’s plan.  (Hmm)  Thirty or so years earlier, an old man in the Temple named Simeon, had prophesied that Jesus was:

destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34- 35). 

Jesus confirmed His message with many revelations and miracles in order to prepare the Jewish “chosen” people for the greatest of all “signs” (then and now) – – His Resurrection – – during that Passover Sunday morning we now call Easter, and three days after His death on the Holy Tree. 

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There is a particular irony or paradox in what Jesus said (with His obvious biting wit) about “something greater” than Jonah or Solomon having arrived.  (I see a refined and distinct sense of humor in Jesus’ words and actions at times.)  In reality, Jesus is much greater than any other prophet or leader that came before Him, or claimed to be a prophet after Him (i.e., Mohammad, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.)!  Jesus preferred to restrain and curtail any difference between Himself and any individual found in Old Testament Scripture, no matter how important they were in salvation history.  Jesus did not have the vice of “pride”; do you?!

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Is there a craving for God’s wisdom, via the Holy Spirit, dwelling in and through you?  In His address to the Jewish Christian Community, James said:

Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” (James 3:17). 

Someone who has a proactive, ambitious, and determined purpose to seek God in their lives can receive His message, – – His “wisdom”.  One needs only to want for, long for, and ask for, two things – – “goodness”, and “orderliness” in one’s life according to God’s “wise” plan for salvation and redemption.  Pray to the Lord for His message and wisdom.  Pray for Him to renew your mind with His “word”, and to increase your desire for His wise way.

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Today, I am combining two famous “Franciscan” prayers into one prayer for desire, wisdom, and orderliness:  

 

Saint Francis’ Meditation Prayer, &
Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

 
“My God and my All; Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds.  Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always, and in all things, act according to Your Holy Will.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751-1820)

 

Clement might be called the second founder of the Redemptorists, as it was he who carried the congregation of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the people north of the Alps.

John, the name given him at Baptism, was born in Moravia into a poor family, the ninth of 12 children.  Although he longed to be a priest there was no money for studies, and he was apprenticed to a baker.  But God guided the young man’s fortunes.  He found work in the bakery of a monastery where he was allowed to attend classes in its Latin school.  After the abbot there died, John tried the life of a hermit but when Emperor Joseph II abolished hermitages, John again returned to Vienna and to baking.  One day after serving Mass at the cathedral of St. Stephen, he called a carriage for two ladies waiting there in the rain.  In their conversation they learned that he could not pursue his priestly studies because of a lack of funds.  They generously offered to support both him and his friend, Thaddeus, in their seminary studies.  The two went to Rome, where they were drawn to St. Alphonsus’ vision of religious life and to the Redemptorists.  The two young men were ordained together in 1785.

Newly professed at age 34, Clement Mary, as he was now called, and Thaddeus were sent back to Vienna.  But the religious difficulties there caused them to leave and continue north to Warsaw, Poland.  There they encountered numerous German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless by the suppression of the Jesuits.  At first they had to live in great poverty and preached outdoor sermons.  They were given the church of St. Benno, and for the next nine years they preached five sermons a day, two in German and three in Polish, converting many to the faith.  They were active in social work among the poor, founding an orphanage and then a school for boys.

Drawing candidates to the congregation, they were able to send missionaries to Poland, Germany and Switzerland.  All of these foundations had eventually to be abandoned because of the political and religious tensions of the times.  After 20 years of difficult work Clement himself was imprisoned and expelled from the country.  Only after another arrest was he able to reach Vienna, where he was to live and work the final 12 years of his life.  He quickly became “the apostle of Vienna,” hearing the confessions of the rich and poor, visiting the sick, acting as a counselor to the powerful, sharing his holiness with all in the city.  His crowning work was the establishment of a Catholic college in his beloved city.

Persecution followed him, and there were those in authority who were able for a while to stop him from preaching.  An attempt was made at the highest levels to have him banished.  But his holiness and fame protected him and the growth of the Redemptorists.  Due to his efforts, the congregation, upon his death in 1820, was firmly established north of the Alps.

He was canonized in 1909.

Comment:

Clement saw his life’s work meet with disaster.  Religious and political tensions forced him and his brothers to abandon their ministry in Germany, Poland and Switzerland.  Clement himself was exiled from Poland and had to start all over again.  Someone once pointed out that the followers of the crucified Jesus should see only new possibilities opening up whenever they meet failure.  He encourages us to follow his example, trusting in the Lord to guide us.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

A big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of his conception and not just at his birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary.

The Creed

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer II

What forms of prayer do you use (structured prayers; meditation; and contemplation)?  Why, or why not?  Should you?

What are the forms of recommended structured prayers for “our SFO office”? (Ask someone if you do not know the various structured prayers)

Do your prayers express or capture the same exuberance we find in Sts. Francis and Clare?  Why?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  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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17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

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


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

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

 

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

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


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

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 10 of 13 Parts

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

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

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

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

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

 

  

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Morning Offering

 

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

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

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

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

 

2.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle. It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

 

 

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

“When I Grow-Up, I Want To Be a Martyr!” – Luke 21:12-19†


 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day  in the United States.  Here is a little prayer I found on-line, and wish to share with you for this uniquely scrumptious day:

“MAY YOUR STUFFING BE TASTY, MAY YOUR TURKEY BE PLUMP.  MAY YOUR POTATOES ‘N GRAVY HAVE NARY A LUMP.  MAY YOUR YAMS BE DELICIOUS.  MAY YOUR PIES TAKE THE PRIZE, MAY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER STAY OFF OF YOUR THIGHS!!”

 

 

 

31 Days till CHRIST-mas.  AND, just a few days (4) till the start of the New Liturgical Year.  What a great time to start anew and refreshed.  Go to “Confession” this week.

    

     

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   496 – Anastasius II succeeds Gelasius I as Catholic Pope
†   642 – Theodore I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1192 – Death of Albert I van Leuven/Luik, Belgian bishop of Luik/saint, at age 27
†   1583 – Death of René de Birague, French cardinal and chancellor (b. 1506)
†   1713 – Junipero Serra, priest had a mission in California
†   1775 – Death of Lorenzo Ricci, Italian Jesuit leader (b. 1703)
†   1833 – Birth of Antoine Labelle, Quebec catholic priest (d. 1891)
†   1925 – 1st radio-broadcast of Dutch KRO (Catholic Radio Broadcast)
†   Feast Days: Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and other Vietnamese Martyrs; Saint Colman of Cloyne – Cobh, Ireland

(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:

 

Question:              Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Answer:                 Because they have such FOWL language!

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives. (NAB Luke 21:12-19)

 

 

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(in verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains pending for development, an emergence, and/or for discovery in the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled, such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., some ten to twenty years prior.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event occurring.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a “wham-bam” one day event; it will last for eternity.  Please remember, we are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.  Don’t count the “hours” or figure out the “how” Jesus will return to us, for He should always be welcome, and we should always be ready to welcome Him!

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, and has been going on since the beginning of time. (Maybe even longer than the perpetual conflicts in the middle-east, and between the Democrats versus Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or really any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life in union with Him.

Luke is imparting to all of us – – Jesus’ followers – – an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  It is so easy to forget that faith comes with a great price!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and through prayer, we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)  Can anyone’s actions or faith equal that of God?

Jesus doesn’t want any of us to be on the defensive.  We must go out, and go out boldly, to share our unconditional love for God, and His overwhelming and never ending love for us, with whom all come into contact. 

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (also in verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  For a “true” martyr, everything that occurs is a means for God’s grace.

We may not have to prepare our defense of God’s word, but we can practice something else that is important for our defense.  We need to practice praising and pleasing God in everything we do, say, and witness.

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as probably most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

An Advent Reflection Prayer

 

“All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

– From Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

 

St. Andrew was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. Now all have been canonized by Pope John Paul II.

Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan.

The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful.

Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries.

Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons.

The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution.

By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees.

During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.

Comment:

It may help a people who associate Vietnam only with a recent war to realize that the cross has long been a part of the lives of the people of that country. Even as we ask again the unanswered questions about United States involvement and disengagement, the faith rooted in Vietnam’s soil proves hardier than the forces which would destroy it.

Quote:

“The Church in Vietnam is alive and vigorous, blessed with strong and faithful bishops, dedicated religious, and courageous and committed laypeople…. The Church in Vietnam is living out the gospel in a difficult and complex situation with remarkable persistence and strength” (statement of three U.S. archbishops returning from Vietnam in January 1989).

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 24 & 25 of 26: 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

“Persecution; What an ‘Optimistic’ Marketing Plan For Salvation History!!” – Luke 21:5-19†


 

I started this reflection with no real expectations.  I read the Gospel reading and initially thought of it as a purely “historical” document, without much relevance to today’s living in faith.  Boy was I WRONG!! 

I began reflecting and praying, and the Holy Spirit “broke the dam totally open!”  I could not keep up with my thoughts, and had to write notions and thoughts on a napkin as I was typing, in order to keep up with my thoughts and inadequate typing skills.  My reflections went down so many paths, that I literally needed to “map” out this reflection today.

The Holy Spirit wrote this blog – – NOT ME!!  I only allowed the use of my body.  This is, I believe, the longest of any of my reflection: about 2500 words in the reflection alone (twice as long as normal for me).  Make sure you grab a big cup of coffee and get relaxed.  You may also want to grab your Catholic Bible (Do you have one?) for I will be referencing it extensively today.

I hope you enjoy this reflection as much as I enjoyed reflecting on, and writing about this particular Gospel reading.

            

  

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1359 – Death of Gregorius Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, Byzantine mystic/archbishop/saint (b. 1296)
†   1391 – Death of Nikola Tavelić, First Croatian saint (b. 1340)

†   1601 – Birth of Saint Jean Eudes, French missionary  and founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, and author of the Propers for Mass and Divine Office of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (d. 1680)
†   1550 – Pope Julius III proclaims new seat on Council of Trente
†   1675 – Pope Clemens X declares Gorcumse martyrs divine

†   1746 – Birth of Giulio Gabrielli the Younger, Italian Cardinal
†   1971 – His Holiness Shenouda III is consecrated (Enthroned)as the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. (Pope Shenouda III as Pope of Alexandria)
†   Feast Days: St. Josaphat Kuncevyc on the General Roman Calendar as in 1954; Barlaam of Kiev; Saint Philip, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Church

(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:

 

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ insights and knowledge regarding the future of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and His warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

5 While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.  12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.  (NAB Luke 21:5-19)

 

Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment in the coming future.  The Jewish people took great pride in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the site where that Temple rested.  It was a true wonder of architectural achievement for the world as a whole.  Jesus cautioned His followers to not seek “signs” but rather to seek God’s kingdom in their everyday lives and prayers.  There will be plenty of signs – such as wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves, and earthquakes (and maybe even some spouses) – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment at the “Parousia”: the fullness of God’s personal presence at the coming of the Messiah.

While the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple had been prophesized and fulfilled (it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D., one to two decades prior to this Gospel).  So it was past history for Luke’s community.  There still remained for Jesus’ followers a narrow open door of opportunity showing the way to salvation.   Remember, from the Mass readings some weeks ago that Jesus said: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9).   The statement of Jesus is being experienced by the Lucan community!  Are you?!

In His life, Jesus frequently travelled to Jerusalem, home of the Jewish center of faith – – the Temple.  Jesus knew that he would meet betrayal, rejection, humiliation, pain, and death on the Holy Cross on a hill just outside the gates of the holy city.  However, Jesus’ death on the Holy “Tree” brought about victory over the power of evil and won salvation for all of us, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, – but for both Jews and Gentiles – who would followed Jesus’ path in faith.

Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple destruction is a two-sided coin.  One side shows God’s judgment; the other side of that same coin shows His love, mercy, and protection.  In realizing that there are these two sides, those who first heard Luke’s Gospel may have actually taken these words as encouraging instead of disparaging.  

Luke’s community was most certainly composed of some of the first “non-Jewish” or “Gentile” Catholics.  He tries to make clear the destruction of Jerusalem by locating it in God’s salvation plans for mankind.   However, at the same time, Luke is suggesting to his community that there will probably be a substantial passing of time before Jesus’ final coming, the “Parousia.”  Luke’s community of believers experienced a lot of turmoil and mayhem with both the Roman government’s religious persecution of them, as well as some serious pressure from their Jewish leaders.  These earliest followers of Jesus were in desperate need of encouragement at this time in history.  They were anxious to know whether these past events were truly signs of Jesus’ coming, as well as what was in store for them in the near future.   Luke, in his writings, urged for a greater patience in their waiting for the coming of the end of the age.  (He was encouraging them to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.)

At this period in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is nearing the completion of His teaching time in Jerusalem, which takes place immediately before the events which will ultimately lead to His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.  Luke seems to be warning Jesus’ followers, and is also predicting ominous events in the future; but can Luke’s writings be interpreted other ways?

Luke’s reporting of Jesus’ insights and knowledge concerning the human soul in relationship to death, judgment, heaven and hell are probably inspired by Mark 13 which was written prior to Luke’s Gospel.  However, Luke made some noteworthy changes to Jesus’ actual words reported in Mark’s Gospel.   Luke maintains the early Christians’ belief in the imminent anticipation of Jesus’ return to earth which would end the current “age” and usher in the final age of the Messiah’s rein on earth.  (“Secula Seculorum”: Age of Ages).  By focusing attention throughout his writings on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus (a daily conversion experience), and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs from the end of Mark 13, Luke had come to terms with this delay in the Parousia (the second coming of Christ).  In verse 8, Jesus warns of false teachings and false theologies.  Luke understood the destruction of the Temple some ten to twenty years prior, that the “coming” is without knowledge of the “time,” and to live each day in the present in faith and joyful expectation without worry of “signs”.

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains for the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples and the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a one day event; it will last for eternity.  We are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, has been going on since the beginning of time. (Even longer than the conflicts in the middle-east, or between the Democrats and Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers  to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because  (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life.

Luke is imparting to all of us Jesus’ followers an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and prayer we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

“Prayer In Time of Danger”

 

 

“O God, Who know us to be set in the midst of such great perils, that, by reason of the weakness of our nature, we cannot stand upright, grant us such health of mind and body, that those evils which we suffer for our sins we may overcome through Your assistance.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gertrude (1256?-1302)

 

Gertrude, a Benedictine nun in Helfta (Saxony), was one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Together with her friend and teacher St. Mechtild, she practiced a spirituality called “nuptial mysticism,” that is, she came to see herself as the bride of Christ. Her spiritual life was a deeply personal union with Jesus and his Sacred Heart, leading her into the very life of the Trinity.

But this was no individualistic piety. Gertrude lived the rhythm of the liturgy, where she found Christ. In the liturgy and Scripture, she found the themes and images to enrich and express her piety. There was no clash between her personal prayer life and the liturgy.

Comment:

Gertrude’s life is another reminder that the heart of the Christian life is prayer: private and liturgical, ordinary or mystical, always personal.

Quote:

“Lord, you have granted me your secret friendship by opening the sacred ark of your divinity, your deified heart, to me in so many ways as to be the source of all my happiness; sometimes imparting it freely, sometimes as a special mark of our mutual friendship. You have so often melted my soul with your loving caresses that, if I did not know the abyss of your overflowing condescensions, I should be amazed were I told that even your Blessed Mother had been chosen to receive such extraordinary marks of tenderness and affection” (Adapted from The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude).

Patron Saint of the West Indies

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 14 & 15 of 26:

 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.

 

 

 

 

15.     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.

“Simon, You Didn’t Kiss My Feet, and the Food Sucked Too!” – Luke 7:36-50†


What a week has it been for me.  It started last Saturday with our Secular Franciscan Regional Chapter.  Though the St. Clare Region is the smallest of the SFO Fraternities in the United States, all 11 Fraternities were represented, and a good time was had by all.  The day ended with Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish: a dynamic church group where you will see a person in a pin-stripe suit and $500 shoes sitting next to a person with a purple Mohawk and 20 pierces on the head hugging each other during the sign of peace.  The adult male server had a pony-tail down to his waist.  I truly enjoyed the love present at this Mass.

Sunday was my Fraternities (Our Lady of Angels) meeting, and we had a new member come for her first time.  I believe she is going to request admission, along with another from last month.  This is exciting for our fraternity had been stagnating for quite some time.

Friday was the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” and Yesterday (Saturday) was the “Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  I literally take to heart (excuse the pun) these two days of remembering the love, mercy, and forgiveness present in our Savior Jesus, and in His (and ours) loving Mother, Mary.

Yesterday (Saturday) was my weekly meeting of our parish fellowship group.  It always starts with a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament,” Mass, and then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass; again before the Blessed Sacrament.  Afterwards we go to our groups “corporate office” (most others know of it as McDonalds) for a couple hours of small talk, religious and parish discussion; and some cholesterol enhancement.

To some this week up in a sentence or two:  It has been a peaceful, thought-provoking, and spiritual week for me.  God is truly great and magnificent with me; I love Him so!

   

Today in Catholic History:

† 1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy doctrine decreed by the Roman Catholic Church on priests and nuns.
† 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.
† 2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill
† Pope John Paul II in 1981.  He has since converted to Catholicism.
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Anthony of Padua, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Saint Agricius, bishop of Sens, confessor; Saint Leo III, pope; Saint Onuphrius, hermit, confessor; Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, martyr

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give it anyway ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
    

Today’s reflection is about the sinful woman washing and kissing Jesus’ feet.
            

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.  “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.  Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”  Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NAB Luke 7:36-50)

    

Similar scenes to this Gospel reading can be found in the three other books of the Gospels.  In those versions the anointing takes place in the town of Bethany, near Jerusalem, and just before Passover.  In the other three Gospels, this anointing is related to Jesus being proclaimed “king” by the crowds when he entered Jerusalem; and is related to his being anointed as a preparation for his burial.  In today’s Gospel reading, the anointing takes place in the north, in the town of Galilee, and early in his ministry instead.

In this story of the pardoning of a “sinful” woman responding to God’s gift of forgiveness, we are presented with two different reactions to the “ministry” of Jesus.  A Pharisee named Simon, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Him to a festive banquet at his house; but the Pharisee’s self-righteousness leads to little forgiveness by God and little love shown towards Jesus.  

The sinful woman, on the other hand, displays a faith in God that led her to search for forgiveness of her sins.  Because so much was forgiven, she now overwhelms Jesus with her display of love.  What a powerful lesson on the relation between forgiveness and love!

The normal posture while eating at a banquet was to recline at the table, on the left side.  The most honored guest was immediately to the right (front) of the host, with his back near or against the host’s chest.  The least honored guest was at the end of the table.  Other oriental banquet customs alluded to in this story include the reception by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45), washing the feet of the guests (Luke 7:44), and the anointing of the guests’ heads (Luke 7:46).

In learning that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee Simon, she literally “crashed” the party. Though she was “sinful,” there is no evidence of her being a prostitute but possibly guilty of some other sin.  What can be alluded to, is that she was “unclean” according to first century Palestine societal norms.  In allowing someone deemed unclean by society, Jesus showed that His norms for clean and unclean conflicted with those of the Pharisees.

She brought with her a alabaster flask of ointment.  Ointments were typically very expensive, even for the wealthy of that time. 

She stood behind him, and at his feet.  This position obviously is a position of humility and a sign of submissiveness towards Jesus.  Her weeping was a sign of great love for Him, and of her sorrow for her sins that separated Her from Jesus’ grace.

She began to bathe Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed His feet, and finally anointed the feet with the ointment she had brought with her.  The feet were the dirtiest part of any person of that day.  Most people walked either bare foot or with a rudimentary type of sandal.  With no sewage system, dirt floors in most homes, and all the animals present, one can imagine what people had to tread through in their everyday lives. 

To wash one’s feet was the job of the lowliest slave.  To fall to her knees and wash Jesus’ feet, and then dry them with her hair, as well as to kiss and anoint them showed an adoration, reverence, and love for Jesus that was beyond reproach.  Her actions towards Jesus was, to say the least, generous.

Simon witnessed this event, and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Simon did not realize that Jesus was greater than a prophet!  Jesus responded by telling him the parable about two people owing money, forgiveness, and love.  As is typical of Jesus’ style, He doesn’t answer Simon’s question Himself, but draws the correct answer out of Simon; allowing him to learn a moral lesson.  Simon is forced to admit that the one who had the bigger debt canceled probably loves the creditor more, when he said, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” 

Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Though Simon followed all societal rules of hospitality towards Jesus, he had not shown any special acts of hospitality either.  In a sense, the generosity of the sinner is contrasted with that of the stingiest of Jesus’ host: Simon.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.”  Jesus rebuked and challenges Simon for his self-righteousness and inadequate love towards Him.  Jesus then commends the woman for her great and unconditional love and self-sacrifice to Him.

This “sinner” performed such acts of love towards Jesus that her sins were forgiveness.  What is intriguing for me is that I believe she received the gift of forgiveness before her encounter with Jesus at Simon’s home.  The woman’s sins were forgiven by the great love she showed toward Jesus, which had to be immense and strongly evident prior to her physically meeting Jesus.  Her humility was only surpassed by her love for the “Messiah.”

Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus in saying this is doing more than healing physical problems as some of the prophets had done. He is forgiving sins!  We hear these exact, or very similar, words at the end of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation.”  The priest, in “Persona Christi,” forgives our sins in the same way that Christ instituted on this day.  To me, this shows a proof that Jesus loves all, the woman of this first century, and the people of this day, with the same intensity.  When we show our love, reverence, and humility towards God’s creation; we are showing our love, reverence, and humility towards Jesus.  Our “tears,” our “hair,” and our “kissing and anointing” are our actions as a citizen of this earth, and our duties as a Catholic.  Do we love Jesus as much as this “sinful” woman?!

The others at table said to themselves, ’Who is this who even forgives sins?’”  The answer is quite simple: a person greater than a prophet did: Jesus, the “Christ” (meaning anointed one), and the “Messiah” (referring to the leader anointed by God.  A future King of Israel physically descended from Davidic lineage who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel and herald in the Messianic Age of global peace), and the second person of the “Trinity” (meaning GOD)!!

Prayer of Wisdom from St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. 

Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.

Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.”

      

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231
           

Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.

The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, “Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order.” Anthony replied, “Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it.”

In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.

As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart’s content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, “but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, “that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.”

St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him “the ark of the covenant.”

Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: “Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!” And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony’s feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.

The blessings of St. Anthony’s preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.

In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord.” Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, “The saint is dead. Anthony is dead.”

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony’s intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed.
by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

        

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:
   

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

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

“Go From Gospel To Life And Life To Gospel!”†


Today is the optional memorial for the “Lady of Fatima;” and only 10 days left of Easter, and till the “birth” of the Church: Pentecost.  Most Catholics will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension at mass on Sunday.
     

Today is the “Feast of the Ascension:”

The Feast of the Ascension commemorates Jesus’ ascension into  heaven 40 days after his resurrection.  Thus Ascension Day falls 40 days after Easter, on the 6th Thursday of Easter.  In some parts of the world, the solemnity is celebrated on the Sunday after the traditional date.

Forty Days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Acts of the Apostles records Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  The ascension is an important Christian feast attesting and celebrating the reality of the God-Man Jesus Christ’s returning to the Father, to return again in the future parousia.  The Ascension is the final component of the paschal mystery, which consists also of Jesus’ Passion, Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Descent Among the Dead, and Resurrection.  Along with the resurrection, the ascension functioned as a proof of Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah.  The Ascension is also the event whereby humanity was taken into heaven.  Finally, the ascension was also the “final blow” so-to-speak against Satan’s power, and thus the lion (Jesus) conquering the dragon (Satan) is a symbol of the ascension.  Early Christian art and iconography portrayed the ascension frequently, showing its importance to the early Church.

(from http://www.churchyear.net)

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1024 –Birth of Hugh of Cluny, French saint (d. 1109)
† 1497 – Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Girolamo Savonarola.
† 1655 – Birth of Pope Innocent XIII (d. 1724)
† 1704 – Death of Louis Bourdaloue, French Jesuit preacher (b. 1632)
† 1792 – Birth of Pope Pius IX (d. 1878)
† 1917 – The Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, is consecrated Archbishop by Pope Benedict XV.
† Memorials or Feasts in the Catholic Church: Our Lady of Fatima, Abban the Hermit, Saint Servatus, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Gerald of Villamagna, Saint John the Silent

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

“In his search-and-rescue mission, St. Francis saw countless conversions, not as a result of his own clever preaching, but because of the power and mercy of God. What God needed was someone to take His message to the people, and St. Francis recognized that he was merely the messenger.”  — Patrick Madrid Search and Rescue, Sophia Institute Press
   

Today’s reflection:   What charism of St. Francis speaks the loudest to your spirit?
  

I suppose I need to define what charism is.  From Wikipedia:
 

“A charism (plural: charismata) in Greek means ‘gift of grace’.  Mentioned in Rom 12:6, it is a power whose source is the Holy Spirit.  The nature of charism is spiritual ability, endowment and power; and the purpose of charism is service or ministry.  Charism is believed to be a freely given gift by the grace of God.
 

These gifts are given mainly to build the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:8).  Some of these gifts are called Isaiahan gifts: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord, and piety.  The charismatic gifts are revelational gifts (word of wisdom and knowledge, discernment of spirits), sign gifts or power gifts (faith wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude), and word gifts (prophecy, tongues, teaching and preaching).”
  

From a Franciscan viewpoint, charism for me is taking an active role in the mission of the Catholic Church: to make Christ present in the world.  All Franciscans (laity, religious, and priests) join our Seraphic Father, St. Francis, in the common effort to aid and support the aforementioned life and mission of the Church.  I wish to walk in the footsteps of my Orders founder: St. Francis of Assisi.
   

Charism can be also defined as a particular way in which people respond to God’s call.  “The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi.”  Secular Franciscans mission and charism is to “go from gospel to life and life to gospel.”
   

What does “from gospel to life and life to gospel” mean?  When I first heard this frequently used phrase of all the Franciscan families (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Orders), I believed it was just a simple statement of fact.  Upon reflecting on this phrase, I discovered its complexity.  Living this dynamic phrase includes many aspects: spirituality, community, apostolic ministries, and a simple life style.
  

As a secular in the Franciscan family, I share my life as a person living in the world, but not of the world.  No, I haven’t gone over the edge, or lost some marbles; and there are no new holes in my head (Now my wife may disagree with this statement).  Basically, I have given over my personhood to God to do with as He wishes.  I have chosen to take seriously the common Christian belief that we are temples of God; allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in me, and work through me.  I live the famous prayer associated to St. Francis that embodies the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi’s simplicity and poverty: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. (Prayer is printed below.)
  

Rule number one of the Secular Franciscan order, in part states, “The Franciscan Family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God—laity, religious, and priests-who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.”  I, in union with all other Franciscans of the various Orders, have a common charism: to share the Good News of Our Lord with His, yours, and my brothers, sisters, neighbors, and community.
  

The following prayer has a lot to say, and a lot to absorb.  This prayer is not just for Franciscans.  If all people observed even just a small part of these charisms, the world would be a much better place.  Please read it slowly; one part at a time, then stop and reflect, before continuing with this most beautiful prayer.

  

 “ Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
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.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John the Silent
  

Bishop of Colonia in Palestine and a hermit. Born in Nicopolis, Armenia, he established a monastery at the age of eighteen.  Appointed a bishop at the age of twenty-eight, he spent nine years in his office before retiring to Jerusalem to embrace the eremitical life.  Through a vision, he found his way to the monastery, or laura, of St. Sabas, asking to be walled up and living for seventy-five years as a silent recluse.  His Feast Day is May 13th.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #13:

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

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