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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

(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:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15);

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

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

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

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

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

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“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) RSV.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 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.

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

 

 

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“Having No Belief In Resurrection Is So SAD-U-CEE!” – Luke 20:27-38†


 

Good Morning People of Christ.  Is everyone refreshed from their EXTRA hour of sleep today?  You know God has a sense of humor:  We will find this out next spring when we LOSE that hour of sleep.

 

 

 

Today is the first Sunday of the Month, and the day of my Secular Franciscan Fraternity to meet in prayer and mirth.  I so love being in the Secular Franciscans.  St. Francis and St. Clare were so down to earth, and humble, that it is hard to even come close to their holiness towards God and His earthly creations.  I pray everyone has a great day.  Pax et Bonum.

 

Today in Catholic History:

       
†   1225 – Death of Engelbert II of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1550 – Jon Arason (b. 1484), the last Roman Catholic bishop of Iceland prior to the reformation, is beheaded in Skalholt with his two sons Are and Bjorn.
†   Feast Days: Saint Willibrord; Prosdocimus; Herculanus of Perugia; Vicente Liem de la Paz

(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:

 

Teachers are those who use themselves as bridges, over which they invite their students to cross; then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own. — Nikos Kazantzakis

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus answering a question about the resurrection of the dead directed to Him from some Sadducees.  Jesus teaches that His Father is the God who gives and sustains life beyond the grave.

 

27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’  29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless.  30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless.  32 Finally the woman also died.  33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”  34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  (NAB Luke 20:27-38)

 

The Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading are shown as opponents to a belief in resurrection.  In the dialogue between Jesus and the Sadducees, we witness a method of dispute used toward Jesus and His teachings that was common during His time of ministry.  This method was an attempt to trap Jesus with clear reasoning based on scriptures and its interpretations. 

Most Catholics know very little about the three different types of Temple leaders of Jesus’ time: the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees.  The Pharisees believed in divine origin of the scriptures called the “Torah.”  They also believed in the oral tradition received from Moses, Joshua, and the Elders.  Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. 

The Scribes were a Temple faction believed to be the “experts” in Mosaic Law and were responsible for copying the sacred texts and the variety of interpretations of these Laws.  In doing so, the Scribes developed volumes of regulations, traditions, and rituals, thus making a true devotion to Mosaic Law nearly impossible (sounds like our countries current IRS and fiscal regulations).  For the most part, Scribes were almost always believed to be closely aligned with the Pharisees.  

The Sadducees, on the other hand, were a priestly faction of very aristocratic men who were found exclusively in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time.  The Sadducees historically and religiously descended from the priestly family of Zadok, a “High Priest” in the time period of King David (2 Sam. 20:25), and King Solomon (1 Kings 4: 2, 4).  Zadok took part, with King David, at Hebron; fighting for David’s reign over Judah (1 Chr. 12:27, 28). 

The Sadducees accepted as authoritative scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch), and followed only the literal, written letter, of Mosaic Law.  They rejected any oral legal traditions, and were close-mindedly opposed to any religious teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the teachings on “resurrection of the dead.” 

The Sadducees believed only in an “earthly” image of heaven.  The Sadducees had no belief in immortality, angels, or anything else NOT found in the Torah (as they interpreted the Torah).   Once you died – well, you essentially became “worm food” – with NO hope for another life in heaven.  I guess that is how they got their name: their beliefs made them “Sad – You – See!”  (I could not resist this one; a Big thanks goes to Jeff Cavins.)  The pitiful thing is that many people today, including some probably reading this reflection, with their minds focused on this “earthly” existence, are just like them!

Though the Sadducees often disagreed with the other Temple leaders and were often at odds with the Pharisees and Scribes, all three of these temple factions considered themselves adversaries of Jesus and His teachings for different reasons.  The Temple Leadership had forgotten the real reason for Holy Scripture: to foster and grow a trust in a personal and loving relationship with God.  All three temple leadership factions became followers of laws and traditions – – instead of followers of God!  

The Sadducees’ question to Jesus: “whose wife will that woman be?” is based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  The Sadducees purpose in asking this question was solely for ridiculing the notion of a “resurrection” after bodily death.  Deuteronomy 25:5-10 relates a law that requires a woman – that has not given birth to a son prior to her husband’s death – to marry her brother-in-law for the purpose of bearing a son to carry on the family line.  Jesus rejected their naive understanding of death and resurrection, and then taught about life after resurrection.

The true reason for this unusual law in Deuteronomy was strictly for the purpose of property holdings.  Relatives of the same clan, who lived together, held their property in a communal form of what we would consider a “trust”.  It was only in this specific instance that this unique law was to be observed, since the law’s purpose was to keep the property of the deceased within the same family or clan.  Marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law was known as a “levirate” marriage from the Latin word “levir,” meaning “a husband’s brother.”  (Some resources spell levirate as “levirite.”  Each spelling appears interchangeable.)

Jesus understood the true meaning for this scripture verse; and He also knew the reason for the Sadducees’ asking this particular question.  In answering their question, Jesus teaches them and us that sexual relationships of this world will be transcended in the next.  We will rise above the need, or want, for sexual relationships with each other in heaven.  The gloriously risen body will be a work of the creative power of God for which marriage will no longer be needed.  (As Jesus revealed, they will be like the angels.)

Jesus argued with authority in interpreting Mosaic Law.  He used the EXACT same method and Scriptures the Sadducees used in order to show that there truly is a resurrection.  Using passages from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 3:2, 5-6) relating Moses’ encounter with God – – in the burning bush, – – Jesus showed God is a God of the living, and not of the dead!  Jesus showed that the “Patriarchs”, who died in body hundreds of years prior to Jesus and the Sadducees, are STILL alive – and, in God’ grace and presence!  All are alive to Him and in Him!  Jesus demonstrated His faith and confidence in the life-giving power of the God He proclaimed in the Temple. 

As this Gospel passage revealed, Jesus beats them at their own game!  Don’t you just love it when a plan back fires!  I wonder if the Scribes and Pharisees present, who maintained a belief in the resurrection of the body, were pleased with Jesus’ arguments towards the Sadducees?!  (I bet they were!) 

Jesus shows to the Sadducees (and us) the miniscule limits of our beliefs, thoughts, and imaginations when it comes to eternal life.  The Sadducees argued against resurrection because of their minds focus on this world only, their mental limits, and their experiences.  They could not appreciate, nor imagine, another possibility for existence and relationship with God.  It either had to be this or that, black or white, and with no gray areas for the Sadducees.  God is not confined by space, time, or other “earthly” restrictions and limitations!   Jesus suggests in today’s reading that a resurrected life is greatly beyond our limited imaginations and abilities of thought.  (Maybe that is why it is a matter of FAITH!)

When a tree is alive it needs water, soil, and sunlight.  When the tree is used to make a table, a toy, or something else – it has a whole new purpose.  The tree, as a table, no longer has a need for water, soil, or sunlight.  Jesus tells us that after we die, we will not have the same needs as when we were alive, except for our continuation, want, and need to have a personal relationship with God.  

Change is inevitable.  How we handle change is what marks us as Catholics.  We must be ready to step outside the “box” – our comfort zone – without fear.  We can only step outside our comfort zone through a firm trust in God’s providence.  With this in mind, please remember God’s presence when your parish is assigned a new priest.  Accept him with a loving and warming attitude, and thank God for His gift.  Pray for the health of a young woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, and welcome her, and her new creation of God, with open arms.  Praise the Lord for His magnificence, and ask for His help, when suddenly unemployed due to circumstances beyond your control.  The Gist: Do you see Jesus in all faces and situations you encounter daily?  (I hope so, for He is actually there to be seen – – by FAITH!)

Humans in general, and especially children, often know and/or experience very little in regards to death and dying.  I believe we, as a whole, know very little about the concept of “eternal life” as well.  What are your thoughts, beliefs, and even “fears” about death and dying?  Are you ready for any “tests” you may have to encounter to reach eternal paradise with God?  Do you truly TRUST God?

Food for thought: Decisive evidence of eternal life was shown to us with the resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning.  His victory over “death” was literally for all of us when He arose from that borrowed hewed tomb.  As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he exclaimed:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25).  This He said prior to His own scourging, crucifixion, and death.

With a hope and faith in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God, we need to pray for those we love, and even for those we do not yet know.  They may have died in body; however, we know by faith they are experiencing eternal life with God while their souls are being cleansed and perfected in Purgatory. 

A relationship with God CANNOT cease with bodily death.  We need to remember that God identifies Himself in relationship to us.  Because of our relationship with Him — the living God — we too are alive!  God will be with us – to guide and teach us – no matter what we do, or what circumstances we experience.  As Psalm 73:23-24 states: “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”   The real question today is: “Are you taking aim for heaven?”

 

“The Glory Be”

  

“Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Didacus (1400-1463)

 

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena. When many friars gathered for that celebration fell sick, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.

Comment:

We cannot be neutral about genuinely holy people. We either admire them or we consider them foolish. Didacus is a saint because he used his life to serve God and God’s people. Can we say the same for ourselves?

Quote:

“He was born in Spain with no outstanding reputation for learning, but like our first teachers and leaders unlettered as men count wisdom, an unschooled person, a humble lay brother in religious life. [God chose Didacus] to show in him the abundant riches of his grace to lead many on the way of salvation by the holiness of his life and by his example and to prove over and over to a weary old world almost decrepit with age that God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness is more powerful than men” (Bull of Canonization).

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 7 & 8 of 26:

7.     United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

 

 

 

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

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.

Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.