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♫“‘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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“Two, For The Price Of One!” – Mark 5:21-43†


      

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

My oldest Son, Dan III, is leaving for Naval Basic Training today.  Please keep him and all Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard personnel in your prayers each and every day.  They are fighting for OUR freedoms granted to us by God and Country.  BTW, this is a great introduction to my next comment about the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign presently going on:

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Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For July:

 General Intention:

For “Work Security”: That everyone may have work in safe and secure conditions.

Missionary Intention:

 For “Christian Volunteers”:  That all volunteers in mission territories may witness effectively to the love of Christ.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   649 – Pope Martinus I elected to succeed Theodore I
†   1381 – Birth of Laurentius Justitianus, [Lorenzo Giustiniani], saint
†   1517 – Inquisitor Adrian Boeyens (pope Adrianus VI) becomes cardinal
†   1681 – Death of Oliver Plunkett, Irish saint (b. 1629)
†   1690 – Army of England’s Protestant King William III defeats Roman Catholic King James II in Battle of Boyne in Ireland
†   1995 – Death of Ronald Farrow, radio producer/priest, dies at 49

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

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Quote of the Day:

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master; Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher; Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer; Had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world; He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him; He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today!!

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Today’s reflection: Jesus heals a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage and raises Jairus’s daughter from death.

 

(NAB Mark 5:21-43) 21 When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.  22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”  24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. 

25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.  26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had.  Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.  27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  28 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up.  She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.  30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  31 But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”  32 And he looked around to see who had done it.  33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.  She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.  34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”  36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  39 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  40 And they ridiculed him.  Then he put them all out.  He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.  41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”  42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.  [At that] they were utterly astounded.  43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel relates two stories of healing by Jesus Christ Himself.  One story tells us about a desperate woman who risks much as she seeks healing from Jesus.  The other tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter.  In each story, their request for healing is itself a courageous act of trust and faith.  However, very different circumstances are represented by the lives of each suffering person, both in desperate need of divine intervention. 

Jairus, a synagogue official, and a man of considerable standing in the Jewish community, is distraught over his daughter’s poor health.  He approaches Jesus and asks Him to heal her.  Although Mark doesn’t provide many details, we can imagine that his daughter has been ill for some time and that her condition is deteriorating.

The story of the raising to life of Jairus’s daughter is divided into two parts: Mark 5:21–24; 5:35–43.  Placed between these two parts of Jairus’ story, Mark inserts an account of the cure of the woman with a hemorrhage affliction (Mark 5:25–34).  Mark uses this technique of introducing or sandwiching one story within another at least 10 specific times: cf., Mark 3:19b–21; 3:22–30; 3:31–35; 6:6b–13; 6:14–29; 6:30; 11:12–14; 11:15–19; 11:20–25; 14:53; 14:54; 14:55–65; and 14:66–73.  Per the Lectionary for Mass, the story of the woman can be omitted when reading the Gospel at Mass; however, I hope it isn’t; this story has a teaching value and needs to be heard. 

In this “sandwiched’ story, Mark describes a person who also seeks healing from Jesus, an unnamed woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years (I bet she was anemic!).  This woman secretly touches Jesus’ “cloak” from behind and is immediately cured.  In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched Him.  Jesus’ disciples – – always a little clueless in Mark’s Gospel – – help us to visualize the scene and reactions of the people.  The crowds are infringing on – – literally pushing into and crowding – – Jesus’ “personal space”; and yet He, knowing the “power has gone out of Him” (Mark 5:30), asks who touched Him.  The woman could have remained anonymous, but she steps forward and acknowledges what she had done.  Jesus responds to her by acknowledging her as a model of a true faith and sends her away in peace.

Mark had reasons to parallel the two stories: both involve touch, trust, faith, and daughters (and an important status within Jewish society).  In both accounts, Jesus is concerned and compassionate to these women on the lowliest and bleakest margins of society – – a ritually “unclean” woman and a girl on the verge of adulthood within the Jewish religion and culture; both on the lowest rung of society’s social ladder.

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Today’s story opens with Jesus just recently crossing across the Sea of Galilee by boat, and being met by a large crowd:

“When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowdgathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.” (Mark 5:21)

Jesus frequently used a boat, crossing the Galilean Sea many times during His ministry.  There is a parallel verse about His crossing the Sea in Mark’s Gospel as well:

 “Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to Him and He taught them” (Mark 2:13).

Not only did Jesus teach to them, He was called to heal as well.

Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” (Mark 5:23)

The “Lay[ing] your hands on her” is a purposeful and active “sacramental” outward action for an inward grace from God Himself.  This particular “action” was (and still is) for the purpose of healing – – through the Holy Spirit – – and is reported frequently in Mark’ Gospel:

So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” (Mark 6:5); ***

“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:32–35);

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes He laid his hands on him and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’  Looking up he replied, ‘I see people looking like trees and walking.’  Then He laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly” (Mark 8:23–25);

And finally,

“They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”(Mark 16:18).

Further accounts of sacramental “Laying of handsis also found in the other Gospels and New Testament books as well:

While He was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died.  But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.’” (Matthew 9:18);

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to Him.  He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” (Luke 4:40);

He laid His hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.” (Luke 13:13);

“So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17);

And,

“It so happened that the father of Publius was sick with a fever and dysentery.  Paul visited him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him.” (Acts 28:8).

*** Did you notice in the above Mark 6:5 verse, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there”?  According to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith.  What does that mean for us today?  We need to have trust and faith in Jesus in order to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us personally, intimately, and uniquely.

Also, notice that in both Acts’ accounts mentioned above, Jesus had graced this gift of healing to His disciples.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, one can actually move a mountain (cf., Matthew 17:20).

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Now, in verse 27-28 of today’s reading, a “woman afflicted with Hemorrhages for twelve years”

Heard about Jesus and came up behind Him [Jesus] in the crowd and touched His cloak.  She said, ‘If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:27-28).

This woman, suffering from hemorrhages, believes that Jesus can cure her; and in desperation, she dares to touch – – but only His “cloak” – – aware of the taboo against being touched by an “unclean” person.  “Daughter“, says Jesus (meaning a daughter of Jerusalem, of God), “your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34).  Jesus not only cures her affliction but gives her back her child-bearing ability; thus restoring her dignity personally and within the Jewish community.

For most people, touching one’s clothes to effect a “cure” seems to be idolatrous.  For a Jew of this time (and in the present day as well), the “cloak” was NOT a simple garment of fashion.  This “cloak” was probably Jesus “Prayer Robe” – – a tallit with Tzitzit attached at the four corners – – worn only by men at Jesus’ time.  For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings, one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholic faithful.  To the dutiful Jewish person, this garment, not only represents the “true” physical presence of God’s divinity, the prayer robe effects the personal promises, presence, and power of God Himself.

So, in touching the tzitzit of Jesus’ Prayer robe, she was – – spiritually AND physically – – directly and trustingly touching and calling upon God Himself to help her in her time of need.  (Now that is awesomely cool indeed!!)

In both situations: Jairus and his daughter (Mark 5:23), and unnamed hemorrhage victim, their personal inner conviction of a physical contact (Mark 5:30) with the fully divine, and yet fully human, Jesus, accompanied by a proper and total faith and trust in His saving power, could both affect, and effect, a rewarded cure:

She said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:28);

 He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’” (Mark 5:41).

Now, do you know we can also touch Jesus, and be touched by Him in a uniquely intimate and personal relationship with Him through prayer.  What a rewarding effect for both us and Him!!

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What fascinates me about today’s Gospel reading is the way words jump off the page while reflecting and meditating on them.  Verse 33b and 34 both remind me of another experience of Jesus’ personal presence in the Sacraments of Healing, and Reconciliation:

“She fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole truth.  He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.’” (Mark 33b-34).

In the Catholic Church today, there are multiple Sacraments of Healing available to the faithful.  The first to be received is Baptism, the effective removing of original (and any temporal [worldly]) sins and their negative effects.  Reconciliation is another great and wonderfully beautiful Sacrament, sadly not often used by most Catholics today (Sorry to say).  Confirmation stirs up the Holy Spirit within the individual, and is effected by the Bishop “laying his hands” on the person’s head.  Finally, the Anointing of the Sick, (AKA) “Extreme Unction” (last rights), is the Sacraments of healing for both the soul and body.  All of these “Sacraments” are outward signs of an inward working of grace from God Himself through the actions of the Holy Spirit working within both the people and priest.  Remember:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

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Let’s get back to the original story (the bottom slice of the “bread” of the “sandwich”) of today’s reading (Mark 5:35- 43) about the synagogue’s official, “Jairus”, and his daughter “who died”.  Here, Jesus performs another miracle, a true “arising from the dead”.  Jairus, too, believes that Jesus can cure his daughter by “laying hands on her”.  When news comes that Jairus’ daughter has died, Jesus encourages him to “just have faith” (Mark 5:36).  Jesus clears out the house of the unfaithful, bringing in the faith-full, and then takes the child by the hand and tells her to “arise”.  Think about this: the young woman is twelve years old and just entering her child-bearing years.  She, through the actions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, rises to life AND to the capacity to bring new life into the world. (And what better grace is there than the grace of bringing a new life into the world!!)

It took considerable courage and risk for Jairus – – a synagogue official – – to openly go to Jesus, inviting the scorn and ridicule of his neighbors and kin.  Even his family and the hired mourners laughed at him in today’s reading.  Their grief was devoid of any true concern or hope for their child (or for themselves).

Jesus knew Jairus’ daughter was dying; yet, He did not immediately help him.  As if to build a sense of urgency and immediate need, Mark has messengers arrive and confirm Jairus’s (and any parent’s) worst fear – – his daughter had died.  Jesus ignores their message and reassures Jairus.  When they arrive at Jairus’s home, they find family and friends mourning the girl’s death.  Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only “asleep”; then enters the room of the dead girl, takes her by the hand, and instructs her to “arise”, AND she did just that!!

So, we need to realize that the trust and faith of Jairus was put to a twofold test:

(1) His daughter might be cured, and

Now that she had died,

(2) She might be restored to life

Jairus’s faith and trust in Jesus has not been in vain; his daughter is restored to life through Jesus’ intercession and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, Jairus’ faith contrasts with the lack of faith of the crowd:

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, He [Jesus] caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  So He went in and said to them, ‘Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Mark 5:38-40).

Jesus said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mark 5:39).  Throughout the New Testament, various books of Holy Scripture often refer to death as “sleep”:

“Tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Matthew 27:52);

“He said this, and then told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’” (John 11:11);

“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6);

 “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–15);

And, in today’s reading parallel verse from Matthew, Jesus says the girl is sleeping:

“He [Jesus] said, ‘Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Matthew 9:24).

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In Matthew 5:41, Jesus orders the girl to “Arise”.  The Greek verb “egeirein”, translated “to arise”, is the verb used to express resurrection from death IN ALL THREE Synoptic Gospels:

“The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:5);

“King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.’  But when Herod learned of it, he said, ‘It is John whom I beheaded.  He has been raised up.’” (Mark 6:14, 16);

And,

“He [Jesus] stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and He said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’” (Luke 7:14).

This word, “egeirein”, is also used to convey Jesus’ own resurrection later in the three Synoptic Gospels as well:

“He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6);

“He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; He is not here.  Behold the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6);

And,

He is not here, but He has been raised.  Remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee” (Luke 24:6).

“Sleep”, you probably realized by now, is a biblical “metaphor” for death.  Jesus’ statement is not a denial of the child’s real death, but an assurance that she will be roused from her sleep of death.  All of us will arise from our “sleep” at the Parousia event.  For some, there was no need to wait:

 “Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.  Then he turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha, rise up.’  She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.” (Acts 9:40).

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After these two miracles of healing, Jesus orders all to NOT speak of them.  The last verse of today’s reading is very explicit:

He gave strict orders that no one should know” (Mark 5:43).

Why?  Why would Jesus NOT want others to know of His divine nature?  Well, I presume the reason is that it was too early in His ministry for “the word to get out”.  Remember, He was being watched by both the Sanhedrin and the Roman officials (the proverbial rock and hard place).  If Jesus would have become too popular too fast, He would NOT have been able to complete His mission – – God the Father’s will and plan.  As He told His mother, Mary, at the Cana Wedding Feast:

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

Well, His “hour” is here NOW, and is here for ME and YOU – – NOW!!!

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In Summary, in both stories today, we see Jesus’ personal and real concern for the needs of others AND His readiness to heal and restore life.  In, with, and through Jesus, we see the infinite love of God extending to each and every individual.  Jesus gives freely, wholly, and fully of Himself to each person He meets.  Do you approach our Lord Jesus Christ with a confident expectation that He will hear your request and act on it?  (He will!!)

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are stark and revealing.  One is a man; the other is a woman.  One is a public official, an important person in the community; the other is a poor woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community (“Unclean” woman are barred from the synagogue and Jewish society.).  One approaches Jesus publicly; the other approaches Jesus secretly.  However, in each case, trust and faith leads them to seek out Jesus in their time of need.

The Gospel reading today concludes with Jesus’ instructions to remain silent about this miracle.  This is typical of Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes referred to as the “Messianic Secret”.  Repeatedly, those who witness Jesus’ power and authority are instructed to not speak of what they have witnessed.  These instructions appear impossible to obey, and it is difficult to understand the purpose of these instructions.  But in each case, they seem to emphasize the fact that each individual, including the reader of Mark’s Gospel, must, in the end, make his or her own judgment about Jesus’ identity.  Each individual must make his or her own act of faith in affirming Jesus as God’s Son, as the expected Messiah for ALL Israel, and as OUR PERSONNAL SAVIOR!!

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To conclude, there are many ways in which we can compare the request for healing made by Jairus and the request of the woman with the hemorrhage of twelve years.  One comparison helps us think about prayer.  Jairus asked Jesus for healing on his daughter’s behalf; the woman with the hemorrhage on the other hand, had no one to speak for her.  She bravely, but secretly, approached Jesus on her own initiative. 

In our prayers, we do both.  We intercede for others’ needs, and we also express our own needs of intercession, to God.  We find a trust, hope, and faith in Jesus’ response to both of these people in today’s Gospel reading.  They both sought Him out in their hour of need, and were rewarded with His healing grace. 

Think about some of the things you have prayed for recently.  Notice that some of your prayers may have been for other people, and some may have been for your own needs.  In today’s Gospel we find encouragement for both kinds of prayer.  What are the unique similarities and differences between the two people who presented their needs to Jesus – – personally and intimately – – in today’s Gospel?  Did you notice that both individuals received the “healing” they sought from Jesus through the direct actions of the Holy Spirit?  We should pray for the needs of others, and for our own personal needs, with as much trust, faith, and hope as did Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage.   Please say a prayer RIGHT NOW for thanks and praise to God, who hears our needs and answers them. 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“Christ, Savior of all life,
you come to us always.
Welcoming you,
in the peace of our nights,
in the silence of our days,
in the beauty of creation,
in the hours of great combat within,
welcoming you is knowing
that you will be with us
in every situation, always. Amen.”

(Roger of Taize)

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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.

The Trinity

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …’” (Genesis 1:26) RSV.

“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26) KJV.

***

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) RSV.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784)

In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California.  That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows.  San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard.

Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper.  Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor.  He also became famous for his preaching.  Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America.  Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City.  On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life.  For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula.  He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory.  So the last two conquistadors—one military, one spiritual—began their quest.  José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California.  The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769).  That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition.  Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure.  On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander.  He arrived at the point of death.  The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions.  It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians.  The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples.  Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn.  He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000.  His travels would have circled the globe.  He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living.  He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death.  He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Comment: The word that best describes Junipero is zeal.  It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will.  “Always forward, never back” was his motto.  His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians.  When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been—God again writing straight with crooked lines.

Quote: During his homily at Serra’s beatification, Pope John Paul II said: “Relying on the divine power of the message he proclaimed, Father Serra led the native peoples to Christ.  He was well aware of their heroic virtues—as exemplified in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha [July 14]—and he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their new-found faith as persons created and redeemed by God.  He also had to admonish the powerful, in the spirit of our second reading from James, not to abuse and exploit the poor and the weak.”

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 1 & 2 of 26:

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 Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

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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.

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“Moo-ve Over Animals, A NEW Sacrifice Is In Town; Look At The ‘Signs’!” – John 2:13-25†


 

Third Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

We are in our third week of Lent; only 28 days till Easter Sunday.  How are you doing with the Lenten requirements; prayer, fasting, sacrifices, and alms-giving?  This Lenten season has been a special time for me.  I feel a little closer to God more so this year than I have in the past.  Praise be to God for opening my eyes a little wider and seeing all of you with me on my journey of faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   638 – Death of Sophronius of Jerusalem, saint/patriarch of Jerusalem
†   859 – Death of Eulogius of Cordoba, Spanish Bishop and Christian Martyr
†   1513 – Giovanni de’ Medici is elected to the Papacy, and becomes Pope Leo X
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Vindician, Blessed John Righi, Saint Alberta, Saint Aurea

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” ~ CCC, no. 2558, citing St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, C 25r

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus driving out the money changers from the Temple and poses to them a “mysterious” challenge: “destroy the temple and I raise it up again.”

 

(NAB John 2:13-25) 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near,Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.  15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  17His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 At this the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”  21 But He was speaking about the temple of His body.  22 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.  23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.  24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel we learn about how Jesus overturned the “tables” of the “merchants” and the “money-changers” in the Temple at Jerusalem.  In order to understand the relevance of Jesus’ action, we need to know a little bit about the activities that went on in and outside the Temple area.  Worship at the Temple in Jerusalem included animal sacrifices as part of some of the rituals.  So, merchants sold sacrificial animals to Jewish worshipers to be used in ritual sacrifices per Mosaic Law.  The “money-changers” exchanged “pagan” Roman coins – – with its image of the Roman emperor, – – for the Temple coins needed to pay the Temple tax.

 Jesus’ radical action at the Temple in Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels (a true rarity, happening in only 11 out of the 234** chronologic events found in the four Gospels).  What happens in this Gospel reading is among the key events which will eventually lead to Jesus’ arrest, trial, Scourging, and Crucifixion.  Unlike the other Gospels, John’s Gospel places this MAJOR event much earlier in Jesus’ public ministry, occurring at the very beginning of His ministry, just after His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana (cf., John 2:1-12).

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place the cleansing of the Temple toward the last days of Jesus’ life (Matthew, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem; Mark, on the next day).  We need to remember that the “order” of events in the Gospel narratives is often determined more by “theological” motives than by “chronological” data.  The Gospels were written with a specific audience in mind.  For me, this is the WHY we should read each narrative story from all the Gospel books when provided. Here is a link to an excellent site which lists the scriptural readings from all four gospels about the same event, beginning with Jesus’ birth and 233 other events in chronological order:

**http://fourgospelstogether.com/chronological.html

We ALWAYS need to read the Gospel of John carefully, especially in Jesus’ relationship to the authorities of the Judaic culture of the day.  John tends to suggest a greater tension and animosity between Jesus and the Jewish authorities (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes) than is shown in the Synoptic Gospels.  In this regard, let us remember that John’s Gospel was the last of the four Gospels to be written (believed to be written in the 90’s A.D.); and its narrative reflects the growing divide between the Jewish and early Christian communities – – after the destruction of the Temple had already occurred in A.D. 70.  Thus, a greater emphasis on the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism is found in John’s Gospel than in the Synoptic Gospels written much earlier.  More often than the other Evangelists, John mingles “post-Resurrection” reflections of his Christian community in his Gospel narrative.

John is reflecting upon the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), recalling Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ prophesy regarding its destruction.  John uses this earlier story to interpret the later event of the Temple destruction and associated gruesome murders.  John explains to his early Christian community Temple worship would no longer be necessary.  Temple worship was surpassed through the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection forty or so years PRIOR to the Temple’s destruction.  

Does today’s event (destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days) indicate a foretelling of the post-resurrection replacement of the Temple by the person of Jesus Christ?  I believe it certainly does!

Today’s story starts with Jesus and His disciples traveling to Jerusalem for “Passover”.  The Temple in Jerusalem was understood and firmly believed by the Jewish people and nation as the dwelling place of God among His “chosen” people.  All faithful and pious Jews were to make a pilgrimage to the Temple each year at the Passover time if at all possible.  This particular event presented in today’s reading is the first of three “Passovers” mentioned in John’s Gospel (cf, John 6:4; 13:1). Taken literally, the number of documented “Passovers” Jesus participated in points to a public ministry of at least a minimum of two years or a maximum of no more than three years.  We have always learned that Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years.  Here is the proof scripturally.

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The “Oxen, sheep, and doves” which were being sold in the Temple were intended for sacrifice.  The “doves” were the usual offerings of the poor:

If, however, the person cannot afford an animal of the flock, that person shall bring to the LORD as reparation for the wrong committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a purification offering and the other for a burnt offering.” (Leviticus 5:7).

Mary and Joseph used the “poor persons” offering in “consecrating” the infant Jesus on the day of His presentation in the Temple”:

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, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ 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.” (Luke 2:22-24)

The “Money-changers” of today’s reading were the people who took the “Temple tax” paid by every male Jew more than nineteen years of age.  This tax was usually a “half-shekel” coin:

The LORD also told Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites who are to be enrolled, each one, as he is enrolled, shall give the LORD a ransom for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being enrolled.  This is what everyone who is enrolled must pay: a half-shekel, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel contribution to the LORD.  Everyone who is enrolled, of twenty years or more, must give the contribution to the LORD.  The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the ransom for their lives.  When you receive this ransom money from the Israelites, you shall donate it to the service of the tent of meeting, that there it may be a reminder of the Israelites before the LORD of the ransom paid for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11–16).

An interesting note of trivia: before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obligated to make an annual contribution to its upkeep.  After the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Roman occupiers forcibly imposed upon the Jewish nation an obligation of paying that same “tax” for the upkeep of the temple for “Jupiter Capitolinus” (AKA, Jupiter Optimus Maximus), the most important temple in Ancient Rome, located on the Capitoline Hill.  (The picture above is of that Roman temple.)

In both John’s and Mark’s Gospel, Jesus referred to the “Temple” as His Father’s house being made into a “den of thieves” or a “marketplace”:

Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17);

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

Jesus’ respect for His Father’s House and the Holy Scriptures of Moses’ inspired Jesus’ use of physical force to expel the “money-chargers”.  The prophecy of Malachi foretold the coming of the Lord unexpectedly to His Temple in order to clean or refine it:

The lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire … He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:1, 3).

It’s clear that Jesus knew Himself to be “that Lord” prophesized by Malachi.  His behavior is part of the living reality of the LIVING “Word”!

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So, in today’s Gospel reading, the disciples saw with a grace to see with more clear eyes Jesus as the Messiah who burned with “zeal” for God’s house.  The “blind” Jewish authorities, however, wanted proof that Jesus had divine authority to act as He did at the Temple.  They demanded a “sign” from God to prove that Jesus was right in His actions.  Otherwise, the “authorities” would treat Jesus as a fraud and a usurper of THEIR authority.  Jesus replied that the “sign” God would give would be His resurrection (however, NO ONE could understand what he meant by saying):

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19).

What a powerful, yet misunderstood verse this is from today’s Gospel (And I believe in ALL of Holy Scripture!).  Maybe it is because there are many verses about the destruction of the Temple occurring, in various forms, throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples of the Synoptic Gospel’s (and in ACTS as well) speaking of the same event:

He [Jesus] said to them in reply, ‘You see all these things, do you not?  Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down’; ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!(Matthew 24:2; 27:40);

Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down’; those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself by coming down from the cross.’”  (Mark 13:2; 15:29);

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.” (Luke 21:6);

And,

“We [Sanhedrin] have heard him [Stephen] claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:14).

However, in John’s Gospel, there is a figurative or symbolic contrast with the “NEW” Temple from that of Mark’s Gospel:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19);

I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands” (Mark 14:58).

Today’s reading from John is symbolic of Jesus’ prophesy of His own resurrection and His resulting “NEW” community, His new “Living” Temple – – the Catholic (Universal) Church – –

He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” (see John 2:21).

Interestingly, I found an Old Testament expression for the words “in three days” meaning a short, indefinite period of time:

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence”(Hosea 6:2).

Regarding Jesus Christ, Hosea’s three days became a literal reality.  So, as I say often, the “Old” lives in the “NEW” Hosea’s prophesy.

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From today’s reading, you learned that it took forty-six years to build the Temple in Jerusalem.  Here is a little history lesson.

Forty-six years” (John 2:20), based on references found in the books of a first-century Jewish historian, “Flavius Josephus” (cf., Jewish Wars 1, 21, 1 #401; Antiquities 15, 11, 1 #380) AND Holy Scripture, places the possible date of today’s reading happening during the spring “Passover” of the year “28 A.D.”.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene …” (Luke 3:1).

Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29.  Pontius Pilate was the Prefect (a kind of mayor) of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.  Herod, a Tetrarch (Governor), ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39.  Philip was Tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34.  Nothing is known about “Lysanias” who is said here to have been Tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus (Syria).  All these dates from Holy Scripture fall into an accepted range of A.D. 27 – 29.  Per the data in Holy Scripture, Flavius Josephus is probably correct concerning the year “28” as the year of this awesome event.  (I LOVE math, as you can see!!)

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Let me ask you a question: Can I use the anger of Jesus showed in today’s reading in order to justify my own episodes of anger?  I guess it depends, doesn’t it?  We need to remember that “anger” is one of the “Capital” sins.  However, we have to remember that it was a COMPASSIONATE Jesus who took a whip to clear the Temple of the “money-changers” and the animals present there for sale:

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

During His public ministry Jesus is oft-times criticized, slandered, and denounced.  He is eventually betrayed by one close to Him, resulting in His being arrested and scourged prior to His death sentence.  Even through all this horribly brutal treatment, Jesus never responded with any type of anger when the attacks were directed against Him personally.  So, why did He “go postal” at the Temple in today’s reading?  I believe it is because His “Father’s house of prayer” – – His Father’s HOME – – was desecrated by business affairs and money, and not for proper worship.  (You can “diss” me, but don’t ever “diss” my mom or dad!)  Also, animal sacrifices were to be no longer needed in the NEW Temple: Jesus Christ!!

Does Jesus’ anger, clearly displayed in today’s Gospel, justify my own angry moments, whether petty such as when a driver cuts in front of me, or serious such as when someone misrepresents or slanders me?  In reality, I probably think not!  Food for thought: when anger is self-righteous and self-serving, it is never justified. 

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In summary, after clearing the Temple of the “merchants” and the “money-changers”, John’s Gospel tells us that the people asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority for doing such a risky and presumptuous act as disrupting the “normal” course of business in the Temple.  In response to the Temple leader’s indictment, Jesus foretold His own death and Resurrection when He said:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19).

Throughout John’s Gospel, the language of miraculous “signs” is distinctive.  The people of Jesus’ time, and still today, look to these “signs” for proof of His authority.  In today’s reading, we learn that the “sign” of the highest quality – – and above ALL others – – will be Jesus Himself, and the events of His betrayal, Passion, Crucifixion, death on the Cross, – – and His Resurrection – – ALL of these signs – – for our sake!!

Think about places and times when you have experienced God’s presence personally and intimately.   After His Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples finally received the grace to understand that Jesus was present with them as they gathered to pray and share a meal.  Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel that He is “God’s presence with us”!!  Thank you my Lord God for Jesus’ presence with us, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

During this Lenten season, reflect upon the meaning of this “sign” (His death and Resurrection) for You and Your world.  Take this opportunity to consider the quality of your prayer and worship.  Remember that in prayer, we seek to deepen our relationship with the “person” of Christ, Jesus Himself.  In worship “with the community”, we gather to experience anew the “Passion”, death, and Resurrection of Jesus AND its significance in our lives!  Jesus Christ promises to be present with us whenever we gather for prayer, even if we are not physically with each other, such as in the “Divine Office” prayer.  NOW, that’s a miracle!!

I feel today’s Gospel invites us to reflect upon OUR worship of God.  The Temple was an important and holy place for Jesus and His Jewish contemporaries; a place where they gathered to worship God together.  Our Catholic – Christian understanding of “worship” was transformed – – made fuller – – in light of Jesus’ “Resurrection” on that special Easter morning in Israel.  In the Catholic – Christian understanding, God is worshiped in the “person of Jesus Christ”.  As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself “IS” the “Temple” destroyed AND raised up again in three days!!  (Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

  

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

“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.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Real Presence in the Eucharist

“’For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). RSV

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). KJV

***

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). RSV

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Saint Constantine

 

Constantine was king of Cornwall.  Unreliable tradition has him married to the daughter of the king of Brittany who on her death ceded his throne to his son and became a monk at St. Mochuda monastery at Rahan, Ireland.  He performed menial tasks at the monastery, then studied for the priesthood and was ordained.  He went as a missionary to Scotland under St. Columba and then St. Kentigern, preached in Galloway, and became Abbot of a monastery at Govan.  In old age, on his way to Kintyre, he was attacked by pirates who cut off his right arm, and he bled to death.  He is regarded as Scotland’s first martyr. His feast day is March 11th.

Catholic Online
(http://www.catholic.org/saints)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly.  Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs.  Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

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

 

 

“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. 

“The One Who Ha$ the Mo$t – Just Might Lo$e!” – – Luke 12:13-21†


Pope Benedicts XVI’s Prayer Intentions for the Month of August, 2010:

The Unemployed and the Homeless:

General:  That those who are without work or homes or who are otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties.

Victims of Discrimination, Hunger and Forced Emigration:

Missionary: That the Church may be a “home” for all people, ready to open its doors to any who are suffering from racial or religious discrimination, hunger, or wars forcing them to emigrate to other countries.

 

 

Today I am hosting the annual Secular Franciscan Picnic for our Fraternity.  My wife had literally spent all of yesterday cleaning the house because, as she said, “real holy people” were coming over.  I thanked her for the compliment of calling me holy, as I am in the group.  Her response put me back into my shoes on solid earth: “You’re just their token misfit that is in all groups!”  Anyway, please pray for a successful BBQ.

 

 

Today is also “World Scout Day:” the anniversary of the first day of the “Brownsea Island Camp” in 1907, where Robert Baden-Powell began scouting.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

†   371 – Death of St Eusebius of Vercelli, Italian bishop (b. c. 283)
†   1546 – Death of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (b. 1506)
†   1974 – Death of Ildebrando Antoniutti, Italian Catholic cardinal (b. 1898)
†   2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have it removed and his own removal from office.

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

As for me, I’m just hoping God grades on the curve.

   

      

Today’s reflection is about why a person’s life should not consist solely of material possessions, but more importantly on spiritual possessions.

 

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”  14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”  15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.  17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’  21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (NAB Luke 12:13-21)

 

Our economy has been, to say the least, “depressed” for the past several years.  Though it may have never been officially called an economic “depression,” I believe we met the unofficial requirements for being in one.  There have been many serious financial blows in these past couple of years; collapse of the banking and real estate markets; Government bailouts of financial and automotive infrastructures; inappropriate use of tax financing incentives for big business; and the extreme unemployment, and outsourcing of jobs “offshore.”

I remember when the United States was on the top of the economic world.  Our dollar at one time was the most valuable money across the world.  It is no longer so.  It still has a strong hold, but countries such as China, Japan, and several European countries hold extensive financial holdings and bonds from our country.

Most of us recently have had personal and drastic hits financially.  IRA’s, T-bills, retirement plans, and stocks and bonds have all been seriously damaged, and are worth less than just a few years ago.  There is even a larger percentage than usual of retired people, some into the 80’s, returning to the work force; solely out of financial need.  Home foreclosures are at an all-time high, with more people and families living on the streets.

Today’s Gospel reading will probably mean more to most of us than ever before.  Bountiful harvests DO disappear without any warning.  Bigger barns, crops, and our homes and jobs are gone; at least for now!  Mark Twain once said that we are only obligated to do two things in life: “pay taxes and die.”  As a Christian I know the only realistic absolutes in this world are life, death, and judgment.  The best success in this life that we can make every effort for, is a spiritual and physical love for God and each other.

Family life helps us learn about the values of shared aims and the common good. As a family of blood relatives and neighbors, we need to strive in the respecting of the rights of each family member.  What is so wrong in making decisions that promote the common good?!  We are called to share the goods of creation fairly and justly.  Jesus, in this parable, challenges us to remember that the goods of the world are intended to be shared by all.

Luke, in this chapter of his Gospel, shows Jesus instructing His disciples and others on how to ready themselves for the coming judgment.  In this particular case, a crowd of many thousands have gathered to hear Him.  Jesus is speaking to His disciples when He tells them that it is not persecution by others they should fear, but the coming time when we will be held accountable for the use of our treasures before God.  I can hear Him saying something like, “Woe to the one who does not acknowledge the Son of Man!”  

Someone from the crowd asks Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  Jesus uses the statement to teach this point: for anyone inheriting the coming Kingdom; spiritual wealth is to be over material wealth.  

Jesus, as he had done many times (about 35 in total; 20 in Luke’s Gospel), tells the crowd a parable.  To refresh, a parable is a story with a moral or spiritual point.  In this case about a “rich” man whose land yielded a massive amount of produce, much more than he ever expected.  His reaction to this great gift from God was not to consider how he might share some of the extra food with others in need, but to contemplate how he could possibly store it all for future personal use, and future $elling.  He believed he had a brilliant solution for what to do with his success and excess.  He was going to tear down his present barns, and then to build much larger ones. In hoarding all the produce grown, he would have future years of “eating, drinking, and making merry,” and thus felt secure in his lifestyle.

In this parable, God says to the man, “You fool!”  I don’t know about you, but THAT is one phrase I would certainly not like to hear from God directed towards me!  In God’s infinite and sometimes directly harsh sense of humor, He tells this “man of new found material wealth,” that his life will be taken away from him that very night.  What a punch line!  Is it inappropriate to go “te-he-he-he, oops, sorry?” “Life is full of surprises indeed.”

The story continues with God asking the “wealthy” farmer to whom his extreme wealth will belong after his death.  What can he do with his material possessions after he is dead? NOTHING!!  As the old adage clearly states, you certainly can’t take it with you! 

Jesus joined together the contrasting views of those whose focus and trust in life is on material possessions, symbolized here by the rich man of the parable with those who recognize their complete dependence on God.

What is life all about?  Jesus clearly states what life is about in the moral of this parable:  it is not material wealth that matters to God.  What matters most to God is each one of us individually, and our sincere and loving relationship we have with Him and all others with whom we come into contact.  We MUST acknowledge God in our daily lives, and give alms to help those in need. 

Focusing on excess possessions is capable of having deadly effects on people.  The vainness of seeking a safe haven from the struggles of life by hoarding possessions is harmful.  In this one parable, I see a potential for five of the seven “sins that lead to death” (1 John 5) being violated: Pride in himself as a great farmer; Greed in not sharing what he has; Gluttony by eating more than he truly needs; Envy by boasting on his great success; and Sloth by being lax in his requirement to help others in need, and forgetting God in the big picture.

The man in the story doesn’t seem openly bad.  He is not mean or threatening.  He does not wish harm to others in this parable.  Jesus points out that this man’s flaw was his thinking only about himself, and his own comfort and security.  His egotism excluded God and neighbor from his sight, heart, and soul.

The pitiful thing with this man and his ego in this parable is this: I know of friends and family that may be emulating him.  They love their families, and shower them with extravagant and beautiful gifts, almost haphazardly.  When we fail to think about the needs of others, we may be guilty of the sin of omission.   We need to review the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth) daily.  I know I need to ask for help in not committing these offenses to God and to His creations on a daily basis.

For some people, not having enough money is worse than death itself.  However, the silver lining in this parable and in this economic tribulation we are experiencing so harshly today, IS the lack of $ilver!  I firmly believe we all need to take steps toward a simpler lifestyle.  On one hand, being financially successful is a grace from God; but as you know, ALL graces and talents are meant to be shared.  On the other hand, experiencing limitations and even loss of resources is, from a faith perspective, a grace, an invitation, and a reminder for us to look to God for His help and guidance.  Actually, I certainly would not mind an increase in my household income.  It would be accepted gladly if anyone wishes to give me some gold, diamonds, silver, or any other type of monetary value.

What I am saying, and what I believe Jesus was stressing in this parable, is that our TRUE treasures are in heaven, and the graces and creations around us.  Each one of us is meant to be a grace for each other.  Our heaven-dwelling friends and family, our personal angels and saints, our blessed Mother, and our God in three persons are the true treasures that we need to rely on and value more than material possessions; the simple trinkets we have on earth!

The only way to obtain our true treasures is to dig for them here on earth: prayer,
fasting, and Almsgiving.  Almsgiving is much more than putting money in the collection basket.  It is caring for each other by feeding and giving drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothing, and giving shelter to those without, visiting the sick and imprisoned (even in their own mind and/or broken body) to remind them they are loved, and burying the dead in the hopes of an everlasting life in paradise.

 

“Prayer in Time of Trial”

    

“Lord, teach us to love and thus overcome our hatred of those who harm us.  Teach us to hope and thus conquer the depression and despair that so often overwhelms us.  Teach us courage and sacrifice of self as the Immaculata’s instrument.

Pray for us now Mary, our Mother; and Jesus, her Son to bring our troubled spirit peace, calm, and joy.  Amen.”

(Spend two minutes thinking of the good things that God has done for you during your lifetime.)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****
    

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
      

Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.

In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.

At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.

He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.

Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.

He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.

His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.

At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.

Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.

Comment:

St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a “practical” model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.

Quote:

Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, “It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ.”

Patron Saint of Theologians and Vocations

 

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 #1:
      

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 Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

 

”You Don’t Need Isaac Newton to Understand the Fig Tree!”- Lk 13:6-9†


This day, 45 years in the past, civil rights demonstrators were brutally attacked with billy clubs and tear gas on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.  This attack has become known as “Bloody Sunday.”  We still have a long way to go with equal rights for all people; black, white, or otherwise.

  

Today’s reflection is the parable about the barren fig tree. 

The "Season of Lent"

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’  He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”  (NAB Lk 13:6-9)

 

Following on the verses just prior to these calling for repentance, the parable of the barren fig tree presents a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet repented. The parable may also be alluding to the delay of the end time, when punishment will be meted out; and the importance of continuous preparation for the end time, since this delay is not permanent.

Jesus demands of sinners to repent before it is too late.  Once we die, we can longer repent, and our lot has been cast.  That is why frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so very important.  I feel so bad for those that believe “confession” is an antiquated practice of faith.  It never has been, though a few priests have taken a very liberal and improper interpretation of Vatican II, and have down-played the role of this valuable sacrament.

This is a parable of compassion for all of us as the sinners we are.  The story produces comfort for those of us that stumble on the path to lives in eternity with Him, in heaven.  Remember, the road to eternal bliss is a hard road to follow.  It has many detours and obstacles that make it a challenge to navigate.  What we must do, is to allow God to be our navigator, through an open and honest dialogue with Him, via constant prayer.

This parable is also one of urgency, hopefully lighting a fire under procrastinators.  Since most of us do not know the moment of our demise, we need to be in a constant state of readiness.  Frequent sacraments, especially Mass, Eucharist, and Reconciliation are the essential tools in our “Heavenly Survival Kits.”

God is inviting us, in a sense, to cultivate and tend the soil of our lives; and to watch it grow in faith.  At the time of harvest, a banquet feast will take place, if we prepared the soil well.

“Lord, I wish to bring you a bumper crop.  I will nourish the seeds of faith planted in me, and attempt to plant further seed in others.  Please help me to keep the ‘weeds’ out.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Paul the Simple

 

A hermit and disciple of St. Anthony. Paul had long been a humble farmer in Egypt when, at the age of sixty, he discovered that his wife was unfaithful.  Leaving her, he set out for the desert and went to Anthony to become a follower.  Anthony at first refused him, owing to Paul’s advanced years and because he doubted Paul’s sincerity.  As Paul was persistent, Anthony gave him a host of demanding and arduous tasks which Paul fulfilled with such humility, obedience, and simplicity that Anthony allowed him entry into the community.  Paul was termed by Anthony the ideal monk and the so called “Pride of the Desert,” bearing with honor the title “the Simple.”  The monk and historian Rufinus and the historian Palladius both made reference to Paul.  By tradition, he could read minds and cure the sick.  Feast day is March 7.

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.