Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time & St. St. John of Capistrano, October 23,2014
In the United States, the name Capistrano evokes the celebrated story of the swallows that return yearly on March 19 to nest in the California Mission name after the Franciscan Saint John. Born in Capistrano, Italy, in 1385 A.D., John was trained in civil and ecclesiastical law. He left behind a promising career to enter the Franciscans. He preached to great crowds throughout Europe before he was tapped to serve in a series of diplomatic roles for the Holy See. At the age of seventy, he helped to plan a crusade against the Turks who threatened Belgrade, leading soldiers into battle under a standard bearing the holy name of Jesus. He died a few months later.
“Lord, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will.” Amen.
Brothers and sisters:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten‑stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – I have to set the earth on fire
Peace and reconciliation are God’s will and plan for all of us, not conflict and division. But being at peace and reconciled is more than just the absence of conflict and goes far beyond being one with neighbor. It is being one with self and with God.
When Jesus spoke about father against son, and two against three, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, He was not encouraging us to build our world on conflict and division but He was calling us to face up to the lack of oneness that may exist inside us and in our relations.
This can be in our society, in our families and even within His very own flock, within our hearts and with Him as our God. He is calling us to address not only our conflicts with our neighbor but especially those that are deeply hidden in our hearts, our own internal conflicts that are imbedded in us. He is asking us not to hide from them nor keep them from being exposed. He is telling us that to be blind to our conflicts can be destructive. Being oblivious to the truth will never bring us healing and wholeness. It will never get us where we want to go but can only bring us bitterness and pain.
Jesus, said: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” If we are to live in peace and be reconciled, we certainly need the Lord to set us on fire with His grace, so that whatever that is not of Him in us, may be burned and cast aside. We need the fire of His grace so that His love may freely flow into our hearts and through our relationships. As such there is nothing in our hearts that we cannot confront, no inner disagreement we cannot face, no failure we cannot deal with.
With God’s burning grace, we will have all the understanding, the love and the forgiveness that we need in our strained relationships, the wisdom we need in order to change. With God’s holy fire and grace, there is no person – man, woman, or child – to whom we cannot speak the whole truth without fear or shame as we can speak it in love. Likewise, with his grace, we will have the light to see our true selves and be able to change.
If we have God and His grace mightily working in us, if we carry His truth not as a weapon that destroys but as a gift that unites, God in His goodness will set us free! Certainly He will use us to set people free!
In Romans 6 Saint Paul said: “The wages of sin is death.” He was saying that sin pays big or in lay man’s terms, he meant, “Crime does not pay.” Doing what is wrong may at times be nice to our lustful spirits. It may temporarily benefit us and even win for us the whole world. We could be on top of it and not even feel that death is just around the corner. Death to our soul and spirit could be a slow process and most often hardly noticeable.
It is a regret that most often one is only able to realize the lethal effect of sin when one is confronted with no other choice but to accept DEATH, both spiritual and physical. The effects of adultery, stealing, murder, character assassination and everything that runs against the will of the Lord become so pronounced that somehow nothing in life will work out for the good of one who lives in sin.
The fruits of sin are enormous and they all culminate into the sinner’s death.
One may believe that sinning and going against God may bring us “something good.” But they are all transient and deceitful as anything evil can only bear an evil fruit. The evil effects of sin will always drag us down and the pain of sin never stops, even unto death and can flow from one generation to another. Affections prostrated, faculties and senses abused, time and talents squandered, influence and power misused, friends and family wronged, own personal interests violated, love of neighbor and God lost, are only the few and more noticeable evil results of sin that our limited mind can bring to light.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Who are we going to choose amidst the choices available to our ambivalent hearts, God or the prince of darkness and deceit? Are we more inclined to pay the high wages or receive God’s free gift of grace? Are we going to embrace death or welcome life eternal in our Father’s heavenly home? Brethren, “those who practice sin are slaves of sin but those whom the Son sets free are free indeed.” John 8:34, 36
Jesus came to divide…to separate the good from the bad. What will be our choice? Are we going to count ourselves as among those He has redeemed…among those in the Light? Or among those in darkness?
Let us pray that we may continue to experience God’s love, be strong and choose God and His ways. Let St Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 be our prayer today: “Brothers and sisters: I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
To be reconciled with God and is to be reconciled with man and self.
Heavenly Father, always keep me reconciled with myself, my neighbor and with You. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – Divider Of People
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. –Luke 12:51
The Boston Red Sox were battling the rival New York Yankees for the division title during the 2001 baseball season—and the race was tight. So when Boston lost six games out of eight, the manager was abruptly fired and his job was given to the pitching coach. Some players and fans applauded the move; others felt it was a terrible mistake. Both sides were very vocal with their opinions.
Whoever said “a call for a decision is a cause for division” was right. Choice involves change, and change makes some people uncomfortable.
Jesus said that a decision to follow Him would mean changes in relationships. “From now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son . . . , mother against daughter” (Luke 12:52-53).
Your friends or family may misunderstand you after you start living for Christ. Some may accuse you of thinking you’re too good for them. Others may shun you.
In that way, Jesus is a divider of families, friends, and co-workers. It hurts to be ridiculed or rejected by those close to you, but Jesus said it would happen.
Yes, Christ is a divider of people—but you are united with Him, and He will never leave you. —DCE — David C. Egner
Your choice to follow Jesus Christ
Some people will not understand;
Still others will resent the change—
But have no fear, He’ll hold your hand. —Egner
When we walk with the Lord, we’ll be out of step with the world (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 3 – For better or worse
It is so nice to get good feelings from religion. It is such a relief when religion gives us consolation, hope or a sense of self-worth. Today’s first reading (Eph 3:14-21) is like that. This passage is filled with wonderful wishes that the best gifts of God be given to all disciples of Christ. We are wished the height and breadth and depth of Christ’s love and the fullness of God. What more could a Christian want?
Today’s gospel (Lk 12:49-53), on the other hand, is not so pleasant to hear. Jesus announces that he has come to bring not peace but division. Following Christ, according to this passage, is not a smooth, easy path filled with good feelings. Instead, it entails threats of fire on the earth and separation from family. This apparent contradiction is very much like the imagery – as well as the reality – of Christian marriage. In marriage, wife and husband are united “for better or worse.” They “leave their father and mother” and “forsake all others.” Previous bonds are broken, and new ones are forged. The result is a new way of being, a new symbol of God’s faithful love. The challenges of maintaining the marriage bond are many, but the result is an experience of human love and of God’s own love in all its fullness.
So it is for all who follow the gospel. When we embrace the challenges and allow the fire of Christ’s message to burn in our lives, we leave behind old lifestyles and old ways of being in relationship with one another. The new bonds that are forged with the body of Christ, though, allow us to enter into that “love that surpasses all knowledge,” the fullness of God himself. This fullness of God includes suffering and even the cross, but this is a small price to pay to share in the promised glory. (Source: Cecilia Felix, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, October 23, 2008).
Reflection 4 – Divine Fire and Jesus’ Baptism
Today’s Gospel is not easy to understand: if Jesus is the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and gives the gift of peace to his Apostles after the Resurrection, why does he say in today’s Gospel that he came not to give peace, but to bring division? How can we reconcile this with his message of love, communion, mercy, eternal life, salvation, and the Kingdom of love, justice and peace?
To answer these questions, it is good to look at other expressions of Jesus’ mission. For example, Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s will, to gather the lost tribes of Israel, to gather all men to himself, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, to bring the Old Law to fulfillment in the New, to establish a New Covenant in his blood, to teach us the way to life, to forgive sins by offering himself, to bring us into communion with the Father, and to send the Holy Spirit, who will guide us to all truth.
Jesus tells us today that he came to cast fire on the earth. Fire is an image of God’s presence and love; it is an image of God’s judgment of sinners; it is also an image of divine purification. Jesus brings us the fire of God’s love, he invites sinners to repent and he purifies us from our sin. Jesus then refers not to his Baptism by John in the Jordan, but to his future Baptism on the Cross. He desires to save us, loves us, and is willing to be sacrificed for our sins.
Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. At the Last Supper and on the Cross, the Kingdom is inaugurated. And so, when Jesus speaks about the division he will bring, he is saying that the “time of tribulation is at hand, and I have come to unleash it”. He says this because the heart of his mission is to inaugurate the coming of the Kingdom of God. The exile is over, but this means inaugurating the tribulation, characterized by a time of interfamilial strife and division within, Israel, that precedes the coming of the kingdom and the New Exodus (see B. Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile, Baker Academic, 216).
When Jesus begins his ministry the people of Israel are in exile; they are waiting for the Shepherd who will restore them and bring them into one flock. With Jesus, the Good Shepherd and the royal descendant of David, the exile is over and a New Exodus is begun. This New Exodus leads not to an earthly promised land, but to a heavenly one. We, then, are walking with Jesus, the New Moses or the prophet-like-Moses, and are lead by the cloud and fire of the Holy Spirit to our heavenly home.
Saint Paul also speaks about very deep mysteries in his prayer for the Ephesians. He kneels before God the Father in prayer and makes five petitions for his readers (see P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 96-101). First, he asks that they be strengthen with the power of the Holy Spirit. Second, he asks that Jesus may dwell in their hearts. This is where Jesus wants to dwell and reign. As Christians, we live in Christ and he lives in us. Third, Paul asks that they may understand. This could refer to God’s loving plan of salvation and the wisdom of the Cross. Fourth, Paul wants his readers to know the love of Christ. Each day, we have to experience Christ’s merciful love. Lastly, Paul wants the Ephesians to be filled with the fullness of God. This sums up the other petitions. For, through grace, the Trinity dwells in us, and we share in the wisdom of the Son and the love of the Holy Spirit. Through grace, we are granted the wisdom to see things from God’s perspective and we are enabled to love God and our neighbor.
As we journey through the desert to our heavenly home, we are lead by Jesus and the Spirit, sustained with the New Manna of the Eucharist, guided by the New Law of charity and enjoy the peace of the New Covenant. We are called to invite all men and women to share in these riches and journey with us to heaven, where every tear will be wiped away and where death and sin are no more.
Read the source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-divine-fire-and-jesus-baptism
Reflection – “I have come to set the earth on fire”
Reflection 5 – St. John of Capistrano (1386-1456 A.D.)
It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events.
Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.
John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.
His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.
The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the “Spirituals” were freed from interference in their stricter observance.
He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement.
When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1177
John Hofer, a biographer of John Capistrano, recalls a Brussels organization named after the saint. Seeking to solve life problems in a fully Christian spirit, its motto was: “Initiative, Organization, Activity.” These three words characterized John’s life. He was not one to sit around, ever. His deep Christian optimism drove him to battle problems at all levels with the confidence engendered by a deep faith in Christ.
On the saint’s tomb in the Austrian town of Villach, the governor had this message inscribed: “This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven.” That is a fitting epitaph for a real and successful optimist.