Franciscan Sisters Grateful for St. Cecilia Stained Glass Window

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity pause this Thanksgiving to gaze on a special St. Cecilia stained glass window in our Motherhouse St. Francis Chapel. Organist and Liturgist Sister Winifred Crevier and Novice Sister Cecilia Joy reflect on this treasured spiritual artifact. May the Lord bless you and your family as we join you in praise of our God in the present moment and always!

St. Cecilia looks up to a heavenly light for guidance as she plays her one handed little organ. Me, too, as a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity. The Holy Spirit and I are good friends as we plan music together in quiet solitude. – Sister Winifred

“This is one of my favorite stained glass windows in our Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Motherhouse. St. Cecilia is not only a powerful to saint to ask for intercession regarding musical matters. She is also a strong model of courage, chastity, and faith. I like to sit and pray by this window when I can. Though if I am not able to, I also have a picture of it in my journal :). May we not only praise Jesus with our voices, but with our hearts as well. ” – Sister Cecilia Joy

Just Gospel: Now is the Time to Promote Diologue with Other Religions

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ monthly intention  on the Christians in Asia and lyrics of Tom Kendzia’s song Now is the Time.

. . . Spirit of love, crush the pain of hatred . . . Make us your own, now is the time . . . The words of Tom Kendzia’s song seem so very appropriate for our present world situation. Yet, how can we make these more than just words or a nice hymn to sing at Mass. How can we bring these words to life?

Jesuit and former papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi gives us some thoughts in this area. He writes, “We can communicate to establish a dialogue, to arrive at an encounter and thus to build together communion in the church, in society and in the family of peoples. We can also communicate to divide, to offend, to spread hate, to prevail over the other. Indeed sometimes it is theorized that communication is more effective, interesting and dynamic if it is conflictual, if it thrives in opposition and struggle. I have always invited my collaborators to take as their motto: ‘Communicating to unite, communication to build communion.’ We now begin to recognize the seriousness of the spread of hate speech on the internet and how it can be used as a way to catalyze and channel hatred. In our history we still experience the divisions of Babel, but we must let the Spirit of Pentecost guide us from Babel to Pentecost, from division and confusion to universal understanding and communion.”

In this same vein, Pope Francis chooses as his prayer intention the following: That Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions. At first glance we might think this intention has nothing to do with us, but is just for Asian Christians. Yet we are called to pray for these challenged Christians and for the suffering Church in this part of the world. We pray that they will be Spirit-led in their encounters and communications with those of other and even oppositional faiths. We pray that their spirit of love may crush the pain of hatred.

Beyond praying for the strength and courage needed by these distant brothers and sisters, we also hear the challenge of our Core Values statement which reads: We work at building community by learning to better communicate with each other. So we pray for the fortitude needed to honestly communicate for unity in parts of the world oceans away, but we also pray for the grace to communicate for unity among our Sisters and all we encounter daily. Here in the everyday meetings we experience, we need to call on God’s Spirit of love to crush the pain of hatred in our local community, in our total community, in our ministry groups, in our towns, in our nation, in Asia, in our world, for now is the time!

 

Called to be a Franciscan Sister and Art Teacher

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie shares the call  of Sister Andrée DuCharme to be a Franciscan Sister and art teacher.

Lorraine had two sisters and one brother.  Her Father died when she was ten years old.  She attended St. Stephen’s Elementary School and was taught by the Notre Dame Sisters.  After Grade school she went to the Academy in Stevens Point where she had the Franciscan Sisters of Mishawaka.  From the time Lorraine was young she wanted to be a teacher.  Since the only teachers she knew were Sisters, she wanted to be a Sister.  Lorraine had two cousins who were Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Sister Mary Angela and Sister Mary Paschal, so she decided to apply to enter Holy Family Convent.

The following letter dated July 20, 1942 was written by Lorraine’s mother to Mother Perpetua.

Rev. Mother:

     First let me introduce myself.  I am an aunt to Sister M. Angela and Sister M. Paschal.  Their mother is my sister.  I am writing because I have a young daughter who is anxious to enter your convent.  She is 14 years old.  She finished her first year of  high school at the Academy here.  Our Pastor, Father McGinley asked the Sisters to take her in.  She worked her way through. 

     Our means are very limited.  We have been alone for four years.  I have another daughter who finished High School in June and a boy younger than Lorraine.  I do not know if you would accept her on these terms.  I will try to give her whatever clothes she needs. I am trying to get work where I could work every day.  So far it has been only part time and not much pay.  My age is against me.  I am 54 and have never worked out before.  The only thing I can do is sewing.  Dorothy has started to work, but it’s not much of a paying job now.  There is a chance to make more later on, but that will take six months.

     Things do not look very good right now, but we hope to change that in time.  Mrs. Wilson is planning to visit Sister Paschal next month.  I will try to have Lorraine there at that time.  She is in good health and had fairly good marks in school.  I shall be glad to hear from you. 

                                                                                                   Very sincerely,

                                                                                                   Mrs. W. DuCharme

Without a doubt, Mother Perpetua did respond to Mrs. DuCharme. To read more, click here: Franciscan Sister Andree DuCharme’s Wake Reflection

Are you called to be a Franciscan Sister teacher? Consider our discernment retreats.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Franciscans gift you with a  collaborative Franciscan Gospel post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 19 2017.  Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photos: St. Raphael Parish Community, Oshkosh, WI

Matthew 25:14-30

[Jesus told his disciples this parable.] (“It will be as when) a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Background

In the parable that is our text for this Sunday, the Master is going on a long journey and giving each of his servants an unbelievable sum of money. A talent was the equivalent of 6,000 denarii and one denarius was the usual daily wage. Even the servant who received one talent has received an enormous amount of money. The difference in the amount each has received is not the issue. The Master has placed a great amount of trust in each of the servants. The first two servants are very industrious and have found ways to double the master’s wealth. The last, however, has protected the master’s wealth out of fear, but returns it in full. He has not used what was given him so that it would increase.

When Jesus was telling the original parable, those who were hearing it would have been peasants who had little or no wealth. For them, a person who had so much wealth that he could have divided it among three servants would have been scandalous. It would have been presumed that the wealth was gotten by depriving others, or if not, the master should have used his wealth to expand his reputation by sponsoring others in the community who had little. But instead, this one expects that the servants return what has been entrusted to them, with a profit. For the average person to whom Jesus told the parables, this story makes little or no sense. The parable only works as a story about something other than material wealth.

The 25th chapter of Matthew consists of three parables about the coming of the reign of God. The first parable is the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) that was the gospel text last Sunday. The second parable is of the generous master who shares his wealth with his servants (Matthew 25:14-30); it is the gospel text for this Sunday. The last parable is that of the final judgment, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats according to how they have treated the least among them (Matthew 25:31-46.) This parable will be the text for next Sunday, the feast of Christ the King. Matthew begins the 26th chapter with Jesus speaking to his disciples of his approaching betrayal and death. “When Jesus had finished all these words, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’” (Matthew 26:1-2) By the end of the 26th chapter Jesus is arrested, and Peter has denied him three times. It will be helpful to understand these parables in light of their context in Matthew’s gospel, and in light of how the early Christians reflected on them to shed light on their own relationship to God.

Reflection Questions

1. What talents and gifts has God given to you?
2. Are there times when you are more aware of the talents and gifts of others than of your own? What is happening around and within you during those times?
3. How is the attitude of the first two servants toward their master different from that of the last servant? Of the two different attitudes, which seems to be closer to the one you seem to live most of your life?
4. What kind of temptations might arise because the master is a long time in returning?
5. Do you value your faith relationship with God as a gift to you? What do you do to protect that gift, nurture it, and foster its development?
6. Do you think God expects you to develop and share with others the gifts that you have been given?
7. When do you experience God’s invitation to “come share your Master’s joy?”
8. When do you experience God’s saying that you are a “wicked, lazy servant?”
9. Can you take some time to talk to God about how you feel about the gifts that you have been given, how you experience God’s desire for you, or what you hear God saying to you in this gospel?

Franciscan Sisters’ Music Outreach Goes to Sheboygan Parish

In gratitude for Father Matthew Widder’s sacramental help during Camp Franciscan, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity wanted to do a special favor acknowledging his own spirit of service. We offered to provide music at one of his Sheboygan, WI, parishes on the weekend. After polling our Sister musicians, the November 11, 2017,  Saturday, 5 p.m. liturgy for Sunday at St. Dominic’s was suggested and chosen. Beth Hoegger, Director of Music and Liturgy, was so helpful with arrangements.

When the day arrived,  we actually came from two different directions. Novices and Sister Theresa Feldkamp, Sister Myra Jean Swiegart, Sister Elizabeth Benvie, Sister Anne Turba loaded up instruments at the Motherhouse in Manitowoc and headed for the east side church. Sister Elaine Turba and Sister Julie Ann Sheahan were among young adults at Milwaukee Encounter that morning, and departed from the Archdiocese’s Cousins Center in time to help carry in cargo and assist in setting up in the choir section of church.

Novice Sister Mary Teresa Bettag, whose family is from Sheboygan’s St. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Parish, delivered a gracious thank you on behalf of the Franciscan Sisters to the people in the pews for welcoming us and singing with us. Fr. Matthew, given his own heart connection to nearby Sheboygan Falls, fittingly seconded Sister Mary Teresa’s prayers for Sheboygan area families and for encouragement for each person in responding to his/her own call of service.    Later, after taking time after Mass to chat with members of the congregation, the whole group of Sister musicians and singers were invited to Sister Mary Teresa’s home.  Parents, Mark and Teresa Bettag, and other family members hosted a festive Mexican feast. It was a spirited meal with much conversation and delicious food. The evening closed with a fun circle game of Catchphrase.

Franciscan Moment: Blessed Solanus Casey by Br. Jason D. Graves OFM Cap

As the Catholic Church celebrates what some have called a renewed “Franciscan Moment,” thanks in large part to the pastoral and relational tone being set by Pope Francis, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Solanus Casey, beatified on November 18, 2018, at Ford Field, Detroit, MI. Brother Jason D. Graves, Capuchin Friar of the Province of St. Joseph, responds to questions about this saintly member of his fraternity.

Tell us a little bit about Solanus Casey, a member of your province.

Bernard Francis Casey was born on November 25th, 1870 in Oak Grove, Wisconsin. The sixth of eleven children, Bernard worked several odd jobs in his youth until, after witnessing a brutal murder while working as a trolley car driver in Superior, Wisconsin, he decided to pursue a vocation to the Catholic priesthood. Initially he enrolled at St. Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but due to some difficulty in understanding both Latin and German, the languages seminary classes were taught in at that time, Bernard eventually left the school with the suggestion to seek out a religious order. Upon receiving divine instruction from our Blessed Mother, Bernard was told to seek out the Capuchins in Detroit, Michigan. He joined the Capuchins in 1897, took the religious name Solanus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout his nearly six decades as a Capuchin Franciscan Friar, Solanus Casey served primarily in the ministry of Porter, the doorkeeper of the Capuchin monastery. Because of this, Solanus was the first person visitors would meet upon arriving at the monastery. This is how Solanus was able to meet, counsel, and touch the lives of so many people. This ministry was often reserved for lay brothers; Capuchins who were not ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Because of his perceived struggles with his studies, Solanus was ordained a “simplex priest.” The simplex priest was able to offer the Mass, but was not thought to have a strong enough grasp of theology to be able to preach a doctrinal homily, or to hear confessions. Solanus was never known to complain or grumble about his “lesser state.” Rather, he performed the ministry of porter in such a way that he revealed the love of God to many thousands of people.

What can you share about Solanus’ letters?

Not long after his death, a book was compiled containing many of the letters Solanus sent during his vast ministry of correspondence. These letters so deeply touched the lives of those he sent them to, that the recipients held on to the letters for years, and in some cases decades, eventually turning the letters over to those who were championing Solanus’ cause for Sainthood. While in his time Solanus was not considered to be “book smart,” his letters reveal a deep understanding of the human person. He writes to people concerning their doubts and their concerns, as well as their joys and their triumphs. His ability to connect with people on such a personal level would have undoubtedly made Solanus a great confessor, had he been allowed to function in that capacity.

What gives your heart joy about the coming Beatification of Solanus?

It gives me such joy to see the Church recognizing Solanus as someone who was able to probe the very depths of the human person, to connect with someone on the most basic human level, and to be with the poor and the suffering, as well as the rich and rejoicing. Many of Solanus’ letters have a common theme, one that has become his hallmark: thank God for all that God has done, all God is doing, and all God has yet to do. Solanus’ message of thankfulness is as needed and relevant today as it was 100 years ago; perhaps even more so.

Is there any one of Solanus’ quotes that you feel is especially significant?

“Ask, seek, knock.” These words greet pilgrims at the beginning of their visit to the Solanus Casey Center, not just because they hold great significance in our Gospel tradition, but because they provide a rich imagery of how Solanus often encouraged others to relate with God. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told to ask, and we shall be given an answer; seek, and we shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened. This signifies a proactive approach to our relationship with God. We are the seekers, the ones who wish to draw closer to God. Pilgrims visit the Solanus Casey Center not just because they wish to learn more about Solanus Casey, but because they wish to draw closer to God; the one to whom all Saints point. Solanus always encouraged others to approach God in a spirit of thankfulness and praise.

How did being a Franciscan Friar challenge Solanus every day?

“Thank God ahead of time” has become one of the phrases most closely associated with Solanus, as has the moniker “Blessed be God in all His designs.” We do not simply passively sit around and wait for God; we seek God with open minds and open hearts, in a spirit of thankfulness and praise. This is perhaps the most enduring legacy of our brother Solanus: in a world where there is so much darkness and despair, where so many people long for hope and light, Solanus encourages us toward the source of all goodness, in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Solanus entreats us to remember the poor and the outcast, and to care for one another as God cares for us. This is what we celebrate in the beatification of Solanus Casey; not just the humble man who touched so many lives, but the message of hope he provides for the Church and for the world, today, and for generations to come.

Br. Jason D. Graves, OFM Cap. is a Capuchin Franciscan Friar of the Province of St. Joseph. He currently serves as a Transitional Deacon at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he also serves as Assistant Vocation Director for the Province of St. Joseph. A native of Hazel Park, Michigan, Br. Jason grew up hearing the story of Solanus Casey, and was so moved as to take Solanus as his Confirmation name. As Br. Jason prepares for his presbyteral ordination in 2018, he is honored to be able to share the story of Father Solanus, and he remains confident that Solanus will continue to inspire others, just as Solanus has inspired him.

 

St. Francis School Paints Sistine Chapel

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Hannah Johnecheck shares on a fun, yet memorable art lesson at St. Francis School, Yuma, AZ involving painting their own Sistine Chapel.

Recently,  Pope Francis came to the second grade and asked them to paint the Sistine Chapel, just like Pope Julius II commissioned Michaelangelo. The students all painted upside down like Michaelangelo. One little sister watched her big brother.

Here are some reactions from the students:

“I am creating the ceiling.”

“How do we go upside down.”

“I am making God making the world.””

It was a powerful moment for all of us. A moment that everything seemed to hold still, because you could feel God’s presence deeply.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Thirty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Franciscans offer a collaborative Franciscan Gospel post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 12 2017.  Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photos: St. Joseph Parish, Sturgeon Bay, WI and St. Joseph and St. Patrick Parish, Escanaba, MI

Matthew 25:1-13

[Jesus told his disciples this parable:] “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Background

The parable of the ten virgins is told with an understanding of the typical wedding of the day in mind. At the time when this parable was being told by Jesus, and retold by the early Christians, and finally recorded as part of the gospels, a wedding usually unfolded in stages. The marriage was arranged by the families, often while the children were still young. With the betrothal, the couple was technically married, but each continued to live with their own families. When all the financial matters were worked out between the two families, the groom then went to take the bride into his home, to consummate the wedding and for them to begin to live as husband and wife. This is when the celebration began. The virgins in the gospel were most likely part of the bridal procession, waiting for the arrival of the groom and standing as witnesses to the consummation of the marriage.

The wedding banquet in the parable is being used as a symbol that God is preparing for the faithful at the end of time. Jesus himself uses the wedding banquet as a symbol of the end time fulfillment. (Matthew 22:1-2, this was the gospel text for October 9.) Another symbol is the fact that they are waiting in darkness, without knowing when their vigil will be ended. Lastly, the separation that occurs between the faithful and foolish bridesmaids can be permanent.

The parable stresses the point that it is their preparedness that separates the wise from the foolish. Both the wise and the foolish have been invited to keep vigil, both have brought their lamps, both have fallen asleep. The only thing that separates them is the fact that the wise have made adequate preparations. When you take note that the
wise did not give of their surplus oil to the foolish, this suggests that whatever it is that one must do to be prepared for the coming is not something that one person can do for another. Everyone must make his or her own preparations.

Reflection Questions

1. What did you do to prepare for the last wedding that you attended?
2. The parable begins by stating “the kingdom of heaven will be like…” When the parable begins this way, do you understand it to be more about the reign of God after Jesus’ return at the end of time, or the reign of God that began with Jesus’ conception as the infant to be born of Mary?
3. In the parable, all the virgins are said to have fallen asleep. How do you relate to that part of this parable?
4. When you think about times in your life when you have been awake to God’s presence in your life, can you identify things that have helped you to be awake to God’s presence?
5. In a similar way, have there been times when you were asleep to the presence of God in your life, and can you identify things within you that have contributed to that lack of awareness?
6. Do you ever think God might be trying to come into your life in ways or places that you are not expecting?
7. Can you take some time and talk to God about the unexpected arrival of the bridegroom, or the virgins falling asleep, or some other aspect of the parable that arises within you as you hear this parable?

National Vocation Awareness Week: Now is the Time for Discernment

During this National Vocation Awareness Week, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity pray with you as you consider your own call from God. Indeed, God is lovingly drawing you to a deeper intimacy with Him as you seek to know His will for your life.

Sister Pamela Catherine’s Discernment Journey

Sometimes this searching is easier done by first pondering someone else’s journey. We offer Sister Pamela Catherine’s thoughts as a possible jumpstart to your own discernment.

 

Discernment Possibilities with Franciscan Sisters

Sister Pamela Catherine’s journey of discernment began with prayer and a retreat. Maybe yours will too. If you are a discerning young woman, we offer a number of options that may fit your own situation.

First, let us know what date(s) works for you. If you are looking for some time to consider what you are ‘called to be’, we are open to planning with you and any of your companions whether in Manitowoc, WI or at one of our local convents near you.  Our Sisters in AZ, NE, MI, MS, MO and WI and nearby states would be glad to meet with you for a vocation conversation. Click here or call/text Sister Julie Ann at 920.323.9632 to begin that encounter.

Are you thinking a retreat with others would be a better option? November 24-26, 2017 we host a Silent Discernment of Spirits Retreat at our Motherhouse,  Holy Family Convent, 2409 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc, WI. Sister Jacqueline Spaniola leads this retreat on St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment allowing time for prayer and reflection with talks on the rules. Register here or text/call Sister Julie Ann at 920-323-9632 for more information.

Looking for a  more Franciscan experience? March 16-18, 2018 we offer Seeing as St. Francis Did Retreat at our Motherhouse, Holy Family Convent, 2409 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc, WI. Sister Anne Marie Lom guides this weekend. Expect talks about St. Francis and his writings, personal and community prayer times, conversations with the Sisters, and service for others. Again, register here or text/call Sister Julie Ann at 920-323-9632 for more information.

Collaborative Discernment of Spirits Retreats

In the spring we will again be collaborating with the Carmelites of Holy Cross Monastery, Iron Mountain, MI and the Cistercians of Valley of Our Lady Monastery, Prairie du Sac, WI for Discernment of Spirits Retreat Days. Ask us about this wonderful opportunity to learn St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment while spending the day with us and contemplative nuns. 

Discernment Wisdom for All Times

Our Third Order Rule provides this advice for this week and every moment of life as we seek His will: “Let them put aside all attachment as well as every care and worry. Let them only be concerned to serve, love, adore and honor the Lord God, as best they can, with single-heartedness and purity of intention.”  St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

Francisan Gospel Reflection: Thirty-first Week of Ordinary Time

It’s time for another collaborative Franciscan Gospel post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 5 2017.  Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photo: St. Rose of Lima Parish, Clintonville, WI and St. Peter in the Loop Chicago, IL

Matthew 23:1-12

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Background

In last Sunday’s gospel text, Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees what is the greatest commandment. Following that text, Matthew describes an incident where Jesus asks the Pharisees a question. Jesus takes their answer and uses another passage of the Hebrew Scripture to demonstrate that their answer is not correct. The text ends, “No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46)

Scripture scholars believe that the hostile relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees is more representative of the community for which Matthew is writing his gospel than of Jesus’ relationship with them. Some even believe that Jesus never delivered this address against the scribes and the Pharisees, but that it represents the early Christians’ relationships to the Scribes and Pharisees after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus seems to enjoy a good relationship with at least some of the Pharisees. Even here in this text, Jesus’ statement that his disciples should observe the teachings of the Pharisees is a compliment. It indicates that Jesus believes the Pharisees know the Scriptures and he approves of the way they interpret them. The more critical attitude toward them is reflected in Jesus’ statement that they are not to be imitated, because they do not live by their own teachings. Jesus calls them “hypocrites” (or actors) eight times
in the course of Matthew’s gospel.

Among the Pharisees there were those who believed every law was important and must be observed. Others taught that some laws were heavy (serious) and other were light. Verse 4 seems to play on the word “heavy” to represent the difficult task of observing faithfully all the precepts of the law. In a culture where one’s worth and existence is defined by the respect of the community, some recognition is vital. Jesus’ comments in verses 5-7 would be best understood as excessive seeking of esteem and recognition from the community. Even in this culture where maintaining honor and status in the community was important, there was also a sense of never wanting to appear to be expecting or wanting recognition.

Verse 8 shifts from Jesus talking about the scribes and the Pharisees to Jesus talking directly to them. Here his concern is about the use of titles. To call someone “rabbi” was a title of honor which could be translated as “my Lord.” “Father” was a term of respect given to elders. In Matthew’s gospel it is used only in reference to God. Jesus taught his followers to call God “Father.” (Matthew 6:9) In this section of the text, Jesus is asking his followers to forgo the search for the esteem of others. Rather, they should be people who practice what they preach, lighten the burden of the law for those who are trying to be faithful to God, and prefer positions of service without status.

Reflection Questions

1. What are the signs of status or respect that were taught in your family?
2. Are there signs of respect or status that are important to you?
3. Who are the people who hold positions of leadership in your parish or community? What would happen in your community if these people shunned all roles of honor at community gatherings?
4. In what ways do these same people display a sense of service within the community?
5. When you think about Jesus in the gospels, does the Jesus in this text add another facet to the Jesus you know from the gospels, or does this text seem to be out of character?
6. Who are the people in the church or in your community whom you think of as people who act on what they preach or believe? Do they know that you find them to be a good example?
7. Can you take some time to talk to God about Jesus’ attitude toward the leadership in his day and your attitude toward leadership in your day, or whatever else arises within you as you read this gospel?