Chronicle Second Week

Wednesday, August 1, Day 9

Mass this morn­ing was presided over by Fri­ar Jorge Arturo DOBLES ULLOA, Cus­tos of the new Cus­tody of Mary, Moth­er of Mer­cy in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.
In his homi­ly, Fri­ar Jude touched on the first read­ing tak­en from the Let­ter of St. Paul to the Gala­tians. In it, Paul talks about con­fronting Peter for no longer eat­ing with non-Jew­ish Chris­tians. Fri­ar Jude said that when we do the work of the Chap­ter we must be a bit like both of these pil­lars of the Church. We need to be able to weigh all the choic­es, yet still accept the pro­pos­als of oth­ers.
The work in the Chap­ter audi­to­ri­um con­tin­ued with dis­cus­sion on the last chap­ter of the renewed Con­sti­tu­tions. This chap­ter con­cerns the gov­ern­ment of the Order. After­wards, pro­ce­dures for vot­ing on the text were clar­i­fied and vot­ing start­ed at 11:00 a.m. After some “tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties”, the pro­ce­dure got off to a good start. Bear in mind that the text must be vot­ed on para­graph by para­graph, and approval requires at least two thirds of the votes.
The spir­i­tu­al intro­duc­tion to Chap­ter I, con­cern­ing the prin­ci­ples of our charism, was approved by a very large major­i­ty. Some vari­a­tions were request­ed, in par­tic­u­lar the explic­it men­tion of our name “Fri­ars Minor Con­ven­tu­al.”
Dur­ing the vot­ing on Chap­ter I, as request­ed a few days ear­li­er in the assem­bly, we focused dis­cus­sion on the issue of our being insert­ed by the Church among the cler­i­cal Orders. The pro­pos­al to let this clas­si­fi­ca­tion of ours remain in the chap­ter passed, pre­cise­ly because it con­cerns the the­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tions of our real­i­ty.
Vot­ing con­tin­ued in the after­noon. The approval of a new para­graph added to Title I was note­wor­thy. The para­graph explained that the dog­ma of the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion was the “gold­en thread” run­ning through the his­to­ry of the Con­ven­tu­als, from St. Fran­cis to St. Max­i­m­il­ian M. Kolbe.
At 6.45 p.m., the assem­bly found itself in the chapel for a pen­i­ten­tial cel­e­bra­tion to pre­pare for the feast of Saint Mary of the Angels at the Porz­i­un­co­la which will be cel­e­brat­ed tomor­row.
Fri­ar Jude com­ment­ed on the Gospel pas­sage from Luke about the con­ver­sion of Zac­cheus. All are invit­ed to come down from their world­ly secu­ri­ties, to wel­come Jesus Christ into their lives. Our father St. Fran­cis asked for a ple­nary indul­gence on this day, so that every­one might receive God’s mer­cy.

Chron­ick­ler: Fri­ar Aure­lio ERCOLI
trans.: mf

The first read­ing this evening is tak­en from the Let­ter to the Eph­esians. It speaks of the need to change our behav­ior. We need to do penance, and to turn away from those things in our lifestyle that can­not give us “true life”. But con­ver­sion is nev­er just turn­ing away from some­thing; it is also embrac­ing some­thing else. This is the dif­fer­ence between the bap­tism of John the Bap­tist and the bap­tism of Jesus. John’s bap­tism was only a rejec­tion of sin. The bap­tism of Jesus is also an accep­tance of God’s love. We hear this in the Gospel of Luke when he speaks about Zac­cha­eus. Zac­cha­eus was a pub­li­can, and there­fore was a hat­ed fig­ure in Israel. The pub­li­cans were col­lab­o­ra­tors with Rome, the occu­py­ing pow­er in Israel; they were dis­hon­est and often used vio­lence to get what they want­ed.

Zac­cha­eus want­ed some­thing more. He heard that Jesus was pass­ing through that area, so he climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of him. Zac­cha­eus was rich; he risked los­ing his dig­ni­ty and look­ing like a fool in front of those who already dis­liked him. Every act of con­ver­sion car­ries a risk. It means let­ting go of who you are. Peo­ple resist grace, because grace leads to con­ver­sion, and con­ver­sion means chang­ing one­self, and nobody wants to change.

When Jesus saw Zac­cha­eus, he told Zac­cha­eus to come down. Zac­cha­eus’ first response was his promise of con­ver­sion, his promise to aban­don his sin­ful choic­es. Jesus then offered Zac­cha­eus a sec­ond lev­el of con­ver­sion. Jesus accept­ed Zac­cha­eus’ invi­ta­tion to come to his home. In fact, Jesus told Zac­cha­eus that, “today sal­va­tion has come to this house.”

We notice in the Gospel of Luke, as we do in the Gospel of John, a real­ized escha­tol­ogy. We must not wait until death to be saved. Sal­va­tion is already under­way. Now is the time for Jesus to become part of our lives. We are already saved: from sin, from lone­li­ness, from alien­ation, etc. Zac­cha­eus was already saved the moment Jesus became part of his life.

St. Fran­cis under­stood this sense of sal­va­tion. He want­ed peo­ple to be grant­ed the grace of for­give­ness so that they could expe­ri­ence the sal­va­tion already present in this world. God became man to enable us to rise up to God, and this has already come true.

On this eve of the Feast of the Porz­i­un­co­la, we turn away from some­thing in order to turn to some­thing else. We make a promise togeth­er to aban­don our sins, those we com­mit as indi­vid­u­als and as a com­mu­ni­ty, in order to embrace, or rather, to be embraced by our Sav­ior. We come down from our per­son­al sycamores to host Jesus in the house of our hearts.

Yes­ter­day I took a phrase from Qoheleth that said there is a time to rejoice and a time to weep. Today I would like to return to Qoheleth for anoth­er idea, that that which was, will be once more. That things repeat.
That is why we can look at a pas­sage from Paul’s Let­ter to the Gala­tians in the First Read­ing and apply it to what we are doing here in these days.
The read­ing actu­al­ly presents two inci­dents. The first is the Coun­cil of Jerusalem. In the ear­ly Church, there were many peo­ple con­vert­ing from their pagan ways. A ques­tion arose of what they should be con­sid­ered. Tech­ni­cal­ly, by being bap­tized, they were becom­ing Jews, grant­ed a par­tic­u­lar type of Jew, those who believed that Jesus was the Mes­si­ah whom God had sent.

Should these new Jews have to observe Jew­ish law: food, cir­cum­ci­sion, the Jew­ish feasts? Paul, Barn­abas, and Titus trav­elled to Jerusalem to speak with the apos­tles there to answer that ques­tion.
In their dis­cus­sion, they had to deal with con­trast­ing val­ues. There was the val­ue of tra­di­tion, that we should hold on to what we have. There was the val­ue of the new­ness of the Gospel of Christ. There was the val­ue of elec­tion, that we are the cho­sen peo­ple and if the pagans want to join us, they should become Jews as well. There was the val­ue of uni­ver­sal­ism, that Jesus had come for all peo­ple, just the way they were.
In these days, we have to dis­cern between var­i­ous val­ues. Just yes­ter­day, we heard of the val­ue of prax­is, this is what we are doing. We also heard of the val­ue of the ide­al, this is the thing for which we should aim. Both of these val­ues of good. If we overem­pha­size prax­is, then we will accept things the way they are and nev­er grow. If we overem­pha­size the ide­al, we will pro­duce con­sti­tu­tions that no one can live.
We have to dis­cern between these and oth­er val­ues. The most dif­fi­cult dis­cern­ment, how­ev­er, is not between good and bad. That is easy. The most dif­fi­cult dis­cern­ment is between bad and worse, between good and bet­ter.

Then in the sec­ond sto­ry in this pas­sage we hear of a fail­ure of dis­cern­ment. Peter came to Anti­och and ate with the Gen­tile Chris­tians. We don’t know if this was sim­ple table fel­low­ship or the Lord’s Sup­per. Some Jew­ish Chris­tians came from Jerusalem and told Peter to stop doing that. They might have remind­ed him that he was to be the apos­tle to the cir­cum­cised and not the non-cir­cum­cised. What­ev­er, Peter stopped eat­ing with the Gen­tile Chris­tians. Peter did not think through the con­se­quences of his action. He wasn’t the bright­est bulb in the bunch. Matthew, for exam­ple, tells us that his name Peter was giv­en because he was the sol­id foun­da­tion, the rock, on which the Church was built. John is more ambigu­ous. He sim­ply gives us the new name, but this might be a word play. Cephas in Ara­ma­ic means rock, while cephas in Greek means head. Rock – Head. He was imply­ing that Peter was a bit thick.

Paul, on the oth­er hand, over­thought every­thing. I read a book a few years ago where it speaks of Paul at a din­ner par­ty, reflect­ing for two hours on the deep­er sig­nif­i­cance of the host’s ques­tion, “do you want more sug­ar in your tea.” Paul saw the con­se­quences of Peter’s action.
The rea­son Jews don’t eat with pagans is that they are unclean. They are sin­ners, and have no way to obtain for­give­ness for their sins because they can’t sac­ri­fice in the tem­ple. If Peter won’t eat with the Gen­tile Chris­tians, he is imply­ing that they are still sin­ners. Which means that their Bap­tism had no effect. Which means that the cross was mean­ing­less. Peter didn’t mean this, but that was the impli­ca­tion.
In this chap­ter, there will be times when we have to be St. Paul, point­ing out the deep­er con­se­quences of our choic­es. There will be times we have to be St. Peter, being cor­rect­ed by the oth­ers.

May God grant us a hum­ble spir­it to be able to hear, and lis­ten, and learn from each oth­er.

Tuesday, July 31, Day 8
Thursday, August 2, Day 10

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