RSS

Monthly Archives: January 2015

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-2Mark’s story unfolds in a series of logical and natural steps. Jesus recognized in the emergence of John God’s call to action. He was baptized and received God’s seal of approval and God’s equipment for his task. He was tested by the devil and chose the method he would use and the way he would take. He chose his men that he might have a little circle of kindred spirits and that he might write his message upon them. And now he had to make a deliberate launching of his campaign. If someone had a message from God to give, the natural place to which they would turn would be the church where God’s people meet together. That is precisely what Jesus did. He began his campaign in the synagogue. He was known to be a man with a message; and for that very reason the synagogue of every community provided him with a pulpit from which to instruct and to appeal to people.

When Jesus did teach in the synagogue the whole method and atmosphere of his teaching was like a new revelation. He taught with personal authority. No Scribe ever gave a decision on his own. He would always begin, “There is a teaching that …” and would then quote all his authorities. If he made a statement he would buttress it with this, that and the next quotation from the great legal masters of the past. The last thing he ever gave was an independent judgment. Jesus was different! When he spoke, he spoke as if he needed no authority beyond himself. He spoke with independence. He cited no authorities and quoted no experts. He spoke with the finality of the voice of God. To the people it was like a breeze from heaven to hear someone speak like that. The terrific, positive certainty of Jesus was the very antithesis of the careful quotations of the Scribes. The note of personal authority rang out—and that is a note which captures the ear of everyone.

If Jesus’ words had amazed the people in the synagogue, his deeds left them thunderstruck. In the synagogue there was a man in the grip of an unclean spirit. He created a disturbance and Jesus healed him.

All through the gospels we keep meeting people who had unclean spirits and who were possessed by demons or devils. What lies behind this?

The Jews, and indeed the whole ancient world, believed strongly in demons and devils. The demons, according to Jewish belief, could eat and drink and beget children. They were terrifyingly numerous.

While we may think of such miracles as appropriate for a less sophisticated age, perhaps we should consider that there are still unclean spirits roaming our world. Unclean spirits that lessen human dignity and degrade the goodness of people created in the image and likeness of God.

There is the spirit of violence that surfaces in the guise of entertainment in the media and in video games and that desensitizes us to torture, sadism, abuse, and killing.

There is the spirit of greed and materialism that drives us to acquire more and more even at the cost of human relationships, family life, and our physical and spiritual well-being.

There is the spirit of narcissism and self-absorption that causes us to value people only to the extent they can do something for us. Those who can do nothing beneficial are simply objects to ignore or discard.

There is the spirit of cynicism and contempt that mocks religion, morality, and traditional values and replaces them with nothing that gives life direction, meaning and purpose. Everything good becomes a joke that leaves only meaninglessness when the laughter stops.

Such unclean spirits need to be confronted with the power and authority of Jesus Christ. He is the one who can drive them out.

This power and authority of Jesus are present in the words of scripture that dispel the darkness and lies that parade as truth in our day; in the example of Jesus who shows us that true freedom and meaning are found in living for God and for others; in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that frees us from our past and allows us to begin again; in the community of the Church that supports us in our struggle against evil; in the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist that gives us the strength to walk the way that leads to a better life today and eternal life tomorrow.

The first miracle recorded by Mark is a miracle we need in our day, for unclean spirits are still seeking to possess the human heart!

Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses in today’s First Reading. Though He has authority over heaven and earth, He becomes one of our own kinsmen.

He comes to rebuke the forces of evil and chaos – not only in the world, but in our lives. He wants to make us holy in body and spirit, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.

In this liturgy, we hear His voice and “see” His works, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And as Moses tells us today, we should listen to Him.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Third Week of Ordinary Time Saturday

The first reading is a beautiful expression of faith. Our translation has “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Other translations often use “Faith is the substance of things hoped for….” In other words, faith is not merely our subjective realizing of something; it is the objective reality of what we look forward to. It is the evidence also; in other words, faith is not blind. The author then begins a long list of our spiritual forefathers who lived and died in this faith. Abraham didn’t know where he was going, but he followed the Lord’s commands in faith. He believed that God would give him an heir by Sarah, who was past the age of child-bearing. And so Isaac was born. All of the patriarchs lived and died in faith even though they would not see the fullness of faith in Christ Jesus.

We, too, must be like Abraham and have faith in God’s plan no matter how sure we are of ourselves in the plans we make. We must know that there is no greater love than the one that comes from above, and who else would want nothing more than happiness and peace for his children than our God?

2The gospel is the story of a storm on the Lake of Galilee. Jesus is asleep in the boat. The storm is great, and they waken Jesus. He rebukes the wind, and the storm subsides. Jesus is perhaps frustrated, perhaps bemused, perhaps resigned when the disciples wake Him  and he rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.

Probably this story was used by the primitive Church during its times of extreme distress and martyrdom. The Church is often pictured as a boat on a stormy sea. But we must not fear: Jesus is in the boat. He will see us through every storm.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Third Week in Ordinary Time Friday

Heb. 10:32-39 Ps 37:3-6, 23-24, 39-40 Mark 4:26-34 Podcast of the Readings: ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_01_30.mp3

Today’s Inspirational Snippet: When we handle difficulties with Christ-like love, it produces great fruits.

The writer of the first reading to the Hebrews again repeats his exhortation to the ‘Hebrews’ not to give up on the faith to which they gave such strong witness in the past. He asks them to remember the days when they first heard and “received the light”. At that time of their conversion, they had to go through many trials and difficulties, sometimes being “publicly exposed to insults and violence” or because of their close connections with people being so treated.

In addition they showed their solidarity and compassion with those Christians who had been thrown into prison because of their faith (a reference to Paul’s imprisonment?). They even happily accepted their possessions being taken away from them in exchange for a treasure that was so much better and more lasting. It is not time now for them to give up on their former faith and confidence, which brought such great rewards though not of a material kind. They need a spirit of endurance and perseverance in their first faith so that, having carried out God’s will in every way, they will receive the reward that awaits them.

In confirmation of what he is saying the author gives a quotation from the prophet Habakkuk 2:3-4. This reflects the belief, mentioned many times in the New Testament, of the expected final coming of Jesus to take all his faithful followers to their future and unending life face to face with God. The necessary condition was that the Christians maintain their total faith and trust in the promises of God and of Christ. So, the author says in conclusion, the ‘Hebrews’ and himself are not the kind of people to draw back and so be lost. Rather they are the sort who remain faithful and so win salvation. It is this “drawing back” that the ‘Hebrews’ are threatening to do and he is giving them many reasons why it does not make any sense for them to do so. We, too, must continue to move ever forward, remaining faithful to the core of the Gospel message and living it out effectively and meaningfully in an ever-changing world.

Here we have the two las2t parables told by Mark in this part of his gospel. They are both images of the Kingdom of God, of God’s truth and love spreading among people all over the world. They are both taken from the world of agriculture, a world that would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners. Both of these parables are words of encouragement to a struggling Church, living in small, scattered communities and surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it. We today still need to have their trust and confidence in the power of the Kingdom to survive and spread.

God’s help comes to us at the earliest possible best moment, not a moment sooner regardless of how much we beg for a quick end to our trials. The question is not: “Why me? How much longer must I suffer this way?” Rather, the real question is: “How can this be used to help others?” This is how curses become blessings and misery becomes joy. God is producing a crop of new knowledge and healing and holiness in you that he will use as food for others. This is your gift to a spiritually starving world.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Third Week in Ordinary Time Thursday

Heb 10:19-25 Ps 24:1-6 Mark 4:21-25

Today’s Inspirational Snippet: Addressing the reasons why people stray invites growth and change.2

Today   there is a more practical turn to the first reading today.  There is a call to persevere in our following of Christ and our living out of the Gospel message.  Once again we are reminded that, through Jesus, we have special access to God.  The symbols used are taken from the Temple rituals but applied to Christ. “Through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary.”  The sanctuary is the very presence of God and not just some man-made structure and we enter by the blood of Jesus and not the blood of animals as in the old dispensation. We enter by “the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)”.   Symbolically, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was “torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38).  God’s presence had moved from the sacrifices of the Temple to the sacrifice offered on the Cross

There now follow five exhortations of a practical nature: 1“Let us draw near to God.” 2“Let us  keep firm in the hope we profess.” 3“Let us be concerned for each other.” 4“Do not stay away from the meetings of the community,.” 5 “Let us encourage one another.”  There is matter here for us to reflect on – our faith and hope in God, our commitment to Jesus and his Gospel and, especially, on how that affects our relationships with both our fellow Christians and all the people who impinge directly or indirectly on our lives.

We are still with Mark in a section of parables and images.  No one lights a lamp and then covers it up.  Our Christian faith is a light for the world and not to be kept hidden. Our message is not meant to be kept secret but to be broadcast and shared.  A “good” Catholic is not just one who keeps all the Commandments, goes often to Mass, stays in the “state of grace” but, rather, one who radiates his/her faith, shares it generously with others, is as much concerned with others having the experience of loving and being loved by God that he/she has.  If we are not SEEN to be Christians we have somehow failed, no matter how good our inner lives may be. To be a Christian is not just to be a good person but an apostle, an evangeliser, a sharer of faith by word and action

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

January 28: St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Janua2-2ry 28:
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Confessor, Doctor of the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas is the Dominican order’s greatest glory. He taught philosophy and theology with such genius that he is considered one of the leading Christian thinkers. We can look to Thomas Aquinas as a towering example of Catholicism in the sense of broadness, universality and inclusiveness. We should be determined anew to exercise the divine gift of reason in us, our power to know, learn and understand. At the same time we should thank God for the gift of his revelation, especially in Jesus Christ.

Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge.”

(Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109, 1)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Third Week in Ordinary Time Wednesday

Heb 10:11-18 Ps 110:1-4 Mark 4:1-20

Today’s Inspirational Snippet: Only together do we make a good harvest in the kingdom of God. Christ’s love, power, and salvation are revealed through our teamwork and collaboration with one another, not through our isolated individuality.

1-3We take up from yesterday’s reading where the author continues to show the superiority of Jesus’ single sacrifice over the many sacrifices of the old dispensation.

In the old order, the priest stood day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices which were really ineffectual in taking away sin. Christ, on the other hand, offered for all time just one sacrifice, not of the fruits of the earth but of himself as a perfect offering in total union with his Father.  Because of this, he now “sits at the right hand of the Father” – his work is complete – and he waits for his enemies “to be made a footstool for his feet”.  The “sitting” of Jesus is contrasted with the Levitical priest who always stood, implying his sacrificing role was never finished.

In a concluding remark, the author says that where there is forgiveness from God, there is no longer any need for further offering for sin. Again, it is for us to open ourselves totally to the forgiving and healing power of Jesus Christ and to unite ourselves fully with his self-offering.

The parable of the sower, as presented here, is in three parts.  The first part seems to be close to what Jesus actually said and, like most parables, just makes one point.  That point is that God’s sowing represents his plan to build the Kingdom, to make his reign effective in the world. Although it may seem to meet with partial or total failure in some areas, overall it will certainly succeed.  God’s plans will not be frustrated. It is a parable to induce confidence, especially for a tiny Church in times of difficulty and persecution

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

What’s growing in your soil?

I was eating coleslaw with my steak and God said, “Look at the coleslaw. What’s the main ingredient? Cabbage! The coleslaw started out as a head of cabbage. Has the cabbage changed in any way because of the other ingredients that it’s mixed with? Not at all. It’s still cabbage. But you didn’t ask the waitress for a head of cabbage; you ordered coleslaw. Why? Because cabbage that’s chopped and mixed with mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices appeal to the taste buds much more than a plain piece of cabbage.”

I wondered, “Yeah… so what’s your point, Jesus?”

“The cabbage in the coleslaw is no less than what it was created to be. But if it had not given up each stage of its existence (the seed dying in fertile soil to become a sprout, the sprout growing into a head, the head chopped into slaw, the slaw mixed with other produce), it would not have become a delightful salad for your nourishment.”

The story points out that true Christian faith is more than just sprouting as seedlings from good soil. Faith is bland unless it becomes part of a salad, mixing what’s good about us with the good in others for the sake of nourishing those who want Jesus to minister to them. Or to put it another way: Faith is pointless unless we put it to use as part of a  community and other faith-based groups that have a mission of serving others.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized