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Monthly Archives: June 2015

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY, JUNE 28, MARK 5:21-43

1-15In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-43), we hear of two people who go to Jesus – Jairus, a synagogue official with a dying daughter, and an unnamed woman suffering with haemorrhages. Two people… Two very different people, both in desperate need, both set for an encounter with Jesus.

I’m never really sure why these stories are placed, one inside the other like a set of Russian nesting dolls. But that’s how they are, and Mark invites us to look at both of them together. Mark challenges us to watch and see as these two people, both so different, both in desperate need, come to Jesus for help.

Jairus went to Jesus directly. He was sure of his place, and sure of his welcome. Jairus was one of those people who can march right up Main Street toward Jesus, and never turn away. He was one of those people who can say quite clearly, “Jesus, help me!” and trust that he will be welcomed,
and heard.

The woman wasn’t quite so sure.

She didn’t believe that she could go to Jesus openly. She had no place, no position, no privilege, no power, and so she thought she would have no welcome. She was one of those people who sneak up beside Jesus in a crowd then silently slip away. The woman had no words, no assurance of welcome.

But Jesus, somehow, managed to see and hear both of them. Jesus saw them both!

But what motivated those two people to seek out Jesus? Was it faith? Was it a desire for a miracle? Was it the reports they had heard about the healing power of Jesus? Was it the fear of death? Was it a father’s love for his child?

Certainly it could have been any of those things. But there was another reason and perhaps it was the main reason. They went to Jesus out of desperation.

Jairus had to be desperate to go to Jesus. Jairus was a synagogue official, a respected member of the religious establishment whose members were already voicing concerns about the rabbi from Nazareth. The Pharisees and the Herodians were talking about putting him to death (Mark 3:6), and the scribes from Jerusalem claimed Jesus was “possessed by Beelzebul.” (Mark 3:22)

Desperate to save his dying daughter, Jairus risks criticism and ridicule from his fellow religious leaders, and even a possible “No” from Jesus, when he comes to plead for help. “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” A desperate parent will do anything to save a child.

The woman who had been suffering with haemorrhages for twelve years was certainly desperate. “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.” She was at the end of her rope. She had tried everything else, why not try Jesus?

In both cases, Jesus responded to the needs of these desperate people. A daughter was raised from her deathbed before her distraught father. And for the first time in twelve years, a woman “felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.”

Sunday’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus did not question the motivation of those who came seeking his help. It made no difference if they were led by faith, by love, by concern, by hunger, by pain, by fear, or by desperation. Jesus responded to their needs. The response of Jesus was based not on what was in their hearts, but rather on what was in his.

The same remains true today. Jesus stands ready to receive people with mercy and love even if they come to him only out of desperation. As his Church, we have to do the same!

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY, JUNE 21, MARK 4:35-41

1-14There are all kinds of friends, such friends add joy to our lives.

But there is one type of friend we would rather not have, namely, a fair weather friend.

When things are bright and sunny in our lives, fair weather friends enjoy the “good weather.” This is especially the case when they can benefit from our successes in life. But when our lives get dark and difficult, fair weather friends run for cover, they run out of our lives. They are not there to help and support us.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41), we meet disciples who act like fair weather friends; better yet they act like fair weather believers.

The disciples were excited to be followers of Jesus, to be friends of the increasingly popular rabbi from Nazareth. They had seen people moved by his words and witnessed the sick and the possessed made whole. They had even heard demons acknowledge him to be “the Son of God.” (Mark 3:11)

The lake of Galilee was surrounded on all sides by mountains with warm air rushing up and cooler air rushing down, violent storms could come up suddenly and catch even the most experienced off-guard. The storm must have been especially terrifying to shake the disciples who made their livelihood on the water

Now they were in a boat that was in danger of being swamped by the wind and waves and suddenly their faith in Jesus began to waver. He seemed so oblivious to their situation and unconcerned about their fate that they asked him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

They had been faithful followers of Jesus when things were going well, but when things took a turn for the worse, their faith weakened. They questioned him.

We often act like those disciples. When things are going well in our lives, our faith is strong and we are confident of God’s love and care. But when bad things happen to us, when our lives are rocked by illness or disappointment, when we feel swamped by one challenge after another, our faith can weaken. God seems to be “asleep on a cushion.”

Yet this is precisely the time when we are called to be firm in faith. If we put our faith in God only when things are going well in our lives that would not be faith, it would just be a matter of good sense. Believe in God, get showered with blessings.

Yet faith means trusting in God’s presence and care for us even when God seems absent. Certainly Jesus himself gave us an example of such faith in God during his ministry, especially during his passion and death.

Just as friendship is tested in times of trial, so faith in God is tested in times of difficulty. God does not want fair weather believers any more than we want fair weather friends!

Sometimes there just isn’t an answer for the question of suffering. Our faith and our trust in Jesus aren’t a guarantee that the waters will be calm and that we won’t be overtaken by storms. Our prayers will not always resolve our fears and threats. And Jesus will sometimes be silent and seem like he’s asleep. And when he finally awakens it may only be to chide us—“Why are you so terrified? Why are you so lacking in faith?” When that day comes will we be able to say to the Lord, “I do trust you  . . . honestly. I’m upset with you, but I’m staying in the boat even though I’m scared to death and hanging on for dear life. And whatever storms come my way, I know, Lord, that you’ll always be with me, that you’ll never leave me . . . no matter what.”

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY, JUNE 14, MARK 4:26-34

1-2“With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it” (v.33).

One of the beautiful truths of God’s love for us, we can find in this parable of the mustard seed -When love grows – God’s kingdom grows.

Great stories that endure have more in them than we might first imagine. They have deeper meanings that reveal something about human nature.

For example, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the well-known story by L. Frank Baum, might be thought of as only a fable for children about a lost girl who meets a series of odd characters in her quest to return home.

But that story has layers of meaning that resonate with adults. It takes some age and wisdom to appreciate what lies below the surface. The story deals with self-discovery, the quest for something more, the value of friendship and loyalty, the challenges that come with the journey called life, the search for a saviour, the importance of following the right path, and more

If great stories contain deeper meanings, how much more do the parables of Jesus. These short stories told by Jesus have far more in them than we often imagine. In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus tells two parables to help explain the kingdom of God. The first parable is about a farmer who scatters seeds that wondrously produce a harvest, and the second is about a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large shrub.

After relating those parables, Mark says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.”

Jesus used parables when preaching to the crowds because he knew those simple, allegorical stories would catch the interest of the people and help them to understand some aspect of his message.

But when he was alone with his disciples Jesus explained their deeper meaning. He helped his disciples appreciate the fuller truth he was trying to convey. He showed them what was below the surface. We see Jesus doing just that when he explains the parable of the seed sown in various types of soil (Matthew 13:18-23) and the parable about the weeds (Matthew 13:36-43).

Certainly the Gospel of John presents large passages where Jesus teaches his disciples in private. This is especially true in his discourse during the Last Supper (John 14, 15, 16).

If we are to truly grasp the message of Jesus found in the parables, we need to go deeper. We need to explore the rich truths they contain. The truths in those parables have been proclaimed by preachers and explored by theologians for some 2,000 years. There is always more in them than we think.

For example, in the first parable this Sunday, Jesus says that, “of its own accord the land yields fruit.” The farmer “knows not how.” That mysterious growth may indicate that we may never understand why some people accept the Gospel and others reject it, why some people grow in faith and others remain spiritual adolescents. On the other hand, Jesus may be proclaiming a message of confidence and hope. He may be telling us that despite setbacks eventually the yield that God intends will be produced.

If we are to truly appreciate the parables of Jesus and the entire message of the Gospel we need to reflect, we need to study, and we need to listen to the guidance given us by the Church. If we do not, we will never discover the treasure waiting for us below the surface.

God’s kingdom is all around us. The possibilities for His love to grow in us are endless.  Today, can we take a moment or two to recall and then respond to God’s love for us in this parable: “When love grows, God’s kingdom grows.” 

Today Christ will renew his commitment to us in this Mass. When he does, let’s thank him  and let’s renew our commitment to his everlasting Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Corpus Christi

1-5      What is it about Corpus Christi that makes it so “Catholic?” After all, other Christian denominations revere the Lord’s Supper and are aware of the New Testament traditions about this. But Catholicism is a strongly sacramental religion, firmly believing, in the case of the Eucharist, that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. Similarly we believe that God’s grace is present and active in all of the created elements of the sacraments – in the waters of baptism, in the oil of confirmation, in the Church’s words of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation, in the vowed love of a man and woman in marriage, in the laying on of hands at ordination, in the healing touch and oil of the sacrament of anointing. All of this is founded in the centrality of our faith in the Incarnation – the Divine and Eternal Son of God, born out of the love of the Trinity, becomes true flesh, taking on human existence and revealing that all of God’s creation, and particularly the human person made in the image of God, is sacred and shot through with God’s loving presence.

If someone who was a non-believer spent several Sunday mornings visiting Catholic Churches and watching what happened at Mass, that person would arrive at a number of conclusions.

Certainly that observer would conclude that almost everyone at Mass believed it was important to come forward to receive the wafers of bread proclaimed to be “The Body of Christ.” In fact, the person might assume that was the main reason people came since many seemed less than engaged during other parts of the ceremony.

The person observing would also conclude that drinking from the chalice was far less important since most of those who came forward to receive the “bread” just passed by the chalice. What was proclaimed to be “The Blood of Christ” must be less significant. That especially would be the case if the observer saw that in some churches the chalice was not even offered to the congregation, only the priest ate and drank during this ritual meal.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord contradicts that conclusion.

The reading, which recounts the events of the Last Supper, highlights the significance of receiving the Blood of Christ. There Jesus speaks of the wine shared by his disciples as the “blood of the covenant.”

In the scriptures we read how God made covenants, life-giving agreements, with his Chosen People. Those covenants were sealed with an animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood. Now God was making a new and everlasting covenant to be sealed and ratified in the blood of Christ.

To understand the significance of blood in such covenants, we need to appreciate that for the Jewish people blood meant life. Life was in the blood. When a person or animal had blood, it had life. When the blood drained away, death followed.

The blood of Jesus meant life, divine life!

His blood was like the blood of the Passover lamb smeared on the doors of the Chosen People. As that blood preserved the lives of those within from the angel of death that claimed the first born of the Egyptians, so the blood of Jesus preserved believers from eternal death.

The blood of Jesus was also like the blood that Moses splashed on the altar and upon the assembled people at Sinai. That blood ratified the life-giving relationship between God and his people – an event recalled in this Sunday’s First Reading. So the blood of Jesus brought about a new and eternal covenant that would reach fulfillment in the kingdom of heaven. As he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Each time we receive Holy Communion that new covenant is renewed.

In receiving the consecrated host we are reminded of who we are. We who receive the Body of Christ are the body of Christ in our world. In receiving the consecrated wine we are reminded of the life-giving power that flows within us, the very Blood of Christ.

If we truly understood what was contained in the chalice, we would drink deeply of the life that God offers us. We would not pass by the blood of our new and eternal covenant with God!

Corpus Christi is a feast of awe and wonder. For reasons that we can’t explain, this ancient sacrament continues to challenge us; it nourishes and inspires us. It is not about idol worship. As we celebrate the Eucharist again and again, we drop to our knees in awe and wonder. Not to pay homage to a dead thing, but rather to give thanks for this source of life; this assurance of the living presence of Christ among us.

Jesus said: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Uncategorized