Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:35-41

Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:35-41

Today’s Gospel begins as Jesus and his disciples are getting into a boat. Remember, Jesus had been teaching all day. He had been surrounded by crowds of people. Most likely, Jesus just wanted some peace and quiet. He must have been tired.

As they crossed the sea, a severe storm came up. The waves were high and strong and the boat began to fill with water. The disciples became afraid. They were concerned for their safety. However, Jesus remained sound asleep despite the violence of the storm. He was completely unaware of the disciples’ fear and concern.

Finally, the disciples woke Jesus up. They accused Jesus of not caring about them. Didn’t He know they were in danger? Doesn’t He care about them? Jesus immediately commands the wind and the seas to be still. And Mark says: “There was a great calm.”

Can you remember a time in your life when the “seas were high” and you were afraid of “drowning?” What was that time like for you? Did you turn to Jesus as His disciples did? Or did you try to control your boat all by yourself? Perhaps the question for us is: do we trust Jesus? Do we turn to Jesus when we are in need? Do we truly believe that Jesus is with us? If not, perhaps we can “wake Him up,” tell Him we are sinking and that we need help! I pray we will! Jesus IS with us!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:26-34

Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:26-34

Today Jesus continues to talk about the Kingdom of God. The image He uses in today’s Gospel is the image of seeds and how they grow. He tells his disciples the parable of the sower and the seed. We know the story well. The farmer scatters the seed and then patiently waits for it to sprout and grow. The farmer trusts that the seeds will do what is natural for them. He trusts that they will grow, mature and produce fruit.

He then gives His disciples another example of what the kingdom of heaven is like. This time Jesus uses the image of the mustard seed. He tells them that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. Yet when this tiny seed grows, it becomes one of the largest and most productive of all plants.

We are like the tiny mustard seed. We may think of ourselves as small or unable to make a difference in our world. Yet our small and seemingly puny efforts have the ability to produce abundant fruit. We have been given gifts and talents to share. To us, they may not seem like much. However, God will use us when we share ourselves and our gifts! The question is: will we?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:21-25

Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:21-25

The image Jesus uses in today’s Gospel is the image of a lamp. Jesus asks his disciples where a lamp should be placed: under a basket or on a stand! Jesus then goes on to say that all will become known. Nothing will be hidden. Everything will come into the light!

Each one of us has a “light!” What do we do with our light? Do we use our gifts to make our world a better place? Do we let our light shine or do we downplay or ignore the gifts we have? Or perhaps we are afraid that what we have to offer may not be good enough! Or we may envy people who seem to have much greater gifts than we do.

I invite you to take some time and ask yourself: what is the “light” you have to share? It may not be a brilliant light but it is the light that only you can share in our world! No one else can share your light, it is uniquely yours. And the world is waiting for your light. The world needs your light! Trust yourself! Trust God’s gift in you! Let your light shine today and every day!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:1-20

Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:1-20

Today’s Gospel opens with Jesus being on the shore of the sea. He is teaching and many people have gathered to hear Him preach. The crowd kept growing so Jesus gets into a boat and continues to teach the people from the boat. Can you imagine that scene? Wouldn’t you love to hear Jesus preach and teach? What a wonderful opportunity and gift!

Today Jesus does teach us as He tells the parable of the sower and the seed. Most of us could tell this parable as it is very familiar to us. We know that even though Jesus is talking about the earth and how seeds grow, we know that primarily Jesus is talking about how we respond to His word. Ask yourself, is Jesus’ word falling on the hardened, rocky earth of your heart? Has His Word been “eaten up” by busyness or numbness? Or has Jesus’ word fallen into your open heart and open mind? Today is a good time to examine our “inner earth!” What will we find?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:31-35

Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 3:31-35

The scene of today’s Gospel portrays the arrival of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as well as his brothers. Rather than coming into the house where Jesus was staying, they all remained outside the house and called out to Him. The people around Jesus told Him that His family had arrived.

However, rather than immediately going to find His family, Jesus says to His listeners: “Who is my mother or my brothers?” Jesus then looks intently at the people and simply says: “Here is my family: my mother and my brother.” He goes on to say that any person who does the will of God becomes a member of His family!

Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is, are we doing the “will of God?” How do we know what the “will of God” is? Do we trust that whatever is going on in our lives (good or difficult), is the “will of God?” We all know that life is not easy. There are good times in our lives that bless us abundantly. And there are painful and difficult times in our lives that may prompt us to question God or to wonder where God is! It is easy to sense God’s presence and love when all is going well. And often it is difficult to experience God’s presence when life is challenging. However, God’s presence doesn’t change! It is our perception that changes!

In the difficult times, do I turn to God or do I shut God out? At these times, I usually am tempted to blame God for what is happening in my life. However, these are the times when I/we need God the most. We all know that “bad things happen to good people.” However, when we are the one that bad things are happening to, we may lose our normally clear perspective and belief!

Are we able to trust God at these times? Do we stay open to God’s presence and grace? May we pray for one another that we will trust God during difficult times. However, God will be with us whether we believe that or not! God will never desert us!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:22-30

Third Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 3:22-30

Today’s Gospel picks up where Saturday’s Gospel ended. Today the scribes accuse Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebub. They state that they believe that it’s the power of this “prince of demons” that gave Jesus the power to cast out demons! Also, the people who were listening to Jesus preach declare that He was “out of His mind!”

However, Jesus did not let their comments distract or deter Him. He immediately turns to them and questions their declarations. Ultimately Jesus tells the people that all sins, all blasphemies will be forgiven. However, if someone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, that one will not be forgiven!

What is our reaction to his Gospel? What is the message Jesus is giving us today? Is it about blasphemy? Or is Jesus simply trying to free us? At times in our lives, we are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves for something we have done! Ask yourself: what do you need to forgive yourself for? Are you willing to let Jesus “set you free?” Jesus is waiting and ready! However, do we trust Him enough to open our minds and hearts to His love, His forgiveness, and His healing?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:14-20

Third Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 1:14-20

Today’s Gospel begins in the middle of Chapter One of Mark’s Gospel. This section of the chapter immediately follows the account of John the Baptist’s arrest. Despite the fact that John had been arrested, Jesus continued on to Galilee to proclaim His message. Everywhere He went, He proclaimed that the time of fulfillment, the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Jesus preached a message of repentance. He invited people to believe in the Gospel.

I wonder what the people who heard him preach thought of Jesus and His message. Andrew and Simon were among the crowd who listened to Jesus’ message. Jesus singled them out and invited them to follow Him. Immediately they dropped their nets, and left their families to follow Him. Jesus must have been a powerful speaker. Also, His message must have been very different from what the other prophets preached. There was something about Jesus that deeply touched Simon and Andrew. Jesus had something they longed for. Thus, they left their nets and boat to follow this man, Jesus.

As they walked along, Jesus called Simon and Andrew. Then going a little further, Jesus also called James and John to follow Him. What was it about Jesus that inspired these common, down-to-earth men, to leave their livelihood, their families and their home to follow this itinerant preacher! Jesus must have had a powerful presence but also a message that spoke to their hearts!

Why do we follow Jesus? Do we do it because it is what we learned as children? Do we follow Jesus because that is what we are supposed to do? Is Jesus a real person to us or is He simply a character in a story to us? Today take some time and reflect on this question: who is Jesus to you? Does Jesus make a difference in your life? I pray your answer is YES!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:20-21

Second Week of Ordinary Time - Mark 3:20-21

Once again, Jesus is followed by a crowd of people. There is no respite for Jesus. The people are desperate. They long to hear Jesus preach and they hope to be healed of their diseases, be they of body, mind or spirit. The people recognized that there was something very different about Jesus. Yes, Jesus preached and healed as many other prophets did. But perhaps more importantly, Jesus truly “saw” them. And Jesus loved them!

Love is very healing! Love says that we are important to the other person. Love tells us that we are accepted and cared for as we are. Love desires the best for us, even if it is at the sacrifice of the other.

Jesus was and is the ultimate Lover. No matter what “state” we are in when we come to Jesus, He immediately gathers us to Himself in love. Perhaps the fact that Jesus desires us to come to Him no matter what “state” we are in is proof that Jesus is the ultimate unconditional Lover. Jesus simply desires for us to live in close communion with Him. He is not worried about our past. He never gives up on us. Jesus simply loves us as we are. And He waits for us to “come home” to Him! What will we do today?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:13-19

Second Week of Ordinary Time - Mark 3:13-19

Today Jesus appoints the “Twelve,” those disciples who would become His closest companions. Jesus wants to send them forth to spread His message of the “Good News!” He also gave them the power to drive out demons. He then sends them forth to preach and teach.

I wonder how the disciples responded to Jesus calling them to follow Him? Were they excited? Amazed? Or were they shocked and perhaps a bit apprehensive? Did they believe that they also would have the power to do wondrous works?

Today Jesus calls us! Today Jesus calls you and me to “do good” for others! Daily Jesus asks us to spread His Word and His Love. How do we respond? Do we trust that we have gifts to share? Will we trust that Jesus will be with us and guide us? We are blessed! Today may we share our blessings!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:7-12

Second week of ordinary time — Mark 3:7-12

The opening words of today’s Gospel states that Jesus and his disciples withdrew from the crowds. I would imagine that Jesus simply needed time for rest, quiet and peace. Crowds are usually draining — especially if they all want your attention!

However, this was not to be. A good number of people from various regions and cities followed Jesus. Despite His longing for quiet and peace, Jesus cured many people. However, as word of His power spread, more and more people kept coming to Jesus. The Gospel also says that unclean spirits shouted out to Jesus. These spirits recognized Jesus as the Son of God!

Who is Jesus to us? Do we truly recognize Him as the Son of God? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Or is He simply a figure in the Bible? Do we only want Jesus to heal us so we can go on about our lives? If so, will we approach Him and ask Him for what we desire?

Perhaps the more important question is: do we desire a personal relationship with Jesus? This relationship is the greatest gift we can have! Perhaps we should ask for a deeper relationship with Jesus? Will we?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflection: Mark 3:1-6

Second Week of Ordinary Time — Mark 3:1-6

Today the Pharisees continue to monitor what Jesus is doing. As Jesus goes into the synagogue, He sees a man seated there who had a withered hand. Jesus quietly and simply asks the man to come to Him. Then Jesus turns to the Pharisees and asks them if it is lawful to “d0 good” on the Sabbath. Yes, it was Sabbath. However, was it better to heal someone or was it better to ignore their suffering?

The Pharisees did not know how to respond. They just kept silent. Jesus was deeply saddened and angry at the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts. Jesus then turns to the man and quietly asks him to stretch out his hand. The man does so and immediately his hand was healed!

What is “withered” in our lives? What is the healing that we long for? Are we ready to “stretch our hand” and ask Jesus to heal us? Do we trust that Jesus will respond to us? Do we have faith that Jesus will heal us in some way (even if it is not the one we hope for?) Jesus is waiting for us! Will we come?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reflection: Mark 2:23-28

Second Week of Ordinary Time - Mark 2:23-28

Today the Pharisees continue to criticize Jesus. Jesus and His disciples were walking through a field of grain and as they walked along, they picked some of the grain. They may have done it without even thinking about it. However, the Pharisees immediately confront Jesus and ask Him why His followers were doing something that was unlawful to do on the Sabbath.

Jesus quietly responds to their question by reminding the Pharisees that when David and his companions were hungry, David had the audacity to go into the “house of God” and they ate bread that only the priests were allowed to eat. He also tells the Pharisees that the Sabbath was created for human beings, not human beings for the Sabbath.

As Christians, most of us don’t call Sundays “Sabbath.” However, in today’s world, for many people “Sunday” has become simply another day of the week. To others, Sunday simply may be a day when they don’t have to work. God may not be in their thoughts at all on Sunday. However, as you are reading this commentary, I assume that God is an important part of your life!

So ask yourself: why do you go to Church? Do you go simply because you are supposed to? Or do you go for spiritual enrichment? Do you have a community at Church that is caring and supportive? “Going to Church” can become automatic! It may simply be part of my weekly routine. The reality is that I may physically be at Church yet I am not truly attending to what is going on right in front of me. My body may be there but my mind may be miles away!

The challenge is to keep bringing my mind back to this celebration of the Eucharist, to what is happening in this sacred space. God knows that we “wander.” God doesn’t ask much of us. God simply wants us to “wake up” and be attentive to Him and His sacrament during the 40-60 minutes we are there! However, we may have to remind ourselves to “stay awake” several times during the Eucharist! The question is: will we?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflection: Marck 2:18-22

Second Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 2:18-22

Today’s Gospel opens as people come to Jesus and ask Him: “why do your disciples not fast?” Everyone knew that the Pharisees fasted as did the disciples of John. They were curious about the fact that Jesus and His disciples did not fast. Jesus doesn’t respond as they may have hoped He would. Rather, Jesus uses the example of a wedding feast.

Jesus tells his listeners that as long as the bridegroom is at the reception, the guests will continue to celebrate this joyous occasion. The time to fast will be when the bridegroom is no longer with them. Jesus then uses the image of a cloak that is torn and needs to be patched. He tells His listeners that anyone with sense would not use a new piece of material to patch the cloak. Given the difference in the age of the cloths, it would simply make the tear worse. Jesus then uses the image of wineskins. He says that you should never put new wine into previously used wineskins. The skins would burst!

Today perhaps is Jesus is inviting us to “do something new” rather than simply continuing to live out our old (and perhaps unhealthy) patterns. I assume that all of us have at least one pattern in our life that we would like to change. Take a moment and ask yourself: what is one small change I would like to make in my life? How serious am I about making this change?

Change is not as easy. It is easy to make a New Year’s resolution. However, it is much more difficult to keep that resolution. What is the change that you would like to make? What is the change that you desire? And what is one simple step you can take to move in that direction? May we pray for one another that we will take that first step!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reflection: John 1:35-42

Second Week of Ordinary Time – John 1:35-42

The Gospel begins today with John the Baptist standing with some of disciples. As Jesus walks by them, John says to his disciples: “Behold the Lamb of God!” John’s disciples immediately leave John and follow Jesus. After a time, Jesus realized that these men were following Him. Jesus turns to them and asks them what they are looking for? However, they do not answer Jesus’ question. Instead they ask Jesus where He is staying. Jesus simply tells them to “come and see.”

Today Jesus is asking us: “what are we looking for?” Take a moment and ask yourself: what are you looking for at this time in your life? What do you (and I) need or desire? We don’t always take the time to reflect on our desires. Do we simply desire more money, fame or influence? Or do we long for peace, hope or contentment? We all have needs and desires! However, today Jesus is waiting to hear our response to His question! What will it be?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reflection: Mark 2:13-17

First Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 2:13-17

This Gospel opens with Jesus walking on the shore of the sea. Once again many people came to Him to hear Him teach. As He was walking along, He saw Levi sitting at his customs post. As Jesus walked by, Jesus simply said to Levi: “come and follow me.” And immediately Levi left his post to follow Jesus. Levi invites Jesus to come to his house.

Jesus sat at the table with Levi and his guests, many of whom were tax collectors and sinners. The people around the table were a motley crew! When the Pharisees and scribes saw that Jesus had the audacity to dine with sinners, they began to criticize Him. When Jesus hears what they are saying, He immediately responds to their criticism by telling them that those who are well are not in need of healing. However, “these people” (the tax collectors and sinners) are in need of a physician! Jesus then tells them that He has come to call the sinners! They are the ones in need!

Since we are all sinners, Jesus calls us---you and me! Not only does He call us, He also will dine with us and come and make His “home” with us. Jesus knows that we need healing. He does not expect us to be perfect. Jesus simply wants to make us “whole” again.

The question is: will we respond to Jesus’ call? Will we follow Him more closely? Jesus always gives us a choice: to answer His call or to walk away! What will we choose today?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reflection: Mark 2:1-12

First Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 2:1-12

Today Jesus returns to Capernaum. As the townspeople heard that Jesus was at home, they began to gather at the house where Jesus was. However, there were so many people that they did not have enough room for them.

As the word spread of Jesus’ presence, four men came. They were bringing a paralytic to him for healing. However, there were so many people gathered around Jesus that they could not get to Jesus. However, these men were resourceful. They simply opened up the roof above Jesus and lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw what deep faith these men had in Him, He immediately told the sick man that his sins were forgiven!

The scribes also were at this house and when they heard Jesus tell the man his sins were forgiven, the scribes were outraged and angry. Immediately they accused Jesus of blasphemy. Who did Jesus think He was? Only God has the power to forgive sin! Jesus knew what they were thinking as well as the judgment they were making. He immediately confronts them by asking them why they were judging Him then?

How often do I judge another unjustly? Do I judge another person perhaps out of jealousy or envy? Or perhaps I simply don’t like the person. The difficult thing is that often our minds automatically jump to judgment. This just seems to be a human reality. However, once I realize that I am judging, I can change my mind. I can change my thoughts---if I choose to!

Today we have a choice: to continue “automatic” judging or to consciously strive to make a more loving choice! Perhaps others may make a choice not to judge me today? What will you (and I) choose today?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:40-45

First Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 1:40-45

The scene in today’s Gospel opens with a leper coming to Jesus, kneeling at His feet, begging Jesus to make him whole, to make him clean. There was not any treatment for leprosy at that time. Thus, lepers were outcasts. Keeping your distance from those individuals with leprosy was the only safeguard there was at that time.

Jesus, however, does not seem concerned about this reality! When the leper approaches Him, Jesus is moved with pity for the man. Jesus simply reaches out and touches the leper and immediately the leper was healed!

I wonder how long it had been since anyone had touched the leper? We all need to be touched in a caring way. It is a way of saying I care about you, I am concerned about you, you are important to me. Not only had the leper not been touched, but I imagine that people kept themselves at a distance from him. If they saw the leper coming, they might choose to give him a wide berth or perhaps find a different route. The pain, isolation and perhaps shame of those with leprosy, must have been intense!

Who are the “lepers” in our day, in our world? Who are the individuals that I (and you) may treat as a “leper” at times by avoiding them or ignoring them? Perhaps I simply do not like them or they may be needy and desire more from me than I am willing to give, or perhaps they simply “get on my nerves.”

Can we, can you and I, be more like Jesus? The question is: are we truly open to being more like Jesus if it means reaching out and touching the individuals we usually avoid? I pray we can answer yes. . .but will we?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:29-39

First Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 1:29-39

Today in this Gospel, Jesus is ministering to the sick. The Gospel opens with Jesus leaving the synagogue and going to Simon’s home accompanied by some of His disciples. When Jesus arrives at Simon’s house, He is approached and told that Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever. Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up. Immediately the fever left her!

As sunset was approaching, many people came to Jesus bringing their loved ones who were ill or possessed by demons. Mark writes that Jesus immediately healed those who were sick and He also drove out the demons. Very early the next morning, Jesus left and found a deserted place where He prayed. He must have needed some time to be quiet, to rest and to be alone in prayer.

If Jesus came into our town, our city, would we approach Him and ask Him to heal us? What is the healing we would hope for? Would it be a physical illness, a spiritual need? Would we ask Jesus to heal and restore someone we love? Would we ask Jesus to heal our world and cleanse us of our need to control or hurt one another? Today I invite you to reflect on the healing that you desire for yourself and our world. God will hear our prayer! We may not get an immediate response but trust that God is at work! God will respond! How patient will we be?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:21-28

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 1:21-28

Today Jesus and His disciples are in Capernaum. As was His custom, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. His listeners were amazed at his teaching. Jesus taught with authority, unlike the scribes!

In the synagogue was a man who had an unclean spirit. When this man saw Jesus, the unclean spirit within him cried out, asking Jesus what His purpose was. This unclean spirit immediately had recognized Jesus as the Holy One!

Immediately Jesus rebuked the spirit and instructed it to come out of the man. And the spirit instantly obeyed! All who witnessed this event were amazed at Jesus’ power to heal and his ability to release unclean spirits. Immediately word began to spread of Jesus’ wondrous powers. His fame spread throughout all of Judea.

Mark does not say that the witnesses believed in Jesus. Yes, they were astonished by his power to heal, but did they truly listen to His Word? Did they recognize Him as the Christ? Did they decide to follow Jesus or did they simply listen and then go home and talk about Him? Did thoughts of Jesus and His preaching stay with them or did they simply go back to their daily routine?

Do we truly recognize Jesus as the Christ? Do we know Jesus personally? Do we have a relationship with Him or is He simply a figure in the Gospels? Jesus also is at work in our lives, though most likely not in such a dramatic way! Jesus is healing us even if we don’t see it. Jesus is gracing us with all we need. Today may we look for Jesus as we move through our day. Jesus is with us! However, will we have eyes to see and recognize Him? Be alert!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:14-20

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 1:14-20

Today in the Church, we return to Ordinary Time. After the quiet tone of Advent, the celebration of Christmas and the beginning of a new year, it can be very relaxing to settle back into Ordinary Time. According to the Church calendar, this is what we do today: we move back into Ordinary Time!

The setting for today’s Gospel takes place immediately after John was arrested. Jesus is in Galilee proclaiming the Gospel. He announces to the people that the Kingdom of God is near. He preaches repentance to the people.

Today Jesus also calls his first apostles: Simon and his brother, Andrew. As we know, Simon and Andrew by trade were fishermen. Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and he saw Simon and Andrew as they were casting their nets into the sea. Jesus simply and quietly says: “Come. Follow me.” A bit later, he also calls James and his brother John. They also immediately drop their nets and follow Jesus.

What was it about this man Jesus that enticed these hardworking fishermen to leave their livelihood, families and homes to immediately follow Jesus? Was it His charisma? Was it the message He was preaching? Or was it a call from deep within?

Today Jesus is calling us just as He called His first apostles. What will our response be? Will we tell Jesus that “now” is not a good time? Will we give Him all the reasons why we can’t pick up and follow Him? Or will we place our hope and trust in Jesus as these first disciples did? Will we eagerly follow Him? I pray we will!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:7-11 (Baptism of the Lord)

The Baptism of the Lord – Mark 1:7-11

This Gospel opens with John the Baptist proclaiming that One mightier than he will be coming. The One who is to follow John also will baptize. However, He will baptize with the Holy Spirit, not simply with water.

The Gospel says: it happened that Jesus came from Nazareth and asked to be baptized by John with water from the Jordan. As Jesus came out of the water, Mark says that the heavens were opened up and the Spirit descended upon Jesus! How very dramatic! However, it didn’t stop there. Mark tells us that a voice from heaven proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved Son.

We all yearn to be the “beloved” of someone! As human beings, we have an instinctive need to love others as well as a deep desire to be loved. Hopefully, each of us has many people in our lives who love and care for us. Who are the persons you love? And who love you? What a great gift it is to be loved!

All love flows from God’s love for us. Our love for one another is a “sharing” in the love of God!

Today may we be mindful of the people who love us and be grateful for the great gift they give us. And also today, may we be more intentional in our loving. If we “love” another person today, God is present there!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reflection: John 3:22-30

John 3:22-30

The setting for today’s Gospel is the region of Judea. Many people approached Jesus asking Him to baptize them. John also was in the region and he also was baptizing. John’s disciples came to him and told him that Jesus was nearby and He also was baptizing and crowds of people were coming to Jesus for baptism. The tone of the conversation gives the impression that John’s disciples were upset that so many people were asking Jesus to baptize them. Were John’s disciples a bit jealous and envious of Jesus’ popularity?

However, when John’s followers approach him, John clearly tells them that his role simply is to testify to the Christ. He emphatically tells them that he is not the Christ. Rather his role is simply to be the forerunner of the Christ.

John clearly understands that his mission is to prepare the way for the Christ. John evidently is fully content to be the best man, rather than the bridegroom! He also tells his disciples that the role of the best man is to be the one who waits for the bridegroom and then rejoices when He comes. John clearly understands that the Christ will “increase” and his role will “decrease.”

In today’s world, many people seek to be in the limelight or to be important in some way. John knew his place in the best sense. He realized that he had a significant role in the drama that was unfolding. However, John was fully content to play his part and then step into the background.

How do you (and I) prepare the way for Christ’s coming? Do we understand and believe that we also are called to prepare the way for Christ? Are we content to play our part and then step into the background? Can we be content and rejoice that we have a part to play?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Reflection: Luke 5:12-16

Luke 5:12-16

The Gospel reading for today is extremely short: only 4 verses. However, it is a powerful Gospel. The main character in today’s Gospel is a man who has leprosy. As soon as the leper saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and begged Jesus to heal him. Jesus does not hesitate. He immediately reaches out, touches the man and simply says: “I will heal you! Be made clean!” Instantly, the man is healed! Jesus then orders him to go to the priest and make an offering in thanksgiving for his healing.

Immediately word went out through the town and territory spreading the news of the miracle Jesus had worked. As word of His power to heal spread, great crowds of people came to hear Jesus preach. Perhaps they also came hoping that they would be healed of their ailments or disease.

What is the healing you long for? It might be the healing of an illness or another disease. Or you may desire to have a heavy cross or burden lifted. Today will we come to Jesus and beg Him to heal us, to make us whole once again? Jesus is waiting for us!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:14-22a

Luke 4:14-22a

Luke writes: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” Today Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth. Since it was Sabbath, Jesus immediately goes to the synagogue. As He enters, He is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus opens the scroll and finds the passage in Isaiah that begins with the words: “the Spirit of God is upon me.”

Take a moment and sit with those words. Do we believe that the Spirit of God is upon us? Are we able to recognize the Spirit of God? The gift and miracle is that God’s Spirit dwells within each one of us! Do you, do I, believe this truth? Do we trust that we are worthy to have the Spirit of God dwell within us?

Just as Jesus was sent to us by God, God also sends us to bring good tidings to all who are in need, liberty to those who are bound by shame or sorrow, and to help free the oppressed in our family, neighborhood or world.

Today we have a choice: to add to the darkness of our world or to be a ray of light to every person we encounter today. What will I choose to do? What will you choose to do? May God give us the grace we need to be light bearers!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reflection: Mark 6:45-52

Mark 6:45-52

Today, the Church gives us the familiar story of the storm at sea. I assume that most of us easily can put ourselves into this story. At various times in our lives, we also have experienced emotional storms that overwhelm us. It may have been an illness, the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a financial crisis or ??? (you fill in the blank)!! Violent storms are not easy to weather! And even once the storm has blown over, these storms typically leave us with a residue of pain, loss, confusion and anxiety!

What storms in your life do you remember? Take a moment and reflect on that experience. Did this storm last for a few days, weeks or perhaps even months? Who supported you during this difficult time? Who journeyed with you? Was Jesus with you in this experience? Did you sense His presence and care? Or did you feel alone and perhaps abandoned?

We do know and believe that Jesus is with us! However, we may not experience a tangible sense of His Presence. However, Jesus often comes to us in various guises. It might be a friend who calls or a song playing on the radio that speaks to us or perhaps it is simply looking at the bare trees of winter or snow quietly falling!

Our part is to look deeply for Jesus. He is with us! However, we need to be awake and alert. Today open your eyes and hearts. Jesus will come today! Will we see Him and recognize Him? Be awake and alert!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reflection: Mark 6:34-44

Mark 6:34-44

The first statement in this Gospel is a very powerful one. It speaks of Jesus’ love and compassion for the people who gathered to hear Him preach. Mark writes: “When Jesus saw the crowds of people who gathered around Him, He was moved with pity.” Jesus realized that they truly were sheep without a shepherd. They had no one to care for them or to lead them.

As evening drew near, Jesus’ disciples suggested that He send the crowds of people away. They realized that the people were hungry and they did not have enough food to feed them. Jesus was preaching in a deserted place and evening was approaching. The disciples suggested to Jesus that He send the people to the surrounding villages or farms where they could get some food to eat. The disciples did not have enough money to supply food for all these people.

Surprisingly, Jesus asks His disciples how many loaves of bread they have. After checking, they tell Jesus that they only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 little fish. Jesus then tells them to have the people sit down in groups. The scene that follows is a foreshadowing of the sacrament of Eucharist: Jesus quietly takes the five loaves and the two fish, blesses them and breaks them. Then He gives the bread and fish to His disciples to distribute. The people ate until they were satisfied and surprisingly, there were several baskets of food left over.

At times in life, we also may doubt that we have sufficient strength, courage, patience or hope to continue our journey These are the moments when we need to turn to Jesus and ask Him for the grace to trust that we do have enough of what we need. Our limited supply of strength, faith, hope, (you fill in the blank) may seem so very small. Yet God has the ability to work wonders with just a little bit! The key is to stay connected to God and we will have what we need when we need it! Ask yourself: what do you need right now?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Today we remain celebrating the mysteries of Christmas, even though most of the world has moved into ordinary time. For most people, the Christmas tree and decorations have come down. Yet the Church continues to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

The Gospel reading for this day shifts to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The reading begins with hearing that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been arrested. The Gospel says that Jesus left Nazareth and went to Galilee. In Galilee, Jesus begins His ministry of preaching and teaching. Jesus began his preaching by calling the people to repent! He told His listeners that the kingdom of heaven was near.

Word of Jesus’ power and preaching spread throughout all of Syria. Jesus also healed the sick, cast out demons and ministered to the people according to their needs. People from many cities and towns came to see this man, Jesus! They came to hear Him preach and to be healed. Can you put yourself into this scene of the crowd gathered around Jesus? What are you hoping to see or to experience? Are you hoping that Jesus will heal you of an affliction? Or do you simply want to see Him for yourself and you want to hear Him preach and teach?

Today we also can gather at Jesus’ feet. We can simply listen to what He may have to say for us. Or we might wish to tell Him what we need and hope for. Do we trust that Jesus will listen to us? Do we believe that Jesus will heal us in some fashion? Today, may we pray to place our hope and our trust in Jesus. He will not fail us!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflection: John 2:1-12

Epiphany of the Lord– John 2:1-12

Today is a wonderful feast in our Church calendar. We celebrate the feast of the epiphany of our Lord. When was the last time you had an epiphany? Have you ever had an epiphany? An epiphany may simply be a sudden realization or a moment of clarity. Naturally, the epiphany this feast celebrates is the manifestation of Jesus as “king of the Jews” and of the world.

This Gospel opens with the magi arriving in Jerusalem. I assume their presence caused quite a stir. They kept asking: “where is the newborn king of the Jews?”

Naturally, King Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled by their question. Herod immediately called his advisers together and asked them where this “Jesus” was to be born. The priests informed Herod that according to the prophecies in the Scriptures, the Christ was to be born in the land of Judah.

Herod then quietly called the magi in. He told them to go and search for the child. And when they found him, the Magi were to send word to Herod. Herod told them that he also wanted to offer homage to the child.

And we know the rest of the story. The Magi traveled, following the brilliant star they had seen at its rising. Eventually the star led them to the dwelling where the Child was: a lowly stable. Can you imagine how astonished the kings must have been to find this holy Child in a manger surrounded by animals! Yet, despite these very unusual and humble circumstances, the kings instantly recognized the Child King.

Today may we look for the Child King in our midst. Jesus is there but we must have open hearts, minds and eyes! We have the ability to “see” Him! Will we keep looking for Him until we find Him?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Reflection: John: 29-34

Saturday before Epiphany – John: 29-34

The opening scene of this Gospel is an encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist. When John sees Jesus, he immediately cries out: “Behold the Lamb of God!” In this moment, John clearly points to Jesus as the “One who is to come,” the One the Israelites had been longing and waiting for. Even though John was the cousin of Jesus, he states that he did not know him. However, John did understand that his role was to prepare the way for the Christ. He did this by preaching to the people about His coming and by baptizing those who wished to be baptized.

What humility and self-knowledge John had. He knew exactly what his call and mission were. There is no indication that John was jealous that Jesus was the Christ. John seems perfectly happy with his role in the Messianic drama.

John is not the only one who is to point the way to Christ. This also is our call. Each day we are to direct others to Christ. Most likely, our ministry will not be as dramatic as John’s was. Yet our ministry may impact individuals we meet every day. Today may we be proactive and direct others to Christ by our care, our actions and our love!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reflection: John 1:19-28

Friday before Epiphany – John 1: 19-28

The reading today shifts the focus from Jesus to John the Baptist. Today John is being questioned by some of the priests and Levites. They come and ask him: “who are you?” John bluntly answers them that he is not the Christ. They follow his response by asking him to tell them who he is. They ask if he is Elijah or is he “the One who is to come.”

John clearly tells them that his role and mission is to prepare the way for the Christ. The priests, however, are not satisfied with his response. They continue to bombard John with questions. Finally John replies by stating that he is the voice crying out in the desert. John clearly knew and understood his role in the unfolding of God’s plan. John knew that he was not the “One who is to come.” However, he also understood that he would play a part in the drama that would unfold.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we clearly knew what our part is to play in the drama of life? At times, in our lives, it is clear what our call and responsibility is. At other times, we may not have any clarity about our role. At these times, I assume that most of us simply keep on going and do what we need to do.

The challenge may be to trust that we are doing God’s will simply by striving to be women and men who love, care and work for justice in our world. Our efforts may seem small in the bigger scheme of life. However, small acts of love, kindness and generosity are great gifts to share. We simply have to trust that God is at work in us and God is working through us in the many small acts we may do each day. We may not be a star. However, we have the ability to shine light on our world! May we do so today!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflection: Luke 2:16-21

The Feast of Mary, the Mother of God –Luke 2:16-21

Today we begin a new year according to the secular calendar. And even though much of the rest of the world has begun “de-decking” their Christmas decorations, the Church continues to celebrate the Christmas season. The Gospel for this feast of Mary is the reading of the shepherds traveling to Bethlehem and finding the Child Jesus there, lying in the manger.

How did the shepherds know where to find the child Jesus? In those days, they did not have a GPS system guiding them! However, they did have a brilliant star to guide them. After worshipping the Child Jesus, they spread the good news that a child had been born. No one questioned this statement. Rather, everyone who heard the news was amazed and joyful.

One of the most profound statements in this Gospel is: “Mary kept all these things in her heart and pondered them.” What is in your heart that you ponder? It may be a happening that was joyous to you. Or perhaps you may be reflecting about a difficult challenge in your life. In today’s fast-paced world, we need to deliberately ponder, to reflect on life. Pondering is not always easy. When we are hurting or feeling alone, the last thing we may want to do is to think about the pain or loss. It may be more comfortable to numb the pain. Yet God invites us to ponder our gifts, our joys and our sorrows.

Mary experienced the gamut of emotions in her life: from great joy to great loss and sorrow. Today may we ask Mary to walk with us—not only today but every day. Mary deeply experienced the breadth of life’s joys and sorrows. Her presence and strength may gift us with a peace we desire!