Saturday, February 28, 2015
First Week of Lent – Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus uses extremely strong language in today’s Gospel. He is talking with his disciples and he hits them right where they live. He instructs his disciples that they are to love their enemies. Jesus is being completely countercultural. The culture that Jesus lived in was extremely violent. They nailed criminals to the cross and imposed many other cruel punishments. True, in our culture we also punish criminals with the death penalty, life in prison, etc. However, we strive to do it in a somewhat humane way – such as it is.
Not only did Jesus tell his disciples that they should pray for the individuals who persecute them — be that physically or emotionally. Jesus goes on to say that it is easy to love the individuals who love them. Jesus then challenges his disciples to love everyone. We are not to be selective about who we love. If we don’t love each and every person, we are not much better than the criminals!
It is fairly easy to love most people. However, even the individuals we love, get on our nerves at times. Nor do we always agree. Yet if we care about them, we desire to stay in relationship with them. So we strive to work out the problems and difficulties. We want to stay in relationship.
Today Jesus is telling us that we are to love everyone — not just the people who love us. The reality is that we won’t like everyone every day of the week. Nor will others like us on some days. However, this condition doesn’t mean that this destroys our love and care for the other. The love that Jesus is speaking about has the ability to supercede the daily irritations, disagreements, petty arguments, etc. Love enables us to focus much better.
Yet, we still have the ability to love others: ALL others, even the people we may not like. Today Jesus reminds us that each and every person is lovable---even the one who gets on our very last nerve. However, we do have a choice: to love like Jesus or to allow our emotions to control us! What will we choose today?
Friday, February 27, 2015
First Week of Lent – Matthew 5:20-26
In today’s Gospel Jesus is talking about holding onto grudges, anger, hurt and perhaps even hate. I assume that most of us do not hate someone. However, I am sure that all of us have dealt with grudges, anger, hurt and jealousy at various times in our lives. These are emotions that we all have. They are “part and parcel” of being human. Do we always like these emotions? Most likely not! Yet, these emotions that we may consider negative are as much part of us as are the positive emotions, such as love, gratitude, appreciation, hope, understanding and faith!
As human beings, we experience both ends of the spectrum of emotions: positive and negative. Today Jesus is talking to his disciples about the choice we all have. We can choose to focus on the emotions that we know are positive and make us feel good: love, hope, generosity and faith! Or we can choose to focus on the emotions that disturb us and upset us: anger, jealousy, etc.
The reality is that our emotions are neither “bad” nor “good.” They simply are! However, we have to learn how to deal with the gamut of emotions. For those of you who are parents, how did you teach your children to deal with their emotions? Did you teach them to throw temper tantrums, hit others, etc.? I assume not! However, we do not always practice what we preach.
We all know what Jesus is asking us to do. It simply is not easy! At these times, it may be helpful to vent to a friend or to sit down and write a letter to God, expressing all that you are feeling in your journal. Most of all we need to pray for the grace, strength and wisdom we need at this time. What will we choose today? It is up to us! We have the power and God will give us the grace that we need! Do we trust this reality?
Thursday, February 26, 2015
First Week of Lent – Matthew 7:7-12
Jesus continues His teaching of the disciples today. He begins by instructing them to “ask.” Jesus promises that if we ask, we will find what we are seeking for. He continues by saying that if we ask, it will be given to us and if we knock, the door will be opened for us!
“Asking” is not always easy for many human beings. Most of us are pretty independent and perhaps at times, too independent. The phrase or thought: “I can do it myself” is ingrained in many of us. And to a degree, this may be a good attitude to have. We enjoy helping others! Yet for many of us it is not easy to ask for help. We actually may be more comfortable helping others rather than receiving help ourselves!
Now ask yourself: How good are you at asking God for help? Are you skittish about turning to God and saying: “I need you to be with me, to help me.” Am I afraid that God will not respond to my cry, my need? Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: do I trust God? Do I trust God to love me unconditionally? Do I trust God to help me?
Now: take a moment and remember a time when you truly felt God’s presence! What was the situation? How did you know God was there? Breathe that memory in! You trusted God and God did not fail you!
Today ask God for what you need and desire. Stay attentive and notice God’s presence today. God is with you and with me! Do we believe that? I pray we do!
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
First Week of Lent – Luke 11:29-32
The opening sentence of today’s Gospel may grab your attention. Jesus is telling the crowd that the current generation is an evil generation. He goes on to tell them what will happen in the future — and the forecast is not favorable! In fact, I assume Jesus’ words may have been frightening and forbidding to His listeners!
Or is Jesus simply hoping to get the crowd’s attention? Is He hoping that they will listen attentively to His message? Jesus is speaking to the crowd about the “day of judgment” and what will happen at that time. What He tells them is a forbidding. Who wants to hear that kind of message? However, it may be easier for us to focus on the “end time” since most likely today may not be my or your “end time.” Thus, we might ignore Jesus’ message!
However, is Jesus sending another message to his listeners (and to us)? Is He perhaps hoping that today we truly will be attentive and notice how He is present to us today? God is with us! However, will we notice God’s loving presence today? I pray we will!
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
First Week of Lent — Matthew 6:7-15
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. He begins by telling them that words alone are not sufficient. I know well that I say prayers at times, yet I am not fully present to what I am doing. Yes, I am praying the words but my mind may be miles away!
One of the gifts of the prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary is that I can pray them very easily. They are ingrained in my being. I learned them at a very young age when I most likely simply rattled them off. Yet, despite that, I still was praying, even if not at a deep level!
The gift is these formal prayers become part of us. The downside is that they may become “automatic.” However, even “automatic” prayer is still prayer if our intention is to pray. However, our minds wander and we may not be fully present to God as we hoped to be. The challenge for us is to continually strive to be present when we say or pray these prayers. Thus, we may have to continually keep bringing our minds and hearts back to God.
Today Jesus is teaching His disciples the Our Father. This is a prayer that most of us learned at a very young age. Take a moment and ask yourself: at this time in your life, what words of the Our Father are most meaningful to you? What is your need, your desire?
Jesus truly was praying to His Father, whom He knew intimately. Today will we pray the Our Father as a prayer of love, of longing, of praise? Jesus knows us intimately and walks with us each and every day! Will we take a few minutes and consciously and deliberately pray this prayer to Him today? If so, we may find a great treasure as well as deep peace!
Monday, February 23, 2015
First Week of Lent – Matthew: 25:31-46
Today Jesus is talking with his disciples about the future: the time when the “Son of Man will come in glory.” He is telling them that everyone on earth will be gathered together and He will separate the peoples, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep will have a privileged place on his right hand and the goats will be on his left.
To the sheep, Jesus will affirm their care and concern for the poor, the lost and all those in need. These individuals were compassionate, they fed the hungry, quenched the thirst of the thirsty, clothed the naked and helped others in a multitude of physical and spiritual ways. However, the people listening to Jesus were confused. They knew that they had not “clothed” Jesus, nor had they quenched his thirst. What was he talking about? However, as we know, Jesus is instructing them that whatever goodness and kindness they do for the people around them, they also do for Him.
The “goats” then begin to complain (or make excuses) to Jesus. They tell him that they had not had the opportunity to serve Him in this way. Jesus bluntly tells them that they were not concerned with the people who were in need. They did not clothe them nor feed them nor minister to them. They simply ignored them!
Jesus makes it clear that what we do or do not do for others is a significant determining factor for our future. In a real sense, we are the ones who make the choice about our future. We have the power to choose to help others or to ignore them and their needs.
If we choose to help others, hopefully it is not simply because we want to be with Jesus in heaven. Hopefully our desire to help others flows from our concern for them and perhaps also our gratitude for the times when someone else helped us. Hopefully, we desire to pass on this blessing to others!
As we go through our day today, may we be attentive to the times when another could use a helping hand. Or perhaps we can simply spend time with someone who is lonely or down. There are people in need all around us! The question is: will we see them and reach out to them? Who knows? Someone may reach out to us today and bless us!
Sunday, February 22, 2015
First Sunday of Lent – Mark 1:12-15
Today’s Gospel is only a few lines long. It is only 4 verses from the 1st Chapter of Mark’s Gospel. The Gospel has a stark beginning. Mark writes that Jesus was driven into the desert by the Spirit. As we know, Jesus stayed in the desert for 40 days. What was that time like for Jesus? Was it a spiritually dry time? Or was there a clear sense of God’s presence to Jesus? It had to have been an extremely ascetical experience. Jesus was there alone with wild animals! His only consolation was being ministered to by angels!
Were these days also comforting for Jesus? Did he have a clear sense of God’s presence with him? Or was this time in this arid wasteland a spiritually dry or disturbing time? Mark tells us that there were wild beasts in this territory. Was Jesus concerned for his safety?
Jesus remained in the desert alone for 40 days. Can you imagine being alone in the desert for 40 days? The heat, the dryness, the sun beating down on you, having no one to talk to or simply be present to you. Most of us will never spend an extended period by ourselves in the desert. That is a very special call!
However, I would guess that at some point in our lives, each of us have had an experience of the “desert.” It might have followed a significant loss or a serious illness. It may have been the loss of a loved one, our job, our hearing, eyesight, loss of income or of our ability to work.
Take a moment and reflect on that time. What was your reaction to your loss? Anger, depression, isolating, numbing, running? How did you experience God during that time? Was God close to you or did God feel far, far away?
Jesus understands our deserts. Jesus spent time in his own personal desert for 40 days. These days were not easy for him. Jesus was tempted by Satan. He was surrounded at times by wild beasts. His consolation was the angels coming and ministering to him!
After this experience, Jesus went to Galilee. As he traveled through Galilee, He proclaimed the Gospel. His main theme was repentance. Daily he told people that the “kingdom was at hand.”
Jesus is telling us this same message today! Do we believe that the “kingdom is at hand?” We have heard this prophecy for years and yet the kingdom has not come. Yet one day, it will come. We do not know the day nor the hour. Will we be ready? Will we look forward to seeing God face to face? Today may be the day! Be alert! Stay awake! Be prepared! Our God is coming to us!
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Saturday after Ash Wednesday – Luke 5:27-32
Today we hear the familiar story of the tax collector, Levi. He was sitting at the customs post. Jesus came by and spoke to him. He invited Levi (whom I assume he didn’t really know) to follow him. On the spur of the moment, Levi got up, walked away from the customs post and followed Jesus.
Levi must have been fairly wealthy. He hosted a great banquet for Jesus at his home. Naturally Levi had invited his friends, many of whom also were tax collectors. As they sat at table, the Pharisees and scribes came and complained to Jesus’ followers. They asked them why the dined with such sinners.
Jesus overheard them asking the question and he responded directly to them.
Jesus bluntly told them that people who are healthy do not need a doctor. It is the people who are ill or in need who need a doctor to care for them. Then Jesus bluntly tells the Pharisees that he has not come to those who see themselves as righteous. Rather, he has come to call those who are in need of healing. More specifically, Jesus tells them that he has come to call sinners.
Can you imagine the stir his comment must have made? I assume that the Pharisees were taken aback at Jesus’ blunt criticism. Were any of them able to “own” that what Jesus was saying was true? Or were they simply angry with Jesus and his criticism of them? Regardless, Jesus makes it clear that his focus is on the individuals who are sick: be that physical, emotional or spiritual. Jesus is a healer, not a judge. Jesus cares for the people and personally ministers to them.
I wonder if any of the Pharisees were able to take Jesus’ message to heart? Did one or two of them walk away from Jesus feeling ashamed of their judgment? Were any of them intrigued with Jesus and wanted to learn more about him? If so, they were men (and women) who had open hearts and open minds!
What in this Gospel touches us deeply? Identify a sentence or a few words in this reading that stay with you. Reflect on it for a few minutes. What is the message we want to “take to heart” today? What is Jesus inviting you to today? How will you respond?
Friday, February 20, 2015
Friday after Ash Wednesday – Matthew 9:14-15
This is another very short Gospel reading. Today John’s disciples come to Jesus and ask him why he and his disciples don’t fast as John and the Pharisees do. Jesus does not answer their question directly. Rather he uses the metaphor of a wedding. Jesus tells them that at a wedding, the guests do not mourn while the bridegroom is still in their presence. The time for fasting is when the bridegroom is “taken away.” Then it will be time for them to fast.
Perhaps Jesus speaks of fasting as a way of mourning. Most often when we think of fasting, we equate it with “giving up” something. It might be choosing not to snack during the day. Or perhaps we add a spiritual discipline to our day. Perhaps we take more time for prayer. Or we might strive to be kinder and more loving with everyone we encounter (especially the ones who get on our nerves)! Not all of these are ways of mourning but they are good disciplines and perhaps challenges for us.
We all realize that it is easy to make Lenten resolutions but they are not as easy to keep. The gift is that each morning we have another day to make the effort! What will we choose today?
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Thursday after Ash Wednesday – Luke: 9:22-28
The beginning of today’s Gospel is stark. Jesus informs his disciples that the “Son of Man” will undergo great suffering, be rejected by the temple officials, be killed and then be raised up on the third day! What a sobering Gospel! Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes. What would be your reaction to these words? I assume the disciples were shaken by what Jesus said. Yet they also had heard the many complaints and threats against Jesus. They must have known that He was in danger.
Did they realize that they also might be in danger? After all, they were His followers and friends. Were some of them tempted to return home to a normal life, to safety? These thoughts may have flown through their minds. Yet they had lived with Jesus. They were his friends. They loved Him and they believed in Him! However, were they also afraid for themselves and even more so for their families?
Jesus warns them that following Him will not be easy. There will be dangers and threats. And if they do choose to follow Him, each day and every day, they must take up their cross and follow in His footsteps. Imagine how sobering it must have been to hear Jesus utter those words. When the disciples initially decided to follow Jesus, they were enthusiastic and eager to learn. They did not realize that following Him might become dangerous!
Jesus also told them that even if they lose their life for His sake, they will be saved! Yes, they will be taking a risk if they follow Him. However, there also will be a great reward. Jesus promises His disciples that they have much to gain by following Him. However, Jesus also wants them to know the risks.
How would you or I respond if someone we have lived with, journeyed with and become friends with, told us they would be rejected, killed and then raised up? Jesus however, needed His disciples to realize that danger and hardship most likely would be in their future. He didn’t want them to assume that life as his disciple would be easy, simple or glorious. Yet, He also told them that if they follow Him, they will gain the whole world! What a powerful statement!
Today however, Jesus is telling us the same thing that he told his disciples. We also are his disciples in this world of ours---and the dangers are real. If we commit ourselves and follow Jesus, at times, it won’t be an easy path. There will be many gifts but there will also be difficult times. The gift is Jesus promises to always be at our side! He will walk with us, strength us, console us and give us His peace! Is this enough for us? What path will we choose?
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Today we begin the season of Lent. Lent is a time to step back and examine our lives. Lent is a time to repent! Today is the day we receive ashes on our forehead (if we go to church)! The ashes are a symbol of the reality that we came forth from the earth and when we die, we will return to the earth. The words that accompany the offering of ashes remind us that we are “dust.” We will have an end. We will die. However, that will not be the “end” of us. We will live eternally (hopefully) with God!
Jesus’ words in this reading may give us ideas about what we might do during Lent. Jesus warns his disciples not to do good deeds simply so others will think well of them. Jesus wants his disciples to be aware of their motivation for what they do. He wants them to do what is right or good because they desire to help others, love others and make the world a better place.
Jesus is not primarily concerned about the actions of his disciples. Rather, He is concerned about their motivations. Jesus hopes their actions and decisions will flow from love of God, love of the Gospel and love for the people and the world. Love truly is all that matters!
How often do we stop and examine our motivations? It is easy to move through the day and simply go about our business. Are we concerned about others or are we too preoccupied to even notice the people around us? I believe that the majority of people in the world want to be good people. Most people do care for others and desire to help them!
However, our motivations are not always clean and pure. At times, do I choose to do something so the other person will think well of me? Do I go to church because that is truly where I want to be? Or do I attend simply because I am supposed to? When I am tired, do I ignore someone who might need some help? And if I am in a bad mood, do I take it out on another?
I assume that all of us have made some of the choices listed above at times in our lives. However, if the majority of our time and attention is focused primarily on us and our needs, it might be well to reflect on our choices. Most often the source of our happiness is in the people in our lives. Hopefully, most of the people around us bring us joy and love. Yes, there will be difficult times. However if love is present, difficulties can be worked out. And in the daily, it is their presence, love and care that is the greatest gift we receive!
Today may we be mindful of our choices and decisions. Jesus also reminds us to be aware of our motivations. Why do we make the choices we do? Do our decisions flow from care and concern for others? Or do I usually do what is best for me? We all have heard the saying: “what would Jesus do?” Today we might experience a choice or challenge as we go about our day. May we pause for a moment and thoughtfully ask ourselves: What would Jesus do? And then just be still for 60 seconds and listen for His answer! Jesus will respond!
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 8:14-21
In today’s Gospel, the apostles are a bit absent-minded: they forgot to bring any food along for the journey. Among them, they only had one loaf of bread. How was this going to feed all of them? These were men who had hearty appetites and they liked to be well fed. To complicate matters, they were out on the sea in a boat. There was no food to be had!
Jesus however was not concerned about their hunger. He was instructing them to be on guard with the Pharisees and to beware of the “leaven” of Herod! However, his disciples did not get the point of what Jesus was saying to them. They thought that Jesus was referring to the fact that they had no food to eat. Jesus and his disciples were on completely different tracks of thought. His followers were only focused on having their hunger satisfied. Jesus gets aggravated with their self-focus. Jesus pointedly asks them if their hearts are hardened!
Do you think Jesus also gets as aggravated with us as He did with His disciples? I would not be surprised! At times, I also become so focused on what I want or think I need that I don’t recognize the many gifts that I have received! It is easy to let our hearts become “hardened.” We want what we want and we may not recognize that Jesus is gifting us. This is true especially when we are hoping for a specific action or gift. We may be receiving blessing upon blessing. However, if our eyes and hearts are not open and attentive to these unexpected blessings, we may miss the abundance of God’s graces!
Today may we let go of our agenda of the blessings we think we need and simply and thankfully receive the many blessings that God will gift us with today! Most of them may be small blessings, yet what precious gifts! And may we remember to thank God for the blessings we receive!
Monday, February 16, 2015
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 8:11-13
We have another short Gospel reading today: only 3 verses. The Pharisees once again are harassing Jesus. They start to argue with him. They want Jesus to give them a “sign from heaven.” In reality, the Pharisees are testing Jesus. The want Him to “perform.” However, Jesus is fed up with them. Mark says: Jesus sighed from the “depth of the spirit.” Jesus could not understand why the Pharisees needed a “sign.” Why could they not believe in Him without a sign?
Do you remember the times when you also wanted or needed a “sign” from God or Jesus? Did you receive a sign? If you received a sign, did you thank God? Or did you assume it simply was a coincidence?
The reality is that life is not “clean” nor “clear.” Many times we do not sense God’s presence. And at times, God may feel hundreds of millions of miles away. How do we respond to that sense of “lack?” Do we turn away from God? Or do we continue to trust? Today may we pray for each other to trust and believe that God is with us and that God is gracing us — no matter what we feel!
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 1:40-45
In the opening scene of today’s Gospel, a leper approaches Jesus. In Jesus’ day, there was no cure for leprosy and leprosy was highly contagious. Given this reality, lepers literally were cast out of society. They had to keep away from everyone as keeping your distance from the lepers was the only safeguard from this disease. As a result, lepers could not live with their families as this would endanger their loved ones. Thus, they existed on fringes of society. Also, they had no means of earning a living so their only option was to beg.
The fact that the leper approached Jesus may indicate that the leper had heard of the miracles and cures that Jesus had done. Even though the leper knew he was breaking all the “rules” by approaching Jesus, the man did not care. He was desperate. The man falls to his knees in front of Jesus and he begs Jesus to heal him, to make him “clean” once again!
Jesus does not hesitate. Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. How long had it been since the leper had been touched? Months? Years? In that simple gesture, Jesus did more than heal the man’s leprosy: Jesus also healed this man’s sense of himself! Without saying a word, Jesus “told” the man that he was worthy of being touched and loved. Jesus not only healed the leper’s disease, he healed this man’s shame. Now the man truly was free! What a wondrous gift Jesus gave him!
The man went forth telling everyone he met what Jesus had done for him. Naturally, many other people sought Jesus out hoping that they also would be healed of their “dis-ease.” Finally, Jesus left the town but no matter where he went, many people continued to seek him out.
What is the “dis-ease” we are dealing with? Is it physical, emotional or spiritual dis-ease? What is the healing that we long for? Today may we go to Jesus and ask him to heal our dis-ease! However, the healing may not come according to our specifications or our timing. Jesus knows better than we do what we truly need! The question is: will we, do we trust Jesus? Even if we don’t get the answer we want? Today, may we pray for each other that we will trust Jesus in all circumstances of our lives!
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 8:1-10
Today is a date that most of us are familiar with: Valentine’s Day. On this special day, we have the opportunity to give thanks for the people in our lives who are a grace and gift to us. We give thanks for their presence in our lives.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives us examples of how to love one another. Jesus once again is teaching the people. Mark writes that there was a great crowd of people who had gathered to hear Jesus speak. As the day went on, Jesus became concerned because the people had nothing to eat. They were out in the middle of nowhere so there were no houses or shops anyplace to get food.
Finally Jesus asks how much bread the people had with them. They only had seven loaves and a few fish. Jesus knows that this would feed only a handful of people. Jesus tells the people to sit down on the ground. He then takes the loaves of bread and the fish that was available and He simply blessed them. Jesus then asks his disciples to distribute the fish and bread to the people. As we know, every person ate as much until their hunger had been satisfied. Surprisingly, they did not run out of food. Rather, they ended up with seven baskets of leftovers. How did that happen?
Do you remember a time in your life when you felt you did not have “enough?” You may have been lacking love, food, time, resources, a steady job or enough care from others. How did you respond at that time? Did you bring your “lack” to God for God to fill? Or did you to try to fill it other ways? Did you try to do it on your own? Ask yourself, what is the “lack” you are experiencing at this time in your life? Will you bring that “lack” to God today and trust that you will have more than “enough?”
On this Valentine’s Day, may we stop for a few minutes and reflect on what gift we will give to our family, friends, and loved ones. What is the best gift you can give them? It doesn’t have to be big and showy. It may be as simple as doing the dishes or enjoying a movie together.
What is most important is that whatever you choose, may it be filled with love. In the end, love is all that counts! And hopefully, we will receive the gift of love from others today! We definitely will receive the gift of love from God!
Friday, February 13, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 7:31-37
Today is another “healing” Gospel. The focus for today is a man who was deaf. Not only was he deaf, he also had a speech impediment. It was almost impossible for the man to communicate with anyone.
Notice: the man himself did not approach Jesus. It was the man’s friends who brought him to Jesus and they begged Jesus to heal the man. Jesus does not immediately heal the man. Rather, He takes him away from the crowd. Perhaps Jesus realizes that the man does not want a “show.” And most likely, Jesus did not want to be a “showman.” Jesus was a man of love and compassion. He simply desired to make the man “whole” once again. And Jesus did so!
What is our impediment? What is it in our lives that we wish to have healed? What do we believe would make us “whole” again? Do we have the courage and the trust to bring our desire and longing to Jesus today? Do we believe that Jesus is healing us (even if we don’t experience it)? Will we trust in Jesus today?
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 7:24-30
This Gospel reading begins as Jesus tries to escape the crowds of people. Jesus was tired and He needed time to rest and pray. He hoped to find a place where both He and his disciples could be alone and rest.
However, a woman whose daughter had an “unclean” spirit, heard that Jesus was in Tyre and she quietly entered the house where He was staying. The woman was Greek and in that day, all Greeks were considered “dogs” by Jewish society. This woman was viewed as one of the “least” in their eyes and as such, she should have kept her distance from Jesus. But the woman was desperate and yet hopeful.
When she approaches Jesus, He asks the woman why she is there. Jesus realizes that it is highly unusual for a Greek woman to approach Him. Despite this, the woman speaks directly to Jesus. She tells Him that even the “dogs” are permitted to eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table. And she will be more than content with the “scrap” that Jesus might give her. The “scrap” that she is hoping for is restored health for her daughter.
Jesus is astounded at the woman’s faith and courage and He immediately tells her that the demon has left her daughter. And when the woman arrived home, her daughter was well!
What is the “demon” in our lives that we are asking Jesus to cast out today? I invite you to spend some time today pondering that question! What will you ask Jesus for today? Jesus is waiting for you!
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 7:14-23
Today Jesus once again is teaching the crowd. He is saying that it is not what enters a person that “defiles” them. Rather, He says that it is what comes out of a person that has the potential to defile. Many of us may not use the word “defile” frequently. However, we may use other words, such as taint, corrupt, degrade or tarnish.
I assume that all of us at one time or another, may have tainted, corrupted, degraded or tarnished another person’s image or reputation. We may not have done it in a highly public way, such as writing a newspaper article about them. We simply may have made a snide comment about the person. Or perhaps we may have kept silent and let our silence speak for us.
What is within us that has the potential to “defile?” Anger? Hurt? Envy? Pride? It is easy to say words but once the words have been spoken, they cannot be taken back! Our thoughts also cannot be taken back. However, we can monitor the direction of our thoughts and choose to change our direction. Today may we be mindful of guarding our hearts and our tongues! Before we speak, we might stop for a moment and ask ourselves: what would Jesus say or do in this situation? What will we choose to do?
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 7:1-13
Today the Pharisees once again are watching Jesus. They noticed that Jesus’ disciples did not observe required “ritual cleansing.” Some of Jesus’ disciples actually had the audacity to not wash their hands before eating. This gave the Pharisees the perfect opportunity to criticize Jesus and His disciples since they were not honoring the Jewish ritual customs.
In response to their reprimand, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah. Jesus confronts them by saying that although they honor God with their lips and words, their hearts are not in union with God. Jesus is disgusted with the Pharisees because the “law” has become their “god.” For most of them, the “letter of the law” seems to supersede the “law of God’s love.” For the Pharisees, the law is everything. Compared to the law, the people are insignificant.
At times in our lives, it may be difficult to decide what is best: to do as the “law” requires or to do what seems to be truly “loving.” For Jesus, the gift of love far outweighs the “law.” Jesus is not saying that the “law” is not important. It is. However, the “law of love” should reign in our lives! Will this “law of love” reign in our hearts today?
Monday, February 9, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:53-56
Today’s Gospel is only 3 verses long. This may be the shortest reading in the lectionary. The Gospel begins as Jesus and his disciples reach the other side of the lake. As they get out of the boat, Jesus was recognized as the teacher and healer that so many of the people had heard. As the word spread about Jesus preaching and healing, many people began to gather. They brought their family members and loved ones to Jesus for healing. And Mark says that everyone who was touched by Jesus that day was healed.
How would we react if Jesus appeared to us today? Would we seek Him out and ask Him to heal us? What is the healing that we would ask for? Or would we be skeptical and watch Jesus from a safe distance? What is it that might keep us from approaching Jesus and asking Him for what we desire: fear, a sense of unworthiness, skepticism or shyness?
The reality is: Jesus is in our midst today and every day! However, we may not “see” Him as the people in His day did. However, if we have “eyes of faith,” we will see and experience Jesus. And He will gift us with the grace we need for this day. However, we need to have open eyes and believing hearts! We also need to be on the lookout for Jesus. We need to expect Him to come to us. True, we do not know the day nor the hour. However, if we are “awake” we will experience Jesus in some way today! Be alert! He is coming!
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 1:29-39
Today’s Gospel is a “healing” Gospel. This reading begins as Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew. As soon as they arrived, the family informed them that Simon’s mother-in-law was seriously ill. She had an extremely high fever.
Jesus immediately went to the woman, took her hand and helped her get up. Jesus did not say anything or do anything extraordinary. However, when Jesus touched her, the fever left the woman. She immediately got up and began to serve Jesus and his disciples. What a caring and sensitive man Jesus was. He was concerned about the woman but Jesus quietly healed her. There was no “show.” Jesus did not need nor want attention or praise for what He had done.
As word of this healing spread, many people came to Jesus. They brought their friends and family members who were ill or possessed by unclean spirits. It seemed that the whole town had gathered at Simon and Andrew’s house. Jesus attended to those in need. However very early the next morning, Jesus got up and went off by himself to pray. He must have needed some time to be alone and pray.
Later in the day, Simon and some of the other disciples came looking for Jesus. They told Him that everyone continued to look for Him. However, Jesus had other plans. He knew it was time for them to move on. So Jesus and his disciples left and traveled onto the neighboring villages. In these towns, Jesus continued to preach, cure and drive out demons.
If Jesus came to our town, would we seek Him out? What would we ask Jesus for? Would we ask Him to heal us? If so, what is the healing you would you ask Jesus for? What are the “demons” you would ask Jesus to drive out? Do we, will we, ask Jesus for the healing we need and desire? Jesus is waiting for us! And Jesus will grace us!
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:30-34
Today the disciples gathered around Jesus and reported on the preaching and teaching they had been about in the past days. They all were excited and pleased. However, they also were tired and hungry and they had been surrounded by people for days. Jesus suggested that they go away from the crowds of people for awhile.
They all got into a boat and Jesus took them off to a deserted place. Here they would have peace, quiet and rest. It also would give them time to talk with Jesus about their experience.
However, the people saw them leaving and they hurried after them to the place where Jesus was going.
Jesus and his disciples must have been dismayed when they saw the people waiting for Jesus. However, Mark writes that Jesus was filled with pity and concern for the people. Jesus recognized that the people were “sheep without a shepherd.” They were hungry and yearned to hear Jesus teach and preach. They need the spiritual “food” that only Jesus had to give them. And Jesus recognized their deep need and yearning. He recognized that they truly were “sheep” without anyone to care for them. So Jesus sat down and began teaching them.
At times, we also are like “sheep without a shepherd.” At these times, it may be helpful to ask ourselves: what am I hungry for? What am I yearning for? Do we recognize this hunger and thirst in others? Or do we stay focused primarily on ourselves?
We are called to be like Jesus! We are called to nurture the people in our lives, especially the lost, forgotten or hidden. For a moment stop and ask yourself: who would appreciate your time for just 5-10 minutes today? It doesn’t have to be intense conversation. It often is a great gift simply to truly notice another. Who knows: someone else may notice you or I today!
What a simple and yet wonderful gift to give! However, will we do it?
Friday, February 6, 2015
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:14-29
Herod had John arrested and put into prison, as his wife Herodias requested. Herodias had been married to Herod’s brother, Philip. However, Herod desired Herodias for himself and eventually he married her.
Today’s Gospel focuses on the tale of John the Baptist, Herod and Herod’s illicit wife, Herodias. John publicly had criticized both of them for having an illicit union. And naturally, Herod and Herodias were angry with John and his censure. Who did John think he was? Herodias was so angry with John that she wanted to have him killed. However, Herod believed that John was a holy man. Herod had enjoyed listening to John preach. Thus, Herod refused to have John arrested.
On the occasion of his birthday, Herodias gave a grand banquet for Herod. However, Herodias had another agenda; she had devised a scheme. During the banquet, Herod’s daughter came and danced for Herod and his guests. Herod was extremely pleased with his daughter and wanted to thank her. Herod told his daughter that she could ask him for anything and he would give it to her. As we know, his daughter consulted with her mother, Herodias. Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist served on a platter. And her daughter did so.
Herod was extremely distressed. Herod had great respect for John despite the fact that he had him arrested! Thus, Herod was in a quandary. He publicly had told his daughter that he would give her anything she desired. How could he say no to her request? Eventually, Herod gave way and did as his daughter had asked: he had John beheaded.
John is a wonderful model and guide for us. He spoke out in the face of injustice. John did not pander to royalty or wealth. John put his life on the line for what he believed. Do we speak what we believe, especially if our opinion or thoughts deviates from the norm? Or do we simply keep silent? Or if directly asked, do we fudge on our response? Or do we simply avoid the question?
I assume that most of us do not like to say or do the hard thing. Yet, if we truly consider ourselves followers of Jesus, at times this means we do need to speak the truth we believe even if it is not the popular opinion. Today may we ask Jesus for the courage to speak and act on our beliefs---even if it may upset the other person. Today may we ask John to share his courage, honesty and directness with us!
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:7-13
Today Jesus sends His disciples out to preach, teach and heal. Jesus was wise: He sent the disciples out in pairs. Jesus knew as beginning preachers, they would need support. He also realized that the disciples would be more effective if they had companions in this ministry. Thus, He sent them out in pairs.
Jesus instructed them to take nothing with them on their journey – no food, no extra clothing nor money. This meant that His disciples would have to depend on the generosity of others to meet their needs. I wonder how Jesus’ disciples reacted to His instructions. Were they tempted to carry some food or a change of clothing along with them? Or did they truly trust that God and many generous people would provide for them?
The disciples left and began preaching. Amazingly, they also were able to work miracles. They drove out demons and cured people who were seriously ill. Imagine what it was like for these disciples to have the ability to perform healings and miracles, to preach and to teach. These men were not learned. They were simple fishermen and workers. Yet, Jesus empowered them to give to heal others and to give them spiritual food!
Today Jesus also calls us to preach and teach. We also are His disciples. Jesus calls us to reach out and touch others with our love, care and concern. In today’s world when most everyone is in a hurry or too busy to slow down, we can give the gift of our interest, time and support. This may not sound like much of a gift. However a few minutes of truly being present to another person may be the most precious gift they will receive today!
Who knows: perhaps you will be blessed when someone gifts you with their attention and care!
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:1-6
This Gospel reading begins as Jesus and His disciples return home, to his native place. On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and He began to teach. All who listened to Jesus were astonished. They were taken aback at the power of His teaching as well as the power of His presence. This was Jesus, a man they knew very well. He was a man who had grown up in their midst.
How had Jesus become so knowledgeable and such a powerful speaker? He was the son of a carpenter, not the son of a rabbi. Many people in his hometown discounted Jesus and His message. They refused to listen to Him. After all, who did Jesus think He was to preach to the people who had known Him from birth?
Jesus did not get angry. Rather, Jesus replied to their comments by saying that typically a prophet is not honored by the people who have known him from birth. Jesus realized that He simply was too familiar to them. They only saw in Him what they wanted to see. Thus Jesus was unable to perform any great deeds there as they did not have faith in Him.
It can be easy to discount the people whom we know the best. They are so very familiar to us that we simply may take them for granted. Take a moment and think about the people in your life: what are their gifts? How do they gift you with their love and care? Do you appreciate them? Do you appreciate their gifts and talents? Do you let them know how important they are to you?
Today make time to give thanks for the many people who love and care about you! In some small way, let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life!
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 5:21-43
Today’s Gospel is all about healing. This reading opens as Jairus, an official of the synagogue, comes to Jesus and begs Him to heal his daughter. She was dying and Jairus was desperate. He begs Jesus to come and simply lay His hands on her. Jairus had faith that Jesus could and would heal his daughter. Immediately, Jesus agreed to go with Jairus. Many of the people who had been with Jesus followed them.
As they went on their way, a woman who had a long history of hemorrhages, had heard of Jesus and of His power to heal. This woman believed that if she simply could touch Jesus, even for a second, she would be made well. The woman quietly came up behind Jesus, reached out and touched His cloak. In that instant, the woman was healed!
Even though the woman had touched Jesus only for a second, Jesus immediately realized that someone had touched Him. The disciples tried to convince Jesus that it simply was the movement of the crowd. Yes, Jesus was in a great crowd of people, however He also knew that the touch He experienced simply was not someone in the crowd bumping into Him. Jesus had experienced the “touch of faith!”
Jesus stops and asks who had touched Him. The woman came forward and fell at His feet. She told Jesus that she was the one who had touched His cloak. Was she concerned that Jesus might reprimand her? Instead, Jesus quietly told her that it was her faith that saved her. Then He told her to go in peace. What a wonderful gift this woman received. She must have been filled with wonder, joy and gratitude.
The focus of the Gospel then returns to Jairus and his daughter. One of his servants comes to Jairus and tells him that his daughter has died. It was too late to save his child. In the midst of all this activity, a servant of Jairus came and told him that his daughter had died. What a horrible reality to comprehend. However, Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid and then He follows Jairus to his house.
And we know the rest of the story: Jesus went into the house and sent everyone but the immediate family away. Then Jesus took the child’s hand and spoke two words to her: “Talitha koum.” Jesus quietly told the child to arise. And she did! Just imagine the joy, gratitude and amazement that filled that room.
What is the healing that you long for? Have you reached out to “touch” Jesus? Do you experience the presence and the healing power of Jesus? You may receive the specific healing you have asked for but perhaps the healing is happening in other ways. Jesus does hear and respond to our prayers! However, the response may not become clear to us until later.
The challenge for us is to continue to trust Jesus even when He seems silent or when nothing seems to be happening. Do we give up? Or do we continue to ask and pray to the One who will give us what we need, even if it may not be the answer we hoped for? Perhaps, the question is: do I truly trust Jesus and His love and care for me? It may not be manifested in the way I would prefer, but do we trust that Jesus is with us and is gracing us with what we truly need? Today let us pray for one another that we truly will trust Jesus in all the circumstances of our lives (or at least try to)!
Monday, February 2, 2015
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Luke 2:22-40
Today Mary and Joseph travel to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple. It was customary and the law that within 40 days after the birth of the firstborn son, the parents were to take the child to the Temple in Jerusalem and present him to the Lord. As soon as Mary was able to travel, she and Joseph set out for Jerusalem as the law required. It was a long journey for them, yet they wanted their newborn son to receive this sacred rite of purification.
A man named Simeon was in the temple the day that Mary, Joseph and Jesus arrived. For many years Simeon had spent much of his time in the Temple waiting for the “consolation of Israel.” When Simeon saw Mary, Joseph and the baby, he recognized Jesus as the One he had been waiting for! Simeon immediately went to them and took the baby, Jesus, into His arms. Simeon loudly praised God and gave thanks that he was blessed to see and hold “the Christ of the Lord” in his arms before he died. Simeon also prophesied that this tiny baby was destined for greatness.
On that day, Anna the prophetess also was in the temple. When Anna saw Mary, Joseph and Jesus she also came to them and prophesied that this tiny baby would bring about the redemption of Jersualem. I wonder how the people in the Temple reacted to this prophecy? Did they believe what Anna and Simeon were saying? Or were they skeptical and non-believing?
Imagine yourself in this scene! How would you react to these happenings? Would you be a believer or would you be a skeptic? At various time in our history, we all have heard “prophecies” of happenings that would occur in the near future. And most often, we wait and wait. And typically, they do not occur. However, the time will come when the prophecy will be fulfilled!
How would life be different for us, if we lived each day as if it is our last day? How would you spend your day? Who would you spend your time with if today was the last day? Would you go to church? Or spend some time with God in another way?
Today could be our last day! May we live this day fully and with thanksgiving and awareness!
Sunday, February 1, 2015
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:21-28
The Gospel for today begins with Jesus teaching in Capernaum. On Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. As the people listened to Jesus, they were astonished as Jesus taught with such authority, unlike the scribes.
While Jesus was in the synagogue, there was a man there who had an unclean spirit. When the man saw Jesus, he man cried out to Him. He wanted to know if Jesus had come to destroy his unclean spirit. Then the man recognized Jesus for who He was: the Holy One of God! Jesus then quietly, yet firmly rebuked the spirit. Immediately the unclean spirit came out of the man.
Everyone who was present was amazed at what Jesus had done. They realized that Jesus was very different from the teachers they were accustomed to listening to. The message of Jesus came from the depths of His heart but Jesus also had an innate authority that mesmerized them. Jesus also had a power, authority and presence that the Pharisees simply did not have.
Word of Jesus, His teaching and His healing spread throughout the region of Galilee. People traveled from far distances to hear Jesus preach. They wanted to experience Him for themselves. Perhaps they also hoped they too might be healed!
Do we find Jesus and his message mesmerizing? Or is His message too familiar to us? Does the Word of Jesus simply “wash over” us? Or do we listen attentively and take His Word deep into our hearts and minds? Today may we consciously and deliberately attend to Jesus and His message! Today may we have open minds and listening hearts!