September 5th, Mark 7: 31-37
Silence, Spitting, Salvation
The Gospel story is about a man who stumbled into the kingdom of God without knowing what was going on. He was an exile. He lived cut off from society and must have felt more like an observer rather than a participant in the world around him. Indeed, the deaf man was brought to Jesus without knowing where he was going or why.
Jesus takes him aside and communicates with him. The people begged Jesus to place His hands on the man, but Jesus chooses to do it His own way. Often, we are like that, going to God with preconceived notions on what to do, and how and when to do it. Jesus steps away from the noise of life and into the world of this man. He manages to communicate whether by basic sign language or the universal language of eye contact and touch. He talks with fingertips of love. He also does something strange. Jesus spat on his hand before touching the tongue of the man. This might sound disgusting to us, but saliva comes from the throat, and Jews believed the soul resided in that part of the body. Jesus shares not spittle, but soul-power to this man.
He calls on the powers of heaven. He groans and shouts the words “Ephphata”, which means “Be opened”. The man is free. Salvation breaks out among the people.
Jesus touched ears, tongue, and heart. Help us to see how deaf we can be to the call of Christ in our lives. Help us to overcome the fear of speaking out and become voices of faith. Help us to believe salvation came from the loving heart of God, and he wishes to reside in our hearts also.
September 12th, Mark 8: 27-35
Who do you say I AM?
This is one of the simpler questions we can find in the gospels, but one that requires the most profound answer. Like the disciples, we may be tempted to respond with what we’ve heard others say that Jesus is. “Some say” is what the disciples try to respond. They take the question away from themselves, don’t think too much about it, don’t commit… Jesus pushes the question back at the disciples and at us… Who do YOU say I am? When speaking to me, he doesn’t care what others say, he wants to know specifically how I see him, how I relate to him, how he is present in my life now.
This is a question that Jesus can ask of each of us over and over and probably get a different answer each time because Jesus is a person in a relationship with me. Not with a group, not with a church, not with a theological viewpoint, with me as a human being, as a child of God. And as relationships change over time, depending on what circumstances I am living in life at that point, so does it change with Jesus. Thus, at times Jesus can be a friend, a challenger, a loving companion, a point of hope. I can feel comfortable with him, at peace, or be upset at him and struggling. That is why this is a question we need to hear from him each day, WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? And in answering this question I can also discover WHO AM I? In understanding who Jesus truly is for me, I become a better person, a stronger Christian, a more faithful and loyal child of God. This is why in our parish we are constantly striving to offer formation opportunities, healing ministries, fellowship spaces, and spiritual growth. Because the more I participate in the life of my parish family and the more I learn about my catholic faith, the more I’m prepared to answer that question WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
This week I invite you to take a quiet time to reflect on it…At this specific time of your life, amid the circumstances and situations that surround you, WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?
September 19th, Mark 9: 30-37
There is a legend about Father Abraham. The story goes that he always delayed eating his breakfast until a stranger came along to share it with him. One day, an old man came by and prayed a blessing to pagan gods over the food. Abraham was furious and sent him on his way.
Immediately, there was a clap of thunder and God spoke, “Abraham, Abraham, I have been supplying that unbeliever for over eight years. Could you not accept him for just one meal?”
Abraham went after the man and brought him back. He realized a pivotal truth, that we are all children of God. God has no foster children, no stepchildren, and certainly no grandchildren!
Jesus reminds the disciples and us in the Gospel that we are children of God. Jesus even compares himself to a little child, the one who cannot resort to power tactics when threatened or maltreated. Jesus’ protection is His Father. He trusts God, no matter what, even if that trust makes Him vulnerable.
We are challenged to trust. People took advantage of Jesus, put His endurance to the test, but in living life as a true child of God, Jesus invites us to be open and trusting, even if we are not sure where the road is leading us. No earthly power will save Jesus, but the bonds of trust are stronger than death.
Discipleship is about TRUST. May that trust keep us all strong in our life’s journey.
September 26th, Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48
The Dialogue of Action
To anyone who believes that God’s grace and power is reserved exclusively for Christians, the gospel today has a very powerful lesson.
A man, who was not a disciple of Jesus, was casting out demons – in the name of Jesus. John and the other apostles were aghast. They ask Jesus “Shall we stop the man?” Jesus responds, “Certainly not, let him carry on”. The apostles thought that they had a monopoly on doing good. Jesus invites them to broaden their vision and recognize God’s healing power wherever it can be found. Jesus gave them a principle: “Whoever is not against us, is for us.” That lesson is especially valuable today.
Living as we do in a cosmopolitan world – where we have to rub shoulders with people of all faiths – we need to recognize that inclusivism is the hallmark of spirituality.
In 1984, Pope St. John Paul II addressed the Secretariat for non-Christian religions and spoke of “the Attitude of the Church toward Followers of other Religions”. The Pope spoke of four kinds of Dialogue:
The Dialogue of daily living, The Dialogue of Action and Works, The Dialogue of doctrine, and The Dialogue of spiritual (or monastic) experience
While Pope John Paul II emphasized the Dialogue of Doctrine, where scholars come together to explore and exchange theological ideas, Pope Francis has stressed the Dialogue of “fraternity” when inter-religious groups come together to address social ills.
Jesus, too, is recommending the Dialogue of fraternal action, with his principle of promoting anyone and everyone who is doing good for people.
For the last 10 years, St. Patrick’s has been involved with an organization in Palm Beach County called PEACE (People Engaged in Active Community Efforts), comprising 22 different religious congregations – Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. We advocate for issues like increasing homeless shelters, immigration reform, educational improvement, resolving wage theft, and reducing youth crime. We are ecumenical and nonpartisan. Our network has been successful because we have been able to generate people’s power. In the words of Catholic social teaching, “When people of different religious perceptions and different racial/economic backgrounds come together to fight for community issues, there is true ‘fraternal’ solidarity.”
October 3rd, Mark 10: 2-12
The Divine Designer
I have this awesome Ninja blender I got as a wedding gift. This thing does everything. My favorite thing to do with it is to make smoothies. It has a special cup attachment that you can use to blend your drink and then it pops off and it is good to go. Not too long into using this, it started leaking and oil from the base was coming up. It would be a pain to clean and I was frustrated that this nice expensive blender could not handle a simple smoothie without leaking.
After weeks of frustration and complaining to my wife, she comes over one morning to see what I am doing and why it is leaking. My wife quickly points out that I have filled up the blender beyond the max fill line. Now I saw the line, but I saw numbers and thought it was just a measurement line. Sometimes I just want to do things my own way. Yes, there may be instructions, but who has time to read that. Sure, there may be limits but let’s face it I know better than the person that designed it, after all, it was just a smoothie, not rocket science. Boy did I feel stupid, as well as humbled, I could have avoided weeks of cleaning and frustration if I just read the instructions. Needless to say, I could have broken my nice blender.
In the gospel, we see a similar situation. God is the designer Who wrote the manual. Like anything, there are limits so it will not break. He intends for us to be happy and loved, yet stubbornness and pride can get in the way. The Pharisees are concerned with the law by Moses but do not look to where God first established marriage. Jesus in turn explains with scripture from Genesis that God created man and women differently but equally. Yet, in Jesus’ time, women were not equal to men. Jesus is quoting Genesis reminds us of and raises women to have dignity and equality of men. Jesus reminds us that God designed marriage between a man and women united with Him and that they are to grow closer to one another as well as to God.
God intends to unite not separate. God loves and forgives he does not condemn the one who repents. This was how He designed it and shows that in the reading of the manual, in this case, the scriptures, one would avoid the frustrations, messiness, and pain of going beyond the limits set by Him.
But life gets messy and way harder than it was designed to be. Just as I thought I knew best with my blender the people in the Gospel thought they knew best with marriage. What was happening was divorces, adultery, and pain but that was not part of the design God had planned.
This week’s Gospel is not just an explanation of God’s design for marriage but an opportunity to grow in faith as a person of God. Using the manual God gave me of Scripture, Tradition, and Faith I can grow into the person God designed for me to be. When things seem to be falling apart and leaking all over, I have to stop and pause for a second and think to myself do I really know better than the designer? The mess and leaks were never the intent. God created us out of love and He wants us to be united to each other and Himself. He wants us to be happy for that is after all how He designed us to be.
October 10th, Mark 10: 17-27
“I’m a Good Person”
Can I just be a good person and go to heaven? In today’s Gospel, Jesus is very clear that being “a good person”, or simply following the commandments like not killing or not stealing is not what he is looking for in a disciple or what it takes to spend eternity in heaven with him. Heaven is not a prize to be won by checking the boxes of being a good person, but it is about the love that we show here on earth and how we share the love that has been shown to us. The commandments were not given to us as a step-by-step guide, but they were given to us along with Jesus’ example so that we may learn how to read between the lines. Every day Jesus calls us to conversion and to constantly make a decision to follow him. Jesus tells the rich young man to go sell what he has, give it to the poor, and then follow him. The same applies to us. We must give up whatever is keeping us from loving others and demonstrate, with our actions, love to those around us and then follow Jesus. We must learn how to demonstrate the deeper meaning of the commandments in day-to-day life. You may not be faced with choosing whether or not to murder someone every day, but you most certainly will be challenged with hating the people who cut you off in traffic or with a difficult family member. These are the moments that God is calling us higher, calling us to follow closely His example of love. One cannot “just be a good person” because it is not a simple thing to do, being a good person requires dedication and constant thought and prayer.
October 17th, Mark 10: 42-45
The Poison of Competition
Children quarrel about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car, who gets the biggest slice of pie, who gets the first choice of the ice cream, who is better at video games… but you know what, so do adults. Some of us are more competitive than others, some are more power-hungry. We all want to be the employee of the month, get the highest bonus, and even be the winners at a game of Monopoly. The desire to be better than someone else always lurks inside us.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to want recognition for a job well done. It’s even just and fair to recognize a job well done. But sometimes the line between that recognition and the desire to seek power can be very fine indeed. James and John’s request seems to cross that line. They are saying they are better than the other apostles, and it’s “only right” that Jesus sits them at his left and right when they come to heaven. The two brothers are showing total self-interest. They are not thinking in terms of service, they are pretty much acting selfishly. I imagine Jesus must have rolled his eyes at the request, thinking they really did not get it! They really did not know what they were asking for!
Jesus patiently teaches them, and us, that if they want to be great they need to follow Him into His passion and death. There is no other way! The brothers seem to think they can jump from discipleship to glory bypassing the basic role of the disciple: to be of service to others. This means to humble ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves for our brothers and sisters, to seek the justice and the love of the kingdom of God, and make it real in our everyday life. The leadership of the Christian man or woman is not based on lording it over others, in showing we have more power than others. Not at all! Christian leadership is expressed in service and compassion towards others, especially those who may be weaker than ourselves.
We are invited today to hear Jesus’ question addressed directly to us. Am I able to drink the cup Jesus drank of? Am I of service to others to the point of sacrifice, as Jesus was? Or do I let the desire of controlling others take me over as it did James and John?
October 24th, Mark 46-52
If we place ourselves in the Bartimaeus story where do we stand? Are we Bartimaeus persevering because of Faith, seeing because of Faith? Are we among the people surrounding Jesus, telling the blind man to shut up and go away? Being stumbling blocks instead of being a means to God’s Love?
Recall the sharp rebuke Peter received from Jesus for being a stumbling block. Stumbling blocks are not what we are called to be, but instead, we are called to offer mutual encouragement and support, clearing the way for others to see.
Bartimaeus is everywhere, crying out “Jesus Son of David has mercy on me,” woe to those who tell him to shut up and go away.