Sunday, January 31, 2016

“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

Gospel Text: (LK 4:21-30)
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Jesus’ friends and family doubted that he could possibly be the fulfillment of scripture. Doubted that he could be the incarnation of the relationship that the Lord had spoken about in Jeremiah.   How could Jesus, the boy they all knew, the man Jesus “…Joseph’s (the carpenter) son…” be the fulfillment of Isaiah? They may have thought:  We know him.  This is very doubtful. This is blasphemy.  Luke goes on to speak of Hebrew scriptural events equally unbelievable, doubtful and unexplainable.  

“...they were filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him (Jesus) out of town…to hurl him down headlong.  But Jesus passed through the midst…and went away.”

This is not the end of the story.  We know that Jesus did not stay “away”.  We know that Jesus returned again and again to those in doubt, those in pain, those hurting, to the seekers and the self-proclaimed unbelievers. 

Today’s Good News:   Jesus does not return.  Jesus Is. The Lord never abandons. Never.  The Lord is constant. This I know – I am worthy of the Lord’s love and mercy not in spite of who I am,
but because of who I am.   How do I know?
“the bible tells me so…” - Amen

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I think we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.

Gospel Text: (MK 4:35-41)
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

In today’s gospel Jesus chooses not to calm the disturbance in His disciples’ souls in the same manner that He calms the sea and wind. But He does challenge them: “Do you not yet have faith?” His rebuke of the elements and of His disciples seems to have a meritorious effect on them. “They were filled with awe” at His power over the elements. But is this the faith He demanded of them?

It’s only natural to be impressed at the power of nature, and of God’s power over nature. It’s something supernatural, however, to allow God to have power over oneself. This is the sort of faith Jesus is asking for from His disciples. Faith is a gift freely given, but it’s also a gift that must be freely accepted. Jesus will not calm our souls without our consent, or rather, our faith in His power to do so. The disciples marvel at Jesus as one “whom even wind and sea obey”. Even more marvelous, however, is a disciple who obeys Jesus as His Lord.

As we encounter storms in our personal life, we need to remind ourselves that our father, Abba, is at the helm.  And he will not let us be crushed, forsaken or destroyed.  This realization brings us inner peace — and a good night’s sleep.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Embrace the power of little things and you will build a tower of mighty things.

Gospel Text: (MK 4:26-34)
Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

I am not an expert on mustard seeds.  I don’t think I have ever seen one of these tiny wonders Jesus talks about in today’s reading.  However I do think I get the point Jesus is making today.  The smallest action on our part can build the Kingdom of God.  

In every Christian's soul Jesus Christ has sown —by virtue of the Baptism— the grace, the sanctity, the Truth... It is necessary that these seeds sprout, grow and bear a multitude of good fruits, our deeds: deeds of service and charity, of kindness and generosity, of sacrifice to properly comply with our daily duty and to make happy those around us; deeds of constant prayer, of forgiveness and understanding, of effort to grow in virtue, of joy...

Thus, this Kingdom of God —that begins within each one of us— will extend to our family, to our people, to our society, to our world. Because, he who lives like that, «what does he do but preparing the path of God (...), so that the strength of grace fills him and the light of truth lights him up; so that his ways to God are always straight?» (Saint Gregory the Great).

The seed begins very small, «It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden» (Mk 4:31-32). But the force of God's will scatters it all over and makes it grow up with a surprising vigor. Jesus asks us today —as in the beginning of Christianity— to spread his kingdom throughout all the world.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Gospel Text: (MK 4:21-25)
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

When Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that a lamp is meant to be “placed on a lampstand”, He does not specifically refer to His disciples here as “the light of the world”, as He does in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. Nonetheless, Mark’s text makes the inference clear. Disciples are not meant to hide themselves, their belief, or Christ from others in the world. On the contrary, they are called to share the Good News! This clearly stands in conflict with a culture dominated by moral and religious relativism.

«Listen then, if you have ears!». And He also said to them, «Pay attention to what you hear» (Mk 4:23-24). But, what does it mean “to hear”?; what are we to hear? This is the great question we have to ask ourselves.

Listening is an attitude of sincerity towards God that demands to know what we really want to do. And to find it out we must hear: we must pay attention to the hints of God every day in our lives. We have to enter into a dialogue with him to put an end to our “mathematics of measure”.

When Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that to “the one who has, more will be given” and “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”, some might accuse Jesus of sounding like Wall Street tycoons. Jesus just doesn’t sound fair. But what God gives, He gives for others: if He gives me a grace or charism, it is for others.

Only in being faithful to serving others with what we have may we hope someday to reach Heaven.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Maturity is when you stop complaining and making excuses in your life; you realize most everything that happens in life is a result of the previous choice you’ve made and start making new choices

“For like a poisonous breath over the fields, like a mass of locusts over Egypt, so the swarm of excuses is a general plaque, a ruinous infection among men, that eats off the sprouts of the Eternal.” ― Søren Kierkegaard: (1813 – 1855: Danish philosopher, theologian, and poet)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:1-20)
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

God wants to be with us and asks our permission for it. God asks that we open our heart to His love. God does not impose himself onto us. God loves us first, promises to stay with us, but asks only that we may receive Him. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? It sounds like an easy, natural thing to do. It should be! Who would consciously not be open to love unconditional? Sadly, we sometimes are not…..

Part of us starts thinking: What will this mean for my comfortable life? What if I fail? Well, I don’t really want to deal with it, I’m too busy right now.” And that’s exactly what Jesus talks about in the parables: God’s invitation, God’s word falls on a rocky surface, it sounds like a great plan, but… our hearts are hardened by all our preoccupations. These are certainly legitimate, but God’s message is: “Let me in! Let me dwell within your heart! Just trust me!”

The only thing God asks of us is to let Him in our hearts, in our lives, in our relationships, in our thoughts, in our activities… God asks that we build a dwelling for him, that we are fertile soil for God’s gifts of love and grace. If we fail, well… God’s covenant does not state that we are faithful, but that God is! And we are always welcome back home with a few simple words, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”

Let’s pray today that we accept the grace to trust God’s unconditional love for us. The grace to put the rocks and thorns present in our hearts and minds, in our activities and relationships, in God’s hands to be transformed into rich soil so we can bear fruit for our own personal growth, for our families, for our communities.