Thursday, January 31, 2013
February 1, 2013
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:32-36)
The salvation of the just comes from Lord. (Psalm 37:39)
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.” (Mark 4:26-29)
Lord, I ask for your help in running this marathon, long and sometimes rocky and lonely. I ask that you sustain me in the challenging times, and help me to keep you foremost during the joyful sprints as well.
When I first came back to the Church after an absence of thirty-plus years, it was so easy. Not the struggles about whether I could be one in the body of Christ and whether the Church would take me back… those parts were demanding. But those initial mainly halcyon months back with the Eucharist and crying at practically every Mass about the beauty of the Liturgy and getting to know people, both loving and challenging, that was all a piece of cake. Even the fights with my then-pastor and my over-enlistment in every service opportunity I could lay my hands on were easy. I wore my Ash Wednesday forehead cross proudly, almost defiantly. I gave of my limited treasure until it pinched—pinched hard. Being the returning Catholic girl brought both God and me attention.
It started becoming difficult when I stopped thinking about me and started thinking more about God and his will, about how I was to use my gifts and talents not for my glory but for his. It meant more time in contemplation with Scripture and teachings, more time sitting at this desk and praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in writing, and less time in more public ministries that it turned out I had entered for me rather than for him. It became even more difficult seven months ago when I was called to begin attending another parish where no one knows my name, where I am truly an anonymous member of the body of Christ instead of one of the go-to volunteers.
And as I watch my calendar clear of service appointments I once thought essential for my well being if not God’s to make more time for the quiet work he calls me to do, I think about the guidance of Mark and of the writer of Hebrews. Every spiritual journey has its spots where God’s will turns out to be different from what we thought it was, when it turns out the seed we are call to scatter is for a crop we don’t understand or a crop different from what we expected or desired. May he grant each of us the confidence and endurance to see the journey through.
Where are you being short sighted about God’s desires? Pray for the faith and guidance to change course.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
January 31, 2013
Memorial of Saint John Bosco, Priest
We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
“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.” Mark 4:21-22
Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us to care less about the laughter of the world and care more about the joy of the Lord. Amen
The part of Jesus' sermon that Mark's Good News delivers to us today would have fallen on very different ears two thousand years ago. In the agrarian economy of ancient Palestine, the farmers in the audience were very attached to the land. As Jesus was considering how to "rouse" his neighbors to love in action, he tried to use themes that would resonate. Perhaps in today's story, we Americans are less likely to be farmers and raise crops, so all the talk about bushels, measuring, and the economy based on harvesting wheat might be obscured to our ears. In an era where electricity and light are abundant, the importance of the lamp may be taken for granted.
So let's step back a little in this chapter before we step forward. Jesus has just instructed the disciples on the purpose of the parable and why he uses these word-stories to teach and preach (Mark 4:11-12): "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.’” The primary themes that Mark establishes are seeing and hearing.
So, to make sure that the disciples understand that the mystery of God is not to be obscure or obscured, Jesus delivers further illustration. Just as they understand the parable of the sower, now he adds to it additional images of the lamp and the bushels of wheat to help give more dimensions to the sermon.
Although these are farmers, it is important to see the deeper meaning and not to be confused or misled with the economic implications but rather see and hear the story on a deeper level. It is not about having or getting more lamps or bushels of wheat. Instead it is about hearing the Word of God and working hard to understand it and pass the message on to others.
St. John Bosco was guided into ministry by visions that he had in a dream about helping children. Although at first the message in these dreams were not evident to St. John, eventually he was able to discern the meaning of the dreams in the life and work to which he was being drawn.
Because he was at first ridiculed when he spoke of these dreams, St. John delayed taking some important steps toward helping the neglected children. He ignored the message and hid it under a bushel. But when he realized the light of truth about the meaning of these dreams, John acted upon that message. He measured out the meaning in the way he lived his life.
How do you understand the Word? How do you share the Word? How does your life of piety, study and action measure up to the standards Jesus set?
January 30, 2013
Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O'Sullivan
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 worldy 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.” (Mark 4:13-20)
May my heart be a garden, O Lord, where your Word takes root and flourishes.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus addresses the crowds with the parable of the sower. As he tells the story, he emphasizes the work of the sower. No matter what difficulties the sower may encounter along the way, in the end God’s Word will produce a rich harvest. Later, alone with his disciples, he goes over the parable again, this time emphasizing the hearers of the Word.
Jesus says that some of us behave as though we are our own gods. Our hearts are closed. We think we don’t need God; we’re sufficient unto ourselves. We refuse to let the Word in. When the Evil Spirit sees we are impervious to the sowing of God’s Word, he swoops down and carries the word away.
Others of us receive the Word quite enthusiastically. But, in the long run, we’re not able to stay the course. We go through life trying out first one thing, then another, giving each one up the moment we are called upon to commit ourselves. We are no different with respect to God’s Word. Yes, we want the gift of eternal life, but the instant we realize the journey with Christ goes by way of the Cross, we’re out of there.
Some of us take in the Word, but allow our other preoccupations and loyalties to come first. Pretty soon God’s Word is crushed and annihilated by our desires for power, wealth, and prestige, which occupy far more time and space in our hearts than does our faith.
Fortunately, there are also those who hear the Word, who take it to heart, who make the Word their own, and, in turn, become sowers themselves. In these people’s lives, we see the bountiful harvest Jesus is talking about.
Most of us fit all of these characterizations at one time or another. Consider Jesus’ words to his disciples. Do you see yourself in any of what he says with regard to this parable? What would it take for your heart to be more receptive to the Word? What would it take for you to become a sower yourself?
One way to be a sower for the Lord is to sponsor someone for a Cursillo weekend. The 136th Women’s Weekend is coming up March 14–17 at Missionhurst. The 126th Men’s Weekend is scheduled for April 18-21, also at Missionhurst. It’s not too late to sponsor a candidate for either weekend. For more information, go to http://www.arlingtoncursillo.org/secretariat/precursillo-2/.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
January 29, 2013
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
First he says Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in. These are offered according to the law. Then he says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10: 8-10)
For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
Jesus, show me how to be a Sister or a Brother to your sisters and brothers not just my own. Almighty God, show me how to do your will.
Families, tribes, clans, cities, nation-states. Humans group together. Our groups define us to ourselves and to each other. They are also places we feel that we fit in if not places of comfort. I’ve always been fairly shy and find it stressful to walk into gatherings where there are many strangers. In high school, being on drill team and newspaper staff gave me groups to belong to. Family gatherings have some stress but for me it is known stress and known modes of being. If I had been in the group of Jesus’ relatives who heard him say ““Who are my mother and my brothers? … whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” I think my feelings would have been hurt.
However, when I reflect on those whom he gazed upon and who he invited to be his brother and his sister I feel reassured and thankful. He invited the woman at the well who was an outcast from her own community group. He invited an adulteress. He invited a Roman official, the oppressor. He invited a tax collector. He invited gentiles, temple leaders, rural fishermen. Jesus invited everyone to choose to be family with Him. Jesus message is “Come, be family with me because I love you as God loves you.” Beyond generous, Jesus’ invitation is life-giving both on the merely human level of belonging and on a universal level to be united with divinity.
Take a few minutes with someone not in your “family” or “group”. What does this child of God have to share with you through her/his story? What do you have to share with her/him?
Cardinal Donald Wuerl states in a Washington Post op-ed “Acting on Faith” that Jesus’ brothers and sisters are obligated to “to manifest love of neighbor, to provide charitable service to others, and to promote truth, genuine freedom and authentic humanism. “ http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-catholic-church-a-2000-year-old-mission-of-faith/2013/01/25/4a6c5e6c-64e0-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_story.html