Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“Trust in the Lord” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Trust in the Lord” by Colleen O’Sullivan

King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-Sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.”  Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered:  in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand.  Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people and said to the Lord: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done.  But now, Lord, forgive the guilt of your servant for I have been very foolish.”  (2 Samuel 24:2, 9-10) 

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (Mark 6:4-6)

My soul rests in God alone,
from whom comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and salvation,
my fortress; I shall never fall.
(Psalm 62:2-3)

Trust is sorely lacking in the world around us.  There’s so much talk of “fake news” that it’s hard to know what or whom to believe.  Neither major political party seems willing to trust that maybe, just maybe, the other party might actually care about the good of the people in our country.  We spend countless hours glued to our social media, but it’s often difficult to trust that we’re reading about reality and not just urban legends.

Not that knowing about this lack of trust cheers me up a great deal, but there have been issues with trust for as long as human beings have populated the earth.  The story of the fall shows us that, even surrounded by a garden paradise where she lacked for nothing, Eve didn’t trust that God had a good reason to tell them not to sample the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden, and Adam proved more willing to trust his companion than to trust in God.

Our Scripture readings today illustrate problems with trust.  The first reading is about King David ordering a military census.   The first time I read it, I wondered what could be wrong with conducting a census of the troops.  The census itself turns out not to be the problem.  It’s King David’s arrogant trust in his own achievements and in the power of the military he has amassed that constitutes the sin.  The numbers are hardly in when his conscience begins to bother him, and he confesses to the Lord that he has forgotten to put his ultimate trust in God.  God evidently doesn’t take too kindly to that, as you can see if you read the rest of the passage.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus heads to his hometown and, on the Sabbath, preaches in the local synagogue.  The villagers, friends, and family in whose midst Jesus grew up, are amazed at first.  They all agree that he speaks with great wisdom and has performed wondrous deeds.  But then their small-mindedness comes to the fore.  God would never make Jesus a somebody.  After all, all the world knows that nothing good comes from Nazareth.  It’s a nowhere place.  Besides, they remember the days when Jesus’ hands and clothes were covered with the dust of the carpentry shop.  No, Joseph’s son is just getting above himself talking to us like this.  They don’t trust that God might do something outside the box of their limited imaginations.  They demonstrate limited trust in God’s ability to use anyone God pleases for divine purposes. 

I can identify with David.  How many times have I arrogantly trusted in my own abilities to solve a problem, banging my head in frustration on the wall?  Once I told my spiritual director about something that had bothered me for 40+ years.  He asked me if I had prayed about it.  I thought for a few minutes and said, no, I’ve just thought about it.  Sure enough, when I put my trust in God and took it to God in prayer, it quickly became a receding speck in my rearview mirror.  Our ultimate trust is best put in the Lord and not ourselves.

In the Gospel reading, we see that as much as Jesus might want to heal us or forgive our sins, he will never force himself on us.  We have to be trusting and open, or there is nothing the Lord can do for us. In a book that I read years ago, Who Will Be Saved? , the author invited the reader to put him/herself in the place of the man left by the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan.   Would we really accept help from a member of a group we’ve been taught to despise?  That “despised” person happened to be the one God sent to aid the beaten person lying in the gutter.  And none of the “acceptable” people showed up to help.

Where are you when it comes to trusting God?  Do you feel any kinship with King David?  Do you think you would have gone along with the rest of the folks in the synagogue in Jesus’ hometown?  Do you have some other problem with trust?  Whatever these Scripture readings elicited within you, take it to God in prayer.

Monday, January 29, 2018

“Arise!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Ilya Repin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Arise!” by Melanie Rigney

The king was shaken and went up to the room over the city gate to weep. He said as he wept, "My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 19:1)

Listen, Lord, and answer me. (Psalm 86:1)

He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. [At that] they were utterly astounded. (Mark 5:41-42)

Lord, open my ears that I may obey when You call me to arise.

Today's Scriptures present us with a pair of grieving fathers. In the first reading from 2 Samuel, King David's beloved son Absalom dies not in battle, but in a bizarre set of circumstances after the victory has been won. The mood of the king and the army changes from celebration to grief. There is no hope for a miracle.

In the Gospel reading from Mark, we see Jairus, a synagogue official. His young daughter is dying when he approaches Jesus; while Jesus is speaking with the woman whose hemorrhaging ceased by touching his robe, Jairus' servants arrive. The little girl died; there is nothing left to do. There is no hope for a miracle.

Except one happens. Jesus goes to Jairus' home, touches the girl, bids her rise, and all is well again.

And what do these stories have to do with our lives? Quite a bit. In times of tragedy and uncertainty, there's certainly nothing wrong with some grieving and mourning. It's a natural, generally healthy way to cope with and process our losses.  At some point, the Lord calls us to believe in a miracle and to get up and walk.  May we be receptive to His healing balm when offered.

Identify a loss or hurt in your life that you know in your soul you've turned into a false idol. Invite Jesus to show you the miracle.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Go Home to Your Family

Go Home to Your Family

Then the king said to Abishai and all his servants: "If my son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day." 2 Samuel 16:11-12

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed. Mark 5:18-20

"You have heard: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well." Matthew 5:38-40

My Old Testament classes are fading into the memory banks. So, when presented with long readings from the history books of the Hebrew Bible, it helps my study to look up who some of the characters are that we encounter.

Today, we hear about Shimei cursing and throwing rocks at King David. Imagine if someone walked past The White House cursing and throwing rocks at the President. The Secret Service would quickly impinge upon his freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

But the police and army from ancient Israel do not apprehend Shimei. He was angry about the evil and wicked things King David had done to King Saul. He indeed appeared to be a very unforgiving man who never sought true reconciliation with King David.

If Shimei was a man of faith, he was ignorant of the rules outlined in the Pentateuch. God expressly prohibited what Shimei was doing. See Exodus 22:27: "You shall not despise God, nor curse a leader of your people."

However, King David lets him get away with both the hurtful words and the rock throwing. Despite the mean streak that existed in the murderous and adulterous heart of King David, there was room for forgiveness and for turning the other cheek. Despite his royal position, he did not seek any retribution against Shimei. Instead, he "offered up" his humiliation and defeat. Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and make it up to me.

Turning to the New Testament, Jesus also shows mercy to the man possessed of evil spirits. The Lord looked with pity on his circumstances. When the man wanted to stay with Jesus, he got a personal commandment not unlike what Jesus did with others he cured or healed or saved.  "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Jesus did not accept the man's request to remain with him as a disciple, yet invited him to announce to his people what the Lord had done for him, i.e., proclaim the gospel message to his pagan family.[i]

If only we could show such magnanimity in the face of insults.

Not a sports report goes by these days when there is not focus on a technical foul awarded to a curse-spewing basketball player.  Not a week in the NFL season passes when a helmet-to-helmet hitting NFL player gets ejected.  When the boys of summer take the field, it seems that every week an MLB pitcher throws a high, hard fastball at the head of a batter who embarrassed him by doing a home run trot around the horn too slowly. If such anger only reared its ugly head in sports!

Even though Hammurabi's Code has long since passed into the history books, we still live in an eye-for-an-eye world. Rare are the cases of the family of a murder victim who forgives the killer and passes up seeking the death penalty. I can almost guarantee that reflections which deal with the USCCB stand against the death penalty will get more comments and e-mail from Catholics who fail to understand this critical Church teaching.

When can you turn the other cheek?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Come Out

Come Out

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
(Originally Published February 1, 2009)

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. Deuteronomy 18:18

In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!" Mark 1:23-25

Lord, you have authority over all things. Grant us the great calm from all needs which trouble and preoccupy us so we will not be distracted from your work. Amen.

Authority speaks to us through the seasons. When we know what God asks, we must pay attention. Our piety has the reflection of the mind and heart of Christ for its authority. When we share our moments close to Christ, they speak with the power of how carefully they draw us to Christ. Because the Saints are an update of Christ, they speak to their time and their age in how they bring one closer to Christ. How the moment makes us transparency of Christ is why a moment is close to Christ.

The big question of life is; "Am I really willing to be who Christ would have been
if he had been lucky enough to be me?" Jesus goes on teaching in our world today by the ways he is present in our lives. How closely our moment touches on Christ is how the authority of his words and teaching affect our lives today. The goodness of our lives keeps the power of Christ active in what we say and what we do. Saints could be called obsessive compulsives by how heroically they live the goodness of Christ. Saints are radical in how they respond to the needs of the moment in which they are living. They know how to give all their life to what they are doing. They bring Christ's authority to their work by how they give of themselves. People want to work with the saints because they are so inspiring that we find it a privilege to work with them. We have people who by their devotion bring the authority of Christ to their ministry.

Baptism re-birthed us into the life of Christ. Christ dwells in our souls because they are temples of the Holy Spirit. We open our hearts to others by our apostolic work. We become Contemplatives in Action by the love that opens the door of our heart to the needs of those around us.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians gives us a plug for Celibacy. He is talking about how living with another can be a distraction from living with Christ. Matrimonial spirituality provides us with a way to find Christ in the partner. The Sacrament allows two, a man and a woman to become one. The sexual union of the two partners of the sacrament becomes a symbol of how the two become one in Christ. Where ever there is love, Christ is there. The oneness of the matrimonial union is the oneness of the two in Christ. Our study presents us with the everyday challenge to find Christ in what we are doing. Matrimony commits one better to share their life. Sacraments give us back the humanness of Christ as he takes part in our lives. The historical Christ who is in heaven remains the word become flesh in the Sacramental life of the Church.


The Church is the people of God. Each of us from the child to the aged senior has the responsibility of being the word of Christ. We have the apostolic responsibility of preaching always and occasionally putting words on the meaning of the goodness of our lives. The Cursillo calls us to be companions of Christ and helps us to claim the presence of Christ in whom we are. Christ who we discover as a brother on our Cursillo becomes the most profound meaning of our lives as we work to share him in all our friendships. Make a friend! Be a friend! Lead the friend to Christ. He is not only the most profound meaning of our lives but also the real person we are meant to be. The word he has put on our heart calls us to be Christ to one another. We are called by God to share his love by realizing our potential to be Christians, Christ for one another.

Asleep on a Cushion

Christ asleep during the storm Eugène Delacroix c. 1853
Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Asleep on a Cushion

"Now, the rich man received a visitor, but he would not take from his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man's ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor," [said Nathan].  David grew very angry with that man and said to him: "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death! He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity." 2 Samuel 12:4-6

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?" Mark 4:37-38

Awareness of God's Presence
From heaven to Earth:
I watch you interact.
I see you dance.
I watch your breakdowns.
I see you love.
I suffer through your struggles.
I revel in your accomplishments.
I cry when someone taunts you
I laugh when someone laughs with you.
I am the peace you feel amidst the confusion.
I am the grass that cushions your fall.
I am the comfort of your hug to another.
I am the food for those who have none.
I long for you to notice. Thank you for the times you have.
If you could, do you think, when you wake up in the morning, you could whisper in the depths of your heart, "I know you're here"? Because I am. Amen. (Now and Forever: The CUA Student Prayer Book)

Very puzzling…at first.  How do these two stories relate? The first reading usually illuminates the Gospel.  But the combination today doe does not seem to fit comfortably together.  How does vengeance against murdering adultery and rescue at sea relate?

The passage from the Hebrew Bible recounts the second recorded meeting between King David and the prophet Nathan.  The visit is not very cordial because Nathan confronts David about his adultery and murder.  David committed adultery with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.  He attempted to cover it up but despite multiple efforts, he could not.  So, David ordered Uriah killed so the king could then marry Bathsheba and raise their illegitimate son. 

The coverup is worse than the original crime (adultery).  The parable that Nathan tells of the rich man killing the ewe illustrates the blood David's hands.  The outcome of Nathan's parable was the way he broke the news that God would bring judgment upon David for his sins. That punishment resulted in the yet another death – the death of David and Bathsheba's child. Would David be next?  If God took his son's life, will God take David next? Such an-eye-for-an-eye-type justice finally leads David – in the face of possible death -- to change his evil ways.  He repented.  God forgave him.  David remains king. 

In the Good News today, Jesus is asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat while a major storm comes up seemingly out of nowhere.  After all, had these experienced fishermen seen signs of the rain on the horizon, then they probably would have stayed on shore.  The companions are concerned both with the storm they face and with the fact that Jesus at first seems aloof and indifferent to their unexpected dilemma – sleeping through the crisis.  The storm is the parallel threat of death – like the threat of death David faced.   

Ah, but God does not sleep through this crisis or the crisis faced by David. 

These two stories depict very different demeanors. With David, he was getting what he seemed to deserve.  With the disciples, they did not expect to drown at sea today and feared for their life. But what is the same is God's action. When David turned to God with repentance, God responded with love and mercy.  When the disciples turned to Jesus in faith that he could save them, Jesus acted with love and compassion. In both stories, God fulfills his part of the deal (aka the covenant). 

Ah, but God does not sleep through this crisis, or the dilemma faced by David, or ours. 

What storms are on your horizon? Do you even see them coming? How will you deal with them? Will you take matters into your own hands?  Or will you share the crisis with the Lord and ask for help?

Cushions may be OK for a napping Jesus, but we have to be on guard about our cushions.

A Christian from Germany visited the United States shortly after World War II. "I notice your churches have cushions," he commented, suggesting churches of affluence. Then he added, "I notice your preaching has cushions, too." The visitor had gotten a sampling of feel-good sermons that trod lightly (if at all) on the expectations God has for us regarding love and justice toward the poor.[i]

Let us not sleep through the crisis facing others.  Help others with the same love and mercy we seek from the Lord for ourselves.

[i] Simon, Arthur. How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 13.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

“God’s Word to All” by Beth DeCristofaro

“God’s Word to All” by Beth DeCristofaro

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.' And at that very moment, I regained my sight and saw him. Then (Ananias) said, 'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.'" (Acts 22:13-16)

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conver—sion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  (Collect from Mass for the Day)

Jesus' Word, by his command to the disciples, is for "the whole world" and "every creature."  Jesus invited even people who persecute those he loved to share in the Gospel.  He knocked some of those off a horse.  Some hear and believe through the deep bedrock of faith modeled by another.  Some of us think in tiny increments and turn again and again – converting over and over – as our spiritual journeying brings us to fuller understanding and relationship with Jesus the Nazorean whom we at times might ignore (but hopefully never persecute)

Throughout sacred history, God placed people in the places in which they would best fulfill God's will.  They grew in stature as they responded to God's call, at times in spite of themselves.  Moses stuttered, Rebekah and Jacob cheated Esau, Thomas questioned, Paul of course persecuted until he saw the light, "Bill W" gave his alcoholism over to God and co-founded AA.  Reading the lives of the saints with all their warts and foibles allows us to hear "go out to the whole world" and share "My Word" in a new perspective.  Yes, God means me, limitations and all.

How can I better go out and spread the Word to God's creatures despite my limitations?  Perhaps those imperfections might be the doorway to someone's heart.  God has already given us people who are close to us. How can I reach out from my relationship with Christ to strengthen my relationships with others giving them the loving support to accept His word?

Illustration:  Life of St Paul, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Paulsgrove, UK

“Lord, May I Be Your Dwelling Place” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Lord, May I Be Your Dwelling Place” by Colleen O’Sullivan

That night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day on which I led the children of Israel out of Egypt to the present, but I have been going about in a tent under cloth. In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel, did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ‘The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm.’” (2 Samuel 7:4-7, 11b-12)

O Lord, may the eyes of my heart ever search for you. May the ears of my heart always listen for the sound of your voice. May the doors to my heart stand open, ready to welcome you.  

God has a somewhat different perspective on what it means to be God and where God dwells than we human beings sometimes do.  David is feeling a bit guilty that he lives in such a fine cedar palace, while God has nothing but a tent in which to abide. I’m sure David had the best of intentions when he suggested that he build the Lord a house, but God didn’t want to be limited to the four walls of any building at that moment.  God liked the tent concept because God could always be in the midst of God’s people. A tent was portable. If the people moved, God could pull up stakes and move with them.

I remember being taken aback years ago when a church member asked me if we could have longer times of silence during worship. She confided that the church was the only place she found God and the only place where she ever prayed. I said, yes, we could have more extended periods of silence, but I wish I had had the presence of mind to tell her that God is a tent dweller, that God pulls up stakes at a moment’s notice to be anywhere we are. I wish I had had the presence of mind to help her find God dwelling within her.

God asks Nathan to tell David not to bother building God a house. On the contrary, God is going to create a house for David, not a house of cedar or brick or any other building material, but a dynasty. Moreover, God says, tell David that his dynasty will last through the ages and, long after David is laid to rest, God will raise up an eternal heir through whom the House of David will last forever.

That heir, Jesus, isn’t confined to any one building either. A literal translation of the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) is that the Word pitched his tent among us.i Where we go, Jesus picks up stakes and goes, too.  We are never alone.

God is certainly to be found in our houses of worship. But I think God’s message to David defines “house” in a more personal way, as well. God wants each one of us to put out the welcome mat. God desires that we make room in our hearts for God.

What do you need to do to make your heart a more hospitable home for God?  Lent is only a few weeks away and could be the season when you rid yourself of whatever prevents you from opening wide the doors of your heart and graciously inviting the Lord to enter. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

“Here Are My Mother and My Brothers” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Here Are My Mother and My Brothers” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. When he finished making these offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. He then distributed among all the people, to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel, a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake. (2 Samuel6:18-19)

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord! (Psalm 24:8)

John Everett Millais [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:34-25)

Jesus, I am humbled to be part of your family.

We see it in politics, in business, even in ministry. As fair as people might try to be, it’s hard not to give special consideration to relatives when it comes to promotions and other opportunities. We’re a tribal lot, we human beings, and protecting the tribe is almost a primal instinct.

At an initial read of today’s Gospel, Jesus sounds harsh, inconsiderate of the woman who birthed him, who nursed him, who cleaned his scrapes, who as much as any other mother marveled at every stage of his development. Now a grown man, how could he ignore all that so publicly?

Ah, but he didn’t. Of course, Mary remained his mother, for who other than Jesus himself was a better example of a person doing the will of God? This is a joyful, hopeful passage! It’s not a matter of denying or shunning those we love and who love us, but the glorious gift that every single one of us has the opportunity to sit at His table. Jesus lays out a path for getting to the seat He has for us. All we need to do is obey.

Spend some time contemplating this verse while in prayer with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Tie Up the Strong Man

Tie Up the Strong Man

But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.
 Mark 3:27


Spirit of the Living God
Fall a-fresh on me

Melt me, mold me,
Fill me, use me

Spirit of the Living God
Fall a-fresh on me

On the surface, the first part of this passage makes perfect sense. It was always in making the transition to the next section that caused me to pause.

First, we need to be sure that you know the "strong man" is Satan. That's right: Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, the evil one, or the "prince of this world." Once we establish the identity of the "strong man," the passage makes more sense. Unless you tie up a strong man, he's not going to sit around and watch you plunder his house. He's going to put up a fight. If you were going up against Muhammad Ali, the likelihood of winning this fight against the Champ is probably somewhere between slim to no chance -- even if you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Your best shot at plundering his house is to first tie him up with a little rope-a-dope.

Here is a reasonable conclusion: Jesus has the power to bind "the strong man." After all, Jesus is here to bring about a kingdom that breaks through the presence of evil in the world. If Satan is not fighting amongst his friends, the person who will take him on is Jesus.

Demons get cast out by God's power in this world – and only the Holy Spirit wields such power. Now that we make THAT connection to the Holy Spirit, the second part about the one sin that is unforgivable – now makes sense too. Sinning against the power of the Holy Spirit in the world would be to deny the physical presence of God. It would be to deny God's strength in the battle. It would be to deny that God is incarnate in the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus succeeds because of only one factor: The Spirit of the Lord is upon him. That Spirit is what makes him "stronger." That Spirit is what frees us from sin. That Spirit is what calls us to a more profound union and friendship with him.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." Mark 3:28-29

The notes in the NABRE explain that "this sin is called an everlasting sin because it attributes to Satan, who is the power of evil, what is the work of the Holy Spirit, namely, victory over the demons."

Up until Jesus (and the Spirit of the Living God) come onto the scene, we have been the ones that the strong man -- Satan -- has bound up in sin. Envy. Gluttony. Lust. Greed. Gambling. Alcohol. Sports. What stops you from getting closer to Jesus? That is the rope that the "strong man" is using to tie you up. Only when we turn the tables – freed by Jesus from the confines of our sins – can we tie up the strong man and cast his power out of our lives. What ropes have you tied up? How can you get out of those traps?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Set Out

Set Out

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD'S bidding. Jonah 3:1-3A

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:14-17

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. 1 Corinthians 7:29

Whatever happened to Zebedee's business?  He was a fisherman in Galilee.  He and his wife Salome had two sons -- James and John. Before they became disciples of Jesus, they worked on their father's fishing boat.   Zebedee probably had some wealth because he also had some hired men. But, after he gave up his sons for their pupil-ship to Jesus, we never hear anything more about him. 

Zebedee must have been puzzled watching James and John walk away from their livelihood.   At some point, he would have expected one of his sons to take over the fishing business and the net repair.  However, the disciples' response is motivated only by Jesus' invitation, an element that emphasizes his magnetic power over some to attract them to this ministry. They change their profession and walk away from their nets. The time of fulfillment was at hand.

James, John, and Jonah all were called and sent out on missions as Apostles to the Lord. Jonah had to head to Nineveh and deliver a pretty dire warning of the change. James, John, Simon Peter and the others stayed in and around Galilee until after the Assumption before "setting out" throughout the Mediterranean region to Rome, Egypt, Compostela, Corinth, Ephesus, Turkey and elsewhere.

Everyone who followed the Lord in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament embarked upon a path of change.  Today's message is NOT about the end of the world.  It's about what we do BEFORE the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Are you willing to leave your modern-day nets?  Maybe that is your computer, your car or your boats and take up a different mission.

The lessons that James and John learned fishing applied to their new profession as fishers of men.
  • Fish at the right time. Talk to Jesus about a friend before talking to a friend about Jesus.
  • Put in the effort. Cursillo Weekends do not fill up themselves.
  • Go the extra mile.  While there indeed are members of the choir and the Knights of Columbus who will have a great experience on a Cursillo Weekend, we also have to fish outside the bowl and reach out for folks who are not involved in other ministries.

Let these be lessons to us, too.  Keep your hooks sharp and your nets in good repair. You never know when it will be time to set out on a new adventure.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

With His Disciples (January 20)

With His Disciples

"Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished, separated neither in life nor in death, swifter than eagles, stronger than lions! Women of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and in finery, who decked your attire with ornaments of gold." 2 Samuel 1:23-24

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."  Mark 3:20-21

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned?
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.
Well, Satan got mad, and he knows I'm glad.
Missed that soul that he thought he had.
Now, didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned?
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.
(For an alternative version by the Boss, listen to this video.)

Lamentations fill today's readings. 

Lament #1: David over Saul:  After the confrontation between David and Goliath, the young shepherd became a fierce warrior and gained favor with King Saul.  However, as time went on, the military/political rivalry between Saul and David ebbed and flowed.  Sometimes Saul made attempts on David's life.  Other times, Saul's son Jonathan worked as a peace-maker, helping to mend the troubled relationship between king and subject.

David, in the Friday readings, passed up a chance to kill Saul in the cave and the men seemed to reconcile to another peaceful co-existence.  Thus, as news of Saul's death reaches David's camp, the future king breaks down into a full-scale lament.

Lament #2: Relatives of Jesus:  Switching to the Good News, hardly anyone would call this news good.  Jesus is just hanging out in his own house: teacher and pupils.  Crowds pressed in from all sides.  There were so many people that family members could not even move around in the house. Imagine what the relatives were saying: "…he could have had such a great position as village carpenter.  Why does he not continue working in Joseph's shop?  Instead, all these lepers and prostitutes are following him around. He is out of his mind throwing away a great vocation for this."

Those closest to Jesus did not know what to make of this scene and became outright dismissive of Jesus – attesting that he was out of his mind to entertain so many followers.  His family tried to intervene but they could not. 

Even when it is the darkest hour when our friends are dying, or our own family fails to recognize our work, it helps to remind ourselves that throughout sacred scripture and salvation history, there have been other dark hours.  And at those times, even Pharaoh's army got "drown-ded." The positive overcomes the negative. David rises to become King.  Jesus rises again after his execution.

While we like to focus on the joy of the seasons, scripture has a way of snapping us back to harsh reality.  On Palm Sunday, when Jesus triumphantly enters into Jerusalem, minutes later we transported to the foot of the cross yelling "Crucify him!"  The very day after Christmas and the joy of Emmanuel-God-With-Us, we meditate on the first martyr St. Stephen.

On the other hand, we also can quickly move in the other direction – from sadness to joy.  One minute, Mary of Bethany and Jesus are weeping over the death of Lazarus.  In the next, Jesus commands Lazarus out of the grave. In the middle of Lent, the purple vestments get hung up for a week for the joy of rose-colored vestments.

What are you lamenting?  Now?  In the past? In the days to come?
Nothing is impossible with Jesus. Especially the joy that comes after the weeping. Pharaoh's army of woe will still get "drown-ed."