Do You Remember How To Talk?

Image result for free photo of Mark 7: 31-37
Daily Reflection – 2/12/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:31-37)

Reflection

For me, one of the most beautiful parts of baptism is Ephphatha. It’s that moment when I touch an infant’s mouth and ears, and pray: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.’

It comes of course from today’s Gospel. This is the second time that Jesus has ventured into Gentile territory. Friends bring a deaf and mute man forward and Jesus performs still another healing.

As I reflected on this Gospel, I am reminded how all of us need healing . . . healing of both heart and mind. Healing that governs the words from our mouth and the actions of our hands.

Ears represent our ability to receive sounds that are liable to influence the way we think, feel and act. Mouths represent the ability to ‘put out messages’ that have an impact on the lives of others.

Our nation today is stained by harsh words and vitriol. Too many minds and hearts are already closed. We judge. We don’t consider. We spit out unkind words. Our mouths are not used to form words of  kindness.

Part of that abnormal behavior is because of our intake of media matter which shapes our thoughts and words better or for worse- morally, spiritually. We have to  question what we are doing to ourselves through our media intake; what we are doing to others through our media output. In both cases it could be a lot of good or it could be a lot of harm.

But that’s an excuse.

God has given all of us a healthy desire to give and receive love. That is how we are formed at birth. A parent’s love should foster that and see it grow.

When Jesus opens the man’s ears and his mouth, he is giving a sign of the love of God. Even when our hearts are closed and our world has shrunken, Jesus enters into our lives with his love. All we are asked to do is to allow him to enter into our hearts, to say to us: “Be opened”. It is his love that becomes our reality, and we learn to live in a new environment; that of the spirit who is love. That is what our Christian faith calls us to.

Why? Why are so many bottled up with prejudice, condemnation, even hate? Because of the media? Think again? Because of politics? Think again? Because of the state of the nation? Think again.

We have allowed – we – have allowed darkness to take hold in our heart. Instead of His light filling our lives, we have retreated from it. The more we retreat, the darker it grows. The darker it grows, the more bleak it seems.

We need to let go before the cancer of darkness dominates our lives.

No problem or burden was too much for Jesus’ careful consideration. The Lord treats each of us with kindness and compassion and he calls us to treat one another in like kind. The Holy Spirit who dwells within us enables us to love as Jesus loves.

Are we willing to let go? Think about it.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inflame my heart with love and compassion.  Make me attentive to the needs of others that I may show them kindness and care. Make me an instrument of your mercy and peace that I may help others find healing and wholeness in you.”

Daily Note

We have control of our minds, hearts, words and actions. It is a moral, spiritual choice. We may be inclined, enticed or tempted to imbibe material which is spiritually ‘unfit for human consumption.’ At baptism the ears are blessed that we may choose to receive the ‘godly word’ and reject the ungodly one. Our mouths are blessed that we may communicate to others godly words that are truthful, charitable and inspiring and resist the temptation to lie, mislead, and talk nastily about others.

God knows, even if we don’t, how much we all need healing and restraining in the wonderful, awful world, of inter-personal and mass-communication! What a challenge we have to take this seriously and encourage others to do so!

The Good Shepherd of Puppies

Image result for free photo of Mark 7: 24-30
Daily Reflection – 2/11/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30)

Reflection

At first glance, this Gospel might seem harsh but, in fact, it is tender and adds another dimension to our understanding of faith.

While we cannot know exactly what Jesus was thinking, it is clear that when approached by the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus’ immediate response is to appeal to the limits of his mission, his call to serve his own people. In Matthew’s version of this story, Jesus begins by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

But she still didn’t quit. She approached Jesus now that he was speaking to her, fell down before him in homage, and said, using one of the most powerful words in any language: “Lord, help me!” And Jesus, to help her to continue to grow in faith, told her with the typical vocabulary with which Jews and Gentiles would refer to each other, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” But she still didn’t give up. She reminded him that he was the Good Shepherd even of puppies. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus was amazed at her persevering faith and gave her the greatest compliment in Sacred Scripture: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish!” And at that moment her daughter was healed. She had been helped to become great in faith precisely by Jesus’ testing.

Faith. One word. A word that has been written about throughout history. A word that is not only foundational in a discussion of theology and religion. But a word that has become diluted by humankind because it has become a part of our vernacular. Politicians use. Coaches use it. Parents use it. Commercials use it. . . and on and on.

But you and I have an avid interest in it because we believe in Him and want to actualize his faith in our life.

Actualize his faith in our life.

But that actualization does not come easy. To be faithful is not a thing merely of the mind, but of one’s whole life. To be faithful means to seek to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength. Faith isn’t a once-and-for-all gift that just grows on its own. It’s a gift of God that grows also in response to acts of faith in response to tests, like we see with the pagan mother today. We need to persevere in faith, to continue to live by God’s wisdom, to continue to inform and follow a conscience well-tuned to God’s voice.

That is the nature of faith. It’s not confined to a prayer. It’s not confined to a building. It’s not confined to one denomination. It can’t be any of those because true faith is alive, it’s universal and it’s a constant journey. It grows as we grow both in our knowledge of Him and as we live out that knowledge in our daily life.

Faith is a gift of God that grows also in response to acts of faith in response to tests, as we saw with the gentile mother today. We need to persevere in faith, to continue to live by God’s wisdom, to continue to inform and follow a conscience well-tuned to God’s voice.

All of us – ALL – are offered a seat at the table. All of us gave been graced with the gift of faith. Each of us needs to pursue it, grow it, inculcate it so that we may know the other precious gift – the gift of eternal life.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and never doubt your loving care and mercy. Increase my faith in your saving help and deliver me from all evil and harm.”

Daily Note

Jesus rewards a Gentile woman for her persistent faith and for her affectionate love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

You Still Washing Your Hands ?

Image result for free photo of Mark 7: 14-23
Daily Reflection – 2/10/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus, he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:14-23)

Reflection

In our Gospel today, Jesus criticized a portion of his own community for paying God lip service, exalting human precepts, abandoning divine commandments. Like a beam of laser light, he cut through to the real issue: their hearts are far from God.

He provoked this confrontation to provide Him with an opportunity to give a true understanding of the kind of cleanliness that is necessary for us to have a true relationship with God –the kind of uncleanness that damages that relationship. This has little or nothing to do with ritual physical cleanliness, whether that be of our bodies or our cooking utensils. Still less should we make a display of meticulously observing such traditions. We may impress other people, but certainly not God.

He wants us to get back to the basics of truthful worship of God. He cuts through the forest of minute rules and regulations and reveals the whole purpose of God’s law . . .  to protect and foster love for God and each other. Good law should provide a framework in which love can grow. Bad law stifles real love.

When you think about it, Christians have an entire set of devotionals — the Lord’s Prayer and the Great Litany, rosaries and revivals, Prayer Book and Hymnal, icons and incense, Bible study and Sunday school, silent retreats and Cursillo reunions, holy water and holy rolling, giving thanks at a birth and praying at a death — the entire apparatus of Christian devotion, in its diversity and complexity, serves one great, overarching purpose . . .. to help gain and maintain a new heart, a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone, a heart that is alive not dead, a heart that is compassionate not selfish, a heart that is large, not small, a heart that is hospitable not judgmental.

That’s why Inner purity is far more important than outward cleanliness. What really matters is the way we think, our inmost desires and longings. These lead to the way we behave. With dirty hands we can have a good relationship with God –but not with a dirty mind. That’s not confined to lustful thoughts and desires, but includes malicious, spiteful longings, a refusal to apologize or forgive, an arrogant contempt for other people. It’s far more worthwhile and demanding to keep a guard on our thoughts and desires than to be scrupulous in washing our hands and cooking utensils.

During this pandemic, we spend a lot of time on our physical hygiene. Wearing masks, washing our hands, social distancing . . . all well and good. But before, during and after the pandemic, we should focus on our spiritual hygiene being sure that our inner life matches our exterior life, that our hearts become larger; more compassionate. That’s the kind of cleanliness that’s essential to our having a good relationship with God. That’s inner, not external purity. Only then is cleanliness next to godliness.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, let the fire of your Holy Spirit cleanse my mind and my heart that I may love you purely and serve you worthily”.

Daily Note

Jesus refers his followers to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts went astray because of disobedience to God’s laws.
If we listen to God’s word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our mind and purify our heart – thus enabling us to better understand how he wants us to love and obey him. The Lord invites us to draw near to him and to feast at his banquet table. Do you approach with a clean heart and mind? Ask the Lord to cleanse and renew you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.

Our Heart Problem

Image result for free photo of Mark 7: 1-13
Daily Reflection – 2/9/2021

Sacred Scripture

Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. [For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).] So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”(Mark 7:1-13)

Reflection

That is quite an intense and frank scene in today’s Gospel.

The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus.

Jesus did as Jesus would. He accused them of hypocrisy for appearing to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. He reminds them and us that inner purity is far more important than outward cleanliness. What really matters is the way we think — our inmost desires and longings.

Each and every one of us has a heart problem, and not just a physical one. The heart is a fountain out of which flows all that affects our lives. If the heart is affected by sin, it becomes deceitful and wicked. If it is centered on the love of God then that which we do is both pure and consistent with His desire for us.

When God looks at us, the first thing he sees is the state of our heart. God doesn’t care about what we look like on the outside. He’s more concerned about what’s on the inside. He has more sympathy and compassion for a poor beggar in rags who has true faith than he does for rich rulers who wear fine clothes but have rotten hearts and souls. If we don’t take time to have our hearts purified by God once in a while, we won’t be able to receive his blessings.

We have to ask ourselves what are the interests of God, and what does God think about the way we live our lives. Does the way we live our lives reflect a way of life that is in sync with God and his plan for our lives? While our Christianity should shape our behavior, it runs deeper than our behavior. It has implications for how we live our lives, but it is also mysticism before it is morality, faith before it is action, the seed of a new life before it is the fruit of that new life.

There is a bit of Pharisee in each of us. Vigilance to our heart will yield the life that He seeks for each of us.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, let the fire of your Holy Spirit cleanse my mind and my heart that I may love you purely and serve you worthily.”

Daily Note

Jesus wanted to get back to basics. He cut through the forest of minute rules and regulations and revealed the whole purpose of God’s Law. This was to protect and foster love for God and each other. Good law should provide a framework in which love can grow. Bad law stifles real love. A good heart focused on His word yields the life of a true follower of Christ.

Would You Be Quiet Please

Image result for free photo of Mark 6: Mark 6:53-56

Daily Reflection – 2/8/2021

Sacred Scripture

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:53-56)

Reflection

That is quite a vivid scene we see in today’s Gospel. Not a surprising or unique one. People hear about this miracle worker and “run” to bring the sick to Him for healing. And Jesus responds – as He always does in love.

There is no doubt in my mind that some who came truly had faith. There is also no doubt that some came because they were caught up in the stories about this miracle worker and went more from a “why not give him a try.” I am also sure that there were countless by-standers who just came to see.

All of it leads to a comment on faith – be it vibrant, dormant or still a question to be explored. Regardless of where you are, may I suggest that we can all benefit from silence?

To be silent, gives us a chance to listen to ourselves. To be silent is to give our hearts a chance to know peace. To be silent is to allow our minds to free themselves from the endless grip of anxiety, fear and constant movement. To be silent is to retrieve our hearts back again from our cellphones and our rushed lives.

We need that silence to listen, refresh and respond. That’s not only important for ourselves but for the world around us. Our lives as Christians – yours and mine – is fundamental to the lives of those who are the least of us. We walk around and see those who are sick, beggars, homeless, the poor. We see immigrants, they are everywhere. We attend to their needs, we welcome them home, we talk at church about how to offer shelter, how to be present, how to undo policies of hatred and debunk feelings of xenophobia, fear, racism and anger.

You and I are needed in this world. You and I are called. You and I must never, never forget how the slightest word, the smallest act, the kindest act can have a ripple effect on the ocean of life. That ocean which surrounds needs those ripples to help us all survive.

As people of God, we are called to discern the spirit of our times and see where the Spirit of God lives and what the Spirit is asking us to do — the work of God. In the same way, Jesus is telling us that we have to pause and pay attention to our hearts, to our movements and to how we are living our lives.

But those ripples can’t happen if we don’t have inner peace. Our words of kindness can’t be a front for an angry heart.

Without a strong spiritual life, fed by daily spiritual practices of prayer and meditation, of pause and loneliness, we cannot do all the work we need to do and we cannot be all that we are called to be. A heart without action is ineffective, and an action without a heart is empty. Jesus is calling us to have a compassionate heart, to reach out in His love but always remember the silence to keep us refreshed.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, let my heart sing for joy in your presence.  Give me eyes of faith to recognize your presence and fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in your way of love and peace.”

Daily Note

We are enslaved to notions of success, and therefore put few limits on work. We are enslaved to ideas about our children having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing. We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more — more money, more space in our homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets.

This is an invitation to loosen our shackles and climb out of the cages we’ve constructed from a culturally-fed belief that more is the ticket to happiness and that work is the ticket to more. This is an invitation to build into our lives time to rest, time to listen, time to be renewed.

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

Truth or Consequences?

Image result for free photo of Mark 6: Mark 6:14-29
Daily Reflection – 2/5/2021

Sacred Scripture

King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. ( Mark 6:14-29)

Reflection

This is the one scene in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus is not mentioned. Many theologians believe that it was deliberately written so that we could focus on the character of John the Baptist.

He was a man of great conviction, of deep faith, of great courage and he was a man who had an unswerving commitment to truth – regardless of the cost.

He showed us to live what he was preaching, namely to repent and believe, to make straight the paths of the Lord, and to follow the Lamb of God. He showed us how to die in fidelity to the Lord until the end. His faith has always been placed forward for us to imitate.

While we may never be faced with the ultimate sacrifice of offering our lives up for Christ, the question remains of what we would be willing to endure. Would we risk ridicule, misunderstanding, loss of popularity or even the loss of friends simply for speaking the truth?

There is a warning here. We are always in danger of making choices that undermine our faith and align us not with God’s kingdom, but rather with the principalities and powers of this world. A little compromise here … a little laziness there …a little winking of the eye . . .too much of tuning out the world so we have” peace” and suddenly we wake up in a place that is far removed from where we should be standing as a faithful, committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Our lives are filled with choices . . . especially if you spend at least some of your time living in a banquet hall where there is so much power and so much entertainment and so much to eat and drink that the faithful choices can become hard to see–until distant lives have been harmed or even lost and we are somehow involved, if not directly responsible.

The Gospel lesson reminds us that the task of following Jesus will never be easy. The road is rocky. Resistance can be expected. We still live in a world where those entrusted with political power live in fear that their authority will be challenged. Too many leaders are committed to expediency, and willing to compromise truth, justice, and compassion if they think it will win some votes.

Jesus calls us to belong to Him, speaking the truth no matter the cost, working as best we can to bring justice for all, and living lives of compassion and concern for those in need. Jesus calls us to live beyond ourselves. Let us strive to do so with God’s help.

Prayer of The Day

“Holy and merciful God, give us courage to choose your way in the midst of so many choices. Empower us to live the prayer Jesus has taught us: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth–this earth–as it is in heaven.”

Daily Note

The story of John’s beheading is shocking, and it’s meant to be–to shock us out of complacency in a faith that comes at little or no cost. Relatively few Christians, thanks be to God, are called to be martyrs. But all of us who would follow Christ are called to confront, as well as we can, the wrong we see around us, and confrontation is never comfortable. To pay that price is to stand with many who followed the path that John prepared for the One who came after him.

Sorry, No Extra Baggage

Daily Guidelines: Feb. 1, 2018 - Verbum Dei Philippines
Daily Reflection – 2/4/2021

Sacred Scripture

He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs the Twelve as he prepares to send them out to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Normally, when we go on a trip, especially if we’re not accustomed to traveling, we prepare a list of the things we need to pack in our suitcase so that we don’t forget anything.

Jesus likewise prepares a list for the apostles, but it’s precisely a list of things not to take. He wanted His disciples to be focused on the mission and committed to carrying out His word. He wanted them to be free of any baggage that would slow them down.

Excess baggage slows down any traveler.

As we move through life, each of us faces that in the spiritual baggage we carry on our backs. It’s heavy, weighs us down and impedes us from living a fuller Christian life. Jesus is asking us to leave behind the bags of our hurts, our fears, and our dreams.

None of us can move through life without being hurt in one way or another. Someone treats us with disrespect, dishonesty or even violence. A person we trust betrays us. Someone we love walks away. Even after we remove ourselves from the circumstances in which the hurt occurs, the scars from that hurt can still follow us. They become heavy baggage that we carry from one place to the other. Such baggage says to us, “You are broken. You are worthless. You are damaged goods.” Jesus asks us to leave behind the baggage of our hurts.

Fear is not a bad thing. Fear serves a positive purpose of identifying and preparing us for danger. But, once we have done all that we can have to prepare, fear loses its value. Then, holding on to fear can turn into a continual worry that undermines us and paralyzes us. It is like carrying a bag of heavy stones with us wherever we go. Fear says, “The worst is going to happen. It is not going to work out. Things will certainly fall apart.” Such fear allows us to do very little. Jesus asks us to leave the bag of our fears behind.

Usually, we think of dreams in a positive sense. They can be so when they motivate us and inspire us. But there are some dreams that are really impossible, and these dreams hurt us. They are dreams we want but have very little chance of achieving. Some goals are illusionary. Some people will not change. Some circumstances will not improve. When we insist on holding on to such false dreams, they become like a heavy cargo trunk that weighs us down. It robs us of our rest. It robs us of our joy, because we are always chiding ourselves for doing what cannot be done. Jesus asks us to leave the trunk of false dreams behind.

Clearly Jesus sends us out on a mission of love and service. But he wants us to travel light. What kind of useless burdens do you insist on bringing with you? What kind of heavy luggage are you determined to check for your flight? Jesus reminds us that such luggage is unnecessary. He asks us to leave the bags of our hurts, our fears, and our false dreams at home and fly free.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, make me a channel of your healing power and merciful love that others may find abundant life and freedom in you. Free me from all other attachments that I may joyfully pursue the treasure of your heavenly kingdom. May I witness the joy of the Gospel both in word and deed.”

Daily Note

By travelling light, the apostles would also come to know poverty of spirit. “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with our possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision. The Lord wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves. He wills to work in and through each of us for His glory. The more we can detach our occupation with the materiality of the world, the closer we come to depend on Him and the closer we come to living out His word.

The Wound That Hurts The Most

God - the way maker - Set Apart By His Grace
Daily Reflection – 2/3/20321

Sacred Scripture

He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 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 6:1-6)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his people and teaches in their synagogue, but he is rejected by them.

It doesn’t seem to be because of his words that Jesus is rejected. The people who reject him do not even discuss what he has taught them. Maybe it was out of social snobbery, or maybe it was out of the petty jealousy that Jesus was one of them but he is able to teach with an authority that they could not hope to possess?

No matter what wonderful teaching Jesus gave, no matter what great works he performed, there were some people who were pretty much going to reject him anyway. Jesus departed “amazed at their lack of faith.”

This rejection of Jesus in Nazareth points to a truth in our lives: sometimes it is the people who are closest to us who do not understand us and will not support us. How painful it is to have our gifts and talents accepted by many, but not accepted by those who are closest to us. How hurtful it is to wait for the approval of a mother, father, or grandparent; to wait for the acceptance of a brother or sister, and yet, never have that acceptance or that approval come. How debilitating it is when we find that those we are related to by blood or by marriage do not accept us.

But when it comes to rejection by family that rejection cuts deep.

This is the disturbing truth of today’s gospel. But in this scene, there is also a thread of consolation. If Jesus himself was unable to avoid rejection by those who were closest to him, then why should we be surprised if such rejection happens in our life? If Jesus who was Son of God nevertheless found himself helpless when his family refused to accept him, then certainly he will know our pain if we are denied acceptance.

It hurts deeply when those closest to us refuse to love us. Jesus endured that hurt. He also showed us how to respond to it.  The last line of the gospel says, “Jesus made his rounds of the neighboring villages and continued to teach.” When he was rejected in Nazareth, Jesus did not let that rejection undermine his identity or value. He did not reject his calling. He did not wrap himself in self-pity. He moved on.

 He moved on to the neighboring villages and there continued to teach to those who would listen and to those who would respond. In the same way if we were to experience rejection by those who are closest to us, we too are called to move on. We cannot make anyone love us, but we can refuse to allow rejection to dictate our future. We still have gifts to give. We still have people to love. We must believe that our gifts and love are real.

No matter what we have suffered, no matter how much we have been loved or not loved, accepted or rejected, in the God revealed in Jesus Christ we are never alone, we are never turned away, and we are always loved.

With that strength, we move on, and give our gifts to those who will receive them. Share your love with those who will respond to it. Believe that there still is life and love to be found, even if it is not in your own hometown.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of all our hopes and desires. Your Spirit brings grace, truth, freedom, and abundant life. Guide me always to go forth and live your words.”

Daily Note

“Pray as you can, not as you cannot.” Different people will pray differently. But somewhere in all this we should tell God what hurts and grieves us in plain and unvarnished words, and place these things in God’s hands and ask for healing and strength. We might not have all the explanations to give to God, but we can trust God to hear us and to understand, to love and accept us. And as the prayer develops and grows, we can learn to listen to what God has to say in reply in the depths of our hearts.

Do You See What I See . . .

Simeon & Anna: Patiently Waiting - YouTube
Daily Reflection – 2/2/2021

Sacred Scripture

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,  just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted—and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:22-40)

Reflection

The Gospel narrative for the presentation of Jesus Christ is filled with both hope and sorrow. Handel was so impacted by these words that he penned the Messiah and The Hallelujah Chorus.

Simeon and Anna knew that they had just seen the Messiah, the Son of God. Amidst their joy was a solemn and sorrowful prophecy… “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The child destined for glory is also destined for suffering. Mary and Joseph are reminded that they are part of a much larger story.

We too are part of a larger story, one that contains all manner of joy and sorrow, and the world draws us into that story whether we like it or not. A sword will sometimes pierce our own souls, too, and sometimes we must be reminded of that, lest our hearts become deadened to the full scope of God’s vision.

We are jaded by these uncertain times, times marked by a pandemic, an uncertain economy, a fractured and divided society. How can we know peace when there seems to be no peace? How can one see with certain eyes in such uncertainty?

Have we lost the desire to believe and look for that which we believe?

We must. There will always be those whose eyes have a clarity of God’s vision. Certain eyes know that whatever God has promised God will deliver. It can happen when a stranger bumps into us and tells us something we needed to hear. It might be a kind word; it might be a sobering one. But it is something true, something that jolts us back into an understanding that our lives are not simply our own private drama to be enacted according to our preferences.

As followers of Jesus, we must follow the Christ Child into the temple, as it were, and see whom we might encounter there to tell us about ourselves. We do this in any number of ways—by attending church, by going out into the community to serve others, by taking a stand on issues of justice, by living the words we read.

If we don’t, the Simeons and the Annas of the world will never find us. We will never rejoice with them; we will never see what they see; we will never understand ourselves through the reflection of their piercing gaze.

There is danger here and distraction, but also goodness. God can be found it all of it, though, and the fundamental lesson is that we must present ourselves in its midst, in the cacophony, in the muddy streets, in the jostling sea of searching souls—we must make our way to the temple and allow our fragile hearts to be pierced, because somehow that is the only way we can live. Somehow, it is the only way we can be saved.

Prayer of The Day

Thank you, God, for giving us your All, the Word made flesh in your Son Jesus. Lord, grant that we might have certain eyes in the midst of our present uncertainty. We thank you. We bless your name and we praise you for the giving gift of Jesus. Amen.

Daily Note

It is incredible that Simeon and Anna’s respective histories did not hinder their faith in the things of God–they continued to look for God’s promise. Our problems of the past can prohibit our seeing possibility in the present, but not for Simeon and Anna. This text tells us that seeing is possible in the midst of darkness. Disappoint-ments can be disappointing, but discoveries can cause us to see afresh that God is still speaking. Past wounds can blur the lenses through which we look. Yet Luke is deliberate in mentioning to us that Simeon’s and Anna’s devout faith, guidance by the Holy Spirit, allow us a bit of seasoning for this season of our lives.

The Weight of Our Shackles

A New Song – More To Life Bible Studies for Women
Daily Reflection – 2/1/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain, In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!” He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them. And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine Then they began to beg him to leave their district. 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: 1-20)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel is vivid in imagery. Imagery that forces us to peer inside our very selves and ask the questions we usually avoid.

Jesus comes to the Gadarenes in love. He comes to heal, to save, to liberate. As he gets out of the boat, he is confronted by a shackled man, possessed by demons. The only way the citizens knew what to do with him was to keep him shackled and imprisoned in himself. He was more restricted and isolated because of it and rather than offer help, they drove him further into his dilemma.
The man cries out a refrain we hear around us often: “Why did God do this?’ We hear that refrain because we want to affix the blame elsewhere. Affix the blame elsewhere. Think about that for a moment.

From my perspective, we all are shackled. Some less, some more. Some were placed on us in our childhood and we never let them go. Some were placed on us by ourselves arising from situations where we felt we did not “live up.” Some were placed on us by the cruelty of another. Some were placed on us by society such as systemic racism. Some were placed on us by religion when we felt we were “unworthy” of God’s love. And some we place because the culture is not heading in the direction we want or believe it should.

The links seem to grow stronger the more they are in place. The weight gets heavier the older we grow. But rather than peer deeply into ourselves, we blame another. It’s easier that way because we can push away it away. Or so we think. But we can’t.

To break free of our shackles, we need to confront their source — call out their source – call out as in aloud. With each cry, we need to acknowledge that we can’t do it totally on our own. We need to ask for the love of Jesus Christ to come to our aid.

The liberating word from Christ neither drives us back into ourselves, chaining us in the tombs with provincialism and archaic mind-sets, nor does it fetter us with “Mickey Mouse” morality, hoping to protect us from the light of truth. Rather, liberation strips these chains from our ankles and wrists, drives the demons out, and makes us free to understand what Augustine meant when he said: “Love God and do as you please.”

You see if we truly love God. If we really believe that we are centered on Christ, we don’t allow shackles to be placed on us. Society is as it is. But if we love God, we can find our way through it by centering on His love – not through anger, not through acts of hate. People are as they are. But if we love God, we can find a way to live with them and help them see the light. If we truly love God, no religious denomination can put blinders on us. Faith is a divine gift but the reality is that the institutions responsible for helping lead us to faith are managed by people. We, by our humanity, are flawed. We must always seek the light and live in His light. His word and His sacraments are divine.

The liberating word from Christ is when one hears for the first time that in the midst of his/her exposure and the torment of this embarrassment, he/she is worthy of being loved.
“Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, O Lamb of God, I come.”

Worthy of being loved first and then accepting His love as the liberation from our shackles.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, unbind me that I may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of your way of life and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps me from the joy of living in your presence.”

Daily Note

God’s word reminds us that no destructive force can keep anyone from the peace and safety which God offers to those who seek his help.” A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation.” (Psalm 91:7,9).