Daily Mass Commentaries
From the Love Crucified Community
See also audio homilies
Feb 15, 2016
Monday, I Week of Lent
Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me.
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jesus came as a child, lived a hidden life for 30 yeas and He died crucified. The Second coming will be entirely different: He will come "in His glory, and all the angels with Him." Now He is largely ignored, but when He comes, "ALL the nations will be assembled before Him." NOBODY can escape that assembly. Think of the amazement of all when this happens!!
Then the final Judgment will take place. EVERYONE will receive an ETERNAL sentence. Truth will shine before all in all the splendor of God. All the deception of the devil will be exposed and vanquished forever. Humanity will be separated into two camps to go to two eternal destinies: Heaven or Hell. God wants everyone to go to heaven. How much does He want that? Gaze upon the Cross!!! That's how much. But those who obstinately refuse to receive mercy and turn to Him, will be lost. God will not force anyone to go to heaven. In this sense we decide our destiny, the final judgment will be the irrevocable confirmation.
If a teacher gave the students all the answers to the final exam ahead of time, they would have to be fools not to look at them and prepare. The Final Judgment is our final exam and the Lord has given us the answers. He wants us to prepare now.
We see that the only criteria mentioned is how we have practice love, seeing Jesus in each person in need. If we failed to care for those in need we are lost. But at the end most still will not have realized that Jesus is in those around us.
How can we love? By allowing Jesus to transform our hearts until we not only do acts of charity but our heart is one with Jesus' truly pouring our lives to love.
Feb 13, 2016
Saturday after Ash Wednesday
I have not come to call righteous to repentance but sinners.
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Tax collectors were hated by the Pharisees and by many because they collaborated with the Romans oppressors to secure for themselves money and privileges. We can see that people had a reason to reject them, but the Lord came to reconcile us even those hardest to love. We cannot change anybody but we can love and believe that they can change.
Like in yesterday´s gospel, we have today an objection regarding the practices of Jesus and His disciples regarding meals. For Jews, table fellowship is a sign of solidarity among those who kept the covenant. They would not eat with anyone whose way of life they considered "unclean." In their view, Jesus is breaking the covenant by eating with sinners and is therefore a scandal. The Pharisees could not understand that God wanted sinners to return home. In order to invite them to the covenant, Jesus first offers His love and comes close to them. As a physician he is offering healing and restoring the covenant relationship.
Jesus approaches Levi at the taxing post on the road and tells him, "follow me." He immediately left everything and became a disciple of Jesus. Think of this man letting go of a life style to which he was very attached. Think of the power of the gaze of Jesus!
Think: How many times has Jesus called me? Have I truly put everything at his disposal or have I kept control of my life only to give Jesus a part? Our temptation is to seek a compromise. We say: "I don't 'have to' let go of everything to follow Jesus". But the question is: Where is hour heart? are your WILLING to let go of everything to follow Him. Do you LISTEN to what He want you to give up? If you don't, then you will not know where HE wants to take you.
Don't put limits on God. Today take time to GAZE upon Jesus and receive His grace to start a new life.
Levi became Mathew the Apostle. His new name means "Gift of God." He new that his new life was a gift of God, more precious without measure than his previous wealth. He wrote one of the four gospels and died a martyr for the faith.
Don't give up on yourself or anyone! God can melt the most hardened hearts. He awaits.
Feb 12, 2016
Friday after Ash Wednesday
When the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast.
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
John the Baptist is now in prison and, even though he had told his disciples to follow Jesus, some continued having doubts because He did things differently from what the Baptist had taught them. So they ask Jesus why His disciples do not fast. Fasting is for the Jews one of the pillars of piety, together with prayer and almsgiving. John fasted and so did the Pharisees. Is there a lack of piety in the followers of Jesus?
Jesus responds to the present objection regarding fasting by identifying Himself as the bridegroom. Isaiah had written about God as the bridegroom (62:4–5) but the Jews never imagined that He would actually come as a bridegroom in the flesh! Jesus is revealing that, not only is He not disregarding the importance of fidelity to the covenant, but He is fulfilling it beyond expectations by being the Bridegroom seeking to marry Israel in spite of her sinfulness. This is why the disciples do not fast: They are in the wedding feast and no Jew would fast during a wedding feast. Fasting has no meaning of its own; It is valuable only in the appropriate time, when it is helpful to bring us closer to God. When the bridegroom is taken away (Jesus' first indication of His passion), then they will fast. Notice that, as Catholics, we fast on Friday, the day the Lord was "taken away."
Feb. 11, 2016
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Today's gospel comes just after Jesus asked the disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" (Lk.9:20) No one could give an answer based on human reasoning. It was the Holy Spirit who revealed Jesus to Peter. Immediately following, Jesus reveals to Peter who Peter is and gives Him his mission.
Take notice: Knowledge of God and self-knowledge go together and both are given to us by the Holy Spirit. To be able to say that Jesus is "The Christ of God" (Lk.9:20) is ONLY the beginning of the process towards knowing Jesus. This truth is like the seed of the parable. It must germinate and grow, finally only a few persevere and bear fruit. After this initial revelation, Jesus teaches them the NECESSARY PATH to GROW in knowledge of HIM and knowledge of who they are and their mission:
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
This first part is knowledge of Jesus. We know Him by what He said AND did. He loved us unto the Cross. His own Cross is the Path He presents to them. He goes before us. But they did not want to accept Jesus as the Suffering Servant. In fact Peter rejected the announcement of the Cross and Jesus had to chastise him. This is not a popular view of Jesus today either. This is not a Jesus who gives us what we want or who makes us feel good about staying were we are. Rather, He came to enter a ferocious battle in which HE will die and rise victorious.
To the degree that we understand and embrace Jesus' struggle with the powers of evil coming at Him in the form of rejection, suffering and death, we can open our hearts to His love and choose to suffer with HIM. It is not enough to thank Jesus for what He did; we must enter into the suffering with HIM. He will train us daily on this path:
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me,
St. Monfford comments that Jesus said "If anyone" because, although He was addressing "all," He knew that only a few would respond. The multitudes are exited about the miracles and the words but, FEW will remain when trials come. This is the Path of each person who goes after Jesus:
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
How do we deny ourselves? Once we know how Satan went after Jesus, we must know that now he is after us. We deny ourselves by uniting ourselves to Him to carry our own cross. Each cross is an opportunity to choose to love united with Jesus.
Why is it that few take the cross? Because the devil tempts us to avoid whatever touches our wounds or contradicts our self-image. WE DONT WANT TO DENY OURSELVES. Instead, we affirm ourselves with lies about our intentions and motivations (See the Path, Truth and Lies, pg. 121.) When the cross appears we immediately react and to the lies to justify ourselves. We come up with pious explanations to do what we want to do. We are so good at it that we actually believe our own lies.
To deny myself and to take the my cross, means to expose and renounce to my lies. The Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to see the truth. We need to be attentive and willing to deny ourselves, go deep and allow the Spirit to show us the wounds that are causing us to react and the lies that come to our mind as a defense. We must look at them and identify them for what they are. We cannot do this on our own. The Lord gives us the Church and in Community we are blessed to have brothers and sisters to accompany us and help us see the truth.
The sacrifices we do for lent are NOT the cross. They are only TRAINING. It is not the same to train for battle than to be in the battle. We may be good at taking penances, but the real test will come when we actually are facing the a Cross. Will I identify the plot of the enemy, rebuke him, turn to the Lord, follow Him, deny myself, expose my lies and chose to do what is most difficult, OR will I choose to "save my life", meaning my old identity? Every cross is a crossroad: We can grow in knowledge of God and of ourselves or we can become more entrenched into our old self, oppressed by the enemy. This process of denying ourselves is a daily commitment for the rest of our lives.
(No Feb 10)
Feb. 9, 2016.
Tuesday, V Ordinary Time
1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30
"Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David" 1 King 8:26
Solomon was focused on the what God has told David regarding the kingdom. The Lord speaks to the Church and also to spiritual families. As a community, Love Crucified has received from the Lord an identity and a mission. These are some of the promises the Lord has made to our community:
You (LC), are My prophets of new, preparing the way for My second coming. I established My Church giving birth to her Sacraments and ministers on the Cross. My Church, the vineyard, has become defiled with many corrupt ministers. I am sending you among wolves to cleanse My vineyard through the power of My Cross and Blood. Therefore, you must be clothed with humility and purity and covered with the mantle of My Mother soaked in My precious Blood.
This message is in line with what the Blessed Mother said in the approved apparitions of La Salette and Akita before the scandals regarding the clergy became notorious. Now the Lord is calling us not to criticize or condemn His ministers, but not to ignore this tragedy. We must embrace the Cross and do reparation for our own sins as well as for them. Jesus asked St. Faustina to pray: "Have mercy on us and upon the whole world"
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, 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 someone 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.”
Jesus, the Light, comes to the Pharisees to bring them self-knowledge. He isn't “wishy-washy”; He isn't the “nice guy.” Because He truly loves them, He is direct and speaks the TRUTH, “You hypocrites”. He then proceeds to tell them why they are hypocrites (Mark 7:9-13).
As the Simple Path teaches us, the Pharisees, along with all the people, came to a moment of receiving the truth which is the gift of self-knowledge, which requires that each makes a decision. They could accept the gift or reject it. They rejected the gift and remained in darkness.
Evidence of truth: The Holy Spirit touches the hearts of all who hear Jesus, in order to convict them of the truth they hear. That is the power of the Word. This truths was then confirmed by many miracles that were evident for all to see.
Decision: Each person had to freely decide what to do with the gift of self-knowledge. The Holy Spirit offers the gift of self-knowledge, but we are free to accepted or not. To accept the gift one must be HUMBLE because it calls for REPENTANCE. To come to self-knowledge, the Pharisees had to recognize that so far their hearts had been hardened, that their motivations for confronting Jesus had not been honest, that the true issue at hand was not if the hands were unclean when they ate but the fact that 5000 did eat because Jesus performed a miracle.
The Pharisees make their decision – they choose to remain unmoved in their ways. They did not want to see because they were seeking to justify themselves. They were not seeking conversion. The result is that they became even more angry because they saw the people receiving the teaching and the miracles were confirming the truth about Jesus whom they saw as an enemy. We should know how difficult it is to recognize that we have been wrong because if we don't, we will not fight the temptation.
Receiving self-knowledge hurts; it feels like a sting. The soul needs courage and humility to admit its sins and wounds and to allow the Holy Spirit to give a deeper understanding of their roots. This is why most pull back into the old self and do not enter the healing process. But if the soul humbles herself and accepts the truth, it receives the balm of Jesus' mercy; the planks fall away and the light of truth enters. The fruit of this process is joy and peace (Simple Path p.38).
ALL our choices have consequences. When we reject the gift of self-knowledge we are rejecting the Light of God to enter our darkness, we remain in the darkness of sin. Thus, we give permission for the forces of evil within us to strengthen. Our hearts become even more hardened against the truth because that is the only way to hold on to our justifications. This is clearly seen as the Pharisees begin their plot to kill Jesus.
In our Community, the Missionaries of the Cross especially have the mission, given by our Lord, to bring to light and speak the truth of the darkness in the hearts of priests, including the lay priests of the home:
During prayer I saw interiorly the crown of thorns embedded very deeply in Jesus’ precious head. He then revealed to me His Heart that was held in His hands. His Heart was all shredded; it didn’t resemble a heart. This filled my heart with an immense sadness, and I could not hold back my tears seeing the condition of my Lord’s wounded Heart. He then said: "My family of Love Crucified is called to repair and console My Heart. This condition of My Heart has been mainly caused by My own (priests & religious)".
This call is to take seriously the battle and console Jesus, to repair and to reach out to the priests with the truth instead of criticizing them. The Lord told us:
I desire to have an order of priests to console My wounded Heart. They will console Me by living a life transformed in Me. They will console Me by allowing the Holy Spirit to possess them with His power. They will go out as My first Apostles filled with the Holy Spirit to awaken the hearts of their brother priests. They will preach with the fire of the Holy Spirit as did St. Steven. They will preach the truth concerning the horrible condition of My priesthood. They will bring to light the darkness hidden deep in the hearts of My chosen sons. They will preach My love and mercy while there is still time, calling each of them to repentance. If they repent, I will embrace them and forgive them, thus restoring them to health. My daughter, do not be alarmed if many of them walk away and cover their ears as they did to St. Steven. I promise you that enough will listen in order to raise up My army of holy priests. The way of life of My Missionary Preachers must be lived to perfection. Their lives will be centered in prayer: morning prayers, evening prayers, daily adoration. They will share their meals together… (4/23/10 during my silent retreat)
In summary, the Lord asks us:
1-To be transformed in Him through a life totally given, disciplined & centered in prayer.
2-To console Him by being possessed by the HS
3-Awaken the hearts of the priests, bringing them to light & repentance.
4-Preach with the fire of the martyrs the hard truths concerning the priesthood.
5-Preach love and mercy
A few verses after today's gospel, in Mark 7:20-22, Jesus said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
As Jesus has told us, The purpose of the Path is to make each of you My living hosts. This is only possible through the difficult, strenuous and painful path of purification. Only a PURE HEART can become ONE with Jesus crucified and be transformed into His living Eucharist walking the face of the earth.
Only the MOC and MC that PERSEVERE through this long journey united to Mary and each other (this is stated in the first part of our LC covenant) will become the new lineage of men and women, the “new Adams” and “new Eves”, to fight God's holy war as His victims of love and usher in the new Pentecost!
The Simple Path of the Cross that our Lord has been walking us through will, little-by-little, bring to the surface the darkness within each of us if we remain docile and humble. We will ALL reach many crossroads in this Path, trials that God allow and through which He wants to give us self-knowledge. It is then that Satan will tempt us to leave. These difficult temptations are part of the path which our Lord permits us to perfect us in LOVE.
MESSAGE OF OUR LADY AT MEDJUGORJE
"Dear children; today I call you to a difficult and painful step for your unity with my Son.
I call you to complete admission and confession of sins, to purification. An impure heart cannot be in my son and with my son. An impure heart cannot give the fruit of love and unity. An impure heart cannot do correct and just things; it is not an example of the beauty of God’s love to those who surround it and to those who have not come to know that love. You, my children, are gathering around me full of enthusiasm, desires and expectations, and I implore the Good Father to, through the Holy Spirit, put my son – faith, into your purified hearts. My children, obey me, set out with me.
Feb 8, 2016
Monday, Week V, Ordinary Time
As many as touched it were healed.
After making the crossing to the other side of the sea, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there.
During this lake crossing, as we read in the previous verses, there had been a huge storm and Jesus came to them walking on water and entered their boat. Jesus had sent them to Bethaida, a town in the NE shore, but instead they arrived at Gennesaret, on the western shore. Has Jesus ever sent you to one place only to have you end in another? This reminds me of Abraham. God sent him to sacrifice his son, then stayed his hand sparing the young man. St. Anthony from Portugal was inspired by God to be a missionary in Africa, but a big storm sent the ship to Italy instead. He carried his ministry there the rest of his life, becoming St. Anthony of Padua (Italy). In all the above cases, God taught a powerful lesson through the event of the journey. For Jesus the journey is important, not only the destination.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.
Those who recognized Jesus brought all the people they could to Him. Today, however we are afraid to do that. We know that the majority of those around us do not go to Mass or if they do, still do not have a personal relationship with Him, they do not know that He want to touch and heal them.
-Do you witness freely to what Jesus has done in your life?
-Have you brought many to Jesus so that they be healed?
Whatever villages or towns or countryside He entered,
Jesus did not minister only in the Temple or synagogue. villages, towns and countryside covers all kinds of places.
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
The marketplace is a public place of commerce where everybody went. Imagine Catholics going to a shopping center and praying over people for healing.
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.
The tassel (left) is worn by Jewish men on their prayer shawl. According to the law of Moses it is a reminder to keep the Commandments. “They and their descendants must put tassels on the corners of their garments... When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind you to keep all the commandments of the LORD” (Num 15:38–39). Jesus is the living fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Touching His tassel is not magic; It is an act of faith in Him. He only reminds us of the Commandments, He brings us into union with God, thus bringing healing and salvation. Veneration of relics follows the same principle, in as much as we are seeking to imitate the virtues of the saint, touching the relic is an act of faith. But most importantly, we touch Jesus in the Sacraments. We touch Him in the Eucharist!!
Feb 6, 2016
Saturday, Week IV, Ordinary Time
They were like sheep without a shepherd.
The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.
Discipleship has a rhythm: We are gathered in Jesus from whom we receive life, love, formation. Then we are sent on mission but without ever distancing ourselves from Him. Then we are gathered again and report all we have lived to Him. This rhythm should happen each day because the resurrected Jesus is with us.
Do I report everything to the Lord? He already knows everything, but when we report, we allow Him to teach and guide us on every aspect of our lives. He renews us in the Spirit to go forward as ONE with Him.
He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
Daily we are gathered by Him, then periodically, we go on retreat with Him to spend a longer time together. If we are caught up in our busy life and neglect our time with Jesus, we start loosing intimacy with Him and, without realizing it, we grow distant and develop our own agenda even to do good things. Most Christians agree in theory that this is a danger, yet VERY FEW follow through and set a prayer time, a time for adoration... This is because the devil works in us to create a compulsion of business. We don't reason this, we just fall for it. The devil knows that this is THE central battle he must win. If we faithfully turn to the Lord daily and listen to Him, the devil is defeated. Do YOU have a time of prayer, adoration?
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Jesus' plans are interrupted, yet, as when the paralytic hung from the ceiling, He does not get angry, instead, He sees the interruption as the will of the Father and choses to love. His heart is full of mercy and He is moved with pity. How do I react when my plans are interrupted, when others act in unexpected ways, when I have car problems...? Do I choose to love in these situations? Today, most sheep remain without a shepherd. Does it concern me as it does Jesus?
Feb 5, 2016
Friday, Week IV, Ordinary Time
It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.
King Herod heard about Jesus, 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.”
There is great spiritual confusion. All can see that Jesus is performing great works but they arrive to wrong conclusions. There was much superstition and fear of spiritual powers. They thought that "mighty powers were at work" in Jesus, not meaning that He is God but that mysterious powers control him.
Herod was the one who had John 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.”
As Nathan accompanied King David, John the Baptist accompanied king Herod. To accompany is to help a person to see the truth about himself. It is true when done based on love, to edify and not to put down the person. The accompanier to a king is risking his life, but all accompaniment is difficult because we prefer just to be "nice" than to risk disrupting the friendship. John knew that the bad example of the king affected the people and was an obstacle to his mission of preparing the way to the Messiah.
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.
In spite of the pressure from Herodias, Herod recognizes John´s holiness and the truth of the message and was even attracted to it, but lacked the courage to repent and change. John the prisoner, was a free man, while Herod the king was a prisoner. He was a trapped man.
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. His 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.”
Herod, likely under the influence of excess drinking, boasts of his power and seeks to impress the audience with his magananimity. He treats his office as ruler as a personal game where he can dispose of lands and people. It is all a show since he was a client of the Romans with no power to divide his kingdom.
Question: Do I ever drink in excess? Do I boast in any way? Am I a people pleaser?
Do I serve humbly and responsibly those in my charge or do I lord over them? Do I realize that I am accountable to God?
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” Her mother 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.
He would consider that backtracking on his promises would be humilianting. His image in front of the guests is more important to him than a human life.
Sin builds upon sin until it destroys us. Both, king David and Herod, first became self indulgent, which led to adultery, which led to murder. Sin, if unrepentant, spreads like a cancer to other regions of the body until it destroys the host. David repented, Herod apparently never did.
Do I repent or do I only become "deeply distressed" and continue sinning?
John's life and passion is patterned and shares in the life and passion of Christ. The passion of John, in union with Christ's, is a hidden force for the first mission of the apostles, which in St. Mark, takes place at the same time.
Jesus celebrated life in banquets. He invites us to Holy Mass to join Him in the banquet of LIFE.
Herod's banquet, will all its pomp and debauchery, culminates in death. It serves death on a platter.
Which banquet do I celebrate?
Feb 4, 2016
Thursday, Week IV Ordinary Time
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out.
Jesus 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. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
summoned the Twelve Jesus summons each of us to the mission He has for us.
Is this the focus of my life?
began to send them. "Began". Not all at once but gradually, as He saw they were ready.
two by two. In pairs, as a small community, to support, correct and witness love.
gave them authority over unclean spirits. We all need this authority, first to rebuke the demons that oppress us and then to deliver others.
He instructed them. We must be formed by Christ even in practical matters. He does this personally and through the community. This is an important reason to live in community.
Take nothing. Jesus wants us to be simple, free from attachments so that all our heart is on the mission.
Wherever you enter a house, stay. to avoid the temptation of seeking better accommodations or competition among hosts.
Shake the dust off your feet. Sign of breaking ties with the place. Their responsibility is the mission, no the receptivity it may have.
Preached repentance. The Apostle cannot be afraid of speaking the truth about sin and the need for repentance and new life.
Drove out demons /anointed with oil. Jesus gave them power to deliver from demons in order to restore the soul to God. Secondarily also to heal the body. Oil is a sacramental sign for healing. The Lord either heals the sick or gives them the grace to bear the illness as a way of union with Jesus and for the salvation of many.
Feb 3, 2016.
Wednesday, Week IV Ordinary Time.
A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.
Jesus 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 Joseph 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.
Astonished/Where did this man get all this? It is good to react in amazement to Jesus. And we too should have the same questions they had. But they did not come to the correct answer because they had already made up their minds that He is just an ordinary man of their town, a carpenter of a humble family that they think they know well. So their minds were closed to the evidence of His miracles and wisdom.
Calling Jesus "son of Mary" is unusual since Jews name persons in relation to their fathers. This may be a slur against Jesus, because Mary was not married when He was conceived. Think of the sorrow of Jesus when His mother is slandered in this way. Think of Mary's sorrow.
It is easier to accept saint of the past than to recognize true holiness in our midst, no matter how much evidence the Spirit gives us. We do not yet understand that the extraordinary life of God dwells in the ordinary reality of our lives. That is why the saints are frequently opposed and persecuted.
Can I recognize God present today in ordinary lives?
Do I believe that God will take us to great heights of holiness if we allow Him?
Not able to perform an mighty deed. Up to now we see the Lord advancing rapidly in the establishment of the Kingdom: healing, commanding authority over demons and the powers of nature, confronting opponents. Multitudes follow Him. What can stop Him? He is almighty but God has given us freedom and will not take it away. What can stop Him then is our lack of faith, out unwillingness to see Him in our midst and to respond.
Feb 2, 2016
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
My eyes have seen your salvation.
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus 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 Christ 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 the 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.
Presented and consecrated to the Lord. Jesus is eternally ONE with the Father and yet, He became one of us and was presented and consecrated to the Father like any other first born Jewish child, 40 days after birth. In this way Jesus is uniting humanity to the Father in Himself. Pope Francis has said that our only privilege is to have no privileges. In this way we are one with Jesus who did not assume any privileges.
Do I expect special treatment?
Sacrifice a pair of birds. The pagan religions often sacrificed their first born to the gods by killing them (human sacrifice). Instead, God taught the Jews to sacrifice an animal as a symbol of total surrender, but sparing the life of the child.
Awaiting the consolation/ The Holy Spirit was upon him. All the Jews were expecting the Messiah to come, but Simeon put his whole heart in it. He PUT GOD FIRST, so the Holy Spirit led him to baby Jesus even though he was one among many in the Temple. This encounter was the fulfillment of his desires.
Do I put God first like Simeon?
Is encountering Jesus the fulfillment of my desires? How does that show?
Do I believe that the Holy Spirit wants to guide me?
Am I attentive and wait upon this guidance or do I act on my own?
The fall and rise of many. A sign that will be contradicted. The way we respond to Jesus will determine our rise or fall because He is LIFE and all else will fall. Many may claim to be Christians and would not contradict that Jesus is the Lord, BUT in practice they do contradict the radicalism of His Way, the narrow path.
you yourself a sword will pierce. This is true not only of Mary but of all true disciples of Jesus. In our community the Lord told us the same: "Suffer all with me, no longer two but one in my sacrifice of love" When our beloved suffers, we suffer. That is the nature of love. In this way we become co-redeemers like Mary.
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed The piercing has a purpose: It reveals the thoughts of many. What do we think about the sufferings of Mary. Do we join with her?
We received this message in the Community:
Mary asked, "Are you willing to allow your heart to be pierced like Mine?" She then said, "As your heart is pierced like Mine you will be a fountain of grace for the world."
I understood that the place where St. Bernadette ate grass and mud has become a place of living grace for the world (Grotto at Lourdes). As we, the Mothers of the Cross (women of the community), are obedient and allow our hearts to be pierced as victim souls united in Mary our lives will become instruments of living grace for the world. Especially for *PRIEST!
She then said, "I have a thorn in My Heart for each priest that is not holy. Will you participate in this chain of hearts (pierced hearts) for My priests?" This is a very important call for each *Mother of the Cross".
Another message, 4/8/2010
As victim intercessors we are one with Mary, living chalices of Jesus' precious Blood on earth. Like Mary, we too, must allow our hearts to be pierced by total abandonment to the Father's Will. We must accept all trials, tribulations, persecutions, and sufferings with patience and trust, thus allowing our Beloved to pierce open our hearts. Like Jesus and Mary, we are perfected in suffering. We become living chalices in which our Lord's precious Blood can be poured out to others through our pierced hearts in Jesus crucified. It is only through love in suffering in which our lives become our Beloved's living chalices being poured out for the sanctification of many souls.
Feb 1, 2016
Monday, Week IV of ordinary time
Unclean spirit, come out of the man!
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.
Jesus enters for the first time into pagan territory and immediately goes into spiritual battle and victory over demons, just as when he began public ministry with the Jews.
Are we aware of the battle in and around us? Few persons are possessed but all of us are tempted and more than a few are oppressed in some way. We all need to be set free by Jesus.
The possessed man was "dwelling among the tombs", the abode of the dead. The demons have taken possession of his personality and his voice. He is unable to dwell with the living. He has lost his human dignity and lives in torment.
He manifests preternatural strength. ONLY Jesus can set him free.
The Possessed man prostrated himself before Jesus. Demons do that because they are compelled by the authority of God. Maybe the man was in inner conflict, desperate to be set free. Jesus said the words of exorcism: “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
The demons react speaking to Jesus in a desperate effort to keep Him away and call Him "Son of the Most High God." Like in Genesis, when Adam named the animals as a way of gaining power over them. The demons also say: "adjure you by God" In their mad arrogance, the demons, acting as one, recognize Jesus as Son of God and yet try to command Him in the name of God. They are using against Jesus the formula of exorcism, trying to cast HIM out of the area. The Tormenter now pleads not to be tormented.
Jesus continues with the exorcism by demanding to know the demon's name. His name is Legion because they are many. Legion is a roman regimen of about 6000 men. The demons plead not to be driven out of the territory. Take note: demons like to attach themselves to persons and places when they find an opening and then do not want to let go. Jesus allows them to go to the pigs which then drown. Take note: Today many are loosing the distinction between humans and animals. Jesus is willing to sacrifice thousands of pigs for the sake of one human being. But the people of the area think differently. They are more concerned about the lost pigs than for their fellow man who was set free. Therefore want Jesus out of their territory.
Consider: The influence of demons is real today and we are all affected even if we are not possessed. It dehumanizes us, we dehumanize others in many ways. We cannot have new life in the Spirit without deliverance: expulsion of evil spirits.
Consider: We must allow Him to take authority of all areas of our life. We need to listen as He gives us self knowledge so we can acknowledge our sin. Allow Him to change the ways we think and do things, our business... At first his actions may be disturbing to us and must trust.
2 Samuel 15:13-14,30,16:5-13
The man seems to be oppressed by anger, even after David spares his life and humbly goes his way. How do we react to angry persons?
Jan 30, 2016
Saturday, Week III of Ordinary Time.
Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Jesus had been teaching the crowd gathered at the shore . Now He is crossing the sea on the boat with His disciples. A violent storm rages and yet Jesus sleeps. The disciples cannot understand. First of all, how could He sleep as the boat is being tossed and doesn't he care that the are sinking? Jesus is allowing the disciples to suffer the trial. They have heard Him preach all day but now they must grow in faith through experience in order to be prepared for the great trials to come. It is also a teaching for all of us. We need to have confidence that, no matter what happens, even martyrdom, He is with us.
The devil is always opposing the work of God, not only working through persons but also through forces of nature. Jesus does not pray for God in this occasion, rather He rebukes the forces of the storm with His own authority, thus exorcising them in the same way that He had rebuked the demons in human beings.
"Who then is this?" The disciples, like us, only gradually, come to realize who Jesus is and the nature of the battle. Even after witnessing miracles, we tend to go back to our old mindset, thus the importance of listening and nurturing the seed as we learned in the preceding gospels.
David became angry at the unjust man in Nathan's story. He could not see that it portrayed him. Often we judge others severely while we fail to see our own sin. Nathan tells him the truth and awakens his conscience. This is the purpose of accompaniment! We all need a Nathan who loves us enough to tell us the truth we don't want to hear. Nathan is not a people pleaser who says what others want to hear. He risked the wrath of the king in order to help him out of the bondage of sin and back to God. Nathan is a true friend. We should learn both from Nathan to be transparent and from David to accept the truth and repent. This opened the way for God act powerfully in David's life: He forgave Him and promised him an ever lasting kingdom. Of his lineage God became man! Do we value accompaniment? Are we grateful for the truth that hurts and heals?
Jan 29, 2016
Friday, Week III of Ordinary Time
A man scatters seed and it would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
"Of its own accord." The seed is the life of the Kingdom of God. It grows in us on its own power without our knowing how. It does so in its own process and time. Our part is to be like the farmer who takes care to support God's work: plant, water, weed, fertilize. We cooperate but do not control. We can only reap when it is God's time. (St Paul writes: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth". 1 Cor 3:6-7)
The Lord wants to encourage us when we are tempted to think that our work is not bearing fruit. Be patient until HIS time comes! The Lord is also reminding us that all our programs and plans are worthless if they are not watering what HE is doing.
Second reading: 2 Samuel 11
David is now a confortable king who stays in the palace, takes a siesta and strolls around while his brothers are in battle. What happened to the courageous warrior who confronted Goliath? He has become self centered, his zeal for the Lord has waned. Now another giant comes, this time from inside of him, the demons of lust and adultery, and he looses the battle. Then he tries to cover up for the sin committing murder. Notice how the devil works: He softens our defenses, then traps us into a web of sin. But there is hope. We will see in tomorrow's reading.
Jan 28, 2016
Thurs. Week III of Ordinary Time
A lamp is to be placed on a lampstand.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
This comes after the parable of the sower. Jesus is the sower and the light. He does not want His word to be hidden.
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket?"
We pay attention to Jesus or we place Him under many other things in our lives? No wonder we do not see. So Jesus is asking us to be attentive, to ponder and to obey whatever light He gives us. His light is often challenging, it goes against our plans, against what seems normal... But if we hide Him, we will be like the seed that yields nothing. Have you received any light from Jesus? What about the readings of the Mass? What is your favorite bushel basket where you hide the light?
"there is nothing hidden except to be made visible" This has two meanings:
1- The mystery of the kingdom is hidden in our ordinary lives (think of Nazareth). We are tempted to think that our lives have little value, but if we are faithful, our lives are indeed a light that is radiating grace to many.
2-Whether we have been in the light or not will be manifested in due time with the outcome of our lives.
"Take care what you hear." This has two aspects: 1: We must be selective so that we hear what is from God and avoid words that mislead us. 2: We must take care that once we have listened we nurture it so that the seed grows.
What do YOU hear? that depends of what you are giving your attention to. Examine your day in terms of what you are hearing and you will know who is forming your heart. Do you listen to Jesus in the Word, through others and through events? Take care or you will miss the Lord! You went to Mass on Sunday, but what happened to the WORD you heard?
"The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" To measure is to judge the value of something. How do I measure the Word, the suffering of others, my family, my enemies?
"To the one who has, more will be given" This has nothing to do with worldly riches. Rather it means that the more we are open to receive light and the more we "take care" to hear, the more we will be given to us. But if our hearts are closed we will loose even what we have. We must respond to the gift of revelation.
Jan 27, 2016
Wed. III Week Ordinary Time
A sower went out to sow.
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”
Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Jesus Himself gives us he commentary of this gospel, so I will be brief.
Jesus says "Hear this" at the beginning and at the end of the parable he says "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear". To hear Jesus is to receive His word which is the seed. So the parable of the sower is fulfilled every time it is proclaimed. Jesus is the sower and we are the field where the seed falls!
The multitudes hear Jesus but the word does not last long in them. Only a few "along with the Twelve" remained with Jesus to grow with Him. They are interested and ask questions. They are the ones who hear, allow the Word to go deep in their hearts, they respond and they produce fruit.
Jesus says strong words: “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”
Jesus speaks a language very different from ours, so we need to enter into the Semitic way of expression. This passage, paraphrased to be understood according to our modern language would say:
But to those outside (who did not respond to my Word) everything comes in parables (stays in the surface.) (THEY REJECTED MY WORDS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO STAY AS THEY ARE) so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.
Jesus is NOT excluding anyone. At the contrary, He has exhorted all to HEAR because He wants all to become His disciples and receive the "mystery of the kingdom". But only a few respond and actually stay with Him. Those who go away are not open to conversion and forgiveness because they want to stay as they are. To those who stay, Jesus says: "The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you."
Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 who is prophesying to a people who rejected his words because of their sin and injustice. Therefore, it is not God but the people themselves who close their ears and eyes in order to continue in sinful ways. Jesus said to the people twice, "LISTEN!," but very few do. Underneath the apparent lack of interest on the Word, there is a rebelliousness and a rejection of the Word when it contradicts what we want to hear.
"Mystery" is a knowledge that cannot be know based on our own intellect and resources. We can only know mystery because God REVEALS it. So Jesus is saying that those who do not seek God's revelation will never understand the mysteries of God, no matter how much they try to make sense out of life on their own. The mystery has been granted to those who with an open heart seek the Lord. Jesus wants ALL to be saved, that is why He came, but we must respond.
This parable is key for all the other parables because if we do not learn to HEAR then the others are useless to us.
Jan 26, 2016
St. Timothy and Titus
The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his pay. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
Jesus chose twelve apostles, the first bishops. He also chose a wider circle of disciples, the seventy-two. All the baptized disciples, sent by Jesus to evangelize. We have to be focused and dedicated to the mission realizing that salvation of many depended on it. We have so many ways to be distracted. Do you know what is your mission? Are you focused?
When we pray for laborers we not only pray for more priests but also for more disciples among the baptized.
"Sending you like lambs among wolves". Our temptation is to become wolves in order to defend ourselves from wolves, but Jesus does not shepherd wolves. By becoming wolves we renounce to Jesus' protection. Do I turn to Jesus for guidance and protection or am I a wolf?
"Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals". Disciples do not encumber themselves with this world's good. They use what is necessary and remain free to attend to their mission.
‘Peace to this household". Peace is harmony between God and us.
Like a good father, Paul writes from prison to encourage Timothy. He prays constantly for his spiritual sons and daughters. He exhorts Timothy to "stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."
We have been baptized and confirmed but we need to "stir into flame" the power of the Spirit. This is the power that sheep have and that the world cannot match. Brothers and sisters should pray for each other for asking this grace.
Jan 25, 2016
Conversion of St. Paul
First Reading Acts 9:1-22
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
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. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Mark tells us three times that the disciples had not believed in the resurrection, even after Mary Magdalene witness to them and then the two returning from Emmaus. Now they "were at table", a sign of fellowship, but not fully lived because of their lack of faith. It is Jesus who raises fellowship to a sharing in divine love. He appears to them and chastises them for their lack of faith. Nevertheless, He commissions them to proclaim the gospel. Have you ever felt disqualified to proclaim the gospel? He also calls you to repent and trust in His forgiveness.
"Proclaim the gospel to every creature," The gospel is no longer limited to the Jews.
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned" Both "belief" and "baptism" are necessary for salvation. This is they way Jesus taught. In His mercy, He can save those who, without fault of their own, are not baptized, but that should not be a pretext for laxity in our obligation to evangelize and to call all to baptism. In baptism God unites the believer to Jesus in His Body, the Church. Could we be saved without being united to Jesus? No. Salvation means just that: We who were broken off are united to Jesus.
Jesus had already given the apostles power to perform supernatural signs. Now He gives it to all Christians, to each according to His purposes. All the baptized are called to drive out demons. Not all can do exorcisms but we should pray for one another to be set free from oppressions, temptations and all the works of the devil. Through the charismatic renewal we have re-discovered the gifts of the Spirit, such as "the gift of tongues" mentioned by Mark here. Not that all baptized are going to receive all the gifts but we should be open to all that God wants to give us and use it to glorify Him and to serve others. Likewise, we should not be restricted from moving with the Spirit on account of deadly threats. God will either protect us or give us the power to suffer or die united to Him as the martyrs. Believers will also "lay hands on the sick" as Jesus did. It is notable that, as faith wanes, so does our openness to receive and exercise God's gifts and mission. On the other hand there is also the danger of focusing on the gifts and neglecting the call to repentance and new life. Preaching the gospel is not merely passing information about truths, but witnessing the truth with God's love and power. An example of this is St. Paul whose conversion we celebrate today.
First Reading, Acts 22:3-16
St. Paul has returned from Damascus. He went there to persecute Christians, had his encounter with the Lord and ended up persecuted himself by the Jews. Upon his return to Jerusalem he is also persecuted, accused of bringing gentiles into the temple. He was accessory to the killing of Steven, now they want to kill him. The upheaval was so great that the Romans, fearful of loosing control, intervene and take Paul away. Paul, instead of worrying about his safety, asks the Roman commander to allow him to speak to the crowd. He begins his defense calling his persecutors "My brothers and fathers." He identifies himself as a zealous Jew educated under Gamaliel, why was a respected member of the Sanhedrin. He, tells the how, more than anyone, persecuted Christians (followers of The Way) until Jesus appeared to him.
Jesus said: "I am Jesus the Nazarean whom you are persecuting." Jesus identifies Christians with himself. If he persecutes Christians he persecutes Christ. This is what happens in baptism: We become the body of Christ. St. Augustine: "we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself."
Having seen and heard Jesus, Paul becomes a witness of Jesus, a true apostle. Paul was blinded by the glory of Christ whom he denied. This is the transition from one life. To advance, he must allow other to lead him by the hand and in they take him to those he was persecuting and beg humbly for them to pray for him. All the baptized must in some way go through this change. Paul later writes: "God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness.' has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ" (2 Cor4:6). This is a painful transition. Nobody comes to union with Christ without humbly asking others for help. Are we willing to go through it or do we resist? Ananias, in his part, had to overcome fear, forgive him and bring him into the Church through baptism. Are we willing to love our persecutors this way?
Ananias tells Paul three elements of the call: to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice. This entails a personal life changing encounter with Jesus. Through Paul many will have the same experience. He will be his witness before all, testifying what he has seen and heard. As does this, the Holy Spirit will verify in the heart of the listener the truth. The same happens when we speak with faith. We do our part. How the listener responds is not up to us.
"The Kingdom of God is at hand" The kingdom is where Jesus is king. Is He the king in your life?, your family?
Jan 23, 2016
They said, “He is out of his mind.”
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.”
The family is an integral part of God's design for us. Jesus lived in a family, but He also came to restore the family and to free it from serious disorders that were common in His time and are still prevalent in many cultures. A person was subjugated to the expectations of the elders of the family. The family was a rigid unit controlled by strict rules for every aspect of life. Individuals were not allowed to act independently. Any breach would be severely punished. Whatever a person did impacted the reputation of the family. The family in our culture tends to suffer from the other extreme: lack of unity, lack concern for the common good, for obligations. Both extremes fail to understand the primacy of love at the heart of the family.
Jesus' family became concerned about His fame as a healer, his deliverance of demons and the controversies with the authorities. The fact that He had just formed a community with Apostles and lived with them would also be a concern to them.
Since Joseph was now probably dead, other elders of the clan felt that they were responsible for His actions and that they had to restrain Him. So they "set out" from Nazareth to Capernaum where Jesus now lived. In their view, Jesus was an ordinary kinsman they knew well, a carpenter. They thought that He should return home to continue working in the carpentry shop. They may also be trying to protect Him. To think that He was "out of his mind" is probably due to His authority over demons. Mental illness was associated with demonic influence.
When the Word became man, He embraced fully our human condition in all things, but without sinning. He suffered attacks and rejection from all quarters, including from his own family. Think of the sorrow of Jesus.
If we really follow Jesus, we should expect the same treatment. Even our own family members may think that we are out of our minds or fanatical for having entered into a covenant community. Very few understand a radical commitment to Jesus. Love is not loved.
USA Day of Prayer for the legal protection of unborn children
Jesus summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: He appointed the Twelve: Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
Today, as we pray for an awakening to the sacredness of human life in USA, Jesus in the gospel calls the Apostles, each by his name. Jesus loves each of us personally unto death. It does not matter the status we have in the world or in the Church. As we become one with Christ and we discover who we are, we too love each person. If we do not see the evil of abortion it is because we have not discovered our own dignity before God.
The actions of Jesus in this gospel link Him to Moses. Jesus fulfills what Moses began. Moses who went up the mountain to receive the Commandments which forged the 12 tribes into a nation through a covenant relationship. Jesus went up the mountain and called the Twelve, the leadership of the New Israel, the Church, established in a new Covenant. Jesus will continue to be present in His Church and the Apostles are to communicate His life and keep the Church united in Him.
He chose "those whom He wanted." Everything should proceed from His initiative and not ours. Our part is to respond. Jesus has authority to choose His own as the Father chose Israel.
Jesus commissions the Twelve from among His disciples and makes the Apostles (discipleship is a universal call Jesus makes to all; Apostles are a special group.) "Apostle" means "one who is sent." They have the authority of Jesus is a special way to guide the Church. The first obligation of the Apostle is "to be with Him" That is for all but the Apostles must give example. The most important and the first we need to do everyday is TO BE WITH HIM. The second depends of the first: "That He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" Only after being with Him can the Apostle be sent on mission because in the mission they must radiate the presence of the Lord in all they say and do. Their mission is two-fold: to preach and to drive out demons. These are two faces of the same coin. It is like saying: shine the light and expel darkness. When the Word is proclaim with the power of the Holy Spirit, demons are driven out, people are brought to a new life in God. But if the Apostle is not open to the Spirit and reduces the "preaching" arguments based in human reason, there is no power. Driving out demons is not a need only for those possessed. All are oppressed by demons in some way, keeping us from fully living who we are with freedom, so we all need to receive the power of God that sets us free. The power of deliverance is not in a technique but on the authority of the only ONE who has already conquered the demons.
Jesus calls the Twelve to be united to Him and also to one another to form His body, the Church. Their mission depends on this unity. "Simon, whom he named Peter" Simon is always first in all list of Apostles. God confers a new name meaning that Peter is given a new destiny and a decisive roll. Peter (Petros) is the rock upon which Jesus builds the Church.
January 21, 2016
St. Agnes, martyred at the age of 12 for Christ to whom she had given herself in a vow of virginity. Her love and courage to resist torture and death gained the profound admiration of the Christians, including giants like St. Ambrose and St Augustine.
The unclean spirits shouted, “You are the Son of God,” but Jesus warned them sternly not to make him known.
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known.
In the first reading, David, who was a faithful servant, has to hide from king Saul who wants to kill him. In the gospel, Jesus has to withdraw because the Pharisees want to kill him. He must live as a hunted man. He must avoid the synagogues and be constantly on the move. Yet, the crowds are larger than ever, coming from all regions, even from far away. They seem to be more interested in physical healing than in Jesus and His message. Everyone is pushing to be closer to Jesus to the point that He is in danger of "being crushed." God became man, not superman. Jesus works miracles for others but not for Himself. He is vulnerable and needs to take measures not to be crushed. Jesus perseveres in His mission and "cured many." There were some with "unclean spirits." The demons, unlike the people, know who Jesus is but they cannot resist His power and authority, "they would fall down." In Genesis, God has Adam name the creatures as a way to acquire mastery over them. The demons, in a futile effort to have mastery over Jesus, named Him by shouting "You are the son of God." Demons were desperate for they knew that Jesus was establishing His kingdom and their rebellious kingdom was doomed.
We must understand the nature of the battle we are in as St. Agnes did at the age of 12. Is our priority the Kingdom or to satisfy our needs? Do we suffer with Christ, who continues to be hunted to death?
Jan 20, 2016
Mk 3: 1-6
Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life rather than to destroy it?
Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.
This is the fifth confrontation in a row between Jesus and the Pharisees. If we want to be disciples of Jesus we too must enter battle. The only alternative is to forfeit or ignore our relationship with Him.
They were again spying on Him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. They saw the man with the withered hand, not with compassion but as their opportunity to confront Jesus and bring legal charges against Him. The Pharisees used the law to justify themselves. They knew that Jesus would have mercy on the man and they were right about that. It was a confrontation between God´s mercy and man´s blind pride.
Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath even though He knew that would provoke the Pharisees. It would have been easier for Jesus to heal discreetly away from them but the time had come to manifested that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, who has come to deliver us from the power of Satan and restore the Sabbath to its original purpose, which is to heal and bring about communion. This communion passes through the suffering of opposition. Jesus, instead of being intimidated, brings the man front and center: “Come up here before us.”Then he asks the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” According to Jewish law, saving a life was permitted on the Sabbath. Jesus is saying that the Sabbath is meant to glorify God by doing good. Their hearts should see the good act of healing as restoration of life coming from God. But the Pharisees remain silent. Silence in this case reflects the unresponsiveness of their hearts. Hardened hearts. Jesus gazes at all, looking at their eyes. When hearts are closed we avoid eye contact because the gaze penetrates the appearances and touches the soul. That is why we need to look at the eyes with mercy even when it is hard.
Hardness of heart brews poison and if we do not repent, it leads to division and then breaks relationships. The easy thing to do is to remain in our pride and that is what the Pharisees did. Jesus is angry and grieved at the hardness of hearts. Hardness of heart is a stubborn refusal to receive the truth of God even when He has given us signs. Not only are they rejecting life but they are influencing others, taking them away from God, and they do so in the name of God's law.
Jesus' anger is not a reaction of the flesh, it is a holy indignation against evil. It is like a mother angry at the cancer of her child. The anger is directed at the cancer which she wants to eradicate, for the good of the child. The cancer in the Pharisees is their pride. The Kingdom of God evoke in each what is hidden in their hearts.
At the end the Pharisees unwittingly, respond to Jesus question regarding if on the Sabbath one should save life rather to destroy it. They choose to destroy not only a life but the source of life: Jesus. They conspire with their enemies the Herodians to kill Jesus. Hate is also a force that unites around evil.
David's battle against Goliath represents our battle with against the devil. David had been anointed as king by Samuel but now he had to enter a battle that appeared impossible to win. He did so with the power of the Lord through a faith. We have been anointed in baptism but now we must enter battle in faith against the world and powers of demons in order to take part in the Kingdom. The state of the world today is due to the fact that very few Christians do so.
The Lord gave us this word in Love Crucified:
David and Goliath, Diary of a MOC (cf. Samuel 17: 32-51).
My little one, the time draws near. You hold the sword of the Spirit in the mission given to you. My family of LC are My warriors of love that will defeat the dragon in the decisive battle that draws near. Be ready to approach this evil in the same way that David approached Goliath. You will conquer the dragon in your littleness and purity because it is God who is with you. You must not fear and believe with the innocence and zeal of David. My daughter, form My family well in the teachings I give to you. You each must approach the battle with five stones also. First, the stone of humility, possessing the perfect knowledge of your nothingness and My power and majesty. Second, the stone of purity, purity of mind, heart, intention, word, desire... Third, simplicity, detached from all, most especially your ego. Fourth, trust, perfectly abandoned to My will. Fifth, courage, courage rooted in love of Me to be perfectly obedient to My commands.
These stones are your weapons for battle for the dragon will not be defeated according to the standards of the world but in the Light of Love. Therefore, My family, prepare for battle. Be attentive to Me. (1/18/12)
LORD OF THE SABBATH
One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 27 And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath
(Mark 2:23-28 RSV)
Commentary, Fr. Jordi
This gospel presents the fourth of five controversies that occur one after the other in the Gospel of Mark. Again it has to do with food. (2 controversy: eating with sinners, 3: eating instead of fasting, 4: eating on the Sabbath.
Jesus and His disciples are on the way to their next mission and are hungry. They did not have the luxury of a formal meal so they pluck the heads of grain as they go through a field.
Again, the Pharisees are spying on Him seeking for a way to attack Him. Have you noticed that, when our hearts are turned against someone, the devil has no difficulty planting in our hearts reason to condemn that person? We can find something negative in anything they do and we are not open to understand their situation. The Pharisees could not complain about plucking the wheat in a field that is not theirs because that was permitted by Jewish law (Deut 23:26) so took issue on the fact that they are doing so on the Sabbath. The law of Moses prohibits work, including reaping, on the Sabbath. So they took this law to the extreme, not considering that the men were only reaping what was necessary to eat that day.
Jesus answers with a counter question. He refers to 1 Sam 21, when David and his men were running away from Saul and were hungry, so they stopped in the house of God and ate the bread of offering that only priests could eat. Jesus compares Himself and His disciples to David and his men. David was the anointed of God and for years was hunted by King Saul. Now Jesus and His disciples are being hunted by the Pharisees. Saul and the Pharisees are the establishment, they hold to the law but they are using it against God and His anointed. Jesus is saying that the requirements of His mission takes precedence over the Sabbath regulations because His mission is from God. Jesus is declaring that His mission is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. If the Pharisees were truly observing the Sabbath instead of working so hard to spy on Jesus, God would have been able to enter their hearts with the truth, but they preferred to use the law as a weapon for their interests.
What is the purpose of the Sabbath and now of Sunday? To worship God and to nurture the family. To fulfill our covenant relationship with God and those who the Lord has put in our lives. This cannot be done by blindly observing laws. In fact some laws need to be at times put aside in order to live more fully the covenant. Jesus says: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath”
We can run the danger of excusing ourselves from observing the Sabbath in order to do things that take us away from time to worship and the family. Just like with civil law we must use common sense to know when not to observe it, for example, we rightfully exceed the speed limit if we are rushing someone to the hospital, we also need to use SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT, given by the Holy Spirit to humble souls who truly desire to live the love covenant with the Lord.
The bridegroom is with us
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
Commentary, Fr. Jordi
Fellowship at table is meant to deepen relationships. But hardened hearts can turn it into occasion for division. This happened to Jesus. He came to unite us in love with Himself but religious people criticized him on account of a supper. First, because he ate with sinners, then because his disciples do not fast. Think of the interior martyrdom of Jesus as they are seeking to drive a wedge between Him and His followers.
Fasting is good. Jesus fasted. But good practices, if done with an impure heart, become corrupted into sin, such as the pride of appearing pious, criticizing others. The Pharisees fasted 2x per week and looked down on others who did not. The disciples of John the Baptist fasted for good reason: they were preparing for the coming of the bridegroom. Fasting for them was a sign of repentance and helped them to prepare their hearts in anticipation of the great banquet to celebrate his coming.
Jesus reveals that He is the bridegroom. This is the key for understanding why the disciples should not fast. Once the bridegroom appears, fasting must give way to the joy of celebration. Fasting was meant to culminate in banquet with the bridegroom. The banquet they had enjoyed was then no ordinary gathering: it was a wedding feast with the bridegroom. This is fulfillment of many prophecies: “For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the Lord of hosts.” Isa 54:5. Jesus is fulfilling the messianic promise that God would one day fully restore the nuptial bond between himself and His people. “I will espouse you forever” Hosea 2:20. Jesus is bringing about intimate communion with himself, the renewal of the wedding covenant. Yet the self righteous oppose Him.
The clothing represents the old life. Jesus did not come to patch our old life. The Gospel is not a set of good ideas that we can use to improve our life, nor can we make it fit into our old understanding of the law. If we say, “it has always been done this way and we cannot change”, we do not allow Jesus to give us the Spirit which brings the fullness of truth. We are then going to cause a greater tear in our life. We would be like the Pharisees that use religious practices to serve their own blindness and cause great sorrow to God. Jesus give us a NEW LIFE, a total transformation, beyond what we could have imagined.
Our hearts are like old wine skins, they are brittle. They can contain old wine, but the new wine would burst them because it produces gas due to fermentation. New hearts are like new wine skins which are not set in their ways, but are able to conform and expand to receive the new wine of the Kingdom. This is a painful process of coming to self knowledge, yielding to the truth and allowing the truth to transform our vision and our behavior. How few understand this!!
The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
The healing of the Paralytic (Mk 2) Jan 2015
We here love the Word of God and are open to receive insights from it to enhance our life. But the Word of God is much more than that. We need much more than enhancement. The truth is that Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of the devil that blocks our hearts from living fully as sons of God. By ourselves we are so blind and so paralyzed that we simply do not know our condition, so when we hear the Word we stay at the surface and remain in bondage.
Jesus, after completing his first preaching tour around the villages of Galilee, returns to Capernaum where he had just moved into the house of Peter. While he preaches the word, the house is packed. Four men bring a paralyzed friend on a stretcher but find no way to enter the house. The Word teaches us: If we desire to draw near Jesus, we have to acknowledge our paralysis and do what is necessary for Jesus to heal us. We are that paralyzed man, we cannot reach Jesus on our own and we must allow our brothers to help us. This goes contrary to our prideful self-sufficiency. We want to be self-made, we love learning about our faith in our own terms. We may go to conferences, read books... but we select from all of it what we like, discarding the rest that “is not for me.” In this way we may grow in accumulated knowledge but we never allow the Lord to call us to repentance and heal our paralysis.
The four helpers also encountered obstacles. In their situation, perhaps I would have given up, thinking that it was impossible to do more and feel good that I had at least tried. But they were undaunted and resolved to hoist the paralytic to the roof! If you were the paralytic, would you have allowed them. One wrong pull from the ropes and you would go tumbling down. The Lord is teaching us to have courage, to take risks, to persevere, to be willing to make a spectacle of ourselves. Then there are the fears. What will the people think? Some priests get quite upset if a baby cries during their homily. Well, imagine the distraction as Jesus preached and there is this noise coming from the ceiling, then pieces of the thatched roof come down, opening a gap in the roof and then the stretcher appears hanging from ropes. Not only is Jesus not upset at the intruders but he commends them for their faith. What is Jesus teaching us about the faith that he wants in us? Do I expose myself to controversy and reproach for my faith?, Do I seek the way of the Lord when it is most difficult or do I stay in my safety zone?
Jesus was at Peter's house where he lived with other members of the family, including His mother in law. They did not complain about the damaged roof. We may love to have Jesus live in our house, but the Word teaches us that if we welcome Jesus we must be willing to let go of our control over our things to place them unconditionally at His service. Jesus unravels things and messes up our order. There will be plenty of occasions when our generosity will be tested. The fact is, we have not given our life to Jesus if we have not truly placed our homes and all our possessions at His disposal.
Jesus reassures the paralytic telling him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” But those words probably disappointed everybody. Imagine that you are very sick and you go to a priest hoping to be healed but instead he offers to confess you. Jesus is teaching that sin is a much greater paralysis. He is not attributing the man's illness to his personal sins. Everybody is afflicted by both sin and illness as a consequence of original sin. Of the two, sin is much more damaging because it separates us from God so sin is what Jesus addresses first. The scribes object to Jesus' claim that he forgives sins. According to their training in the law, only God can forgive sins, so in their minds they judge that Jesus is blaspheming. They were not open for God to teach beyond that.
Only God can do miracles, so by performing them, Jesus proves his authority to forgive sins. They are also an outward sign that the paralytic was set free from the interior paralysis of sin. At first glance, it seems easier to forgive sins than to do a miracle, which would have to be verified. But forgiveness will exact on Jesus the price of the cross.
The Scribes did not share in the general astonishment and praise which followed the miracle. They saw it but were unwilling to accept it as the hand of God. It only made them more entrenched in their ways, more resentful against Jesus because He exposed the error in their way of thinking. The Scribes represent our own hardness of heart when the truth challenges us. This is a profound interior martyrdom for Jesus because it is a wall against His love.
Mark 10:17-27 Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.
John 9:1-41 Healing of man born blind
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
Fr. Jordi Rivero
My Bible's title for this Gospel story is “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor”. I would call it “Come, follow me”, because that is the reason for everything else. Following Jesus we will have “treasure in heaven.” We will also have treasure in Earth because Christ Himself is the treasure.
The man in the story shows amazing devotion. He "ran up, knelt down" before Jesus. Then he asks for instruction to go to heaven. How many man you know with such enthusiasm for Jesus? He was willing to fulfill all requirements. But Christ asked for more: "follow me". As Christians we say we follow Jesus, but we really are like the man of the story, we just want to observe the law and be safe.
There is a huge difference between living by the law and following Jesus: Observing the law is something we do while we are still in control of our lives. We don't expect the Lord to intervene in our lives, except maybe to help us when we ask Him. We just have to stay within bounds of the law as we understand it. Following Jesus means we have a relationship where He has real authority over our thoughts, our desires, our actions. This is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ brings the law to its full understanding and fulfillment in Himself.
To follow Jesus is beyond just having a relationship. He wants to marry us! No longer two but one! If we say "yes", all else is added on. He lives in us. We belong to His family, His lot is our lot. This is marriage! Yes, the Lord wants to marry us and we are still unsure on how to respond!
Our problem is that we do not know God's love for us, so we reduce salvation to a matter of making merit, of fulfilling the law. But the Church clearly teaches that salvation is achieved by Christ at the Cross and to whoever follows Him. To follow means to believe. It is a gift. Yes, He knows how broken and sinful we are. Still, He loves us even when we are sinners. He came for sinners. So the real obstacle to salvation is that we pretend to rely on our merits instead of abandoning ourselves to His love. We are afraid to follow Him into “marriage” because it means letting go of our control over our lives. We just don't trust Him that much.
"Jesus, looking at him, loved him." How could the man not receive His gaze, His love? How is it that we don't? How wounded and blind we all are not to realize that our Beloved wants to marry us! We have so many fears and attachments! We must come to self knowledge, we need to ask for deliverance and for the capacity to see and believe Him!
Think of the Prodigal Son. He merited nothing. In fact he notoriously offended his father. Then he hit bottom and realized how good it was to be with his father. He entered into self-knowledge and admitted his sinfulness and unworthiness. He reconciled with his father not by paying back or meriting but by returning to the father, humbly admitting his misery and abandoning himself to the father's mercy.
The man in today's Gospel, on the other hand, claims to have kept all the Commandments and was relying on his merit as an observer of the law to obtain salvation. His self sufficiency and attachments to his possessions were a bondage that kept him from following Jesus.
Jesus asserts the importance of keeping the Commandments but places them in the context of a love relationship with God and neighbor.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40)
We cannot keep the Commandments apart from God. Think of marriage. What is the value of not committing adultery or not lying if the spouses are living separate lives? In the context of marital love, the spouses realize the necessity of faithfulness and truthfulness. The law is now written in their hearts and lived with the power of love. In this Gospel Jesus is teaching us that we can only live the Commandments if we are living our marriage with Him! It is the love of union with Him, the life in the Holy Spirit, that makes it possible.
Instead of boasting of merits or despairing of unworthiness, we need to humbly respond to Christ's marriage proposal issued at the Cross and trust Him as He takes us deeper into His love every day. Do you think this is impossible because you still have many attachments? Remember: “All things are possible for God!”
Healing of man born blind
IV Sunday Lent
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam"—which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, "Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is," but others said, "No, he just looks like him." He said, "I am." So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?" He replied, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see." And they said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I don’t know."
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see." So some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a sinful man do such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, "What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?" His parents answered and said, "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; question him."
So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, "Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner." He replied, "If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." So they said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" They ridiculed him and said, "You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from." The man answered and said to them, "This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything." They answered and said to him, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind."
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not also blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains."
Fr. Jordi Rivero
This is what the Lord taught me pondering this Gospel.
1-Jesus performs miracles now. Many believe Jesus performed miracles in another era but few are open to God's miracles happening before their very eyes. The Pharisees believed God worked through Moses but would not accept the Lord's miracles, no matter how much evidence was presented.
We may believe Jesus gave sight to the blind men of the Gospel but fail to see His miracles now. We live in a culture that has a "man centered" view of reality, where God does not intervene. Once our own spiritual eyes are opened, we see miracles today. We become amazed at the constant "GOD-incidences" and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is in the hands of God.
2- We absolutely need a miracle. We can live materially within the laws of nature that God established. He works in what appears to be only a natural process. But we need God's direct intervention in our lives to break free from the bondage of sin and share in His life forever as sons and daughters. We were all born spiritually blind, thus incapable of seeing what is most important: Who He is and who we are. God opened our eyes in baptism but, if we do not grow in faith, our spiritual sight atrophies. The darkness of the world blinds us. We need to ask God for sight to go ever deeper into His Light and into His Heart. The miracle of seeing the way God sees is greater and more valuable than seeing with the eyes of the flesh.
3- We should not judge. The disciples though someone must be culpable for the blindness of the man. Sometimes we blame God.
We should be like a little child who is intimate with his mother, yet cannot fully comprehend her actions. Yes, we should seek understanding but at the same time trust and believe, even when we don't understand.
4- We often reject God's way of healing. Jesus "spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes" Would we allow Jesus to do that to us? We want to be healed by the Lord but often reject His methods. We want to be healed our way. Objections to God's way are common: Why go to confession with a priest?, What is wrong with contraception?. When He comes to heal, teaching us the way of the Holy Spirit, do we say: That is not my spirituality! It is not enough to be observant of the law. The Lord will apply to the eyes of our soul remedies we were not expecting. He will lead us to a new life beyond our expectations. Stop putting limits to God!
5- The only way to evangelize is by witnessing God's work. The men born blind kept referring to the fact that he was blind and now he sees. We need to allow God's work in us to be so profound and real that people can notice. The Christian life is a miracle of grace. We live in a way that for those in the world is impossible. The Church grows and conversions occur when the power of God is manifested. The greatest sign is the love of the martyrs.
6- Be ready for conflict and division. Our behavior must be founded upon truth, love and the life in the Holy Spirit, not in avoidance of conflict. Many are bothered by the change they see in us. Jesus was crucified. But at the end love wins.
7- When we only care about our appearance, we deny our sinfulness, we do not seek self-knowledge or conversion. This is terrible hardening of the heart makes us blind. This is what Pope Francis describes as being corrupt. "Surely we are not also blind, are we?".
8- We resist God's healing, we deny His Presence! The problem is our pride. We may accept the need for a bit of change and not allow him to go deep.