Friday, February 9, 2018

Lent: Do Not Attempt Without Divine Supervision

Safety Disclaimers. They appear in commercials, either as fine print on the bottom of the screen or as voiceovers, warning of the possible dangers of amateur imitation or uninformed product use. "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt." We even see them at our children’s playgrounds: “Adult supervision required.” For the sake of our safety, we know we need to take these warnings seriously.
There is no one who cares more about our safety than God. So, of course, the Bible is chock full of such disclaimers—warnings that are meant for application to every walk of life, every season, and every situation. Let’s put this to the test by looking at the season into which we are about to enter once again: the 40 days of Lent.
As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (540): "By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” Looking at the two Gospel accounts of Jesus’ time of fasting and trial in the wilderness-- Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13—in each case we read that Jesus was “led by the Holy Spirit into the desert.” But isn’t that an obvious, even unnecessary statement? As the Son of God, wasn’t Jesus always led by and filled with the Holy Spirit? Of course! So then just what were Matthew and Luke telling their faith communities-- and telling us-- with this seemingly obvious statement?
Remembering that the Gospels are not only accounts of the words and works of Jesus, but are even more so a handbook and field guide for all who seek to follow Him, these words are in fact an unequivocal warning, a disclaimer, meant for our instruction. Following Jesus means imitating Him in all things. During these 40 days, we fast, pray, and give alms, hoping to diminish the hold that this world and our own selfishness have upon us, so that we might become more like the One we follow—the One Who defeated Satan! But beware that Lent does not in fact become an exercise in achievement and pride. Do not attempt such a prolonged battle without Divine supervision-- without the loving and powerful help and guidance of the same Holy Spirit that led the Lord Himself into the desert.
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit." (Gal. 5:24-25)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

He Sent Them Out Two By Two

A Reflection on Today's Gospel Reading: Mark 6: 7-13.
He sent them out “two by two.”
In the Body of Christ, there is no “Jesus and me.” Even the hermit living apart from the world does so with the undistracted purpose of joining him or herself in intercessory prayer to every living soul for the sake of all their needs and intentions. Jesus Himself lived among us and did everything in union with the person and will of the Father. He never gave instructions to a solitary disciple to carry out anything on his own. In fact, whenever any one of them did act alone, they inevitably fell into sin: Judas’ questionable keeping of the purse, and his ultimate betrayal of the Lord; Peter’s denial that he even knew Jesus; Thomas’ absence from the others in upper room where the risen Lord first appeared, leaving him susceptible to unbelief.
Preaching the Good News in word and deed in pairs, the Twelve assisted, supported, interceded for, and affirmed one another—and held one another accountable. Even together, disciples can do nothing apart from the Lord. It is He who sends us and empowers us. It is in Him that we must remain to bear fruit, it is to Him that we must continually return to be refreshed, renewed and restored. And when we finally rest from all our labors, it is in Him that we together will rest eternally.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Prophet From Among Their Kin

A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark 6:1-6

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.”

 Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Jesus’ fellow Nazarenes. Perhaps Jesus is just making a factual statement about human nature. How would we have reacted if someone we grew up with suddenly seemed to possess wisdom, knowledge and understanding which he could not have possibly acquired in the same classrooms we or our children sat in? Perhaps we, too, would have become indignant. After all, we saw nothing special in him during all those years. Why would God have chosen HIM, and not my child to be His prophet? But if someone from afar were to come and speak to their hearts, the fact that this man traveled so far to see and speak with THEM would have made them feel special; that God thought enough of them, cared for them so much, that He would send them someone to comfort them in body and spirit.  

 So then why does it say that Jesus was “amazed” at their lack of faith? Because He had grown up knowing them to be a people of faith. He worshiped for years in the synagogue with these same people, where he had learned the scriptures from them and surely heard them speak God’s praises as they recounted all the mighty works God had ever wrought. Why couldn’t they then believe that they were in fact special enough to be the chosen ones who would personally witness God’s fulfillment of the prophecy the Lord had spoken to Moses: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth” (Dt. 18:15-20).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Save Us Lord! We Perish!"

A Reflection on Matthew 8:23-27

Being a disciple of Jesus means following Him wherever He leads us, and trusting that no matter where He takes us, we can rest assured that all is part of His loving plan and purpose, and that in all circumstances He will provide for all our needs and protect us from all evil. It is only natural for us to fear when we do not know what is coming next, or when we are in a situation, like the disciples in the boat, from which we cannot run; in which we cannot help ourselves and therefore must rely on God. The Lord does not rebuke His disciples for their plea, "Lord, save us," but rather, for their conclusion about what is happening to them in the face of this danger:  …"we perish!"
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” 
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, 
and there was great calm. 
The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, 
whom even the winds and the sea obey?”
It takes "little faith" to follow Jesus when "all is calm" and "all is bright." We love to go to church on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Yes, it is good to rejoice in the coming of the Lord and in the salvation He won for us in His conquering of sin and death. These same disciples who followed Jesus into the boat and saw that even the winds and the sea obey Him forgot all about the miracles when Judas and the temple guards showed up. It is natural to forget and to flee. But we are called to do the supernatural. We are called to follow and accompany Jesus on Good Friday, too. As Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy: "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him."