1st Reading – Exodus 20: 1-17
Some Basics on the Ten Commandments
- They are found twice in the Bible: Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
- The Hebrew word for law is tôrâ, or Torah, which is more closely translated to meaning guidance, teaching or instruction. Perhaps the best human analogy we have is that of an effective parent with growing children: the parent is serious about child-rearing, but that seriousness includes humor, tact, love, and approachability – all with a view to shaping a small community of supple and ultimately joyous human beings. So it is with God (Holladay, Wm., Long Ago God Spoke, p. 44, 51).
- There are 2 types of laws: case law and apodictic law. Case law is causative, meaning if someone does this thing, then he receives this punishment. There are consequences for our actions. There may be exceptions depending on the situation. Apodictic law is without exception. These are statements of conduct that have no conditions or suggested penalties. They are strong, dramatic demands. The only expected answer is a firm “Amen” said in trust (Boadt, L., Reading the Old Testament, p. 185-186). The ten commandments are apodictic.
Each of these commandments is not some external, irrational demand from an alien god. Rather, each is an expression of the truth God has made in us. If we worship idols or our work, if we covet person or property, if we dishonor those who have given us life, and steal and kill, we destroy what we are. The duty that God imposes on us is not some arbitrary law, but the duty to be true to what we are – limited but loved creatures. Each of the commandments offers life. J Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered”, http://liturgy.slu.edu
Fear was thought to be a valid and effective motivator. Perhaps if people had been more open and receptive to God’s love, these commandments could have been phrased more positively, such as:
“You may do nothing that allows you to lessen yourself;
do all you can daily to esteem your dignity.
You may do nothing that in any way causes harm to anyone
whether in spirit or in body –
you must daily work to build up others in every way.
You may not choose what takes you from the arms of God,
because God has chosen to love you and is therefore vulnerable to you.
After all that God has done for you, you have no reason to cause God pain.
This is all of life.”
Today’s Parish, “Discovering God, Day by Day,” 1994)
2nd Reading –1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
The main issue for Paul is the cross. Some however wanted to ignore the cross. For some the cross was a sign of weakness and failure . . . a sign of foolishness and scandal. But to Paul, the cross is life. He was willing to be a fool for Christ Jesus. Christ crucified is God’s gift of wisdom to the world. (M Birmingham, W and W, B and Celebration, March 2003)
Jesus’ life and death that culminated on Calvary was an ultimate sign of God’s unfailing love for us; we can trust this God. Jews saw such suffering as a punishment for sin; the Greeks saw it as madness. Their heroes and heroines triumphed over suffering and evil. But Paul preached a Christ who is the power and wisdom of God. How do we find this God? Is God still with us in the middle of poverty and hunger and sexism and war? Does God see or care about this suffering? Do we find God working, struggling, caring in the midst of our problems? Perhaps today more than ever the cross is an urgently needed sign. Jesus on the cross gives us hope that good can come from evil, suffering can lead to glory, and that death can lead to resurrection. Because of Jesus we can believe that God will strengthen us to take up our cross, as we fight oppression and help those in need. We can say a trusting yes to whatever God asks. It wasn’t easy for Jesus – it won’t be easy for us. But our God guarantees success – and abundant life. Journey to Joy ,23rd Publications, 1985
The Gospel – John 2: 13-25
This same scene is told in Mark 11:15-19; in Matthew 21:12-17; Luke 19:45-48.
They all happen just before Jesus’ arrest and death. John tells the story at the start. John’s story is right after the Cana story (the wedding at which Jesus changes the water of purification into the wine of celebration) at the beginning of his ministry. By the time this gospel is written, the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed – and the Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah (Christians) had been expelled from the synagogues and separated from the other Jews. What evidence of this is in the reading?
This event might have been one of the most historical events that actually led to Jesus’ death. And, of course, we as Christians believe that Jesus’ death did not have the final answer. This apparent foolishness of Jesus was a part of God’s wisdom. In Jesus we were to realize a new way to God; a new ‘Temple’ was to be built – the Christian community itself was to come to be the very presence, the body of Christ in the world for the benefit of all people.
What is Jesus so angry about? At the time, it was necessary to change the various coins – it was necessary to have animals for temple worship. But it had been that the ‘vendors’ were allowed only in the courtyard of the temple – but now they were inside. Furthermore, the dishonest practices of outdoor market-places may have found their way into the temple: the thumb on the scale, the inflated prices, etc. Jesus knew that humans had been created for more than cheating and being cheated. We had been created to be filled with God’s presence. It was all upside down to find such activity at the very center of this sacred space. Then, in a short time he will be silent and passive at his own trial and suffering. Jesus comes to understand that he must empty himself so God would fill him with his presence – he must be one with us, too, — completely in life, in suffering and in death. Out of all of this, God will bring new life . . . (John Foley, “Spirituality of the Readings” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
Fr. Bob’s homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent…
1st Sunday of Lent B
Did you hear that Pope Francis wants to change the words to the Our Father? I first saw it on Facebook and I thought… well you know… fake news. Buy as I saw it from more reputable sources, I thought it was worth looking into. Of course, you cannot change the words of Jesus, so we are really talking about the translation of those words. And the line he has focused on is one that has troubled me for a long time. “And lead us not into temptation.” Have you ever thought, “I have enough going on in my life without YOU leading me into temptation?” And I think if God were to lead you into temptation, can you really get out of it? As the Pope says, a Father would not do that to his children. He prefers what the French Bishops have…
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1st Reading – Genesis 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18
It’s important to know this passage comes from the “Eholistic” source: an oral tradition written down in the Northern half of the Holy Land in the middle of the 8th century BCE. The authors of this particular source seem to have been prophets, disturbed by constant pagan pressures inflicted on their readers. Many of these non-Jewish people actually sacrificed their children to the fertility gods and goddesses they worshiped; if Yahweh were to actually demand the Israelites sacrifice their children, they would do so, no matter the cost. But the writer reinforces their belief in Yahweh as a God of life by reminding them they’re to “redeem” any child they’d sacrifice with an animal. In Abraham’s case, Isaac is redeemed with a ram. In narrating this story, the Eholistic author is more interested in Abraham’s dedication to Yahweh than in the psychological harm such a scenario can inflict on the participants. Abraham, as the first Jew, sets the example for all other Jews. He’s depicted as someone totally loyal to Yahweh. The constant intent to do whatever Yahweh wants is what sets him and his descendants apart from all others. Certainly makes them “holy,” deeply different from those around them, (Dignity USA weekly email for this week).
Notice how Abraham continues to listen to God, even when he hears such a difficult message. In fact because of his faith in a God who is a faithful friend he listens with hope and an expectation that in the end God will bring forth life. Due to this kind of listening, he was able to hear the words: “Do not lay your hands on the boy.” Only this kind of listening can lead to new life and a deeper appreciation of God’s love and power. (“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
In reflecting on this passage, Rabbi Harold Kushner wondered if Isaac may have had developmental issues. He was born to elderly parents who had to arrange a marriage for him, so it’s a possibility. Maybe Abraham hearing God’s command could actually have been his own ambivalence about having to raise a special needs child, (The Book of Job, p. 23). Food for thought.
2nd Reading – Romans 8: 31-34
Here we are assured by Paul that God is not only with us – Emmanuel – but God is FOR us. What meaning do you find in this? How is this connected to the 1st reading about Abraham and Isaac?
When Saul was thrown from his legendary ‘high-horse’ and blinded, he awoke as Paul, to know, to love, to follow the One who called him. From that hour forward his life was an unwavering Adsum, Hebrew for “Here I am, Lord!” No other force sustained him, no other love motivated, so that he could say: “If God is for me, who can be against me?” These scriptures challenge us to say the same: “Here, I am, Lord!” (Celebrations, March 2003)
The cross is a great act of love . . . God accepts, affirms, sustains, and supports us – He loves us – by taking his place with us, in and through Jesus. He has chosen to be with us in our brokenness. He has come to stay. “There is no dark corner of human existence which will ever be able to separate us from him again.” Now suffering and death are signs of his presence and power. This is why we “proclaim the death of the Lord,” (John Dwyer, “Theology of the Cross”).
The Gospel – Mark 9: 2-10
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil . . .
Because the Holy Spirit over the bent
World with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
High mountains have often been sites for theophanies or ‘godly manifestations;’ clouds that overshadow were seen as signs of the divine presence. Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had this gospel in mind when he said the night before he was killed: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain . . . And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” After King’s death, his experience of the mountaintop inspired his followers to continue his work. Jesus’ disciples were also inspired by such experiences to continue Jesus’ work of spreading the Good News of God’s love – despite the hardships that might entail. We, too, need to look at Jesus, listen to him and be similarly transformed. (Celebrations, March 2003)
Both Moses and Elijah were prophets whose whole lives were transformed by God’s presence and power. Both experienced God on Mt. Sinai – Moses receiving the Law and Elijah receiving God’s power and presence in the silence after a storm. In Jewish thought, clouds were regularly connected with God’s presence: Exodus 16: 10; 19:9; 33:9; 1 Kings 8: 10; 2 Maccabees 2:8. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, 210.)
God moments end, and we have to go back down the mountain. The good news is, we can take them with us. We can let those good, wonderful times transfigure us. They can light us up and help us to take on what comes ahead. We can be refreshed. We can know that God enters in and doesn’t go away. Jesus walks back down the mountain with his friends. They are ready to take on what is ahead together. God’s love never goes away, no matter where we are, and we are transformed by it.
As Christians, how do we come down the mountain? Do we keep ourselves “apart” and in tents, or are we challenged to do more? What “tents” separate people in our society today? (Questions posed by Barb Forte for our RCIA meeting this week.)
1st Reading – Genesis 9:8-15
Thomas Green, an educator and spiritual director, says that ‘floating in the sea’ can be a kind of spiritual growth lesson. Floating is difficult for most of us because “it demands much letting go.” The secret of floating lies in being willing to take the risk and do the opposite of what comes instinctively. We tend to keep ourselves rigid in the water, ready to save ourselves from the waves breaking around us. As a result, we end up swamped by the waves. Yet, if we relax and float, we are buoyed up by the rolling sea. We learn to float when we relax and entrust ourselves to the water. Similarly, people learn to pray and commune with God when they are willing to risk letting go in order to be at home in the sea that is God with no visible means of support except the constant buoyancy of God’s grace and presence. The authors of the story of Noah were trying to teach us a similar lesson. Noah’s contemporaries resisted God’s ways and refused to hear God’s voice; yet, Noah freely cast himself into the sea of God’s mercy and compassion. With their faith and trust in God, they were saved. It is a story of conversion – leaving behind the ‘old way of life’ and trusting God to help us float above the waters of chaos and come to safety. (Celebrations, March 2000)
Ancient people imagined their world completely surrounded on all sides — up, down, and around — by water. Their world was flat with waters below, the source of springs. A dome topped their world, holding back the waters above. This is the firmament God creates on the second day in Genesis 1:6. They feared floods the way we fear nuclear war or global warming — it is the ancient fear of extinction. The rainbow: ancient people thought this to be a divine ‘bow’ or weapon that gods could use against humans. But in this story the rainbow becomes a promise of love. (Sunday by Sunday, March 9, 2003)
Flood stories were prevalent among ancient people. The Noah story is very similar to the Babylonian Myth of Gilgamesh: Gilgamesh was searching for immortality. He consults one of his ancestors who had become immortal. According to the story, the council of the gods had whimsically plotted to destroy humankind by flood. Ea, the god of wisdom, warned him to build a boat to save his family. After the storm, the boat safely came to rest on a mountain; birds were sent forth to see if the waters had ceased. Then sacrifices were offered to the gods who offered him immortality. The Genesis authors adapted this flood story for their own use. It featured the one and only God. The flood was not the result of capriciousness, but viewed as punishment for sin. Noah was granted a covenantal bond with God which would be life-giving. (Celebrations, March 2003)
The ark is a symbol for a sanctuary and a haven. The Hebrew word for ark (tebah) was also the word for the basket that carried baby Moses to safety (Exodus 2:3). It was also the name for the tent that housed and carried the tablets of the Law, the visible presence of Yahweh and the covenant. The ark became the symbol of God’s protection and salvation (fullness of health). It is not surprising that Christians who had been Jews would see in this story a type of baptism. The church became another ark — families clinging together with their faith in the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus. Here the waters become neither punishment nor cleansing. They are a passage into a new life. Note, also, that this story is not about God’s covenant with humanity alone. It is about God’s covenant with all of creation. (Birmingham, Word and Worship for Year B)
2nd Reading –1 Peter 3: 18-22
This letter presents itself as being written by Peter who now regards himself as an elder in the church. He is sending it from Rome to Christians in Asia Minor. Tradition holds that Peter was martyred in Rome under the emperor Nero, that he was put to death by crucifixion, and specifically, that he was crucified upside down. Scholars remain divided over the question of whether this letter is pseudepigraphical, but it is a reflection of “Petrine perspective” associated with Rome in the last third of the 1st century (Powell’s Introducing the New Testament, p. 464-466).
The readers of 1 Peter are Christians in process, or “under construction”. A key word for such people is hope; the readers can look back on a futile and dubious past, and then they can look forward to an absolutely certain future, but the present is a time of “living hope” (p. 475). Baptism, which is our spiritual coming to life, is our way of ritually participating in Jesus’ death. As Christ died in the flesh and was made alive in the spirit, so converts likewise put off fleshly sins in baptism and live irreproachable lives through Jesus’ resurrection (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 76).
The Gospel –Mark 1: 12-15:
We are back at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, right after Jesus’ Baptism. Mark’s story of Jesus’ desert-time is short and tense. Here we see Jesus faced with a time of choosing –
God says to Jesus: “Take my love to humans. Conquer them by this love. Even if they crucify you, set up a Kingdom of Love.”
Satan says to Jesus: “Use your power to obliterate – to impress –to win by might and power.”
This is the temptation that Jesus will face time and time again: What kind of a messiah am I to be? How does God wish me to proclaim his Good News? We are faced with similar questions.
“Repent and believe the Good News!” Mark summarizes for us Jesus’ person and purpose: God is among us. Believe that and live accordingly. After his baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Drove is a harsh, forceful word. Jesus has put himself completely at the power of the Spirit of God. Evil will confront him — in the desert, and in his ministry. But on the cross, evil will be defeated..
Both floods and deserts are things hostile to life. Floods can strip us of everything, even the land to stand on. And yet, water, despite its chaos, is the promise of life. The desert has its own chaos and danger. Dreadful and waterless, empty and dry, one can only survive a desert if one traverses it. To stop is to succumb to death. The Hebrew people learned in the 40-year desert journey that God was their only security and guide. Jesus now spends 40 days in the desert of radical dependency. The will of God will be his only nourishment. We, too, are invited to ponder this journey: what is it all for? Lent invites us to enter the water – to walk the desert. God incarnate invites us. And, he himself walks all the deserts of our lives to be the path through exile serving as food and drink along the way. (John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered,” http://liurgy.slu.edu)
We began our last day of touring at the Mount of Olives. Beyond its stunning view of the holy city, the second highest mountain of the city located east of its walls, has been the base for pilgrims, processions and conquerors for centuries. In the life of Jesus, it was precisely all those things, although his conquering was through sacrifice, not arms.
For once we traveled down a hill after nearly a week of straight ascent. Yet, while less arduous, this proved tricky over the pavement slickened by a steady drizzle. From the top of this mountain, probably roughly along the path we walked, Jesus made his palm strewn entrance into Jerusalem aboard a mule, a messianic sign. To this day, pilgrims and locals commemorate this march on Palm Sunday down the slope of the mountain. From the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus ascended into heaven. But our…
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1st Reading – Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
Biblical leprosy was any fearful condition that was of unknown origin and could possibly contaminate others. It ran the gamut from acne, psoriasis, boils, ulcers, rashes, even dandruff to serious malignancies. Leprosy was another name for the community’s fear. Lepers were not only sick, but also condemned as sinners. They were called ‘the living dead.’ A healing was considered as difficult as raising the dead to life. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, and Celebration — Feb. 2000)
Have you ever been able to identify with this leper? Perhaps you didn’t have anything visibly embarrassing on your person, but maybe you were self-conscious about something? Or felt the world knew something wrong about you? We sometimes have a little voice inside of us that counts us unworthy, unclean, unlovable. But Jesus saves! We must turn to Jesus’ voice, and He will make us feel worthy, clean and lovable again.
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 10: 31- 11: 1
This reading is dealing with the problem of whether it was all right to purchase meat that had been previously sacrificed to idols. Was it okay for Christians to eat this meat? Some thought it was since the idols were not real anyway. Paul is trying to help this community see that while the meat might be fine to eat, one should not cause undue scandal to those who were more scrupulous. Paul is trying to encourage them to follow Jesus’ example by being concerned for the well-being of others. God is glorified when we freely live lives of love and service. We become better and so do others! (Celebration, Feb. 2000, and Mary Birmingham, W & W Year B, 485) Paul more fully comes to explain himself in chapter 13 when he discusses love: “Love is kind. Love is patient. . . . etc.”
Paul has personally experienced the risen Christ; as a result, his life mirrors Christ, who is himself the image of God. Christ has so taken possession of Paul that his own life is now that of Christ. The Christian communities identified with Paul did not have the same experience. His uniqueness as an apostle rested on his direct experience with Jesus. Therefore, he calls on the communities to imitate him as they move toward their sole model, Christ himself, (R Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 159).
Gerald Fagin SJ says this of glorifying God: The goal or end of life is to praise, reverence, and serve God, and to come to eternal life. All of God’s gifts are means to achieve this goal; we should use them accordingly. “From this it follows that I should use these things to the extent that they help me toward my end, and rid myself of them to the extent that they hinder me.” (Sp. Ex. 23)…it means being so passionately and single-mindedly committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal. It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God’s hands, avallability, (Putting on the Heart of Christ, p. 41-43).
The Gospel – Mark 1:40-45
Last week, we learned from Simon Peter’s mother-in-law that when we are touched by Jesus, we must ‘rise up and serve.’ Now we see a leper proclaim freely the good news of salvation (full health and life). We find the love of God in Jesus.
“Moved with pity” – sometimes translated “Moved with anger” – literally this phrase means to have one’s intestines turn over . . .Yet, this leper had dared to ignore the law’s strict rule of quarantine. So did Jesus. The passion and sympathy that moved Jesus from deep within showed how he empathized with this man’s blight. Jesus’ passion for the suffering of others challenges us, his followers, to also be stirred and motivated by similarly powerful mission. Jesus’ was willing to touch so as to comfort and heal, touching even those who were condemned as outcasts. This is an example we, too, must follow. (Celebrations, Feb. 2000, 2003; and Quest, Spring, 2006)
Jesus also spoke sternly toward the man commanding him to tell no one anything, but to see the priest. The literal translation of this is that Jesus ‘snorted’ or ‘puffed’ – a way that was often used to confront evil in his culture. Mark’s messianic secret seems to be an important motif here. Fantastic miracles do not seem to be why Jesus came. He came to break down barriers between the clean and unclean – between the insiders and the outsiders. Eduard Schweizer says that Jesus is horrified at the misery of this man’s condition and isolation for it is contrary to God’s plan for creation. Also, of course, there is irony in the way Mark tells this story for the healed man is so full of good news that he cannot be silent! God’s kingdom is breaking through! It is just too good – too real – to be concealed. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we kept such goodness to ourselves? (R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu; E. Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark, 58-59)
Society tends to exclude people and treat them as social lepers today no less than in the time of Jesus. At that time, justification could be found in the law for a certain measure of separation. While Jesus shows a basic respect for the Mosaic law, he never fails to respect primarily the worth of the human person as transcending every other religious or social consideration. We have many examples of exclusion of people on the basis of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or social class. It is Jesus’ over-riding love for the human person, virtuous or sinful, without qualification, that is his greatest challenge in any age or culture (R Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 160).
Holy Land Part 5
Jerusalem. What word conjures such holiness, division, hope, despair, healing and pain? All that deriving from its history, its politics, current, past and ancient and its religions. Jews have claimed that it is the center of the world. A couple of days of walking through the streets, hearing its sounds and feeling its thick religiosity make that statement hard to argue. It is reflected in all pilgrim experiences in the holy city of extremes.
Jerusalem is a strange place to want which makes it ironic how deeply it has been and is desired. Far from the water or easy access to commerce, this isolated city was chosen for political reasons rather than natural resources. The Jebusite people controlled it until King David conquered the city that had never known Jewish rule. This made it a perfect place to build the new capitol since neither the Southern…
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A Day by the Galilee
We ended Friday night in Tiberias, a Roman city then and not a New Testament town, but now a thriving tourist destination. Our first glimpse of the Galilee was ringed by lights a night from our hotel room, but its beauty truly transfixed us in a morning of bright sunshine amid temperatures in the lower fifties. The first thing to know about the Sea of Galilee is that is not a Sea, but a lake. Actually, I think it looks stunningly lie Lake George surrounded either by mountains or villages.
Jesus came to this area after the crowd at the synagogue in Nazareth not only rejected him but attempted to thrown him down a “hill” which turns out to be a precipitous cliff of hundreds of feet. He came to the shores of Galilee and began his ministry to the world. It is here that…
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1st Reading – Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
In this reading, Job is answering his friends who say he is suffering because of his sin. What do you make of his words? What dialogue do you have with God concerning suffering?
The Book of Job explores but does not resolve the fact of suffering. With Job, we see the dark and seamy side of suffering – and Job rails against the injustice of innocent suffering. His ‘friends’ are telling him that his sufferings must be a direct punishment for sin. Job vehemently disagrees. This passage is one of his lengthy, descriptive laments. In the end, after a series of intense, poetic exchanges with God, Job accepts that his suffering cannot be explained away or completely understood. His ‘friends’ are wrong; God harshly corrects them. As the book ends and Job is restored, suffering is still seen as an intrinsic part of the gift of human life. Job learns to accept what he cannot understand and to trust in the inscrutable wisdom of God. (Preaching Resources, Feb. 9, 2003)
The mystery of pain…Why does God allow it to happen? There is no satisfactory answer to that question. But as Christians, we believe that violence, suffering and death are never the last word. We have hope. We do not have a God who is removed from our sufferings; ours is a God who has lived a human life and knows suffering. There may not be answers that will satisfy, but for the believer there is God, who is sorrowful with us, who offers us eternal life, and who moves us, through our hearts, to build a more loving and compassionate society. (Fr. James Martin in the New York Daily News after the Newtown school shootings)
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22-23
This is the cost of discipleship. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
From Bonhoeffer who wrote The Cost of Discipleship:
“…what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what would Jesus Christ himself wants of us.” (p. 37)
“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.” (p. 60)
“He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible.” (p. 67)
From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 84: We can never attain to any kind of evangelism or friendship without speaking the same language and thinking the same thoughts as the other man. So long as we patronize people and make no effort to understand them, we can never get anywhere with them. Paul, the master missionary, who won more for Christ than any other, saw how essential it was to become all things to all . One of the greatest necessitites is to learn the art of getting alongside people; and the trouble so often is that we do not even try.
The Gospel – Mark 1: 29-39
Before this passage, Mark tells of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and casting out demons (last Sunday’s gospel), and then the day goes on with this reading –Mark is presenting dramatically a ‘typical’ day in the life of Jesus who is intent upon proclaiming and ‘preaching’ God’s Kingdom. What do we see of God’s kingdom here?
John Pilch points out that in Jesus’ culture Peter’s mother-in-law should have been living in her husband’s family home – or — if he was dead, then, she would be with one of her sons. The fact that she is in Peter’s house suggests that she may have no other living family members to take care of her. This woman may have known a lot more sorrow than just this fever. When Jesus touches her, she rises up with energy and purpose in her life. Jesus seemed to have helped her regain her meaning in life. This was beautifully expressed by her eager service. What do you see in her story?
From Celebrations, Feb., 2003:
Comfortable Christianity is an oxymoron. We like to imagine those in a deep relationship to God to be peace-filled . . . But to be honest, the most ‘responsive,’ committed Christians . . . are often ‘driven,’ compelled –with at least some measure of agitation and turmoil . . .the calling [from God] deep within – if heeded – is almost guaranteed to increase sensitivity to the demands that abundantly present themselves! There are always more hungry mouths to feed, more injustices to deal with, more violence to be overcome, more broken hearts to be healed . . .Yet “while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” It was from that quiet place that he moved on . . .
“I’m living in a broken world, and there is holy work to do.” Rabbi Ronnie Cahana
Did you see the moon yesterday? On my morning run, a beautiful, golden moon kept showing its face as the group and I turned on to different streets. And once it was behind us, we were then faced with a sky of blues, purples, pinks and yellows as the sun began to peek out over the trees. It really struck me how much light wants to overcome the darkness. The light was behind us and in front of us and, in a very gentle way, pushing out the black sky. That simple morning exercise creates our days.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons [and daughters] the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved…we wait eagerly for it,” (Romans 8:22-25).
And so we wait in hope, not only to be saved in death but saved in life too. There are little deaths that happen to us. Job lay offs. Sickness. Relationships that aren’t what we wish they were. A harsh word. These little deaths can turn us inward. They cause an ache. Our hearts can go dark. It may sometimes feel like the light will never come. But it always does. Jesus promised a happy ending. It is in hope we have been saved. How different our lives are if we constantly look for the light. We will find it is behind us and in front of us. It is never far away. It has been there the whole time. It groans to be with us. Hope is knowing the light is there, even when we can’t see it. Light will always overcome the darkness. We (I) must trust that it will and look for it.