On Leaving for the Holy Land

Fr. Bob’s blog on the way to Israel…

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I have always wanted to go to two places in the world. Africa and the Holy Land. By the grace of God, I now will have been blessed to do both. This primal yearning is as mysterious as any of ours but I imagine it is because life originated from Africa and new life flowed from the Holy Land.  Africa was the dawn of creation and the Holy Land the dawn of our salvation.In a sense then we all share in both places.

I am stunned that for at least one week I will call home where Jesus did. And as much as nearly everything has changed in two thousand years, they have not moved the Sea of Galilee and the sun still rises and sets as He saw it. Olive trees can live two thousand years; which young tree witnessed that young man walked by. And the holy sites…

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

This is a story about Jonah the prophet.  God told Jonah to bring about the redemption of Ninevah, to which Jonah ran in the opposite direction toward the sea  (How often do WE run away from where God may be leading us?).  The sea became stormy and the sailors thought Jonah was bringing God’s wrath to them, so he sacrificed himself and was swallowed by a huge fish.  After 3 days, God had mercy and Jonah eventually through twists and turns went to Ninevah to do what God had said.

This story can help us ponder how we listen to God in our own lives. Is following God’s will always placid and without ambiguity? When we pray, do we really pray to know God‘s will or do we ask God to do our will? (John Foley, S.J., “Spirituality of the Readings, http://liturgy,slu.edu )

Some psychologists say that we mature not by always having everything ‘together’ and ‘successful’ – whatever that means – but we often “grow by falling apart.” Jonah’s story is sort of a parable about this ‘disintegration.’ Sometimes it is in the darkness, in the ashes, in the failures and frustrations that we journey to full maturity. In scripture this is often imaged in ‘desert or wilderness’ experiences.’ — or in Jonah’s case, the belly of a whale. Like Jonah we can find ourselves carried to some place we’d rather not go. Our successes bring us glory, while our pain, with God’s help, brings us character and compassion. Pain can mellow and enlarge our heart and our soul. The best wines are aged in cracked, old barrels. Our natural instinct, though, is to get out of the darkness and tension as quickly as possible – it is not easy to trust that God’s love can be with us in such dire circumstances. We are too often afraid to suffer, to let it do its purifying work. Yet, when we find ourselves in this ‘dark night’ we can come to know what it means to let our faith in God’s love carry us. We can care rather than cure. We can support and trust the process. We can reflect, think, pray, and talk about the situation with trusted friends and mentors. We do not need to move against the process, but find ways to relax and be comforted right in the middle of it. (Ron Rolheiser, “In Exile” http://liturgy,slu.edu )

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 7: 29 – 31

This is a very early letter of Paul’s. The expectation at this time was that Jesus was coming back very soon – that his life, death and resurrection had ushered in the ‘end-times.’ This belief empowered the early Christians including Paul to eagerly share the good news of Jesus Christ.

“The world as we know it is passing away” – Paul wanted us to think about the priorities that fill our lives and preoccupy our minds.  Richard Rohr talk about this a lot, the idea that we NOTICE what we are feeling and doing as a way of seeing how God works in our life.  We don’t need to be so attached to the emotion.  We can wonder about our responses, a little like Paul is telling the Corinthians to do. Rohr says, “Wondering is a word connoting at least three things:  standing in disbelief, standing in the question itself and standing in awe before something.  Try letting all three ‘standings’ remain open inside of you…whenever we can appreciate the goodness and value of something, while still knowing its limitations and failures, this also marks the beginning of wisdom and nondual consciousness,” (The Naked Now, p. 46, 106).  It is allowing the tension…to live without resolution.  When we open ourselves in this way, God has an easier time entering in and causing something new to happen.  Have you experienced this?

The Gospel – Mark 1: 14 – 20

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her essay, “We Were Made for Times Like These”, “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”  Simon, Andrew, James and John are all safely keeping to their boats, but Jesus calls them out.  They go.  What would your response be…to stay safe or to go out?

Joseph Fitzmyer, a New Testament scholar, notes how strange this metaphor of ‘catching people like fish’ seems to be. The mission of the disciples was to bring people to salvation (fullness of health). Yet, fishermen eat fish, not save them!  He points out, though, that the Greek term that Jesus used to say that they would be ‘catchers or netters’ of humanity could literally be translated as “you will be taking them alive.”  The strange metaphor then comes to mean that those ‘caught’ or ‘netted’ by Peter and the others would be saved from death and gathered into God’s Kingdom. (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)

After his baptism, Jesus may have stayed around John and his followers for awhile. After John’s arrest, it seemed that Jesus began setting up his home in Capernaum. His old life at Nazareth was over and done; it was a clean cut, momentous decision. The village was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This lake was and is a large inland lake that is 680 ft. below sea level. It has quite a warm climate and is surrounded by phenomenally fertile land that was quite densely populated. It is considered to be one of the loveliest lakes in the world. “Seen from any point of the surrounding heights it is a fine sheet of water – a burnished mirror set in a framework of rounded hills and rugged mountains.” In Jesus’ time it was thick with fishing boats.  This is probably not the first time that these men have met Jesus.  Some of them may have been disciples of John. They had known and talked with Jesus; they had heard him preach. Now these fishermen were being invited to “throw in their lot with him.”  These were ordinary, sort of middle-class men – certainly not poverty stricken – nor were they men to be easily fooled or impressed. As fishermen they may have had just the qualities Jesus needed in his disciples: men of patience, perseverance, courage, cleverness, with the ability to ‘fit the bait to the right fish’, to stay out of the way, and to know how to recognize the right moment for action.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1 77-79)

The invitation is also open-ended.  Jesus does not tell Peter and Andrew how they will “fish for people.”  No, Jesus’ call is – like many calls – appealing but also confusing…There are many ways of being called.  Many people think that being called means hearing voices.  Or they feel that since they have never had a knocked-me-off-my-feet spiritual experience that they have not been called.  But often being called can be more subtle, manifesting itself as a strong desire, a fierce attraction, or even an impulse to leave something behind,”  (Fr. J. Martin’s Jesus:  A Pilgrimage, p. 134, 141).

The leaving of everything to follow Jesus was the way the gospel writers expressed the need of disciples to make Jesus the priority in life. These fishermen were no longer just fishermen anymore once they began to follow Jesus. They probably went out during the day with Jesus to the surrounding areas returning to their families at night or after short intervals, even returning to fishing when necessary. Their total response to Jesus is meant to be an example to all of us as to where our priorities should lie. With Christ as the center of their lives, it was now more important to go out to ‘catch’ the suffering sea of humanity. This humanity was in need of God’s love, God’s kingdom and presence in their lives. What they have to offer others in Jesus’ name was not just good news; it was great news! It still is and we still have the same calling.   (M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year A, 363,364)

Martin Luther King responded profoundly to God’s call of justice with great hope, faith, and love – even in the midst of violence and hatred: “If you lose hope, somehow you lose vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be . . . so today, I still have a dream.”

Star of Wonder, Star of Change

Fr. Bob’s Epiphany homily…

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Epiphany B 2018
Some people are comfortable with change and some people are not. What we all discover is that change does not care how you feel about it. Change is coming for you.
Actually, we all occasionally welcome or resist change. When things are good, we want nothing to change and when things are bad, we desperately want everything to be different. Yet, it seems to me that every change represents an opportunity whether welcomed or unwelcomed for our God never abandons us. There will be news ways to be merciful, to console, to receive or give. Grace is present everywhere and sometimes change is the new light we need to notice blessings previously unknown.
Not all our reasons for not embracing change are positive or helpful. It may be to preserve power. It may be that which is habitual becomes deeply engrained in us, especially our worse habits…

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2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Samuel 3: 3b — 10, 19

Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets –A time of transition . . .This is a ‘classic’ story about discerning God’s call in our lives.  What steps do you see in this story about discernment?  Have you ever experienced God calling?  How have you experienced any “twists and turns’ in this calling?

Some people who have experienced the twists and turns of God’s calls:

Moses              Jeremiah          Mary                Paul                 Francis of Assisi          St. Teresa of Calcutta            Thomas Merton                       Martin Luther King                 all of us ?!

“Our lives have been shaped not just by one but by many calls from God, and God speaks not just with one voice but with many.” (Celebration, 2000)

From Mary Birmingham:

The Books of Samuel recall a time of transition. From the time of Joshua, Israel had been governed by a loose tribal confederacy. These books tell of the move to one central government that reached its pinnacle in the reigns of David and Solomon. The major figure during this time of political change was Samuel, a late-eleventh-century B.C. voice of the times. The books span the time from Samuel’s birth and childhood through the reign of David and his sons. David is remembered as Israel’s ‘golden age.’ Prior to David’s reign, Israel was suspicious of kings. These books reflect these suspicions. Many preferred the tribal system over the monarchy.  The Books of Samuel reflect these tensions. The first king, Saul (who Samuel anointed), was a great disappointment. David came and was able to unify the tribes and to establish the city of Jerusalem as the capital: it was on the border between the north and the south and, thus, acceptable to both. The high point of these books is Yahweh’s promise to David that his reign would last forever. Israel would remember this promise as a sign of God’s protection during future difficult times.   (Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 451-451)

Are you familiar with the Lord?  How does God reveal Godself to you?  And where?  Notice God comes to Samuel right where he is-in bed!  Of course, we don’t find out what God says to Samuel in this reading, but God reveals that he is going to punish Eli because his sons blasphemed (1 Samuel 3:11-14).  It may have been left out of the lectionary because the point being made is God calls us to action, and does so where we are.

2nd Reading – I Corinthians 6: 13c-15a, 17-20:

Paul is speaking about what was common in Greek thinking at the time, that the body is separated from the soul.  Because of the separation, if one sinned, that was the body’s fault and not the soul.  So sin away!  Paul is telling them (and us!) that our souls are enfleshed.  We are body AND soul for the Lord.  How does this affect our lives today?  How do you use your whole self for God’s work?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Jan. 2000: Paul is trying to help us realize that we are people of Incarnation. Our God took on human flesh, and we encounter God not only – maybe not even primarily – in the hour of prayer, but in the many other hours of encounter with one another. Where we gather, Jesus is. If God is revealed to us in flesh and blood, then what happens to us in the flesh is not insignificant. Our sexuality, our stewardship of our health, our respect and care for life – especially for those who are weak, ill or voiceless – all of this has great importance.

From Ronald Rolheiser’s blog entry, “In Praise of Skin”:  In becoming flesh, God legitimizes skin, praises skin, enters it, honors it, caresses it, and kisses it.  Among all the religions of the world, we stand out because, for us, salvation is never a question of stepping outside of skin, but of having skin itself glorified.  That is why Jesus never preached simple immortality of the soul, but insisted on the resurrection of the body.

The Gospel – John 1:35 – 42

We go right from Epiphany on Sunday, to the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, to Jesus in ministry now.  Jesus grew up and into his calling in a week!

What’s in a name?  Jesus is called the Lamb of God, Rabbi and Messiah in this pericope.  Simon gets the new name of Cephas, or Peter.  Think about the different names you are called, maybe nicknames, terms of endearment, maybe not-so-kind names in traffic!  Names are how we are known to people.  Names make us unique.  Names can sometimes hurt.  Sometimes we have pet names for people.  When your name is remembered by an old friend, it makes you feel good  (and not if it is forgotten).  Jesus always knows your name (like Cheers!).  You are unique, called and special in Jesus’ eyes always.

The title, Lamb of God, has many overtones and shades of meaning. It obviously was an important title for Jesus in John’s community. It contains a rather compact wealth of Christological information. Ray Brown and William Barclay point out the various meanings and images connected with this phrase.

  • Passover Lamb:  By whose blood the Israelite slaves were saved from death (Exodus 12). This was also celebrated by the sacrifice of a lamb every morning and evening in the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Suffering Servant Lamb:  In whose suffering others would find healing and strength (Isaiah 53:7).
  • Triumphant Lamb:  Whose mission it was to overcome evil and reign over all peoples of the earth (Revelation 7:17, plus it is used 29 times throughout the book).

As Barclay says, this title sums up “the love, the sacrifice, the suffering, and the triumph of Christ.” (Celebration, 2000, and The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, by William Barclay, p. 80-82)

More thoughts from Barclay:

It is John the Baptist that calls Jesus the Lamb of God.  Once again we see him pointing beyond himself.  He must have known very well that to speak to his disciples about Jesus like that was to invite them to leave him and transfer his loyalty to this new and greater teacher; and yet he did it.  There was no jealousy in John.  He had come to attach men and women not to himself but to Christ.  There is no harder task than to take the second place when once the first place was enjoyed.  But as soon as Jesus emerged on the scene John never had any other thought than to send people to him.

Notice that Jesus TURNED to the disciples.  It is God who takes the first step.  And what does he ask?  “What are you looking for?”  What are YOU looking for?  What’s your aim and goal?  What are you trying to get out of life?  Whether you are a young person or retired, this is a question for all of us.

Andrew seems to be the man of introductions, because that is all he ever does in Scripture.  He does so here, in John 6:8-9 when he brings the by with the loaves and fishes to Jesus and in John 12:22 when he brings enquiring Greeks to Jesus.  Like John the Baptist, it must have brought Andrew joy to bring people to Jesus.  And he is often named as Peter’s brother, as if he was second fiddle to Peter.  He seems to be a humble, loyal servant of God.

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship for Year B, p. 457:

The readings for this Sunday remind us that “all of salvation history can be summarized as the process in which God is in constant search of human beings.  God is the initiator.  But the invitation must be accepted in faith and in freedom.  It is an invitation to respond.  We are told what that response involves: action.  Today’s gospel is pregnant with action words – see, stay, hear, believe, come, watch.  These verbs evoke the acts, which lead from one’s initial discovery of the Lord to the resolute commitment to follow him in order to be near him . . .

Glimpses of Salvation

Fr. Bob’s New Year’s Eve homily…

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Holy Family B 2017

I sometimes imagine Simeon receiving the promise from the Holy Spirit that he would see “the Christ of the Lord,” as a young man. There is no evidence of this but it seems to me his reaction to seeing Jesus is not just joy, but relief.  I think of the thrill he must have had when receiving the news and how anxious he must have been to know he would witness Israel’s salvation.  But as we know, not only are hope and expectation a great joy, but also a burden that taxes our patience.  In those long years, how many children did he see and wonder if that child is the Messiah?  How many times did he hear preachers in the precincts of the Temple who intrigued him and thought could that be the one?  The suddenly, on this day, he spies Jesus, a child no…

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The Real Spirit of Christmas

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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3rd Sunday of Advent B

This is the time of the year when people talk about “Christmas Spirit.”  It is a good thing.  It is an expectation that all will find this a joyous time.  That people will be friendlier, more caring and even more generous whether we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ or not. It is summed up perhaps by the song “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas.”  Anything in this day and age that promotes a more congenial feeling, anything that strives for harmony among people is a good thing.

But for those of us who believe that the birth of Jesus Christ ushered in a new era of human history; for those who find the beginning of their salvation in that moment in Bethlehem, the Spirit of Christmas means something entirely different.  It is the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit that…

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Christmas Vigil, cycle B

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 1:1-25

It was important to the Jewish people that their lineage is rooted in Judaism.  At the time, if in any man there was the slightest admixture of foreign blood, he lost his right to be called a Jew, and a member of the people of God.  The pedigree of Jesus can be traced back to Abraham, and proves that he is the son of David.  Let us look at some of the cast of characters that make up the family genealogy of Jesus:

Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-3  Abraham is called by God to leave his country and build a new nation under God.  On the way, he makes a covenant with God that his descendants will be given the land too.  Abraham speaks regularly with God and has a close relationship, but he is not without fault.  He disowns his wife Sarai to cause favor with the Pharoah (Don’t worry, God sends plagues so Sarai is returned.) and commits adultery with a maidservant and has a child Ishmael  (who God also blesses with descendants).  Abraham had his son Isaac at 100 years old.

Ruth:  Her mother-in-law Naomi’s husband, her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband and her own husband all died because of famine.  Normally, the sisters-in-law would return to their homelands; Orpah did.  But Ruth stayed.   Ruth 1:15-18  They made their way to Bethlehem where Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s helped them with food in his fields and eventually married Ruth.  It is important to note that Ruth is not Jewish but a Moabite.

David:  David was the youngest son of Jesse and tended to the sheep.  Samuel anointed him when he was still a young boy and he defeated Goliath by slinging a stone into his forehead (and then cut his head off which the cartoons never include!).  Saul was the current king.  He felt threatened by David and sought to kill him.  David had chance to kill him first, but he spared Saul.  Saul was later killed in battle, so David was anointed king.  He praised God for his greatness and reigned well.  He did have relations with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to get him out of the picture, but he repented of this.  The psalms are attributed to David.  He sang a song of Thanksgiving 2 Samuel 22:2-7.  His son Solomon became ruler after him.

Zerubbabel:  (Because it’s fun to say)   Zerubbabel was the head of the tribe of Judah during the time of the return from the Babylon exile. He was the prime builder of the second Temple, which was later re-constructed by King Herod. He led the first group of captives back to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the Temple on the old site.  Ezra 3:1-3

The Jews were a waiting people.  They never forgot that they were the chosen people of God.  Although their history was one long series of disasters, it was the dream of the common people that into this world would come a descendant of David who would lead them to the glory which they believed to be theirs by right.  Jesus is the answer to their dreams.  He breaks the barriers of Jew/Gentile, male/female, and saint/sinner in his pedigree  (Barclay’s Daily Bible Study Series, p. 15-17).

Matthew pictures Mary and Joseph living at Bethlehem and having a house there.  The coming of the magi, guided by the star, causes Herod to slay children at Bethlehem while the Holy Family flees to Egypt.  After Herod’s death, the accession of his son Archelaus as ruler in Judea makes Joseph afraid to return to Bethlehem, so he takes the child Jesus and his mother Mary to Nazareth in Galilee, seemingly for the first time.  Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth and went to Bethlehem only because they had to register there during a Roman census.  The statement that Mary laid her newborn child in a manger because there was no place for them in “the inn” indicates that they had no house of their own in Bethlehem.  Luke leaves no room for the coming of the wise men or a struggle with Herod.  The Holy Spirit is content to give us 2 different accounts of the Christmas events.  To treat them separately is being faithful to them  (Raymond Brown in Scripture from Scratch’s “The Christmas Stories”, 1994)

From Altogether Gift, by Michael Downey:

In Jesus Christ, Love’s Word, we see in a fleshly way the compassion of the Father.  The Hebrew word for a woman’s womb and the word for compassion are related, and both are related to the word for mercy.  Thus, the mother’s intimate, physical relationship with her newborn is the prime image for compassion and, hence, the compassion of God in Christ.

By the Incarnation of the Word, God enters human life, history, the world.  But the Incarnation also makes it possible for us to enter the very life of God.  Through the Incarnation, God became part of our eating and drinking, our sickness, our joy, our delight, our passion, our dying, our death.  But all this is for the purpose of drawing us out of ourselves, away from our own self-preoccupation, self-absorption, self-fixation, so as to participate in the divine life.

Be a Pulling Guard for Jesus!

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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2nd Sunday of Advent B

Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of football.  Mischaracterized because of their large size, they are statistically the most intelligent people on the field.  And their movements, so easily perceived as simply brutish, are deceptively agile and athletic.  [Don’t worry.  I think there will be a homily in here eventually.]

For example, there is the guard who is occasionally asked to “pull.”  This means that instead of blocking the man right in front of them, they actually move laterally around the end and block for the much faster running back following him.  And whether they know it or not, they are on a mission from the Prophet Isaiah to make mountains low, the rough ways smooth and “the rough country, a broad valley.”

The second thing I know about a pulling guard is that they are not famous or bask in glory.  I cannot…

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3rd Sunday in Advent, Cycle B

1st Reading – Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11

Some scholars suggest that this prophet may have delivered this uplifting message to his people while standing among the ruins that had once been Jerusalem. With these words of hope, they could begin to rebuild their city – and their lives.  It was the ‘year of favor’ from the Lord. A ‘Year of Favor’, or a Jubilee Year, was a time of social reconciliation and economic restitution according to Leviticus 25: 9-19, 23-55. The land was to rest without planted crops. The poor could eat freely of whatever ‘wild crops’ grew.  Property that had been once seized, borrowed, or rented was to be returned to its rightful owner. Slaves were to be set free. All debts were to either be remitted or forgiven. For such was the favor and forgiveness that Israel had experienced at God’s hand. (Celebration, December 15, 2002)  When you experience and know this kind of joy, you want to DO something about it.

Henri Nouwen reflecting on joy in Here and Now:

Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away…Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.  It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety…Joy does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives.  Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world…God’s light is more real than all the darkness.

2nd Reading – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24

As we wait with joy and hope for the many ways the Christ will come and does come, we are called to be faithful – and faith-filled – living with a trust in the amazing love of our God. Paul is trying to encourage three ways of living that are important: prayer-living, discerning-awareness, and wholesome-holiness. These three ways will help us to experience Christ in our lives no matter the circumstances. Let us not ‘quench the Spirit’ of Life and Love that is offered to us. This is a Christmas gift worth opening and using! (Celebration, December 15, 2002)

In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy…Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise-then you will discover the fullness of your life. ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast

The Gospel – John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering,

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.  ~Leonard Cohen

Maybe John the Baptist saw the crack, and helps us see the light coming through it.

This gospel may seem out place with the other two readings. We have been prepared with joy and hope; we have been encouraged with positive words and messages. But John’s message in this gospel is filled with negations: “I am not the Messiah, not Elijah, nor the Prophet . . .” He knew himself to be the “voice of one crying in the desert.” Yet, in that solitary truth and task he found joy. There is comfort and assurance in knowing who we are and what our calling is. There is joy in knowing how to look for the “one who is to come.” John is incomplete by himself: so are we! Let us with John be expectant in the midst of a desert – looking for light in the midst of darkness. Even a tiny flicker of light can dispel the darkest gloom. Maybe then we will be free to discover the many and various ways the Lord Jesus Christ comes into our lives. (Living with Christ, December, 2011, p. 123)

2nd Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

Let us pray with Joyce Rupp:

looking high into winter trees

I see the distant nests

cradled in arms of branches

 

nests:  round, full of warmth,

softness in the welcoming center,

a circle of earth’s tiny goodness,

flown far from the far corners,

patiently pieced together,

and hollowed into a home.

 

nests:  awaiting the treasure of life,

simple, delicate dwelling places

from which song will eventually echo

and freedom of wings give flight.

 

advent has been on my mind.

 

prepare the nest of heart.

patch up the broken parts.

place more softness in the center.

sit and warm the home with prayer.

give the Christ a dwelling place.  Amen.

1st Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11

From Celebration, Dec. 2002:,,This is the beginning of 2nd Isaiah.  It is sometimes called the Book of Consolation. It was written to a people who were in exile, a people who were

shamed and saddened in the truest sense. Although they were separated from their land, God would still care for them. The prophet was to speak to his people “tenderly.” The Jerusalem Bible translates this passage more literally by directing the prophet to “speak to the heart” of the people. For the Hebrews, the heart was the seat of the intellect and will. God wanted them to trust deeply that he would still care for them.

From Mary Birmingham, W & W Wkbk for Year B, p. 61:  Today’s reading refers to Israel’s return home as well as the prophet’s commissioning,  The heavenly court witnesses and approves God’s command, call, and commissioning of the prophet.  So commissioned, the prophet’s word announces a new age of restoration for the people.  Through the power of God’s Word, the world will be reconciled.  The people stood on the threshold of a new age,.  The creative Word of God had spoken as it was spoken at the dawn of an earlier age, the creation of the world, and into the hearts of all believers was infused the seeds of new life.  God’s glory would be revealed when the people were safely restored and in their own land.  For Christians the glory of God is revealed in the advent of the One Who Is to Come.  What does all of this mean to you?

2nd Reading: 2 Peter: 3: 8-14

From Mary Birmingham, p. 63-64:  This letter is a pseudonymous work attributed to the apostle Peter. Most scholars date it around the mid-second century (130-150AD). It is probably the last letter written of all the canonical New Testament documents. Its imagery concerning the ‘end of the world’ was a part of the culture of the times. Total destruction by fire was a popular belief from Persia to the Greco-Roman world.  These images were also common in Jewish apocalyptic literature. Such images or

opinions are not scientific assertions but mythopoeic images. Some scholars also suggest that the translation of heurethesetai (dissolved by fire) is better translated ‘will be laid bare’. Yet, keep in mind that the main point of this passage is that our God is a patient God – and that we need to use whatever time we have to repent, to change, to be reconciled.

Reginald Fuller adds these three points: 1) Watchfulness is a part of Christian living. 2) Rightly understood, the imminent hope in Christianity is a motivation for the pursuit of holiness and Godliness in life. 3) While we can demythologize our scriptures in order to have them ‘speak’ more clearly to us today, we must also hold dear to the fact that the final goal of history is the hope of a new heaven

and a new earth. (“Scripture in Depth”, http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The Gospel: Mark 1: 1-8

This is the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, as is stated. Mark has no infancy stories. Most scholars believe that this is the earliest gospel written, probably between 68-73 AD.  Mark was not an eye-witness to Jesus or his ministry. (He seemed to have incomplete and inaccurate knowledge of the Palestinian geography and customs.) He is a Greek-speaking believer who relied on already established traditions concerning Jesus, most of which were probably oral. He is a skilled craftsman who wished to share the joy of our salvation by writing a ‘gospel’ – a work of good news. He is addressing this ‘good news’ to a community that was suffering persecution. The center of this good news for Mark is Jesus’ suffering and death. This gospel is sometimes called a long ‘passion narrative’ with a brief introduction. For Mark, Jesus’ death assures us that God is forever with us, even in what appears to be utter destruction. This is good news!  (Celebration, Dec. 2002)

John’s clothing seems to be taken directly from 2 Kings 1:8 as the traditional ‘dress’ of a prophet. John’s diet also has to do with the truth of the good news he is to proclaim. Locusts were traditionally regarded as God’s instruments of judgment because they were agents of bitter and punishing destruction (Exodus 10:4, Isaiah 33:4, Psalm 105:34). Honey, however, signified peace and plenty and was a symbol of God’s comfort and care (Exodus 3:8, Deuteronomy 6:3). Together, these two ‘ingredients’ seem to announce the dual character of the gospel. Like locusts, the good news of Jesus Christ would lay bare and devour evil; like honey, the gospel would bring comfort, peace and sweet salvation to the repentant sinner.  Today, John still stands in our midst. He still calls us to prepare ourselves, our ways, our hearts, our wills, and our world to welcome the challenge and the comfort, the purifying power and the peace that is Jesus. (Celebration, Dec. 2002)

Ronald Rolheiser says that we all live with “an innate tension” – we want to be ‘ourselves,’ different, unique, independent. Yet, we also want to belong, to unite,  to be a part of community and to be intimate. Baptism both calls us to be ‘set apart’ from the world and to be part of a new unity, the family of God, the body of Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus show this tension. John ‘stood out’ – by his life style and his cry of repentance. His motivation, though, was to get people to come back to living the way God had called them – to be people of compassion and honesty. Jesus did not seem to set himself apart at all by externals. What set him apart was the integrity of his life which was filled with the intimacy of God and care for others. That set him apart – and that allowed him to show us and to call us to a greater intimacy with God and compassion toward others. Think of how you live with this tension and how God might be calling you. (“In Exile,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

How is the “nest” of your heart in relation to the dwelling of the Lord?  Do you have room for your God?  Is there an awareness in your life of the presence of the Lord?  Where in your life does the Christ most seek a welcome?