Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reflections on the Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent

By Sharon Nelsen

In this year of Faith, we are challenged to look at our religious Faith.  Today’s readings bring into focus true Biblical Faith, the Faith of Abraham which is trust in the Person of God.  Abraham pre-dates rules; Jesus pre-dates doctrine.  Trust in God, Our Father, Jesus, Our Brother, the Holy Spirit, Our Advocate, moves us beyond unbending adherence to a set of rules; to limiting our “faith” in God to working exclusively by the laws of nature or through the current understandings of science and medicine.

Abram, we are told after his conversation with the Deity, “put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”  (Gen. 15.6)  Being in right relationship with God is trusting God beyond natural limits, admitting that God, the Creator of the Universe is “allowed” to trump His own rules.

When we trust in a person, we are not fearful of verbalizing our wondering questions. Abram, when he hears the Deity promise him countless descendants and land, models the wondering question: “O Lord God, how am I to know (experience) that I shall possess it?” (Gen.15.8). Mary wonders how she is able to remain faithful to her vow to God and bear His Son, “since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1.34).  Zechariah, on the other hand, when told he will have a son, expresses doubt, not wondering, for he “knows” the limits of the natural law.  (Luke 1.18),

In the section before today’s reading in Philippians, Paul illustrates the difference between rule-based faith and trust-in-a-person-faith:
 “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing (experiencing) Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death (Phil. 3.8-10)

It isn’t about a set of rules, Paul tells us; it’s about a relationship with Jesus, Jesus crucified and risen, the real Jesus, who promises that “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”  (Phil. 3. 21)

A relationship with Jesus means “experiencing” him—not with a cerebral knowledge that wobbles through crisis after crisis pleading for help, but a personal relationship that sustains and strengthens us as we share in His sufferings---the groaning pains of the Kingdom being born in the here and now of our lives.

And how does Jesus let us experience Him?  The Gospels reveal every way imaginable including glimpses, as in today’s Gospel, of promised transfiguration. 

Like Abram in conversation God, Jesus trusts that the Father will reveal what needs to be revealed for the sake of the Kingdom.  In this instance of providing an experience of citizenship in Heaven, God strengthens Peter, James and John for the upcoming journey of following the Messiah through His suffering and execution.  
Peter doesn’t have a wondering question.  He moves right into action, allowing us to see how we look when we think we need to figure it out all by ourselves.  But God moves the Rock of the Embryo Church into the New Law, The Word Made Flesh: “This is my Chosen Son; listen to him.”  (Luke 9.35)

For us, ordinary laity, frequently the big wondering is how do we go about developing a conversational relationship with Jesus? The psalmist says, “Of you my heart speaks;” (Ps. 27.8) How does my heart speak?  Do I know how to listen to my heart?  How do I trust my heart?

For me, it begins with what I value.   The outside voice was highly valued in the era of my formation.  It took decades for me to believe 1) I had an inner voice; 2) It was “okay” to value it; and 3) It is permissible to act on it!  If I value first and only what others think and their values, I cannot value as primary what I see and hear within my own spirit.

Now, I have come to the place of hearing my inner voice.  The challenge for me is to value what I truly hear from the deepest crevices of my heart.  Out of my true self, I can begin to enter into a real relationship with Jesus. 

But, how do I discard decades of habits based on those “outside voice values” that tend to impede development and growth in a conversational relationship with the Lord?
1) By wanting to change those habits.
2) By asking God for the grace to change
3) By seeking help from all available sources: saints, angels, all who love and desire my wholeness.

Each morning, I ask, “What do I value today?” (Rather than, “What do I need to get done today?”) That question moves me to look within, to listen to the true voice, to put forth my wonderings; to value that voice.

When I value what God has “talked about” with me, I can move from private to public, as Paul shows us in the second reading---it is not about theory; it is about moving outward from our own private transformations.  It is about making my private conversation public, and when I do, I build up the Body of Christ, just as all holy men and women have done throughout the centuries
When I value God’s voice within, all acts that flow out of my conversation strengthen my trust in the Person of God in whom I live and move and have my being. Trust is wealth. It is not something we have because there is nothing else.  It is THE something else!   Our Faith tradition is built on the Faith of Abram, the Father of Faith, the possessor of that something else—Trust in the Person of God.  No greater trust is modeled for us than that of Jesus, who hands the Father His Life, “yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26.39b).  Through that final, trusting relinquishment, Jesus makes true faith, Holy Trust possible for all of us.

As each of us learns to trust God speaking within us, we are able to contribute to the enrichment of the Body of Christ, the Living Church, as God uniquely inspires us.

In over a decade of sustained effort on the groundswell movement for the Cause of Father Flanagan, I learned that the Institutional Church waits for a manifestation of Faith from the People in order to begin the canonization process. Is God waiting for a manifestation of our Trust in His Word within us?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Keeping Love in Lent: Bands of Love

"I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.”

Bands of Love

 by:  Heidi Knofczynski

My post is not about a family Lenten plan, we have several traditions - simple Stations of the Cross that are hand drawn on paper plates which we hang around our family room, the kids have only cold lunches and give the money they save to the rice bowl collection at their school along with various other effort at sacrifices and good deeds.  All of these things can sometimes feel like they are not worth the effort, especially when the children are arguing during your nightly stations of the cross, I often wonder what they could even be getting out of it.  But the Lord works in our chaos, but above all, I have learned that, as a mother of 8, I cannot even begin to get my children to carry out their Lenten sacrifices and good works with great love if I am not in touch with the love that is the center of all good things.  I need to reconnect in a deeper way with the Lord during Lent.  

So Lent, for me, is a time to consider where I am pushing God away, and why.  It can be long and dreary, giving up small pleasures for a time in the hopes of expelling vice and cultivating virtue.  I personally find that the story of Hosea, strengthens my personal resolve to journey with Jesus into what Lent is, a love story.

This is why I love the book of Hosea.  The story of his love for his faithless wife, and the pain that he goes through in enduring her infidelity, until he is forced to divorce her, is powerful.  It is, of course, the story of the Israelites, especially those in the northern kingdom, who mingled their worship of God with the worship of Baal.  They would very soon be taken off into exile by the Assyrians who would execute the “divorce” of Israel for their adultery with the Canaanite deities. And it is our own story, because we all struggle with various false gods who threaten our relationship with the Lord.  But God’s ways are not man’s ways, so that is not the end of the story. And once espoused to the Lord, always espoused to Him. In incurring God’s wrath and enduring their exile the Children of Israel have stirred His pity.

How could I give you up, O Ephraim, or deliver you up, O Israel? ... My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred.   I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.  Hosea 11:8-9

Listen to how tenderly the Lord speaks to us.  Listen to how protective He is. How fiercely he love us. We, who are so easily distracted from prayer, from silence, from knowing the God who loves us so passionately.  I know that for myself one of the things that I am trying to resist this Lent is the urge to turn something on when I feel a bit restless.  Whether it be the TV, ITunes (love to play Mumford and Sons) or the ever present temptation to check my email, then a few blogs, then my stats, then maybe Facebook , then some more blogs, then my email again.  I cannot tell you how many opportunities to pray and to cultivate a listening heart have been missed because I misdirect a subtle restlessness in my spirit toward some form of entertainment.  And misdirect may be too nice a term, I am really procrastinating because sometimes prayer is like wandering through a desert, and it is really way too easy to give my attentions to something else; something that feels more productive.

 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet though I stooped to feed my child they did not know that I was their healer. Hosea 11: 3-4

And there is much danger for us if we keep allowing distractions to rule us, especially in our culture. We are surrounded by entertainment and luxuries, and they can fool us into thinking we are satisfied, or will be satisfied if we can look like a model, or make lots of money, or receive an honor of some sort.  They can drown out the still, small voice that He speaks with.  And without God we cannot be satisfied.

“They shall eat but not be satisfied, they shall play harlot but not increase.”4:10

Doesn't that sound like our culture?  What a vicious cycle to be in.  Are you in it?  Now is the time to reflect.  What is pulling you away from prayer?  Sometimes, for me, it is that I feel so little during prayer, so I put it off.  Got to check that email first - then that restlessness that keeps telling me that I am too busy to "do nothing" will be satisfied and then I can settle down for prayer.   But, as I described above, we know where that ends for me.  When I realize that I am using that as an excuse to avoid seemingly dry prayer; when I realize that when I push off prayer I push off the Lord, I think of Hosea and how the Lord explained how he would win Israel back and espouse her forever:

So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.  From there I will give her the vineyards she had, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope.  She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt.”2:16

It is in the desert, the place of dryness, the place where I feel like nothing is happening, where I will be able to hear the Lord speak to my heart.  And how mightily I avoid it.  Lent is a time to go into the desert, to endure the deprivation, of a small pleasure, or of one of our many distractions, so that we can hear His voice.  Then Easter we can enter into the joy with a little more freedom and higher sense of what heavenly restoration may be like. So we can eat and be satisfied, we can love and be fruitful.  That is the love that I hope to begin to kindle this Lent.  That is the love story to end all!

 So how do you spend time going deeper into your relationship with Christ during Lent?

Peace and Grace to all!

Check out the Lent reflections participating in the Keep LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013! We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE.

Discover new Catholic Blogs to follow!
Equipping CatholicFamilies: Keep LOVE in LENT

Call Her Happy:40 Simple Lenten Activities for Kids

Lenten Love: Little Acts of Love

Grow the Roses: Keep Love in Lent

Family At The Foot Of The Cross: Loving Service

Catholic Homeschooling Joy: A Lenten Activity

JOY:Keep the Love in Lent

Twenty Tuesday Afternoons: Tuesday # 11: Pancake Tuesday / Keeping Love in Lent

Campfires and Cleats: Why a Failing Lent Really Isn't

Harrington Harmonies: Make a Lenten Holy Hour

A Mommy of Three:Good Deeds for Lent

Loving the Semi Country Life: Lent:special time to reflect and keep the love in lent

Written By the Finger of God: A 7 Step Lenten Plan

Mommy Bares All: Giving Up and Making Space for Love this Lent

The Irish Lassie Shop: Seek God Everywhere

Hand-Maid with Love: Living Lent, Loving Lent

Words On Heaven: IN THE DESERT FOR 40 DAYS

On The Way Home: Keeping LOVE in Lent

Homeschooling with Joy: Keep Love in Lent

Mountain Grace: Keep Love in Lent

Eyes On Heaven: I am Choosing to Live

Joy Alive in Our Hearts:"God's Love at Work"

Life of Fortunate Chances: Love is Fun: Keeping Love in Lent

Fifth of Five: Keep the LOVE in Lent

I Blog Jesus: for Praying our Loud!

Overflow: Loving Lent with Little Ones

This Cross I Embrace: Keep LOVE In Lent

Sole Searching Mamma: 15 Ways to Experience a More Meaningful Lent

Catholic All Year: My Biggest Lent Fails and How I Learned Mortification...

Four Little Ones: Keeping Love in Lent

Gaels Crafty Treasures Keeping Love in Lent

Bear Wrongs Patiently: Lent for the Scrupulous

Rosary Mom: Keeping Love in Lent

LoveLetters 7.10: Teacups {Keeping the Love in Lent}

Little Saints in the Making: Keep Love in Lent

Blessed with Full Hands: Keeping love in Lent- Praise Him

Normal Chaos: Our Own Personalized Lenten Journey

These Little Blessings: Gifting Love this Lent

The Cajun Catholic: The our Father; a lenten reflection

Truly Rich Mom: Keeping Love in Lent... Even When It Is Difficult


SaIsa Pang Sulyap - Fullness Of His Love

LiturgicalTime: Keeping Love in Lent - Finding Balance

Grace Loves Iggy: love in lent

Sacred Oysters: Empty (Keeping LOVE in LENT)

Tercets:Make Heart Rosary Decades to Pray for Others

The Diary of a Sower: Our Lenten Prayer Tree

A Living Garden -- Giving for Others with Love: Keeping LOVE in LENT

Homegrown Catholics: Motivated by my childrens' activities {Lent}

MyBroken Fiat: Keeping Love in Lent... Barely

Journey to Wisdom: Keeping Love in Lent: Bands of Love

Softening My Heart: An Anniversary Lesson duringLent

Keeping the Love in Lent: Lots of Love... Inspirations from a 4-year old

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The First Sunday of Lent: Temptation in the Desert

I love Pope Benedict!  I love his books on Jesus of Nazareth.  It is in my reading of His first book in the series (from the baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration) that I have based this reflection on, and the quotes were taken from that book.

On the First Sunday of Lent we read in the Gospel of Luke of how Jesus was led into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live on bread alone’.”  Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.  The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me and I may give it to whomever I wish.  All this will be yours, if you worship me.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, you God, and him alone shall you serve.’”  Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written:  ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you’, and:  ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”  When the devil had finished every temptation he departed from him for a time.”  Luke 4:1-13

What is the central temptation here?  Pope Benedict XVI states that it is the temptation to “push God aside as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives.”(pg. 28)   We are tempted to see the realities of our world as more real than our relationship with God.  And this puts all of our actions on a shaky foundation, disordering even out best intentions.
With this in mind I remember a time when I was driving home from church with my son Stephen and we ended up behind someone with the bumper sticker: Coexist.  Nice, it sounds good and accepting…except in my opinion, it is one of the most disingenuous bumper stickers out there.  It is a devilish trick indeed to appeal to our natural desire for unity, and to do it by making faith take a back seat to the goal of unity.  The other bumper sticker on this young lady’s car proved my sense to be true.  It said:  “While you are at church, I am out doing good things.”  So, in fact, Coexist is not some statement about being kind and accepting of different creeds, but a statement that religion, in general, and Christianity specifically, is just one big childish distraction that needs the “real world” grownups to admonish them to all play nice and get along so that good things can be done.
The feeling that faith in God is superfluous to serving mankind is a growing attitude.  And even among practicing Christians the temptation to pull bits of Scripture out of the Bible and separate it from its source (GOD!) is strong. (And to be fair to Coexist, her philosophy becomes all the more acceptable because of this.)  However, this undermines the strength of our faith and thus the strength of our compassion. If you think that keeping the lines about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked from the Bible is fine, but don’t care if we lose those passages about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, especially when loving God is equated with following His commands, you are not terribly far off from Coexist’s take that faith and worship undermine good works. Is this not the temptation to push aside faith and worship for more “real” concerns?

The reality is quite the opposite, as we see with Jesus in His temptations.  When Jesus goes into the desert He does so in obedience to the Spirit, in a continuation of His baptism.  He enters into a time of intensive prayer and fasting in which He seeks to draw His strength and His love from the Father.  Now He enters into our temptations to push God away.  These temptations to push God away crop up for a number of reasons; because we can’t fix everything, because we suffer and others also suffer, because we desire to be in control of our own destinies and be assured that all will be well.  Jesus endures His temptation under great physical stress, He shares, in a way, our weaknesses.  He is showing me that my only hope in resisting “the delusions of false philosophies” is to recognize that we do not live by bread alone, “but first and foremost by obedience to God’s word.” (pg. 34)  An obedience that leads to the love of God abiding in me.  “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him.”  1 Jn 2:5

I can imagine very good reasons for giving into the temptations that are presented to Jesus; taking care of bodily needs is good, having a just man in power is good, being able to have faith in the Lord’s protection is good.  But in all these actions the devil is tempting Jesus (and me, every day in some way) to become my own god, to decide for myself what God would do, and to demand that He do it. The devil does not want me to submit my desires and actions to prayer and to the commandments first.  He does not want me to grow trust in Him through times of suffering.  He does not want me to learn to know the Lord, through prayer, though His living word and through obedience to His commands.  He wants me to relativize His word, so it is abstract, distant and His commandments are malleable.
If we do not really take to heart what Christ is doing when He refuses to turn a stone into bread to feed what must have been a profound hunger, when He refuses to assume earthly political power, or when He refuses to put God to the test, we also are at risk for allowing the reality of God, and of His Son recede into the abstract.  And with our faith simply an idea or a concept, we are susceptible to the tyranny of moral relativism, which saps our moral strength.  And when we lose our moral strength the good that we seek to do becomes perverted into something that in the end is so much more harmful.  This is where we become enslaved to “compassionate solutions” like abortion for unwanted pregnancies….because we do not have the moral fortitude to teach virtue.  Because we do not have the enduring love of God in us to help us to suffer with and through these situations, which are often messy and painful all the way around.
We cannot love and serve or even coexist with others with the supernatural strength it takes in this world without the love of God in our hearts.  And it is in prayerful listening and obeying God's commands that leads to a relationship with him which places His love in our hearts.    When we can act with that foundation of love, we can truly serve the “urgent matters” that present themselves with true integrity and authentic compassion.  It is not easy to resist the temptation to push God to the side, let us all pray for one another to keep God at the center of all that we do.

Peace and Grace of Christ to all!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You Are Dust: A reflection on Ash Wednesday

 It has been a long week with a sick child for me and many other obligations, so I have not had as much time to work on this reflection as I would have liked.  But I feel a strong pull this Lent to get a deeper understanding of how disordered I am, and how much the Father loves his little ones who are just learning they need to take a few courageous steps...so here is my reflection:

“By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3;19

The daily Mass readings that lead us to this Ash Wednesday bring us back to Genesis; to the story of our Creation and remind us that the God who created everything wants to heal us.  He is that mighty wind that swept over the waters and formed the formless and enlightened the dark abysses.  He wants to reform us back to Him. Because, as we are diverted farther away from Him, the fact that we are dust and to dust we shall return becomes a distant but haunting reality, one that leaves us vulnerable to the enemies’ attempts to enslave us to so many futile efforts to refute it.  Ash Wednesday is our invitation to begin the journey to break those chains.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of Salvation.  2 Cor 6:2

In fact, according to Paul, we who are in Christ are a new creation, which is good, because I have a God-given desire to be so much more than dust!  I want to be beheld with glory and honor by my God. 
However it is in the recognition that we are dust, the acceptance of our insignificance, our nothingness, our lowliness before the Almighty God that we can begin to know His great love for us.  We can begin to place our trust in Him. We can be the little child who is not concerned with his stumbling as he learns to walk, he is only concerned with the loving encouragement of his mother and father.
Read the readings for today.  What do they say to you?  Where are you hearing the call to repentance and reformation in your life?  What can you do during Lent to bring you to Jesus? What will remind you every day to reach out and touch the tassel of His cloak in your prayer so that you can become a new creation?  Do you trust Him to do it?  Are you afraid that you can’t do it?

 Whatever penance you take up this Lent, remember that it is never too late to start, and you can never fall too many times in that penance.  As Psalm 51 points out it is the contrite and sincere heart that brings our God to our aid.  Our Lord wants to save us, and like the good and loving father so enthusiastically watching over his little ones as they begin to become this new creation, He never tires of helping us back to our feet.  We are dust in His hands, if we were not we would not recognize our need for Him.  We would not need to be made new in Him.  Praise God that we do!

 So do not fear the knowledge that you are dust!  Do not be afraid to allow Him access to a deeply entrenched sin that distracts you from your most profound need of Him. Do not fear that in the process of being reformed you will fall, perhaps again and again!  And above all, do not fear the silence of God, He has not left you, He is strengthening you.

But do not just take my word for it!  Take it from the Little Flower, who truly understood how deeply God loves us in our lowliness.  I am reading a book called I Believe in Love…A personal retreat based on the teachings of Saint Therese of Lisiuex written by Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee, (I highly recommend it) and it contains a quote from one of the letters that the Little Flower wrote to her sister Celine:
What does it matter to my Jesus, if I fall every moment?  It shows me my weakness and that is great gain for me…….do not fear, the poorer you are the more Jesus will love you.”

So I say again with Saint Paul:
“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”

Peace and grace to all of you!

Friday, February 8, 2013

God's Call to Us

A Reflection on the Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Posted by: Larry T

The Scripture readings for this Sunday direct our attention to God’s call to the Prophet Isaiah, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul. 

The Call of Isaiah. When God needed a prophet to speak to the Israelites, He looked down from heaven and tapped Isaiah, a Hebrew aristocrat, on the shoulder. 

God might have said, “Isaiah, son of Amoz, I need a prophet.” 

Flushing at the recognition of his own shortcomings Isaiah might have thought, Yahweh I am not worthy. Surely there is someone else more suited to the task. 

“Isaiah, I want you to speak to my people.” 

5Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” – Isaiah 6:5-8 (NAB)

The Call of Saint Peter. When Jesus needed a leader for His church He selected an ordinary fisherman.

Jesus might have said, “Simon Peter, I want you to be the head of my Church.” 

Studying the tops of his sandaled feet, Simon might have thought, Lord - me - head of your Church. I’m just a run of the mill fisherman, you can’t mean me, choose someone else. Besides that, my name isn’t Simon Peter. 

“Simon Peter, I choose you.” 

7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” – Luke 5:7-8 (NAB) 

The Call of Saint Paul. When Jesus needed a great evangelist and theologian He chose the most unlikely person of all, a zealous Pharisee who was breathing murderous threats against His disciples. 

Jesus might have said, “Saul, I need an evangelist.” 

Imagine Saul’s bewilderment. Flat on his back and wondering who tripped him, he might have thought, Jesus you’ve made a really big mistake. The boys back in Jerusalem are going to have a good laugh over this! 

“Saul, I choose you.” 

8 Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me.
11 Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed. – 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 (NAB)

God’s Call to Us. God called the Prophet Isaiah, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul to service. He has called me as well. What have I been asked to participate in? Jesus calls me to help build up His Church. God expects all of His people to serve Him. (Romans 12:1-20 NAB) Sometimes He selects common folks for special service as He did with Saint Peter. What about me?

What about ordinary Catholics? How can we serve Him? Should we become sacristans, lectors, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion? If we feel called to those ministries, the answer is yes. We might also serve as greeters, ushers, serve on parish committees, or even help clean our churches.

On this day, and every day what can I do to help build up our Lord’s Church? Is having spiritual love for my Christian brothers and sisters, is recognizing and rejoicing over the work of the Holy Spirit in others, is serving others with humility, is raising our children to be good young Christian men and women, is tithing, is spending time in prayer, is refraining from gossip, is asking God’s blessing over our food in a restaurant, is refusing to use profanity building up His Church?

In the run-up to Lent, I think I’ll pray, Lord, Jesus how can I best serve you during the forty days of this Lenten season? Please guide me.

His response is sure to be, “Larry, I’m really glad that you asked because I need help with  . . .”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Healing of the Garasene Demoniac

Today’s  Gospel :  Mark 5:1-20    Jesus and the Healing of the Garasene Demoniac

  After reading today’s gospel, I feel a little light entered my struggling mind.  I tend to perseverate on thinking things through and self-examination.  A little examining can be good as in a nightly examen, as in the St Ignatius fashion.  But a lot of self-examination in an endless loop can be harmful to self.  Isaiah said it well (Is 59:7-8):  Their thoughts are destructive thoughts, plunder and ruin are on their highways.  The way of peace they know not, and there is nothing that is right in their paths;  Their ways they have made crooked, whoever treads them knows no peace.”  I think this may be, in the end, selfish and prideful to spend so much time looking at yourself, so I’m always looking for ways to end my mind looping and get on with life for Christ.  That’s why today the story of Jesus healing the Garasene Demoniac is so hopeful , a story of recovery from a seemingly impossible situation.   Here’s a brief paraphrase of this poor man’s problem:

A demoniac in the pagan territory on the “other side of the sea” immediately met Jesus as he stepped out of the boat.  The haunted man dwelt among tombs, a lonely and isolated place, unrestrained by others.  Those others had tried to shackle him with chains and handcuffs, yet the haunted man “pulled the chains apart and smashed the shackles,” so strong was the effects of the unclean spirits.  No human restraint could hold him.  In his freedom he ran around his lonely tombs and hills, crying out and bruising himself with stones.

  In this I see a reflection of my inner turmoil, the lost and lonely state of mind I’ve been in.  Not that I feel possessed by demons, but that that shackle and bondage of my life I’ve been trying to break or understand, leaves me running around crying and continually bruising myself with rocks of self recriminations, doubt, guilt and sin(multiple recriminations feel “Legion,” the name of the demon inside haunted man).  I try to resolve these meanderings of the lonely hills and tombs by my own power (or with advice of spouse or friend) but they seem to keep going, no human power is going to resolve it. 

                Catching sight of Jesus from far away, the demoniac runs up to Jesus, bowed down and “shouted at the top of his voice,” “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”

  Then out of the sea (the ancient place of primordial chaos) arrives my savior, Jesus, who comes to my lonely and pagan territory within my unsettled mind.  I suppose that being a child of God, he’s always there but I just have too many clouds in my interior castle to really see him or feel his presence.  This haunted man recognizes Jesus immediately, hurriedly approached him and prostrated himself before Jesus…maybe I need to do more of this?  Recognizing a power greater than self perhaps will help me recover?  (I think this is the first step in the AA process!  Another avenue for healing!)  Jesus came to this man, already calling for the demon to come out of him.  The man didn’t first ask for healing.  Certainly, Jesus was aware of this man’s needs and provided for his care and healing as he came upon the demoniac in the lonely tombs of his life.  What an awesome idea, that the Lord knows us and wants us well even before we ask it of him.  And Jesus can heal us even when we ourselves are stuck in the mind loop of self recriminations and can’t break out (or don’t want to break out??!)

  The story continues with Jesus sending the unclean spirits into the swine herds in the area, then the pigs run off the cliff into the sea, back to the place of chaos.  As a result, the man regained his right mind and is clothed!  How astounding a healing as indicated by the reaction of the town’s people:  fear!  I suppose an observer might be brought to fear, given that a greater power had to overcome unclean spirits whose effects were so terrible and hopeless on the man.  But as we know Jesus, who came with love, compassion and pity for us poor human beings, he came not for destruction but for good.  Jesus’ own life story demonstrated the best practice for battling temptations of the devil:  One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. ( Mt 4:4) So here are a few helpful words of God from the Prophets which are so comforting:

Jer 30:17  For I will restore you to health; of your wounds I will heal you, says the Lord. 

Jer31:25   For I will refresh the weary soul; every soul that languishes I will replenish.

Is 40: 28-31  Do you not know or have you not heard?  The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.  He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.  Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

Is 44:18-19  Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new!

Is 44:25  It is I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses, your sins I remember no more.

Is 58:15  For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One:  On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed.

  The story of the Garesene Demoniac ends with Jesus sending the healed man out on a mission, proclaiming what the mercy of the Lord has done.  Jesus heals us for mission, which is simply to proclaim his glorious love to others, to witness to his strength and power over seeming impossible situations and states of mind, and to give hope to others on this journey of life, using God’s own words of wisdom.  In conclusion, I think the best way to put on the mind of Christ and release our minds from the broken record inside our own mind is to read the word of God.  Read it for healing, look up those passages which bring you healing and comfort, for that is what God wishes for us:   Peace, love and healing so that we can continue to praise him for this glorious salvation and share his love with others!

Peace!  Janet

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reflections on the Gospel for Sunday, February 3, 2013

By Judy Morss

Today's gospel reading is taken from Luke 4:21-30 and is a continuation of the gospel reading from last week. Jesus is in the synagogue in Nazareth and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He has just finished reading the passage "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor..." and then announced that “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” I can visualize the men sitting around Jesus listening to him and thinking about all the great miracles they have heard Jesus has done and wondering what wonders He will do for each of them.

Jesus knew what was in their hearts; they were self-centered and would ask for signs and wonders, looking for what Jesus give to each of them. Surely the deeds for them would be even greater than those performed elsewhere in Judea. But as He always does, Jesus looked into their hearts and knew what was there. He reminded them that just as their ancestors had rejected God's prophets, Elijah and Elisha, so they would reject Him.

Faith is the key to miracles and the key to our conversion. Our world is overwhelmed by individualism; what's in it for me? What's in it for my personal fulfillment? It is never easy to step back from personal interests and to accept the invitation that Jesus is offering us. He calls us as individuals to join together and to walk along and beside him. He calls us to a cultural revolution in which trusting in God, longing to be with Him, and truly working together to move toward the Kingdom are the desired outcomes. And so the question becomes: How do I eliminate pride, envy, greed from my heart and truly work for what for the good of all? Something for us to ponder as we move toward Lent. We have one more Sunday before Lent begins. I plan to focus on what I can do to pass on the desire to join together to focus on that cultural revolution; I'm not planning to focus on what I can "give up" for Lent, but rather what I can DO during Lent to help bring about this cultural revolution.