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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.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Blessed Are They Who . . . "

Sunday November 1, 2015
A Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12A, N.A.B.
By: Larry T

How can we define Christian spirituality? In his book, A Guide to Today’s Spirituality, Father Richard J. Hauser, S.J. wrote: “At the heart of Christian spirituality is an adequate understanding of the self. Spirituality is our effort with grace to become what we have been created by the Lord to be; we must grasp who we truly are in order to know what we are to become.” Does being spiritual and being holy mean trying to be like Jesus? The answer is yes; the more we become like Jesus, the more we approach what we were intended to be.

If we define spirituality as becoming like Jesus, our spiritual formation probably started when we first began to learn about the Bible; as early as when we were taught the Golden Rule as small children. And, even though we might not have realized it, the process of becoming more like Jesus continued as we heard and understood more about him from the Gospels.

The Beatitudes present us with a self-portrait of the Lord; it’s here where Jesus tells us how to become more like him.

1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 He began to teach them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
- Matthew 5:1-12A, N.A.B

Jesus wasn’t content to give us a Beatitude to-do list; he showed us how to live the Beatitudes.

When was Jesus poor in spirit (humble)? 3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,4each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. 5Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, 6Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:3-8

When did Jesus mourn? 37“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! – Matthew 23:37

When was Jesus meek? 4 This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
5“Say to daughter Zion,
‘Behold, your king comes to you,
     meek and riding on an ass,
     and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. 7They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.
– Matthew 21:5,-7

When did Jesus hunger for righteousness? 15 They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 16He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. 17Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves.” – Mark 11:15-17

When was Jesus merciful? 14When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. – Matthew 14:10

When was Jesus clean of heart? 8Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”10At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! – Matthew 4:8-10a

When was Jesus a peacemaker? 49His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” 50And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. – Luke 22:49-51

When was Jesus persecuted for the sake of righteousness? 15They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. – John 19:15-18

When was Jesus insulted and persecuted falsely? 1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, 3and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. – John 19:1-3

If we were to choose one word to describe Jesus’ Beatitude message it would have to be love - the true core of Christianity. But, how does Christian love mesh with our modern world or with any society since His crucifixion, death, and bodily resurrection?

Mankind’s first sin against God was the arrogant presumption of self-sufficiency which prompted him to put on airs of divinity, to be his own god. Setting God aside in this fashion seemingly permits us to possess life completely, to gulp every last drop of what it has to offer. Nevertheless, yielding to this temptation remains the greatest spiritual danger we face.

Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012. When I heard of her tragic death I thought, what could have possibly caused this beautiful, talented woman to reach for drugs. Didn’t she have everything in life that she could possibly want? What happened to Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, and Robin Williams? Ignoring the possibility of mental illness, is it possible that they struggled with the desolation of not giving and receiving Christian love – a Godless existence? 

The Beatitudes do run counter to our self-seeking culture, as they have to all cultures since they were first preached by Jesus, but they lead the way to richness of life and the greatness of our calling as spiritual citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Do you trust in Something Greater?

A reflection by Heidi Knofczynski

Do you remember the trembling glasses of water in the movie Jurassic Park?  In this scene some park guests being treated to a grand tour are stranded just outside the now de-electrified T-rex paddock.  Then the sounds of thundering footsteps are heard off in the distance moving towards them.  The footsteps are so powerful that even from a distance they create a vibration that causes the water inside the glasses to ripple slightly.

BOOM!  Something great and terrible is coming this way… BOOM!  Something powerful….BOOM!  Something greater, and if you endure it you will never be the same!

It is a terrifyingly effective scene.  Something like that feeling grips me as I read today's Gospel from Luke.   As Jesus speaks to the crowd His words fall with such portentous weight that, for me, it triggers a trembling inside.   His unfathomable reality exposes my fragmented, abstract, Christ-haunted spirituality.  He has come to take us beyond our superficial expectations into the unknown of eternity.  He has come to cast off all that we cling to to distract us from our nothingness.  Fear is a natural response to death.


In Ecclesiastes Solomon saw how we “chase the wind “in search of something greater, something that will help us outlast death.  Riches, pleasure and even wisdom may serve to distract us, but ultimately they only give the illusion that our life “under the sun” has meaning.  Solomon’s wisdom kept running into the same unavoidable obstacle:  Death means inevitable nothingness.  We are shadows that cannot overcome that darkness.  Until then, don't do evil and cast your bread upon the waters.  In other words, don't cling to stuff, rather enjoy life before nothingness of death absorbs you into its shadow.  Vanity of Vanities! 
But there is something greater than Solomon here.

Solomon’s wisdom goes to the brink of death, but there all he sees is darkness.  Jonah is taken further; he goes into the belly of a fish, which should have been a tomb, in order for God to bring an urgent warning to the notorious city of Nineveh.  This city, whose ruthless reputation filled all who heard of it with fear and loathing, listened to the man who came from a tomb bringing them a fearful message.  They listened and cast off their evil identity, through prayer and fasting and placed their hope in a power that overcame a tomb.
And there is something greater than Jonah here.


We must cast everything upon the waters; our hopes, dreams, who we think we are and even (like the crowd that gathered around Jesus) who we think
that Jesus is.  What is only a shadow within us must be overcome. We will be left with an acute awareness of our nothingness,  But Something Greater has come to us, in all His earthshaking reality.  Endure it, do not run and hide.   Let His perfect love overtake you to cast out the fear of death to this world, because death cannot absorb Jesus into its darkness.  Jesus is no shadow. 

BOOM!  Something greater has arrived!

What are you clinging to today that needs to be cast off?

Update:  I forgot to add this Switchfoot song, BA55...."I believe you're the fire that could burn me clean"

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"For I Hate Divorce, Says the Lord."

Sunday October 4, 2015
A Reflection on Mark 10:2-16 N.A.B.
By: Larry T 

Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce must be understood in the context of first-century Palestinian Judaism where marriage was a legal agreement between the groom and the bride’s father. In the male-controlled culture of Jesus’ day, wives were regarded as the husband's property.

Joseph Martos wrote in Doors to the Sacred:

“Though there were local variations, the usual custom was that on the wedding day the father handed over his daughter to the groom in her own family’s house, after which the bridal party walked in procession to her new husband’s house for concluding ceremonies and a wedding feast. The principal part of the ceremony was the handing over of the bride, during which her right hand was placed in the groom’s, and the draping of a garland of flowers over the couple to symbolize their happy union. There were no official words that had to be spoken, and there was no ecclesiastical blessing that had to be given to make the marriage legal and binding.”

Divorce was uncomplicated. The husband simply presented the wife a certificate of divorce. In it, he would testify that he had divorced her and that she was free to marry someone else; then, he would send her away. Although the Romans had a legal practice where wives could initiate divorce proceedings, Jewish wives were not permitted to divorce their husbands.

Divorce itself was taken for granted and tolerated as an ancient custom. The regulations written by Moses in Deuteronomy demanded sufficient cause, established certain legal formalities, and set rules concerning remarriage. So, it could be correctly stated that Moses permitted divorce. But what was sufficient cause? Great Jewish teachers had debated the exact meaning of sufficient cause for centuries. The school of Shammai gave the only permitted reason for divorce as sexual misconduct on the woman’s part, whereas the school of Hillel said “Even if she spoiled a dish for him”, and Rabbi Aquiba said, “Even if he found another more beautiful than she is.”

Still yet, Moses permitted divorce. It was against this background that the Pharisees accosted Jesus hoping to trap him into contradicting what they regarded as clear teaching of the Torah permitting divorce.

2 The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.
3 He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
4 They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”
5 But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.
6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.
7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife),
8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this.
11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;
12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
- Mark 10:2-16 N.A.B.

First, Jesus dismissed the permissive text from Deuteronomy as Moses’ concession to human weakness; then he drew on two texts from Genesis to show that God’s original plan for men and women was that they would no longer be two, but one flesh. From this divine ideal Jesus told them (v.10:9) that divorce is contrary to God’s plan: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Around 445 B.C., the Old Testament prophet Malachi wrote:

16 For I hate divorce,
     says the LORD, the God of Israel,
And covering one’s garment with injustice,
     says the LORD of hosts;
You must then safeguard life that is your own,
    and not break faith. – Malachi 2:16 N.A.B.

Portrayed against the background of first-century Palestinian Judaism, Jesus’ positive ideal of marriage as becoming “one flesh”; and therefore, that there can be “no divorce” was regarded as extreme since most Jews in Jesus’ time took divorce for granted. In verse 12, Jesus also extended his teaching on marriage and divorce to include those Roman legal procedures whereby a wife could initiate divorce proceedings.

That early Christians, too, had considerable difficulty coming to terms with Jesus’ “no divorce” teaching in the Gospel of Mark (the first written gospel) is evidenced by Paul’s advice to new Christians who found themselves in mixed marriages (1 Corinthians 7:12-16), and by the addition of “unless the marriage is unlawful” in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.

It is hard to know exactly what Jesus intended in his teaching on marriage and divorce, and how we should take it. Is it an ideal to strive for, a challenge to be faced, an extreme example, or divine law? And which part of the New Testament evidence is more important – Jesus’ absolute prohibition of divorce in the Gospel of Mark or the exceptions introduced by Paul and the Gospel of Matthew?

Within Christian churches of all denominations there is a wide range of approaches to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. For church leaders and believers alike it remains a complex and difficult issue. No matter how Jesus’ teaching on divorce might be interpreted and applied, the devastation of divorce is undeniable – we see the wreckage on a daily basis, especially in the children of divorced parents. Children of failed marriages bear psychological wounds that in one way or another remain with them for the duration of their lives. In the face of this, there is an element in our culture that endorses putting aside family values for the sake of personal motives without regard to the damage done to children or society. Contrary to their claims, the well-being of society has always rested on the family.

In addressing the World Youth Day volunteers Pope Francis said: 

“God calls you to make definitive choices, and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move forward toward personal fulfillment. God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, which believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”