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.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Sunday December 6, 2015

A Reflection on Luke 3:1-6, N.A.B.

By: Larry T

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert:
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
                    make straight his paths.
               5 Every valley shall be filled
                    and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
          The winding roads shall be made straight,
                    and the rough ways made smooth,
               6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” 

As we reflect on this reading we might take a few deep breaths, close our eyes, and imagine that we are back in Jesus’ time. We’re walking parallel to the densely wooded bank of the River Jordan searching for a place to wade across when suddenly we come upon a throng of people gathered at the river edge.

Puzzled, we tap a burly onlooker on the shoulder, “What’s going on?”

He turns with a smile, “Friend, John is baptizing those who are ready to be consecrated to God.”

“Who is this John?”

“He is John the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, but people just call him John the Baptist. Most people say that he is a true prophet of God, like Elijah of old”

Standing on our tiptoes and stretching our necks to see over the crowd we can see John immersing one pilgrim after another in the cold water of the river.

We tug on the cloak of our new friend, “How do you know that he is a true prophet of God?”

Turning he smiles again, “Just wait until you hear him preach. Besides that, the only clothing he wears is camel hair with a leather belt around his waist and all he eats is grasshoppers and wild honey as a sign of strict self-denial and spiritual discipline. Just wait, he’s almost done with the baptisms and will soon begin preaching.

Intrigued, we decide to wait around to hear what he has to say. After all, anyone who dresses in camel hair and eats grasshoppers and wild honey might be worth listening to. As soon as he finished baptizing, he dried himself off and strode to the top a nearby grassy knoll. He turned to face the crowd.

Someone said, “John tell us what to do!”

He said, “Anyone with two tunics must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.”

A tax collector rose to his feet. “Master, what must I do?”

“Exact no more than the appointed rate.”

A soldier stood up to speak for his small group. “What about us? What must we do?”

John said, “No intimidation. No extortion. Be content with your pay.” Then he turned his back to the crowd and strode purposefully away into the wilderness.

John’s message was unmistakable: give up extortion, blackmail, gouging, stop being greedy, and begin sharing with those who are in greater need. He eventually became so popular that Herod Antipas, fearing an uprising, had him first imprisoned and then executed. John’s reputation was so great that early Christians had to take special care to differentiate him from Jesus and underscore his inferiority to Jesus.

Still yet, the Acts of the Apostles contains two stories (18:24-28; 19:1-7) which tell us that John’s movement not only survived long after his death, but reached as far as Ephesus. And Josephus, the Jewish historian, some sixty years after the death of John wrote, “He was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice toward their fellows and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism;” (Ant. 18:116-119).

In the Church year John the Baptist is most prominent during the Advent season. The role of precursor or forerunner to the Lord is attributed to him by way of Isaiah 40:3:

3 A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! 

Important as his role as precursor to the Lord is, it’s John’s message that is the essence of the Advent season. It’s in living out his message that we truly prepare for the coming of the Lord. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pass Me Not By

A reflection by Heidi Knofczynski

Whenever this Gospel is proclaimed at Mass, I always connect it with the hymn, Pass Me Not, Gentle Savior.  

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Oh, how Zacchaeus wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus,!  So much so that this man, who had a great deal of power within the community, was willing to cast aside his ill-gotten dignity and climb up a tree to do so.  An impulsive act perhaps, but Jesus, who knows what occurs in the depth of our hearts, was there at exactly the right moment.  He willingly entered this bully’s home to dine with him.  This caused much grumbling among those who had also gathered to see Jesus.

Many of those grumblers may have been scandalized by this because Zacchaeus so willingly took the side of oppression and dishonesty for his own personal gain.  But among those grumblers, there were some in that crowd who may have been deeply hurt by Zacchaeus’ unscrupulous actions.  Their honor has been stolen; stolen and misused by this little man in a tree!  Why would the healer pass by the victims in favor of the victimizer?

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

I admit in my meditations, sometimes I find myself to be a major grumbler in the crowd.   I see myself standing in the crowd as someone wounded by that small person.  I am still struggling under the burden of the dishonor and humiliation that was heaped upon me.  I had hoped beyond hope that the Savior would reach out His hand and call me to Him, to restore what was taken.  But instead, He passed me by to get to Zaccheaus, did I deserve my dishonor?  Is there nothing about me or my sorrow that calls to His Heart?  I do not even have the strength to even want to forgive this little man you are calling on.   I start to fear my hopes; I start to doubt my Savior. Better to not hope than to be let down.

It is really hard to stay with a meditation like this, because it is so painful.  There is often so much fear that He will not respond to the pain.   And on top of that, in the background of these thoughts are the murmurings of our own guilt, because we know we have failed others.  It is easy to think: Maybe I don't deserve His attention.   Maybe I am selfish is desiring it. 

Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.

Listen carefully to what Jesus is saying when you start to waiver.   Allow the Lord to draw you out of your fears.  “Do you trust me?”   He speaks so softly you can miss it: “I have not passed you by.  Those who hurt you cannot truly pay their debt to you without Me. Fourfold you will be repaid. My justice surges like water and spreads its splendor like an unfailing stream. (Amos 5:24 ).

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

Truly we should not begrudge Zacchaeus his joy at being singled out by Christ in this way; we all are a Zacchaeus to someone.  We have stolen someone’s honor, or made them feel insignificant or worse.   Mostly we do this blindly, but not always. In Him only is our hope for repaying our debts, and in Him is our only hope of recovering what has been taken from us.  Christ does not pass you by ever in indifference to your hurts!  He is always bringing you to a deeper level of healing with a stronger faith and a higher hope!

How do you relate to the story of Zacchaeus?  Are you ever worried that He might pass you by?

As Christ approaches you this Advent, let Him draw out your deepest fears and replace them with a hope that is deeper still.  Let your trust in His gentle ways cause your justice to surge like waters and flow like an unfailing stream!

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.”

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Be All That You Are Intended to Be!

Sunday Sep 6, 2015 
A Reflection on Mark 7:31-37 N.A.B. 
By: Larry T 
How can expert knowledge develop into ignorance? Give a master electrician a book promoting a new theory on what causes circuit breakers to trip, then wait a month, and ask him if he has read it. The answer will typically be, no. Why wouldn’t he read it? Sometimes it’s because, after all, he is a master electrician, and he considers himself an expert on all things electrical, so he refuses to read and learn new ideas. What’s worse, he might even scoff at the new concept. When expert knowledge is self-sufficient, or arrogant and haughty, it can lead to ignorance. In a sense the electrician is deaf because his mind is closed, and since he refuses to learn new concepts, he cannot teach them, so he also has a speech impediment. But he isn’t alone; this is one of the fundamental flaws of our human nature. In Scripture the best example we have of this is Saint Paul.

Paul (his Roman name) or Saul (his Hebrew name) had been taught by the greatest teachers in Judaism. He was a devout Pharisee, an expert on Mosaic Law. He was so arrogant and haughty in his superior knowledge of the Law, and all things Jewish, that he not only refused to listen to anything Jesus said, but considered him a blasphemer. Saul, the single-minded persecutor of Christians; went so far as to endorse the stoning of Stephen for blasphemy (Acts 8:58). He was deaf to Jesus and the truth, and since he didn’t hear the truth, he couldn’t speak it, so it follows that he had a speech impediment as well. These are the same ailments that plagued all humanity before the coming of Jesus. It was only when the Lord whacked Saul on the head with a spiritual club that his hearing and speech disorders were healed, and he went on to become a great evangelist, theologian, and saint.

This Sunday we read about the healing of a deaf man who had a speech impediment. It is one of two miracle healing stories that are exclusive to the Gospel of Mark. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of the healing act itself that we forget the purpose of the miracle healings performed by Jesus. These acts proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God through Jesus to a world that had become unable to hear the true word of God.

31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.
32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;
34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.
36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.
37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” - Mark 7:31-37 N.A.B.

In this reading, verse 37 echoes Isaiah 35:4-6 which was written some eight-hundred years earlier; it identifies the signs of the arrival of God’s Kingdom:

4 Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
          Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
          he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
          he comes to save you.
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
          the ears of the deaf be cleared;
6 Then will the lame leap like a stag,
          then the tongue of the dumb will sing.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other Old Testament prophets constantly preached to obstinate and rebellious people who refused to hear and pay attention to God’s commands (e.g., Jeremiah 5:21, 9:19, and Ezekiel 12:2). And whenever Jesus said, “Whoever has ears ought to hear”, he was imploring his audience to listen to him so that they could receive the truth, which is God (Mt 11:15, 13:9, 13:43, Mk 4:9, 4:23, Lk 8:8, and 14:35).

Why does mankind remain obstinate and rebellious, content in arrogant and haughty knowledge when it comes to God and his commands? Pope Benedict wrote, “God himself is constantly regarded as a limitation placed on our freedom that must be set aside if man is ever to be completely himself. God, with his truth, stands in opposition to man’s manifold lies, his self-seeking and his pride.” - (Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI, 2012) 

Ironically, setting God aside so that we can be all that we can be is one of the great illusions of our modern time because it is a hollow promise that leads to frustration and emptiness. It is only when we hear and obey God that we experience the joy of becoming what we are truly intended to be.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sacramental Marriage

Sunday August 2, 2015
A Reflection on John 6:24-35 N.A.B.

By: Larry T

Moses and the Hebrews received the Law from God at Mount Sinai somewhere around 1230 B.C. Thereafter the Hebrews knew Moses as the leader of their exodus from Egypt, the Law giver, the provider of manna in the desert, and someone who had been on intimate speaking terms with God. Moses was the greatest of all prophets; he was a colossal figure in Hebrew thought. By the time Jesus began his public ministry in 27 A.D. the Hebrews had been living according to Mosaic Law for nearly one-thousand two-hundred and sixty years. The tension between Moses and the Law (age-old tradition) and Jesus (new revelation) is evident in this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?
31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. 

– John 6:24-35 N.A.B.

It is important to note that in John’s Gospel the term “the Jews” didn’t necessarily refer to people of the Jewish faith; the author frequently used this term to mean people who rejected Jesus and his teachings. Since this interchange was with “the crowd” and not with “the Jews”, this group hadn’t rejected Jesus; they were willing to listen and learn. But Jesus was claiming to be greater than Moses! How could that be? Moses was larger than life! They had no intention of turning their backs on one-thousand two-hundred and sixty years of belief without a convincing sign from God.

This crowd eventually did receive the sign they were seeking: Jesus’ death and bodily resurrection. In the theology of John’s Gospel, it is clear that the Law given to Moses and the Hebrews in 1230 B.C. was not set aside by Jesus, but brought to perfection in Him. But, does the crowd in this Sunday’s Gospel reading deserve criticism for interrogating Jesus thoroughly before altering their faith?

In the two-thousand years since the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on Pentecost, the Spirit has guided the liturgy, the Magisterium, theologians, and the Christian faithful through heresy and controversy to the truth that is God. We forget that such things as the development of the sacraments sometimes took centuries.

In his book, Doors to the Sacred, A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, Joseph Martos wrote: “Relatively early in the history of Christianity, marriage was regarded as a sacrament in the broad sense, but it was only in the twelfth century that it came to be regarded as a sacrament in the same sense as baptism and the other official sacraments. In fact, before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin Church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriages between Christians.”

All along, church officials had struggled with calling marriage an official sacrament because it existed before the coming of Christ; therefore it could hardly be said to be a purely Christian institution like the other sacraments. So, church leaders were content to rely primarily on civil governments to regulate marriage and divorce between Christians and non-Christians alike. That marriage was always intended to be a union between a man and a woman was never in dispute.

Had the Holy Spirit not guided the twelfth century church leaders into elevating marriage to a sacrament on the same level as baptism and the other sacraments, it would have remained a simple civil affair.

Today another crowd has gathered; the faces have changed, but what we have in common with the throng in today’s Gospel reading is that we, too, are being pressured to set aside Sacred Scripture and thousands of years of faith history. But the demand to change our belief doesn’t concern Moses, it concerns marriage, and the demand is not coming from God, instead it is coming from a worldly society that is trying to elevate itself above God.

Like the crowd in today’s reading, we need an unmistakable sign from God before we change our belief concerning sacramental marriage. Rulings from civil authorities and societal pressures are not signs from God! Such a signal must come from God through the leaders of our modern Church functioning under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lacking that sign, we must do everything possible to preserve the sanctity of sacramental marriage as has been defined by the Catholic Church ever since the twelfth century.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

I Am Still Here

A Reflection by Sharon Nelsen on Mark 5:21-43

This past Sunday, I attended services with a Boys Town student at the Protestant Chambers Chapel at Boys Town.  I arrived early and was able to stand outside and watch the family home vans drive up, park, and pour forth stunning groups of boys or girls.  Each young man was dressed in slacks, a colorful dress shirt and tie; the young women came in flowing dresses of all styles.  Like colorful streams of life, they proceeded to enter Chambers Chapel.

As I entered with my young student, we were handed a worship leaflet that contained all the songs and readings for the service, as well as the sequence, and, a place for making notes of our own responses and inspirations.

We began with praise, the singing led by a wonderful, spirit-filled Boys Town family teacher.  Selected students proclaimed the readings—the same three scriptures being read at the same time on campus at Dowd Catholic Chapel.  I was struck with the theme of Pastor Michael’s sermon—“Jesus is always available.”  He took that ministry of Jesus and broke it open for us in the stories of the hemorrhaging woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from death.  I had come to services that day very concerned about my friend in hospice and a few other situations of apparent hopelessness.  Pastor Michael’s faith stirred up faith within me.

The next day as I was reflecting on my flawed faith in relation to Jesus’ availability in all situations  in my life, I became aware of the spirit of negativity that has plagued me and my family for generations.  I asked the Lord to set us free from that spirit and to fill us with His Hope and Joy in knowing that in Him, everything is all right because He has the power in all situations and if we but ask, we receive.

I realized that sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, thinking of ourselves as “wrong” or “not right,” when actually we are just flawed.  A grapefruit’s skin can be flawed with a brown spot and still be a tasty, delicious grapefruit; a tree can grow unevenly and still produce good shade, a home for birds, fruit and beauty; a family can have flawed members and still be a good family.  All of us are flawed by sin and yet we are good, wonderfully made in the image of God, “fearfully, wonderfully made” as the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 139.  I could feel my mustard seed of faith growing; Jesus is available for every situation I am willing to bring to Him.

As I reflected further on Jesus’ availability to us, I heard the Lord explain:

Even if there is contamination,

I am still here.

Even if there are flaws,

I am still here.

Even if there are missing parts,

I am still here.

Even if there are missing resources,

I am still here.

Even if there is abusive power,

I am still here.

Even if there is terminal illness,

I am still here.

Even if there is ignorance,

I am still here.

Even if lies seem to prevail,

I am still here.

Even if bitterness takes hold,

I am still here.

Even if all seems bleak,

I am still here.

“Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?” (Genesis 18.14)

I am

I am here,

With you now and forever!


This morning I am more grateful for the faith and vision of Father Flanagan who adhered to the truth, “Every boy must pray, how he prays is up to him.”   I personally experienced the fruit of his work in the preaching of Pastor Michael.  My faith increases as I reflect and remember that Jesus is always available for us, for He loves us with an everlasting love, and love means being available to another.  Availability is the hallmark of all staff at Boys Town.  

It seems fitting to conclude with a quote from St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) who mentored St. John Bosco, who inspired Father Flanagan in his mission to homeless, neglected boys, “We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”  Love is always available.  “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor. 13.13)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Traveling Preacher

Sunday July 5, 2015
A Reflection on Mark 6:1-6 N.A.B.
By: Larry T

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we read about Jesus’ preaching experience in his hometown synagogue. At first the people were fascinated and spellbound as they heard Jesus interpret the law in a new and astonishing way, but when they remembered that he had been their neighbor and was a simple carpenter at that, they turned their back on him and his message. What went wrong?

1 He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
2 When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
3 Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
5 So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

How much time does a professional speaker have to gain an audience’s trust? Is it two, five, ten, or fifteen minutes? The answer is less than five, and sometimes as little as two minutes. In view of this professional speakers are trained to use a variety of time-proven techniques aimed at earning an audience’s trust in the first critical minutes of their speech.

For example, men are told to wear white shirts and women advised to wear white blouses because white implies purity. Married male speakers are instructed to wear plain gold wedding bands because an audience is more comfortable with a man who wears a simple gold wedding ring. Politicians consistently follow this recommendation; even politicians who are multimillionaires typically wear plain gold wedding rings when making speeches. Some speakers have meeting rooms set up with ninety percent of the seating required for the anticipated audience size; then they have additional seating brought in at the very last minute. This is so that seated audience members might think, Wow! Look at all the people coming in at the last minute, this speaker must really be good! These simple tricks-of-the-trade are all designed to help build credibility with the audience. Since Jesus had been invited by the synagogue officials to address the meeting he didn’t have much of a credibility obstacle to overcome.

What was the audience expecting from Jesus? After all, He was just one of them, and a common tradesman at that. At best His reading of the scroll could be a little better than average. Since Jesus didn’t have a formal education in Mosaic Law, his interpretations couldn’t possibly equal those of the Pharisees and scribes. All things considered their expectations of Jesus’ preaching might have been pretty low; some onlookers probably steeled themselves to simply suffer through it.

How good a preacher was the Lord? He astonished them! He stunned them by explaining Mosaic Law in ways that they had never heard before, in ways that they were not ready to accept. Every word that Jesus spoke and every act that he performed was a divine act in human form. This synagogue audience was simply unwilling to accept the Word of God. They rationalized that a simple carpenter could not possess the wisdom to speak as He did, so they rejected Him. Jesus was amazed at their lack to faith.

For two-thousand years all humanity has been Jesus’ audience; he continues to preach to us through Holy Scripture and his Church. Like the synagogue audience we have two choices: we can receive Jesus and live out his message, or we can reject him. The greatest fear that professional speakers have is that their audience will get up and walk out on them. This Sunday we might reflect on the Lord’s dismay as he sees members of his audience get up and walk out and his joy over those who stay.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord

 By Sharon Nelsen 

The month of June, this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has always been for me a time of developing more intimacy with Jesus. As I pray and listen in my morning prayer time, I experience the Lord leading me to a more meaningful relationship with Him. Years ago, when I first sang “Taste and See” (the song written by James E. Moore Jr.) the words settled into my heart. Recently, it appeared that God wanted me to apply His words more specifically. A “This-is-how-you experience-it teaching of Jesus” came to me: 

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord.

Taste the FREEDOM of being released from bondage.

Taste the STRENGTH of trusting that I understand everything about you and all circumstances of your life.

Taste the HOPE from the promise that I make all things new and that I can and do bring good out of 2 Corevery situation you hand over to Me.

Taste the PEACE of experiencing my loving care, concern, and presence.

Taste My DESIRES burning in your heart.

Taste the JOY of being in relationship with Me, in My Word, in My People and in our quiet times together.

My desire is happiness for you, for all; happiness that flows from our relationship.  As you listen, as you taste, as you see My Goodness, you will not be able to stop the flow of happiness welling up within you, washing out all pain, cleansing and strengthening you each day. My love, Dear one, now and forever, Jesus

Another scripture touched my heart this month. As I reflected on “For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him (Jesus),” 2 Cor. 1.20 these words flowed out so effortlessly that I knew they were gift from the Holy Spirit and meant for all of us:

You are dear                  Open your ear

I am near                        You will hear

Can you hear                  For you are dear

My yes?                          To Me!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Journaling with Sharon: Examination of Conscience or Self-judgement

By Sharon Nelsen

This morning’s verse 10 from Psalm 103, revealed to me my disbelief:  The psalmist declares that God does not “treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”  Intellectually, I have to accept that, but experientially, I do not believe it.  It feels like presumption to me.

I took that to the Lord in prayer and discovered that I believed the lie, not the truth.  The Lord led me to look at what was underneath the lie, what was keeping me from accepting the Peace God offers me in those wonderful, merciful words.  To my surprise, what surfaced was that I needed to look more closely at the differences between examining my conscience and self-judgment.  To that end, the Holy Spirit activated this understanding:

Examination of Conscience

1. Taking time to reflect on my motivations and acts

2. Believing “I have power and freedom to choose/decide.”

3. Desiring growth/challenge

4. Acting in the conviction that God is with me

5. Free to admit errors

6. Empowering

7. Encouraging

8. Affirming

9. Owns true self

10. Delights in one’s humanity


Reacting to immediate accusations, “I should have…”

Believing “I am a victim; I really have no choice.”

Avoiding growth/challenge

Acting as if God is my adversary, against me

Fear of “being wrong”




Denies true self

Resents being human

If I believe the lies associated with self-judgment, then I will avoid healthy reflection on my acts. To help me change my habit, the Holy Spirit inspired me with a “Once Again Prayer”:

Dear Merciful, Compassionate Divine Friend,

Once again

I have fallen short

Once again

I ask your forgiveness

Once again

I rely on your mercy

Once again

I ask for Your Grace that I may

Once again

Serve you with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole being

Once again

I give You the praise and the glory for all the good you have worked through me and will

Once again

Continue to work through me in spite of my faults and weaknesses.

Once again

I thank you, Dear Triune God, for being with me. Amen!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Birthplace of the Church

Sunday June 7, 2015
A Reflection on Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 N.A.B. 
By: Larry T

At a small group faith sharing meeting last year our parish pastor asked, “What does the Last Supper mean to you?” Red faced, the eight of us stared studiously at our hands, not daring to meet his eyes. To be sure, it wasn’t a fair question - the kind to be answered on the spur of the moment, because there is more than one good answer. Still yet, it is a thought provoking question. What are we to make of the Last Supper?

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we read about the events leading up to the Last Supper, the meal itself, and the institution of the Holy Eucharist:

12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.
14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’
15 Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.”
16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Our attention is immediately drawn to the words of Institution (vv. 22-24) because they are a familiar part of the Mass, but there is much more to it than that. Is it possible that Jesus asks each of us, Where is my guest room where I may eat my Passover with you? And if His words and actions have caused us to spiritually prepare for Him, He will come to dwell within us.

Once the meal preparations were completed Jesus gathered his disciples and went to the upper room. Today, some two thousand years later, Jesus continues to assemble us (his disciples) in preparation for the meal.

Jesus abruptly departed from the traditional meal ritual when he broke the bread, handed it to his disciples and said, “Take it, this is my body” and then offered them the cup saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many”. They would have been both alarmed and puzzled at Jesus’ words and actions. They could not have immediately fully understood that with this act Jesus was providing them and all humanity to come with the gift of his body and blood.

When the priest elevates the consecrated host above the paten or above the chalice and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” we might recall the words of Revelations 19:9 N.A.B.: “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These words are true; they come from God.” The image of a wedding feast is frequently used in Scripture to describe the Kingdom (Matthew 22:2, 9:15, 25:1-13). When we receive the consecrated bread and wine which are truly the body and blood of Jesus, we are in communion with him; through it our living God spiritually and physically receives us.

The early Church was founded on Jesus’ death and Resurrection, which he anticipated in the gift of his body and blood at the Last Supper (v. 25), so we might even go so far as to say that this meal was the birthplace of the Church.