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, February 28, 2015

I am Peter!

A Reflection on Mark 9:1-10 N.A.B.
By: Larry T

Peter, James, John, and Paul were the four pillars of Jesus’ emerging Church. Peter, James, and Paul were ultimately murdered for preaching the Good News. Peter was crucified; James and Paul were both beheaded. Clearly, their faith in Jesus enabled them to face their executions, but why were they so loyal to him? It is true that Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus perform various healings and miracles, but it was probably the Transfiguration of Jesus, the empty tomb, and Jesus’ physical resurrection that cemented their faith. The Transfiguration was meant to be a wellspring of power and hope for them.

1 He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.”
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
6 He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
7 Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
- Mark 9:1-10 N.A.B.

What did Jesus mean when he said “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.”? This statement has been the source of much debate and speculation through the centuries. Just what did Jesus mean? Theologians and biblical scholars do not all agree on the meaning, but some convincingly argue that placement of this statement immediately before the Transfiguration clearly relates it to the Transfiguration event. Following this line of thinking, Jesus promised Peter, James, and John that they would personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God “in power.”

Then, Jesus led them up onto a high mountain where he was transfigured before them and “and his clothes became dazzling white such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” The astounding whiteness of His clothing reflected His transfigured glory.

Moses (the lawgiver and liberator) and Elijah (the first great prophet) suddenly appeared and began speaking to Jesus. With one foot in the Old Testament and one foot in the New Testament, Jesus is undoubtedly the new Torah.

Next, the whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud (C.C.C. 555). With, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” the Father revealed Jesus to be his Son, representative, and revealer, then he gave divine authority to Jesus’ teachings.

The Second Letter of Peter to the Christians wasn’t written by Peter, but by an anonymous author. Still, it was based on oral tradition that summarized their Transfiguration experience, so we know that it had a deep-rooted effect on them.

16 We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. - 2 Peter 1:16-18 N.A.B.

Later on, Peter vehemently denied Jesus three times, so we know his faith was still being formed. Imagine the bewilderment when he ran to Jesus’ burial tomb and saw that it was empty. On its own, the empty tomb didn’t mean much to him because Jesus’ body could have been stolen or it might have even been the wrong tomb. Nonetheless, he was certain that Jesus had died on the cross because one of the Roman soldiers plunged his spear into Jesus’ side (John 19:34 N.A.B.). It was only when Peter could see and speak with the physically resurrected Jesus that his faith was completely formed, and he could become one of the four leaders of the early Church.

As we reflect on the Transfiguration of Jesus, we might take the time to relax, take a few deep breaths, close our eyes and imagine that we are walking side by side with Peter. Can you hear loose gravel and small rocks crunch under our sandaled feet as we climb the mountain? We’re all gasping for breath and grunting as we struggle to keep up with Jesus. Rivulets of sweat stream down our foreheads into our eyes stinging them. Jesus is suddenly transformed. His clothing is so blindingly white that we can’t bear to look directly at him. Imagine our terror when Moses and Elijah magically appear. Moses and Elijah! Have we all died? Panic stricken, Peter foolishly blurts out something about building three tents. Then the cloud appears and we hear the voice of God the Father. In an instant it’s all over. What are we thinking as we carefully and silently make our way down the mountain? What just happened? Was it real? Was it a group hallucination?

Peter’s spiritual journey progressed from simple curiosity about Jesus to partial faith, then to half faith, and finally to rock solid faith in the Lord. Especially at this time of the year, as we work our way through Lent into and through the Easter season, we should set aside time to walk with Peter through each spiritual event as we just did through the Transfiguration. Be overcome with love for Jesus at the Last Supper as Peter was. Feel our blood pressure skyrocket and our bodies stiffen in rage as we see our beloved Jesus being brutally arrested. Share in Peter’s disgrace and despair at denying Jesus. Recoil in horror at Jesus’ crucifixion. Sense the desolation of the eleven disciples at Jesus’ death. And finally, be overcome with pure joy at being with the resurrected Lord. Peter’s spiritual journey is an example for all Christians; his faith journey from beginning to end is our faith journey. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lord, I Just Want You!

A reflection on Psalm 131 by Heidi Knofczynski

"Lord, I do not puff myself up or stare about,
or walk among the great or seek wonders beyond me.
Truly calm and quiet I have made my spirit:
quiet as a weaned child in its mother’s arms –
like an infant is my soul.
Let Israel hope in the Lord, now and for all time."
Psalm 131

A while ago, in our usual mad rush to get out the door to school on time, my little preschool daughter had a meltdown over her socks. They did not feel right, and there was nothing I could do to make them feel right.

We were already running late for school, there were no socks that were an adequate replacement for the offensive pair she was wearing, so in frustrations I screamed, “I can’t help you!! I don’t know what you need!”

 Crouched on the floor with tears streaming and fists clenched she took a deep breath, and softly said: “I just want you!” 

Sigh! We were late for school.

She climbed up into my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck , sobbed a little more but very quickly relaxed. She was feeling rejected at school, and had no idea how to handle it.  In stead of seeking help, she held in her hurt and fear until she could not hold it in anymore.  In reality, she just needed a few words to reassure her of her worth and dispel the murmuring worries in her head about what the other girls thought of her. From there she was ready to go forth, quietly forgive them, and be friends again.

Her response epitomizes to me what this Psalm is getting at.

The world is filled with complex problems that we cannot always avoid.  We need to have the childlike humility that can cry out to the Lord in times when the murmuring voices confuse us and breed isolating, prideful self-sufficiency in our dealing with the very real hurts and problems that come our way.  "Lord, I just need you" should be a constant prayer that rises up out of our hearts.  Especially when we feel attacked and misunderstood and are tempted to justify ourselves with empty accomplishments, and puffed up self-justification.  We need to allow Him some quiet moments to reassure us of our infinite worth in His heart and to hush the murmuring voices that confuse and distract us.  Peace and forgiveness have a chance when we can become like a child resting confidantly in her mother's arms.

Peace and grace,

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Did God Get it All Backwards?

(A homily on the 1st Sunday of Lent, by Deacon Paul Rooney)

     On this First Sunday of Lent, our readings talk about floods (Gen. 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22) and hot deserts (Mark 1:12-15).  A deacon friend of mine from PA pointed out that we are seeing severe snowfall back East, and record-breaking cold temperatures all over the nation, including here in Omaha!  Now seriously, admit it, isn’t the idea of being in the hot dry desert starting to sound pretty good about right now?  J
     Our Gospel story is very short today.  Let's remember the background to today's short episode.  Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist; and we heard the heavenly Father saying, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."  Then almost before he even had time to dry off, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert for the purpose of being tested by the Devil.

     Now, doesn't it seem as if God was doing it all backwards?  First he praised Jesus, and then he permits the Devil to test him.  It's as if a teacher awarded a pupil an A-plus, BEFORE  handing out the exam papers.  Did God get it all backwards?  Is something wrong here?

     We might think that God the Father should have waited until AFTER Jesus was tempted.  Then, if and when Jesus resisted these great temptations, THEN  the Father could say, "with you I am well pleased."  That's what Hollywood would have done, isn't it?  They would have advised our heavenly Father to wait until the time of Jesus' crucifixion.  Then at just the right moment when Jesus was hanging on the cross, Hollywood would have a large ray of sunlight come down between the angry-looking clouds.  Imagine the horror and shame appearing on the faces of the soldiers and Sadducees, when the mighty voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."   Then of course God could add in an earthquake (say, about "6.0" on the Richter scale), as a climax.  That's what Hollywood would suggest.

But that isn't the way it really happened.

     So, why did the voice come from heaven BEFORE Jesus' public ministry?  And why, as soon as God praised Jesus, did the Holy Spirit drive Jesus off into the desert to face temptations and trials?

     The answer is really simple.  God's ways are not our ways.  Suppose — just suppose for a moment — that God knows what God is doing.
      Some years back, parents had different ideas about children.  Many parents, maybe most, talked to toddlers in some form of "kootchy-koo" baby talk.  But parenting styles have improved since then.  We have discovered that children who hear baby talk will learn to speak baby talk.  Later they will have to re-learn to talk standard English.  Re-learning is difficult, and children who have to re-learn this way, usually find it difficult to communicate well in adulthood.

 BabyWomb.png    Someone discovered that if we want our children to have good reading skills, we are not to wait until they can read.  Instead, we are supposed to read to them out loud -- read anything, from Shakespeare to Cinderella—and play Good music, all while they are still in the womb.   In the same way, and for the same reason, we praise them.  We certainly don't wait until they graduate to tell them they are good at certain skills.

     Notice how God is acting the same way toward you and me.  Through Christ, God has already told us certain things about His feelings towards us:  That we are forgiven, that we are saved, that we are His people, that we are His children, and that He loves us unconditionally.

     And now we have a special opportunity to "prove" whether God is right or wrong about us!  This special season that we call Lent is one of those opportunities.  God encourages us to pray in private, to fast in secret, and to give alms in secret.  This is the way we respond to God's loving words to us.  In this three-fold way we can be sure we are doing it all for love of God, and not for love of self.

     Let's ask ourselves one Q every single day during Lent, as soon as we wake up: What can I do for God today?  Can I take a lesson from Him, and praise Him and thank Him, even before He showers the day's blessings upon me?
     Know that God is with you on your Lenten journey!  (+)
My thanks to John Bristow for these considerations. -Dcn Paul.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Unclean! Unclean!

A Reflection on Mark 1:40-41

By Heidi Knofczynski

In biblical times the fate of a leper under the Law was dire.   It was a living death really, the leper was cast out of society as his illness slowly ate away his numbed flesh.  A more horrific or hopeless situation is hard to imagine.  This harsh fate is justified by the fact that leprosy was considered highly contagious, it was thought that a mere touch was all it took to spread the disease. The communtiy was quite helpless to cure it, or to stop its spread.   Who could have the power to heal and re-form such horrific disfigurement?

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (or Brother Simeon as he is now known to the Trappist Monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey) so beautifully puts it in Fire of Mercy/ Heart of the Word: 
“Where men flee the leprous contagion, the divine compassion seeks it, is only at home on earth where its impulse to heal can go about its work.”

he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’

The destruction caused by sin in our souls is beyond the conception of most of us, particularly us modern folk.  We are numb to the disfigurement of our divine image, and even if we have moments of awareness, there are too many superficial comforts that are easier to access, too many false identities that divert us from the integral healing that Christ has for us. But God never gives up on us. He allows us to go through times of desolation and darkness to prompt us to seek Him, and to show us how desperately we need Him.  I have spent miserable nights, days and even weeks when every sin, every failing, rises up to condemn me.  I feel the accusations so acutely that I cannot even formulate a prayer, I don't feel worthy.  I simply accept the debased image of myself that is presented to me.  Until I can't any longer.  Until the weight of His presence and His power calls out to me, and I know all the flaccid Jesus platitudes that are offered to sinners like me do not heal, even if they pretend to "accept" and "include" me, they only continue to allow the process of spiritual isolation to slowly overtake me.  Leprosy is an apt comparison to the progressive damage of sin.  And in our post Christian culture the spiritual leprosy of our time is growing.   It leads to false pride, and when that fails, to isolation and despair.   Who can save us?


A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.

The work of the divine Healer is always more amazing when we contemplate how deep it goes.  In healing this poor leper in the Gospels show us not only the Lord’s divine compassion, which He expressive with an intimacy of presence that only One with divine authority over creation could dare to have, but we also see how the Lord draws out fortitude, heroism and courage as part of the true healing that is sought.  These are virtues that each of us needs to have restored, because we are made in His image and likeness -- fallen though we may be.  Jesus does not just heal physically --  He does not just regenerate rotting flesh, but He heals integrally, restoring life to our soul and dignity to our humanity.

The leper had to break through the isolation of his station in life and endure whatever hostility he aroused as he breaks with convention and himself to be drawn to Jesus in a more profound and personal way.  This is what may be in store for us as we seek His healing.  Because we too must break through the hostility of a world that has isolated and wounded us.  We must struggle to resist the fleshly desires that have enticed and enslaved us.  We must let go of the resentments and fear that anchor us to our brokenness.  We must be wary of the deceits of the devil who uses every tactic possible to divert us from being drawn into His intimate healing touch.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.


 Yes ,the obstacles are formidable, but His divine power is greater -- submit to it.  His divine compassion is deeper-- seek it.  His divine healing is ultimately one that recreates our debased, disfigured souls. Hearken back to the power of the divine Word commanding the light to break forth at the dawn of time; the same divine command seperating the light from the darkness; the divine hand that formed man out of clay into His image and likeness and breathed His life into him. That same power that hovered over the waters in the beginning now stretches out his hand over the leper and commands  "Be made clean.”

Give one area of sin to the Lord this Lent. and don't give up no matter how many times you fail.  When fears arise or when self-condemnation or self-pity overwhelm you with the accusation that you are “unclean” don’t shrink back,.  Go to Him in prayer, in sacramental confession, in the Mass and submit yourself to Him saying if you will it”  and trust.  Because from the depth of His divine love He does will it.  He said so.

“I do will it. Be made clean.”

Glory to God!  Heidi

Friday, February 6, 2015

Go Off to a Deserted Place and Pray

Sunday, February 8th, The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Judy Morss
Job 7:1-4,6-7  
Psalm 147
Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 
Gospel according to Mark 1:29-39

Job is in torment; he is being tested by both God and Satan, as we are each day of our lives. Job cries out that his "days come to an end without hope...I shall not see happiness again."    Yet when I read further in this chapter (v 8-12), Job has turned to prayer and receives the gift of humility and trust in God.

In Psalm 147, we are reminded that the Lord "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" and to "Praise the Lord, for he is good." This Psalm calls us to praise, to prayer.

As I reflected on the readings of today, my thoughts kept coming back to the gospel reading, Mark 1: 35. "Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed."  The New Testament is filled with so many instances of Jesus going off to pray. Sometimes, Jesus needed to get away from the crowds, to find peace and a chance to gather His thoughts.  Other times, he needed to spend time with His Father.

 As I think about the solace found in going off to pray in a quiet place, I recognize that this is something I don't do nearly often enough. I get tangled up in the things of life.  I pray the rosary while I am driving somewhere to do something.  I pray while I wash the dishes, fold clothes, etc. Even when I am in adoration, I find my mind wandering. I am still looking for that quiet place where I can truly pray.  Finally, I have realized that until I quiet myself, my body, my thoughts, my heart, my soul, I can never find that deserted place where I can truly pray.

Lent is rapidly approaching.  I am not planning on a huge list of what I am going to GIVE UP during Lent. Instead, I am going to focus on finding that deserted place where I can pray. I do know that deserted place is already inside me.  I merely need to ask the Lord to open that door and help me step inside. As we enter the Lenten season, I pray that all of us can find that deserted place where we can truly encounter our blessed Lord and Saviour.

Peace and Blessings -- Judy