He Gave Them Authority: Mark 6: 6-13


He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching. He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Being limited in His hometown to do any mighty deeds, by the peoples lack of faith, Jesus moves on to the villages in the vicinity teaching. By doing this He is preparing the Twelve for their first steps of formation  as representatives of Jesus Christ; roles they will have to fill after Jesus returns to the Father.

This is also our first glimpse into what will be foundational for the priesthood of the early Church. Also, for the first time in His ministry, He gives the Twelve authority over unclean spirits and to cure many who were sick.

Along with this authority, Jesus sends them out to preach repentance. As a continuation of last weeks reflection, about how a lack of faith limits God’s activity in our lives (and even our communities) – without repentance , we close the door altogether to His activity in our lives.

In the context of this passage, repentance brings about deliverance from unclean spirits and allows the sick to be cured. We read, and last year studied, this aspect of repentance and healing, in St. James letter chapter 5 in verse 16 we read, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. In this passage we see that repentance (the confessing of sin) and prayer (which is done in faith) are the only things we are told that bring about healing. Also within the context, this is done under the authority of the priesthood, Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up, for they were given this authority by Christ Himself, and passed on through Apostolic succession.

These passages should remind us all of God’s willingness to give His children His authority. Not just in the formal setting of the Mass, but in our everyday lives as well.

Are we not filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we not reminded in St. John’s first letter that, …for the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world?

Do we accept  that authority? Do we allow ourselves to live victorious lives ? Or do we reject  the authority of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s written word?

This week, let us challenge ourselves to believe what we’ve been told by God . Through repentance and faith we have, not just the ability, but the authority  over unclean spirits and sickness in our lives.

Now, let’s go out there and live in His authority !!

Amen.

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The Hem of His Garment: Mark 5 : 42-34


He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Last week we looked at how Jairus’ faith affected his daughters life. This week we look at the woman with an issue of blood or as stated above with hemorrhages, and this went on for twelve years.

Just what is this hemorrhage? Let’s look to the Old Testament book of Leviticus, chapter 15, verses 19 – 30:

“When a woman has her menstrual flow, she shall be in a state of impurity for seven days. Anyone who touches her shall be unclean until evening. Anything on which she lies or sits during her impurity shall be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Whoever touches any article of furniture on which she was sitting, shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.  But if she is on the bed or on the seat when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. If a man dares to lie with her, he contracts her impurity and shall be unclean for seven days; every bed on which he then lies also becomes unclean. “When a woman is afflicted with a flow of blood for several days outside her menstrual period, or when her flow continues beyond the ordinary period, as long as she suffers this unclean flow she shall be unclean, just as during her menstrual period. Any bed on which she lies during such a flow becomes unclean, as it would during her menstruation, and any article of furniture on which she sits becomes unclean just as during her menstruation. Anyone who touches them becomes unclean; he shall wash his garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. “If she becomes freed from her affliction, she shall wait seven days, and only then is she to be purified. On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent. The priest shall offer up one of them as a sin offering and the other as a holocaust. Thus shall the priest make atonement before the LORD for her unclean flow.

This woman, who we assume knew the Law, was taking a great risk by coming out into the crowd. Her family, friends, her doctors and the rabbis in her religious community, all knew of her uncleanness. So you can see the desperation in her action. What did she have to loose? Her existence was in total isolation – as if she were dead. She sure wasn’t living, was she?

From one of my commentaries, it states the following (from the Rabbinical books):

The remedy for a female hemorrage: Let them dig seven ditches, in which let them burn some cuttings of vines under four years old. Let her take in her hand a cup of wine; let them lead her away from this ditch and make her sit over that. Let them remove her from that and sit her over another. At each removal you must say to her, ‘Arise for thy flux.'” That’s not medicine, is it? Well, it was at this time. No wonder her patience – not to mention her money – had expired.

She had heard about Jesus, His healing of others, the casting out of unclean spirits. Saying to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” What an act of faith! As St. Paul himself would later write in his letter to the Romans, “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)

Her faith caused her to act. To seek Christ and His healing. Just as Jairus’ faith had caused him to act, on behalf of his daughter. One faith, one Lord, expressing itself differently an yet, the same.

“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” These are His words to us today. Our faith – our active faith – will save us. For it sends us to Him.

So this week, let us turn to Him in faith, seeking to do what pleases Him. Have a great week and enjoy this song by Sam Cooke, “The Hem of His Garment.”

Amen.

A Man From The Tombs: Mark 5:1-10


They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.

Because of my tendency to be long-winded (or in this case, long-versed.)  I had to break this section of Sacred Scripture  into two parts. But, I wondered if I did that, if I could keep the continuity of the whole story. Where would be a good stopping point? Well, since the story has twenty verses, I looked right in the middle and thought, “Yeah, we could stop there and continue on with verses 11-20  next week.”

As I concentrated on the first half of the story, asking God for direction  and understanding of what was being taught here; He helped me see something I’d never seen in this story before.

Hopefully, we are all familiar with the story here, it appears in St. Luke’s gospel account as well (8: 26-39). It is indeed another story of Jesus’ authority, and not just over a demon possessed person; but a person who is possessed by many demons, for his name is Legion. So that we may have an idea of what this means, legion was a military term used by the Roman Empire, that equaled six-thousand (6,000) soldiers. As we see, Jesus displays not only His superiority by casting out a single  demon, but by casting out legions  of them!

As amazing  as all that is, that wasn’t what God led me to expound on. No, what I was shown was something a little bit different. A man from the tombs; a simple enough statement. But, think on it a moment. What kind of man would you meet in the tombs? The only kind of man I should think of was….. a dead man !

Yes, that was it. A dead man . I saw it clearly. This man was in a sense dead, was he not? He was dwelling in the tombs for some while, separated from his family and friends . He had no occupation, no communal responsibilities – he was as good as dead .

As I pondered this, for most of a day, two more thoughts came to mind:

  1. this is us  before receiving the Gospel message
  2. this is a parable of Jesus’ own life

OK, Tim. You’ve just lost it!  I can see how this could be us before receiving the Gospel but, come on! This man was indwelled by many demons! You speak sacrilege !”

Let me explain.

In the sense that Jesus (God the Son) gave up His heavenly glory to take on the form of a servant (taking on the form of a man, Ph. 2:7) it confined Him. In a similar way, the unclean spirits confined the man from the tombs. Jesus also cried out over His mission  in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:39-44). The man from the tombs, was always crying out; could it have been over his situation ?

“So? What’s your point, Tim? What does this have to do with living out the gospel?”

I’m so glad you asked!

If we can’t see Jesus  in the circumstances of Sacred Scripture, then how on earth, can we see Him in our own circumstances ?

This week, why not dare to see Christ  in our everyday circumstances; recognizing Him, for who He is, prostrating ourselves and allowing Him to change those circumstances we’re facing?

And next week, we will conclude this section of Sacred Scripture, looking at A Man Reborn.

May God bring you every blessing through Christ this week!

Amen.

A Sower Went Out To Sow: Mark 4:1-12


On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them,  “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.'”

There are two sermons, if I’ve heard them once, I’ve heard them a thousand times; this happens to be one of them.

One of the things I’ve tried to do here, at a word on The Word, is not to just state the same ol’ same ol’. I like to delve into the things that most commentaries shy away from (well at least that’s the way I see it). But you know what I mean, right? You have a question about something in a text of Scripture, and every commentary you have doesn’t mention anything on it, or worse yet, they group the verse within the meaning of the text, without relating how it applies to the text. Has that ever happened to anyone else or am I just crazy ? (please, this is somewhat a rhetorical question, so let your Christian virtue shine through if you do answer).     🙂

So, what can be said of this text, that hasn’t been said before? Well, I don’t know if anyone has never brought this aspect of the passage up in their sermon or homily before, but God led me to a place this week, studying and praying on this, that I was not prepared to go. As a result; He has changed my heart, and renewed His Spirit within me, as He continues to conform me to the image of His Son. Thanks be to God.

Well, what can be said? After all, right after He tells the parable, He goes on to explain it to His followers and disciples who apparently didn’t get it, right? Have you ever wondered why  they didn’t get it ?

Before He explains the parable, and right after He tells the parable, He says: Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.”

The most obvious answer as to why they didn’t get it, is to realize they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. I think, sometimes we forget that although these guys ate, drank, talked, walked and lived with Jesus for about three years, they were only experiencing Him from the outside. They had not been born of the Spirit, although they had been born of water (John 3:5). So these guys were kind of like everyone else. If not for the fact that Jesus had chosen these guys specifically, they would’ve been just like anyone else in the crowd.

Which leads me to my next question: So what’s our excuse ? We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, as sons and daughters by virtue of our Baptism. Why don’t we get it? Why aren’t we more the rich soil than the rocky ground or the path itself?

To us has been given, two thousand years of interpretation and application, and at times we still don’t get it; at least I know I don’t! So why…..why don’t I get it?

Maybe I don’t get it  all, because He doesn’t have all  of me!

Let’s look again at who the message has been entrusted; His disciples, more directly the twelve He appointed. These men left their wife and families, their occupations and livelihoods – they gave up everything, to be able to hear, understand and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming Kingdom of God. And me? I can’t even give Him my whole, entire heart. So maybe I don’t get it,  because He ain’t got it  (all my heart).

“Lord I do these studies on this blog for You and Your people. I lector and play music for You and Your people at Mass. I teach CCD and I am a Eucharistic minister for You and Your people.”

“That’s great stuff Tim, I’ve called you to do these things for Me and My people. I want you to do all you can for Me. But most of all, I want you – all of you. I want your heart – all of your heart. You’ve followed me long enough half-heartedly; I want you to follow Me now, whole-heartedly.”

So this week, let us change the type of soil our heart is now. Let’s break up the hardened soil, like that on the path, hardened and smoothed over from the traffic of our lives; to the soft, rich soilin a field ready for harvest.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

 

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Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.” For those who stay “outside,” everything remains enigmatic.

 

May the Lord God be with you this week. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Family Business: Mark 3:31-35


His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers (and your sisters) are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and (my) brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Moments after Jesus had taught about the unforgivable sin  and a house divided against itself cannot stand , here comes His family. As you recall last weeks study, some of Jesus’ relatives were going to seize Him, quite possibly because they believed what the scribes were saying about Jesus, He is possessed by Beelzebul.

So here are his mother and brothers and sisters asking for Him. The passage doesn’t say why they are asking for Him, could it have been for the same reasons as His other relatives? I don’t think so…and here’s why.

Mary, certainly knew who He (Jesus) was. She knew He was not possessed by a demon. We are told by St. Luke, in his Gospel, that:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her he said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her,”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God, nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said,” Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.   Luke 1:26-38 

Mary was told that He would be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.

 

It doesn’t get much plainer than that, does it? And after His birth St. Luke reveals to us that, Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart, (Luke 2:19).

 

That statement, lends itself to the assumption that His brothers and sisters didn’t know  who He was. Yet, with Mary there, we know that she was going to do whatever she could to protect her Son, her Savior, the Savior of the world.

Could this have been a living illustration of His previous teaching on a house divided? Maybe so. But as Jesus does so well, He takes this opportunity to teach a deeper truth.

 

As the crowd delivers the message, Your mother and your brothers (and your sisters) are outside asking for you, He asks the rhetorical question, Who are my mother and (my) brothers?Could the crowd have anticipated where Jesus was going to go with this? Remember, He was in His hometown, and again from last weeks study, had quite a few relatives there, who thought He was out of His mind.

 

He then brings the message home (no pun intended) And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

As Christians, we are called the family of God, but let us ask ourselves the hard, soul searching question; Do I do the will of God in my life, therefore making myself a part of God’s family?  Isn’t this why we were created in the first place?

 

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in the Prologue:

 

The Life of Man—To Know and Love God
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God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

Taking this weeks and last weeks teachings together, we see the whole spectrum of what Jesus is saying; Unity is essential to family life. It is true of the human family, and true of the spiritual family. Doing the will of God identifies us with His family, just as doing the will (obeying the rules) of our earthly father identifies us with our earthly family.

So this week, let us examine ourselves; our actions, our words, our attitudes – not just toward Our Father, but toward our spiritual siblings  as well.

He’s calling…..will we answer?

Amen.

The Unforgivable Sin: Mark 3:20-30


He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus is again confronted; by the scribes this time. It’s not about doing good “works” on the sabbath, no not this time. It’s not about what  He is doing but, about who  He is!

First we see, that He has come back home, and that His relatives are ready to seize Him. Why? …for they said, “He is out of His mind.” Evidently, they had been listening to the scribes who came down from Jerusalem, for they were the ones saying Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, and that by the prince of demons he drives out demons. All this, sets the stage for Jesus’ teaching on the unforgivable sin .

There are a few interpretations of these verses that merit deeper study. They explain on different levels this blasphemy, and it’s affects on us.

The most common interpretation of this text today, is that this unforgivable sin  is the total rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

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“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

We see from the text itself though, that this unforgivable sin  is connected with something a little bit different – for St. Mark adds; For they [scribes] had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Thus this verse can also be interpreted as attributing the power of God, to the power of Satan. This is the charge that Jesus responds to in the last part of the parable[s].

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

But, the main point of this text may be lost, if we simply glance at  it and not dig into  it. Division is opposed to unity. Even Satan’s house, in it’s evilness, could not remain without unity. For, if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. This brings us to an interpretation by St. Augustine, from Book IV, Sermon XXI, [LXXI.BEN] in paragraph 35.

“Not that this is a blasphemy which shall not be forgiven, forasmuch as even this shall be forgiven, if a right repentance follow it; but because, as I have said, there arose hence a cause for that sentence to be delivered by the Lord, since mention had been made of the unclean spirit whom the Lord shows to be divided against Himself, because of the Holy Spirit who is not only not divided against Himself, but who also makes those whom He gathers together undivided, by forgiving those sins which are divided against themselves, and by inhabiting those who are cleansed, that it may be with them, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul,” (Acts 4:32).”

An affront to the Triune God who is prefectly united, is the disunity of His people. St. Augustine goes on to explain in paragraph 36:

“But in this passage according to Matthew (12:32), the Lord far more plainly explained what He intended to be understood here; namely that he who speaks a word against the Holy Spirit, who with an impenitent heart resist the Unity of the Church, where in the Holy Spirit is given the remission of sins. For this Spirit they have not, as has been said already, who even though they bear and handle the sacraments of Christ, are seperated from His congregation.”

So indeed, a house divided against itself, as Jesus said, shall surely fall. Yet, there was only the Catholic Church in St. Augustine’s day. What about today? There are tens of thousands of denominations that indeed call themselves Christian, yet are seperated from the Catholic Church. What about them?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this perplexing question this way:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation”
 
 
 
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How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
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This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.
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“Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”
Often misunderstood by Protestants and Catholics alike is this: The Church is the messenger of the Gospel of Christ. Whether you heard and responded to the Gospel in a Baptist church, a Lutheran church or the Catholic Church, this Gospel was delivered by Christ to the Apostles for the Church to proclaim. So all (true Christian) churches proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ; born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, and was burried, and on the third day, rose again conqurering death and sin.

So in this vein, let us realize our unity. That even within our differences, God can and will unite what man in his sin has strained, or even ruptured. For the Church is a Divine institution, as well as a human one and within whichever ecclesial communion we are placed, their should be unity. Again the Catechism of the Catholic Church understands this, and therefore states:

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“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

So this week, let us think about unity, and how we as believers, can demonstrate to one another, not to mention a lost world, the power of unity with the Holy Spirit. Let’s be instruments for our churches to work together for the betterment of society (as in the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy) as well as in our families. Fathers working in unity with their wives, and vice versa. Children with their parents and parents with their children, working together in love to live in the truth of Christ’s calling.

Can you think of other ways we could be showing the unity of Christ? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would, too. Now, let us go and serve our  Lord!

Amen.

Twelve Are Chosen: Mark 3: 13-19


He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him andhe might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: (he appointed the twelve): Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Have you ever wondered about the twelve disciples (whom he also named apostles) ? Where they came from, what they did, before and after Jesus called them? Well then….let’s take a look.

Judas Iscariot: the man who betrayed Jesus, thus always mentioned last. The Aramaic word Iscariot  literally means – man of Kerioth. Kerioth was a town near Hebron (Josh. 15:25) in Judea. Judean’s despised the people of Galilee, and this attitude may have alienated Judas from the other disciples. He acted as treasurer for the group. He betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver and, after trying to return the money, went and hung himself (Matt. 27:5).

Simon the Canaanite (Canaanean): Referd to as Zelotes(or the Zealot) by Luke (6:15). Canaanite is the English transliteration of the Aramaic word kann’ah ; both words mean – zealous one, so some believe he may have belonged to the Jewish sect known as the Zealots. The tradition of the Coptic Church of Egypt states he preached in Egypt, Africa, Great Britain and Persia. He died a martyr’s death and along with Jude Thaddeus his Feast Day is celebrated on October. 28.

Jude Thaddeus: St. Jerome called this apostle Trionius– the man with three names. Judas (not Iscariot) and Lebbus are the other two (found in Jn. 14:22 and Matt. 10:3, respectively). He’s believed to be the brother of James the Lessand the author of the epistle Jude of the New Testament. Eusebius, the Church historian, says that Jesus sent this disciple to King Abgar of Mesopotamia to pray for his healing. He remained there and preached in that region. He died a martyr’s death and along with Simon the Canaanean his Feast Day is also October. 28.

James the Less, son of Alpheus: Believed to be the brother of Jude Thaddeus, and the author of the epistle of James of the New Testament. Tradition says he died a martyr by being sawed into pieces. His Feast Day is May 3.

Thomas: John’s Gospel gives us the most complete picture of this disciple. John says he was called Didymus  the Greek word for twin. With no background information on him we can only guess that he was a fisherman, for he was with six other disciples who returned to their boats after the Crucifixion (Jn. 21:2,3). He is often referred to as “Doubting” Thomas (Jn. 20:25) but was seen as bold earlier, as Jesus informs the twelve he is returning to Judea, Thomas proclaims, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (Jn. 11:16). St. Augustine commented on him, “He doubted that we may not doubt.” Tradition says he went to India and was martyred there. His named is carried on by the Marthoma rite. His Feast Day is July 3.

Levi Matthew: the former tax collector and author of the first Gospel. Because of his line of work, it’s very probable that he was well educated. Of all the Gospels, his was chosen to appear at the beginning of the canon and second – century literature quotes from it more than any other, stressing it’s influence and significance. Tradition isn’t exactly clear what happened to Matthew after Pentecost, though it’s believed he was martyred in Ethiopia. His Feast Day is celebrated on September 21.

Bartholomew Nathanael: Not alot is known of this apostle either. In Aramaic Bartholomew means – son of Thalmai. So, he may be named after King Thalmai of Geshur (II Sam. 3:3). Some scholars believe he may be connected with the Ptolemies, based on St. Jerome’s statement that he was the only apostle of noble birth. St. Bede the Venerable reports that this apostle was beheaded by King Astriagis in India. The Armenian Rite claims him as their founder and his Feast Day is celebrated on August 24.

Phillip: John’s gospel gives us the only details of this apostle’s life. He was one of the few called individually and he introduced Bartholomew to Jesus (Jn. 1:45-51). He didn’t know how they would feed 5000 people (Jn. 6:7). He and Andrew introduced a group of Greek men to Jesus (Jn. 12:20-22). And at the Last Supper he said to Jesus, “Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:8). There are several traditions surrounding Phillip’s later ministry, yet Bishop Polycrates of Antioch wrote in 194 A.D., “Phillip, one of the twelve apostles, sleeps at Hierapolis.” His Feast Day is celebrated with James the Less, son of Alpheus on May 3.

Andrew: this apostle was Simon’s (Peter) brother. In fact, it was Andrew who told Simon, “We have found the Messiah…” (Jn. 1:41). They were the sons of Jonah (or John) and worked in his fishing business, before following the Lord. Tradition says that Andrew was crucified on an X – shaped cross (known now as St. Andrew’s cross. His Feast Day is celebrated on November 30.

John: one of the sons of Zebedee, brother of James the Greater. He was part of Jesus’ inner-circle. He wrote several New Testament books; the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and, 3rd John and, Revelation. Known as “the beloved disciple”  John was the only apostle not to forsake Jesus at the cross. Jesus charges him with taking care of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, at His death. He did and they moved to Ephesus where he was bishop, and where the Virgin Mary was Assumed. Tertullian reports that John was taken to Rome and “plunged into boiling oil, unhurt, and then exiled on an island.” John was the only apostle to not suffer a martyr’s death. His Feast Day is celebrated on December 27; he is also my patron saint!

James the Greater: the older son of Zebedee, John’s brother, and also a part of Jesus’ inner-circle. Jesus called these brothers, Boanerges  which means “sons of thunder,” perhaps a description of their personalities. As part of the inner-circle, he witnessed the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1) and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was the first apostle to be martyred, being beheaded by Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D.. His Feast Day is July 25.

Simon: a fisherman from Galilee, led to Jesus by his brother Andrew (Jn. 1:40,41). He heads the list of apostles in each Gospel, which suggests he was the most significant of the twelve, being their leader, particularly, after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Jesus changed his name from Simon which means – hearer  to Peter which means – rock, and told Peter that he would be the “rock” He would build His church upon (Matt. 16:18). He is honored as the founder of the Holy See in Rome, the first pope of Christ’s Church. He was martyred around 64 A.D. under the reign of Nero, asking to be crucified upside-down, for he was “not worthy to die as his Lord had died”. His Feast Day is celebrated on June 29, which is the day shared with St. Paul the Apostle.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 

The Apostles’ mission
 
 

 

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Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired; . . . . And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach.” From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” The apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me.”
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Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As “the Son can do nothing of his own accord,” but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him, from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ’s apostles knew that they were called by God as “ministers of a new covenant,” “servants of God,” “ambassadors for Christ,” “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
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In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them “will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors.”

 

Hopefully, now, we have a better idea who these guys were.

So this week, let us realize that not all of us can be in that “inner-circle.”  Not all are called to be a Peter, James or John. Jesus called all twelve to be faithful and to serve Him, whether heaped with accolades or not. May we be faithful in the same way these seemingly “lesser” apostles were, in the obscurity of our everyday lives, may we say “yes” to Jesus’ call to Follow Me.

Amen.