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.

Jesus Comes Home: Mark 6: 1-6


He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.  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! 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.  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.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

This passage must drive universal salvationists, as well as hyper-Calvinists loony. What do I mean? Well this passage of scripture, places limits on the unlimited God . What’s going on?

Well, we have here yet another paradox presented to us. Much as the paradox Jesus Himself was; all man and all God, at the same time. We see here the example of the All Powerful God being limited by man . How can this be?

Anytime we have a paradox, it is helpful to not to draw any hard-line “either/or” conclusions. But what needs to be done is to weigh the paradoxical statements  seeing indeed, how they work together.

A great example of this, of course, is the Incarnation  itself. The All Powerful God chose to work through humanity, instead of around it. As a matter of fact, God has always chosen to work through humanity, using their actions and decisions ; starting with Adam and Eve in the garden.

When God created mankind, he gave him what we call free-will . The ability to make choices. Good or evil. God allows us to make these decisions, because of the love He has for His creation. Grace is offered to all, some receive it, others don’t. God doesn’t force His grace upon anyone , yet it is always present.

It’s the same in this case. Jesus comes home, to His native place, to teach and proclaim the gospel. And His relatives refuse to realize who Jesus is. They reckon in their human understanding,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? They thought they knew all there was to know, and refused what God was offering to them; Himself. They had heard of His mighty deeds, they were hearing is wisdom, but still the refused. In fact it states, they took offense at him. 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.”

And Sacred Scripture goes on to say, So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there because of their lack of faith. A cooperation with one another. God with man and man with God. Not a fifty-fifty relationship, but 100% cooperation  with one another.

What is so prevalent in Christianity today, is the same attitude that Jesus hometown realitives had; just enough knowledge about who Jesus is, as to be completely wrong about  who He is!

Many Christians will not go to the polls and vote  this election day, reasoning that “God establishes governments” and therefore, He doesn’t need my help. And on one level, this is indeed true. But God has chosen to limit His All Powerfulness – for us to be able to participate  in His on-going salvation history story.

Remember when Israel asked God for a king ? The people chose Saul, yet God told Samuel He had someone else in mind. What is the immediate difference from that of the people and that of God? The people looked on the outside  appearance, and God looked upon the inside ; the heart.

Look closely at the candidates and their actions , for their actions will indeed reveal what is within their heart  (Matt. 15: 19-20). And your actions will reveal what is within yours. Will you use  this election as an excuse for your inactivity? Will you let  the the liberal agenda be imposed on you, because you didn’t want to impose your “christian” agenda on them?

Wake up Christian’s !! God wants to use you. He wants to use you in this particular way, to change the world . This is one of the few direct ways, that us “little folks” have the chance to effect the whole world. Let’s not squander it . Let us go forward, in the name of our Father, and reclaim this land for Him. He was gracious enough to give it to us in the first place, let’s reclaim it for His glory .

Our inactivity will jeopardize this country , just as our inactivity will jeopardize our standing in God’s kingdom. Render to Caesar what’s Caesar’s and to God what’s God’s. Isn’t it all God’s? Another paradox, or a call for God’s children to be active in the affairs of this world ?

So this week, let us make history  and not become history! Go and vote ! Vote Pro-life , Pro-family ; for these issues are Pro-God ! Economies will fluctuate, leaders will rise and fall; but life, and the family were here before  those things; and will remain after  these things have passed.

Blessings to you this week!

Amen.

Do You Not Yet Have Faith? :Mark 4:35-41


On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Jesus and his disciples now leave the region of Galilee and head for Gerasene. In between their departure and their arrivial, they face a violent squall that brings fear to their hearts.

We all have storms  in our lives, but how many of us would describe them as violent squalls? St. Mark, in describing the storm this way, really conjures up in our imagination, the intensity and fierceness of the storm. Would you describe any storm  in your life as a violent squall? Think on it for a moment; Has any storm in your life, caused you to hear the Savior say, “Do you not yet have faith?” When things in our lives become so intense, it can be very tempting  to question God, to deny our faith and to resist the truth.

The wind was fierce, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Does that sound familiar? You feel as if you are sinking. You know Jesus is with you, but He’s asleep! “He has no idea what’s going on! He doesn’t understand how I feel, the fear that is within me. I feel as if I’m going to die!”

In an allegorical interpretation of this passage of Sacred Scripture, St. Bede the Venerable  states (In Lucan 31) that Jesus’ sleep signifes His death, and absense that strikes fear  in the heart of the disciples. Beaten by the waves of doubt, they are finally comforted when Christ awakens from the grave to put down the devil and strip him of the power of death.

Isn’t that just what fear  does to us, too? It makes us lose sight of what’s most important  in our lives. I mean, we say we trust (have faith) in God for our eternal salvation and, yet we don’t seem to be able to  trust Him in our simple everyday needs . My brothers and sisters in Christ, this ought not to be ! And I preach this to myself, as well as you my brothers and sisters!

If I believe that God created the earth and all that dwells in it. That He sent His only begotten Son  to die for and redeem mankind, then why do I act  as if His provisions for me and my family are beyond His control?

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Is this our cry today, as well? Can you imagine what the LORD GOD must think, when we utter such blasphemy? How it must break His heart to see His children  doubt these little things (at least, little things to Him…right?).

Again, we must maintain our perspective; which should be God centered . If we allow ourselves to become more concerned with our pleasure/comfort or even what we think  we need, then our faith/obedience will wane,  thus effecting our spiritual growth and weakening our faith . Isn’t that just what the storm  did here?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it so well:

IV. “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
 

 

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Give us“: The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” He gives to all the living “their food in due season.” Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.
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“Give us” also expresses the covenant. We are his and he is ours, for our sake. But this “us” also recognizes him as the Father of all men and we pray to him for them all, in solidarity with their needs and sufferings.
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Our bread“: The Father who gives us life cannot but give us the nourishment life requires—all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father’s providence. He is not inviting us to idleness, but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:

To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God.

So this week, let us exercise our faith ! Strengthening it, so it grows and can withstand any and all  attacks, that come it’s way. And as it strengthens and becomes stronger, it won’t just be able to withstand attacks, it will be able to defeat and conquer  these attacks.

Please, feel free to share how you exercise your faith; to build it up and strengthen it. It will benefit us all.

Blessings to you all this week, through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

A Mustard Seed: Mark 4:26-34


He said,”This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Jesus now moves His hearers from the parables of about the word of God , to parables about the kingdom of God . The two parables above are presentations of how God goes about growing His kingdom.

In looking at this scripture text, Jesus explains how the growth of His Church will come about; undetected, yet very visible.

To the unsuspecting world, the crucifixion/death of a carpenter in first century Palestine meant little, if anything at all. Yet, there was all this excitement about a “Christ,” a Jewish Messiah. A man named Jesus of Nazareth, who had been condemned and put to death by Pontius Pilate, had risen from the dead! His Apostles were going throughout the city and the region of Judea, to proclaim this good news ; that this Jesus who suffered, was crucified and buried had risen again, to atone for the sins of humanity and that by belief in Him and baptism in His name, may have eternal life.

This good news (gospel) message was spread through persecution, travel, evangelism and by miracles, to the center of civilization at the time, Rome. It spread eastward to Turkey, Iran and India while spreading westward to Egypt, Britain and France. By the fourth century, Christianity went from being a tolerated religion under Constantine (Edict of Milan) to the official religion of the Empire under Theodosius. What started out in obscurity, ended up changing the world. Only God, my brothers and sisters, could accomplish such a feat!!

Isn’t this the precise meaning of the mustard seed  parable? The smallest of seeds, growing into the largest of garden plants; large enough for the birds of the sky to dwell in it’s shade?

And now…. Isn’t the Church, large enough for the nations to dwell in it’s shade – to hear the good news – the gospel of Jesus Christ? This living organism we call the Church, has grown from the plan of the Father in eternity past, into a small seed, planted by Jesus Himself, and nurtured (as well as guided) by the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t that exciting news? It is indeed! In fact, it’s part of the gospel that Jesus proclaims here, as well as in St. John’s gospel  14:18: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. And come to us He did, as The Church, The Body of Christ! God’s Kingdom family, here on earth. How great is that?!?!

As The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“The Kingdom of God is at hand”
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“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'” “To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth.” Now the Father’s will is “to raise up men to share in his own divine life.” He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, “on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom.”
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Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God.” By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery—his death on the cross and his Resurrection—he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.

The proclamation of the Kingdom of God

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Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations. To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

 

    The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.
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The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”; he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To them—the “little ones”—the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst, and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.
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Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins.”
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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.

So this week, Let us thank God for His gift of The Church ! Let us pray for her diligently, as she continues to proclaim the gospel; the gospel which she has proclaimed faithfully for the last two-thousand years. Let us also personally proclaim  this gospel of Christ; in our words, our actions our good deeds and our worship.

God’s richest blessings to you through Christ this week,

Amen.

Lord Of The Sabbath: Mark 2:23-28


As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Jesus faces yet another question by the Pharisees; “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” This time in His answer, he uses an example from scripture about David and his companions from I Sam. 21:2-7. Let’s take a look;

David went to Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, who came trembling to meet him and asked, “Why are you alone? Is there no one with you?” David answered the priest: “The king gave me a commission and told me to let no one know anything about the business on which he sent me or the commission he gave me. For that reason I have arranged a meeting place with my men. Now what have you on hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever you can find.” But the priest replied to David, “I have no ordinary bread on hand, only holy bread; if the men have abstained from women, you may eat some of that.” David answered the priest: “We have indeed been segregated from women as on previous occasions. Whenever I go on a journey, all the young men are consecrated–even for a secular journey. All the more so today, when they are consecrated at arms!” So the priest gave him holy bread, for no other bread was on hand except the showbread which had been removed from the LORD’S presence and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away.

Now, exactly what does this have to do with the Sabbath? Let us see why Jesus ties these together.

First, Jesus addresses the issue of lawfulness. This is why He brings in the example of David and his companions. David’s dilemma was hunger. Jesus’ disciples were no doubt hungry too, picking the heads of grain an activity of “work,” and the Sabbath called for “rest.” Thus, the parallel is drawn, that King David did what was not “lawful” as well, when he and his companions were hungry. Jesus’ point is that sometimes, for the well being of others, the letter of the law may be broken, but the spirit of the law remains in tact. We see this principle taught throughout Jesus’ ministry. That our love and concern for others is second only  to the love we are to have for God.

To realize God’s love and mercy in our own lives means we share that love and mercy with others, especially in their time of need. If this happens on a Sabbath, would God be more pleased if we ignored our brothers need and worshiped and rested? Or would our help be considered and act of worship to God – showing His love toward others? Clearly, Jesus is teaching the latter.

This leads us to His second point; the issue of the Sabbath itself.

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. This is a very telling statement.

We, as humans, tend to look at rules as negatives and not positives. “Why can’t I do this?” and “Why can’t we do that?” “Why do I have to do it this way?” But let’s really look at this statement, even recalling Ex. 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”, and examine it in a positive light.

The sabbath was made for man… Man needs rest. He needs reflection and rejuvenation. It is good for his body, mind and spirit. Spiritually speaking, he also needs to take time to worship, adore and praise the Creator. For we see that God, even though not needing rest, provided an example of rest for us to follow. Again, it being for our good.

not man for the sabbath. God didn’t create us because the Sabbath needed us. It was because we needed the sabbath. We are creatures with very short memories. It wasn’t very long after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, that the people turned from God an made an idol, was it? What a mighty work by the hand of God, witnessed to, and so quickly forgotten. Sacred Scripture is filled with example after example of our forgetfulness, when it comes to the things of God.

So the Sabbath is an opportunity for us to rest, recall, and worship. If the Sabbath is kept to fulfill a law or a religious obligation, it is done in vain and therefore, worthless. This is the heart of Jesus’ message.

There is also a third point I’d like to bring up.

…the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

As we’ve seen from the very beginning of St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus has authority over….well, everything! His teaching, His healing of the sick, His casting out of demons, all demonstrated His authority. Jesus now states His authority over the sabbath.

Often, a question will arise, about the Sabbath. Should it be celebrated on Saturday, as in the Old Covenant or Sunday, as we do today? The answer is simple, really. It all begins with the authority of Jesus. The authority He has, He passed on the the apostles and His Church. Particularly, when they understood the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, as a fulfillment of the Old Testament, a “new creation” and the “eighth day.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:

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 The sabbath is at the heart of Israel’s law. To keep the commandments is to correspond to the wisdom and the will of God as expressed in his work of creation.

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The eighth day. But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation.

 The day of the Resurrection: the new creation
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Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.” Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica)—Sunday:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.   (St. Justin, I Apol. 67: PG 6, 429 and 432)

 Sunday—fulfillment of the sabbath

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Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.   (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Magn. 9, 1: SCh 10, 88.)

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The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

 If, indeed, Jesus hadn’t left His authority to His Church, the day of the Sabbath celebration couldn’t have been changed at all….period! Because as Jesus clearly stated, That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

So this week, let us realize the significance of the “new creation” and the “eighth day.” The Resurrection of Jesus, fulfills all the promises of the Old Covenant and ushers in the New Covenant, for Jesus is indeed the lord of the sabbath. He should be Lord of our lives – thoughts and actions. Realizing He left His Church with the authority to help us recall and celebrate “the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” (CCC 2177)

Amen.

Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae


Pope Paul VI’s encyclical turns forty today!

If you’ve never read it check out the link. It’s an insightful and prohpetical letter.

Here is the opening:

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

Enjoy! 

The New From The Old: Mark 2:18-22


The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

This seems to be a continuation of the goings on at Levi’s dinner party. Maybe the fact that these people see Jesus and His disciples eating and drinking on this particular day (for we know according to the Didache 2.8 that the “hypocrites” fasted on Monday and Thursday) that they bring this question to Jesus. And, once again, Jesus gives a fascinating answer (as He always did).

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? or as we would look at it now; “My disciples cannot fast while the Messiah is with them, can they?

By using the matrimonial imagery, Jesus is reiterating what had been taught (and maybe set aside) in ancient Israel; that Israel was called God’s wife ( Isa. 54:5, 62:4-5).

  • For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.
  • No more shall men call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” But you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

With the arrival of Immanuel (God with us) the messianic time is ushered in.

Jesus then continues: As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

Does this present itself as a contradiction? After all, Jesus states later, And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age; He says this right before ascending to the Father. So….Is it a contradiction? For us with faith it isn’t, but even with faith, it can still be confusing.

We can over spiritualize what Jesus said and make this contradiction disappear. Don’t get me wrong, He is certainly with us in a spiritual sense, but is that the extent of it? After all, He created us physical beings as well as spiritual beings. Did He leave us any tangible evidence of His presence? The answer to this question is a resounding YES!

You may now be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with studying this section of scripture?” Could this be part of the new cloth and the old cloth? The new wine and the old wineskins? Let us examine!

The only presence of God at the time of Christ, was in the Temple (the Holy of Holies to be exact). This would be the old cloth, the old wineskin, established by God long ago. But now, we see God Himself, becoming man and leaving the Temple, to make His dwelling among us, with His people. This was something the old cloth or the old wineskins couldn’t patch-up or contain.

Jesus take the idea of a “far off” God and presents a “personal” God. This too, was something that the old cloth and the old wineskins couldn’t patch-up or contain. So, “What is this tangible evidence,” you ask?

First He left His Church, His Kingdom on Earth, to continue His work (Matt. 25:31-46, 28:18-20). Secondly, He left the seven (7) Sacraments of the Church (Baptisim, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony). The word Sacrament is defined as ” a visible sign of God’s invisible presence.”

Through His Church, we are reminded in a tangible way, to continue in Christ’s mission; did He only come to meet the spiritual needs of the people? No. He met their physical needs as well. So as important as it is to share our faith in Christ, it is equally important to show our love for Christ, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40).

Through the Sacraments, we are tangibly reminded and strengthened as we continue our faith journey and our work for the Lord. The most precious of the Sacraments is the Holy Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). In the most intimate way, Jesus is not only with us spiritually, but tangibly, as a humble servant, in the form of bread and wine. Who else could do this? Who else would do this?

What was that noise?

Did I just hear your cloth tear? Did your wineskin just burst?

This week, let us not be like the Pharisees, who couldn’t accept the “new” because of the “old.” Rather, let us understand more fully, what Jesus Himself left for us through His Father.

From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings. Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches.” And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”     CCC 787

When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit. As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”    CCC 788

As Christ Jesus is the sacrament of God, the Church is our sacrament of Christ.

Amen.