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.

How Will You Understand:Mark 4:13-25


Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

As mentioned last week, here is where Jesus explains the parable He’d just given, to His followers; explaining in detail what He meant by His teaching. His explanation here does bring to light a paradox, which I’d like for us to explore. I had not considered this before.

So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:11)

The paradox? His word not returning to Him void…accomplishing what it was sent to do, and the explanation He gives of the parable. Is the word really accomplishing what God sent it forth to do? Some reject it, some hold on to it for a moment then let it go. Others let it get choked out and still others receive it and hold on to it; how do we reconcile this? Is God All-Powerful? Are His plans being thwarted by humanity?

There are extreme views on each side, from hyper-Calvinism to universal salvation, to Pelagianism with each school of thought supported by their own interpretation  of Scripture.

Let me pose the more moderate stance and state that indeed God’s word does accomplish all He sends it to do; it does not return to Him void. For He knows beforehand, to whom he sends it to and how it will, or will not, be received by humanity.

Why does God choose to work through  humanity? After all, He is the “All Powerful and Everliving God” He can certainly do things as He pleases. Yet throughout history, He has choesn to work through  mankind to accomplish His will, rather than by-pass mankind.

Let’s look at three examples, major events in salvation history, to describe what I mean.

  1. Abraham: called by God to leave his homeland and go to a place God would show him. He was also called to be the “father of a multitude,” a people that God would adopt and call His firstborn.
  2. Moses: called by God to bring His people out of the slavery of Egypt. He delivered to His people, the Law of God and lead them to the Promised Land.
  3. The Blessed Virgin Mary: called by God to be the mother of His only begotten Son. Along with her husband, St. Joseph, she was called to nurture, raise, teach and provide for Jesus, so that He in turn, could provide salvation for the world.

God could have done each of these things on His own, apart from any human participation, yet He did not. Why?

I think we can answer this question, simply by looking at the first creation account in Genesis. God created mankind, not because He was lonely or wanted fellowship (He had perfect fellowship within Himself in Trinitarian form). He created mankind from the abundance of His love.

Love that isn’t shared, does not exist. That may seem a bit philosophical, but I believe that the creation account, would prove this thought true.

Since we know that God is love ( I Jn. 4:16) and He created us in His image and His likeness (Gen. 1:26) we can experience Him in the fullness of love, which of course, is Himself.

So as we seek to understand the tension between predestination and free-will, the safest road to take to this understanding, would be the both/and  road. Since God is omniscient, He knows what we will choose…but we must still choose ! As Abraham, Moses and the Blessed Virgin Mary all had to say Yes,  and choose God, so must we.

So we begin to understand that His word will accomplish exactly what He intends it to, because He knows what we will choose to do. And in our choice to accept His word, we then get to participate in His Divine love. In His story of salvation and redemption.

As the Cathechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

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By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation.Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

So this week, let us, let His love shine forth from us like the lamp on the lampstand. And let us not keep hidden His word or His love, but let it be revealed through us, sharing the secret and light of this love, which is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. In this love, there is choice; so let us choose to love Him, because He first loved us ( I Jn. 4:19).

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! 

Jesus Appoints a Pope: Part I


When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi He asked His disciples, ”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Messiah.   Matt. 16:13-20  

  The conception of the Church. Jesus building and constructing the foundation of the apostles by His teaching. They, in turn, pass that teaching on to us through their teaching, preaching and writings.

 With Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, the foundation starts to take shape, as Jesus is the “capstone (cornerstone) of this foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph. 2:20). “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” is a statement of faith by Peter, to which Jesus acknowledges, For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Heavenly Father”. But it is also a statement of faith for the Church, and for us as individuals. For one can not profess what one does not believe (by this I mean professing both in word and deed, Ja. 2:22). 

Then, Jesus does something radical; He changes Simon’s name. Within scripture, when God gives a new name to a person (or a people) it marks a turning point. Something big was happening, a new responsibility, role or identity. Simon’s name meant, ”he is heard,” and he certainly was on this day, wasn’t he? For God heard his heart in his profession, before it was spoken aloud. And Jesus blesses him and changes his name to Peter.

 Petros in Greek and Kepha in Aramaic. I mention both names, because they are both used in scripture, in fact, it is the only name Paul uses for Peter. It also [helps] clarify the misunderstanding Protestants have with this passage. Petros is the masculine form of the Greek word for “rock”; Petra is the feminine form.

That is why there are different words used in the sentence in the Greek text, “And so I say to you, you are Petros and upon this petra I will build my church. Surely Matthew wouldn’t refer to Peter as feminine, would he? Whereas in the Aramaic there is no masculine/feminine form of the word Kepha. It would read, “And so I say to you, you are Kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.” This also happens to be the language that Jesus and the disciples spoke at the time. So in essence, Jesus is saying, “You are Rock and on you, I will build My church.” This means that Peter would be the leader of the twelve, after Jesus returned to the Father (John 21:15-19) and through Peter, Jesus Himself would build His church. And we see examples of this all through the New Testament; Peter being the spokesman for the twelve, often the central figure relating to Christ. He is always named first. He was also first to proclaim the Gospel, the first to heal others and the first to receive the revelation to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Mk. 8:29, Matt. 14:28-32, Lk. 6:12-16, Acts 2:14-40, Acts 3:6-7, Acts 10:9-48).

Jesus then promises that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it [church],  a promise that stands to this day. Jesus’ “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” stood through the Roman persecutions, converted that pagan nation and was the sole Christian religion (that wasn’t heresy) for 1550+ years.