The Price Of Righteousness: Mark 6:14-30


King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore (many things) to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.

I’ve often thought, would I have become a Christian, if I’d known what all it entailed? The short answer is yes, because I haven’t renounced my faith or turned away from God. But there are times (like now) when I seriously think of throwing in the towel for the seeming injustices in my life, yet Peter’s words hauntingly return to me, “To whom shall we go?” [Jn. 6:68]

John the Baptist followed God. He did and said all that God had given him to say and do. He was the first to recognize Jesus for who He was, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29) With all the righteousness and truth in his life, he suffered the death of a criminal.

It seems John had not only been “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk. 1:4). He pointed out the specific sin of Herod and Herodias, “It is not lawful for you to have your brothers wife.

You can not tell the story of Christianity without recounting the deaths of those who told the truth….. and died.

God gives us His Spirit for strength in this journey, I know that, and yet I feel abandoned, though I know I’m not.

When John the Baptist was in prison we see that he sent some of his disciples to Jesus, to ask Him, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?

We all have bouts with doubts in our faith, but this is starting to take a toll on me. Please pray for me my brothers and sisters.

Keep the faith.

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 Reborn: Mark 5:11-20


Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

If you recall last week, Jesus had just cast out the unclean spirits from the man from tombs.

This week, we continue the story; and it starts off, with Jesus granting the request of Legion, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them” so that they could remain in that territory. We see that Jesus gets blamed for destroying the swine, yet it was Legion who destroyed the swine, the livelihood of the Gentile farmers in that area. This should be a reminder of what Jesus told the Pharisees in St. John’s gospel, chapter ten verse ten, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Evil is what brings destruction. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, brings life – abundant life.

But moving along, we now see the man from the tombs, delivered; he has become a man reborn. Ressurrected as it were. This is what I was alluding to last week as we looked at the man from the tombs in his distress. Like this man, we too are brought from death to life  through the power of Jesus Christ! Like this man, Jesus Himself was raised from death, by the power of God, to complete and to validate  what His death had accomplished – our redemption!

These are all great points to ponder and to meditate on. And I pray we will throughout this week. But, I would like for us to realize our own call within this passage: the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

As some of you may know, last fall, I had applied to the office of the Permanate Diaconate. What you may not know is… I was denied. I was found to have an impediment that made me ineligible to receive Holy Orders. So, I’m having to re-examine my call within the call . My point is, is that not all of us are called to greatness  at least, the standard of greatness as we measure. I realize my first priority is evangelizing my family. To grow more deeply in love with my wife, that we might reflect the Trinitarian love, and Christ’s love for His Church, as we are called to do within the realm of Holy Matrimony. Then, we together, are to lead our children to the understanding of who God is, and what He through Jesus has done for us, as Deuteronomy 6: 4-7 says:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.

Just as the man reborn , was told by Jesus, to return to his family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you, maybe we too, need to hear this from the Savior.

It wasn’t easy for me to hear. I wanted to serve Jesus, as well as others, as a Deacon. But, at least at this time, it’s not to be.

So this week, let us focus on serving God, in our families . Husbands, wives, and children – we all need to experience the love of God within the walls of our homes.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

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The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.
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Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.
2226
Education in the faithby the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

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.

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:

  348

 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.

 349

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.)

2176

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.

God said, “No.”


                                by Claudia Minden Weisz

I asked God to take away my pride, and God said “No.” He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said “No.” He said that her spirit was whole: her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience, and God said “No.” He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation, and it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness, and God said “No.” He said that He gives blessings; happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain, and God said “No.” He said, “Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow, and God said “No.” He said I must grow on my own, but He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked God whether He loves me, and God said, “Yes.” He said He gave His only Son to die for me, and I will be in heaven someday because I believe in Him.

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me. And God said, “Now you have the idea.”

The Doctrine of Universal Salvation also known as Apokatastasis


I came across an article that references the Roman Catholic Church as teaching this doctrine. The article seemed very slanted in it’s presetation of the facts, particularly when quoting the Catechism and John Paul II documents even our Catholic prayers.

I called upon my former Pastor to explain this to me in layman’s terms. Here is his reply:

The bottom line is that according to Catholic teaching one may and indeed must hope for the salvation of all things (cf. Rom. 8:19ff.).  But that does not mean there can be salvation “against one’s will,” so to speak, nor against God’s will, either.  True, God wills (desires/wants) all to be saved (I Tim. 2:4—yet cf. I Tim. 1:3-11 for a balance).  But God has also created us with free will, and we can freely reject His love and gift of salvation.  Repentance & transformation will ever be pre-requisites for entry into the Kingdom (the 1st is our willingness to surrender, the 2nd is God’s power to heal).  But what if I reject God and His love?  God will not force Himself on me [love by definition cannot be forced, either in giving or in receiving]—and my state is that of one in hell—separated from Eternal Love.  

 A few years ago I wrote an essay “Is There Room In Heaven For Hitler?”  My conclusion was “Yes, but…”  I think it’s still in the archive section of “Pastor’s Corner” on the Our Savior web-site, Tim.  You might want to look at it. 

In the long run, we need not be concerned about anyone’s being in or heading toward hell other than ourselves.  To think that God somehow is compelled to welcome me, no matter what kind of person I am, is to tie the “hands” of God and make the sense of justice meaningless.  “Universal salvation” no matter what takes me off the hook for living the life of the Beatitudes or even the old Roman “cardinal” virtues of prudence, temperance, justice & courage.  In its own way, it is a version of Gal. 2:20-21—justification “through the law” here would become “justification, no matter what.”  Both would mean “Christ died for nothing.”  St. Paul was not happy with that conclusion, nor is the Church.