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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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.

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.
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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.

Twelve Are Chosen: Mark 3: 13-19


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 

The Apostles’ mission
 
 

 

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

 

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

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

Amen.

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! 

Vatican declares Knights of Columbus founder “venerable”


New Haven, CT – March 16, 2008   Pope Benedict XVI Saturday approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope’s declaration significantly advances the priest’s process toward sainthood and gives the parish priest the distinction of “Venerable Servant of God.” If canonized, Fr. McGivney would be the first American born priest to be so honored.

“All of us who are members of the Knights of Columbus are profoundly grateful for this recognition of the holiness of our founder,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “The strength of the Knights of Columbus today is a testament to his timeless vision, his holiness and his ideals.”

Worried about the religious faith and financial stability of immigrant families, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus with the help of several men of St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven in 1882 to help strengthen the faith of the men of his parish and to provide financial assistance in the event of their death to the widows and orphans they left behind. He was also known for his tireless work among his parishioners.

Born in Waterbury, Conn., Aug. 12, 1852, Michael Joseph McGivney, was the first of Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney’s 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood. His parents, natives of Ireland, had immigrated to the United States during the 19th century. Patrick was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where Michael himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support his family.

From an early age, however, he realized a calling to the Catholic priesthood. After studying in several seminaries, he was ordained in that Baltimore’s historic Cathedral by Cardinal James Gibbons Dec. 22, 1877. He took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church, New Haven, Conn., Jan. 2, 1878. Father McGivney was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Conn. in 1884. He became seriously ill with pneumonia in January 1890, and died Aug. 14, 1890 at age 38.

The cause, or process, for Father McGivney’s sainthood, was opened by Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, in December 1997. The cause was presented to the Vatican in 2000, where it has been under review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. With the pope’s recent decree, and the authentication of a miracle at Father McGivney’s intercession, the priest could be beatified. A second miracle would be required for canonization.

Still maintaining its headquarters in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic Fraternal Organization with more than 1.7 million members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Philippines, Guam and, most recently, Poland.

A New Forum


Check out an exciting new forum here.

Thanks Amber!