“Do not be afraid” A Parable Realized: Mark 5:21-24,35-43


When Jesus had crossed again (in the boat) to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.  He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. (At that) they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

We discussed last week in A Man Reborn , how possibly Jesus used this incident to prepare the disciples for His own resurrection. This week, as we look at the healing of Jairus’ daughter we will see that it’s much more than a healing…it’s a resurrection! It will also be the first of the eye witnessed resurrection’s for the disciples (at least for Peter, James and John). This would help the disciples to understand fully what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the resurrection an the life..” (John 11:25).

So let us look at the details that Sacred Scripture provides.

Our text tells us that Jairus was a synagogue official (or ruler). He is not described as a Pharisee or a Sadducee. Neither is he described as a scribe. There is one reference in Sacred Scripture as to the duties of the position (Acts 13:15). It’s believed that he was an elder who presided over Sabbath services and other weekly activities. We shouldn’t confuse their leadership, with that of the Temple leadership. That is were the Pharisees and the Sadducees “hung out.” The synagogue provided teaching and life application; the Temple was the place of sacrifice. Anyway, the point is, Jesus had influence  with a great cross-section of people. The rich and the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated. With the religious and the nonreligious. Jairus must have been aware of Jesus’ ministry, having heard or even seen some of His miracles, after all, he had the faith to seek Jesus out as the only hope  for his daughter.

Can we make that claim? Can we truly say, “Jesus is my only hope “? OK, maybe we can say it, but do we live it ? When crisis arise in our lives, is it Jesus we go to first? Is He our only hope? Do we rush to the presence of our Savior, praying, seeking His word for guidance and direction? Or do we exhaust all our other resources, using our own strength and wisdom only to reach a dead-end  and say, “I guess all I can do now is pray.” It should be the first, middle and last  thing we do!!

I mean, this man Jairus, a leader of worship to the one true God of Israel, himself fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him. Is this our testimony?

On the way to Jairus’ house, another incident occurs (which we will examine next week) and while Jesus addresses that situation, the news comes to Jairus that his daughter has died. “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

Sacred Scripture then tells us that Jesus disregarding the message that was reported said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” And this is still His message for us today! Do not be afraid; just have faith.

Jairus had just heard that his daughter had died. What grief, disappointment and a sense of having failed  in his quest to help his daughter, must have filled his heart. But Jesus offers comfort and hope with His words, Do not be afraid, meaning that He was in total control of the situation. Yet, He invites him (as well as us) to respond accordingly, just have faith.

When they arrive at the house, the people ridiculed Him. But Jairus isn’t swayed by that unbelieving crowd, he clings to Jesus’ promise, Do not be afraid. They enter the room and Jesus takes the hand of the lifeless twelve year old girl and says to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

I think one aspect of the story that we often times miss, is that of a third party faith. The daughter was sick, and this sickness lead to her death. The father took his faith  to Jesus, to restore his daughter, since the daughter couldn’t do it for herself – and the love for his daughter compelled him to action. This is a lesson we need to put in the front of our minds. This applies to our prayers and our actions toward others as well. For our faith should lead us to action.

So this week, let us imitate Jairus’ faith. No matter what our religious background, or our leadership position; let us see Jesus as our only hope. Not to be swayed by a crowd that may ridicule us for our faith, but to cling to Jesus’ words of encouragement, Do not be afraid.

May God bless you this week as you seek to live out the gospel.

Amen.

Advertisements

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:

2224
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.
2225
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 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”
541

“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.”
542
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

543

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.
544
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.
545
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.”
546
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:

50

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.