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.

He Gave Them Authority: Mark 6: 6-13


He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching. He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Being limited in His hometown to do any mighty deeds, by the peoples lack of faith, Jesus moves on to the villages in the vicinity teaching. By doing this He is preparing the Twelve for their first steps of formation  as representatives of Jesus Christ; roles they will have to fill after Jesus returns to the Father.

This is also our first glimpse into what will be foundational for the priesthood of the early Church. Also, for the first time in His ministry, He gives the Twelve authority over unclean spirits and to cure many who were sick.

Along with this authority, Jesus sends them out to preach repentance. As a continuation of last weeks reflection, about how a lack of faith limits God’s activity in our lives (and even our communities) – without repentance , we close the door altogether to His activity in our lives.

In the context of this passage, repentance brings about deliverance from unclean spirits and allows the sick to be cured. We read, and last year studied, this aspect of repentance and healing, in St. James letter chapter 5 in verse 16 we read, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. In this passage we see that repentance (the confessing of sin) and prayer (which is done in faith) are the only things we are told that bring about healing. Also within the context, this is done under the authority of the priesthood, Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up, for they were given this authority by Christ Himself, and passed on through Apostolic succession.

These passages should remind us all of God’s willingness to give His children His authority. Not just in the formal setting of the Mass, but in our everyday lives as well.

Are we not filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we not reminded in St. John’s first letter that, …for the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world?

Do we accept  that authority? Do we allow ourselves to live victorious lives ? Or do we reject  the authority of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s written word?

This week, let us challenge ourselves to believe what we’ve been told by God . Through repentance and faith we have, not just the ability, but the authority  over unclean spirits and sickness in our lives.

Now, let’s go out there and live in His authority !!

Amen.

Jesus Comes Home: Mark 6: 1-6


He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.  When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter,  the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the same in this case. Jesus comes home, to His native place, to teach and proclaim the gospel. And His relatives refuse to realize who Jesus is. They reckon in their human understanding,Is he not the carpenter,  the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? They thought they knew all there was to know, and refused what God was offering to them; Himself. They had heard of His mighty deeds, they were hearing is wisdom, but still the refused. In fact it states, they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you this week!

Amen.

“Do 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.

How Should Christians Respond To The Ray Boltz News?


I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it nicely.

Chastity and homosexuality

 

2357
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Jesus Gives Us His Mother: Part I


When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.   John 19: 26-27

It is said that we as Christians have become the family of God (Eph. 3:15). We’ve been adopted as sons (Gal.4: 5). Now I am aware that we live in the days of dysfunction, but I can confidently declare:

GOD IS NOT DYSFUNCTIONAL!!!

What kind of family would God be adopting us into, if He brought us into one that had no mother? Do we render Jesus’ promise null and void,  “I will not leave you as orphans;”  (John 14:8, from the Greek word, orphanos – without parents-plural)? We also know that God is not a God of disorder (I Cor. 14:33) and that He created the family (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24).

So, what is not to understand? God is our Father. Jesus, His Son, is our brother. The Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, is our mother.

This doesn’t make her divine. This doesn’t make her the fourth member of the Trinity. It simply means she is our Mother, The Mother of all the faithful.

Before we can continue with this train of thought, we must clarify some early Christian teaching brought to us through Judaism.

                  

               The Communion of the Saints 

 

In the Apostles Creed, there is a line that states; “[I believe in] the communion of Saints.” This phrase refers to the bond of unity among all those, living and dead, who are or who have been committed followers of Christ. This should lead us to understand the Ephesians 3:14-15 passage a little better, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” along with others of Paul’s writings of being one Body (Rom. 12:5, I Cor. 12:26).

 

Then may come the argument of, “Well, Paul is talking about (and writing to) those who are living, not dead.” To which I would respond, “He was speaking of both.”  For two major reasons:

 

First, as a Pharisee, and a devout Jew, Paul (and even the other apostles) was more than aware of the Jewish practice of praying for the dead and even for the intercession of the saints in heaven (2 Maccabees 12: 39-46, 15: 11-16, normally I wouldn’t make reference to a deuterocanonical book but, since I’m speaking of earlier Jewish religious practices I will. The Maccabean revolt and their defense of the Temple, is where the celebration of the Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, originated).

 

Secondly, since God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32) and to be “absent from the body and to be present to the Lord” (2 Cor.5:8 ) those who have died in Christ are truly in His presence. Who better to pray on our behalf (intercede for us) than those in the presence of the Lord Himself!?

 

So, in understanding the Communion of the Saints, we can better grasp the concept of “praying to the Saints.” As a Catholic, I ask Saints to pray for my family and I. I do not pray to them as an end, for they are not God, but as a means to an end. Much like I would ask a faithful friend to pray for my family or I.

 

“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” (James 5:16) and again, who better to intercede for us than those present with our Lord already.

 

This should help clarify this aspect of the role of Mary (and the Saints) in the lives of Catholic Christians, though it does go a little deeper with our Mother. And we will look at her role specifically in our next post.

 

Amen.

5 Finger Prayer


Here is a simple way, to help you pray, more effectively, everyday!

  1. Our thumb is nearest to us. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember.
  2. Our next finger is our pointer. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction.
  3. The next finger is the middle which is also the tallest. Let it remind us to pray for our leaders. For our president, governor and mayor. Leaders in business and industry and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.
  4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact, that it is our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. Let this remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need our prayers day and night. We can never pray too much for them!
  5. Lastly comes our little finger; the smallest of all. This is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and to others. So, our pinkie should remind us to pray for ourselves. By the time we have prayed for the other four groups, our own needs will be put into proper perspective and we will be able to pray for ourselves more effectively.

Thank you Father Ken Gehling, for sharing this with us!