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.

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.

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.

What Did You Expect?: Mark 3:1-6


Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

What was it about the Pharisees? Why did they have it in for Jesus? The answer may scare us!

It’s hard to understand though, just where they were at, without a little background of the sects of 1st century Judaism.

We are fairly familiar with two; the Pharisees(of course) and the Sadducees (mentioned in the New Testament, Matt. 16:6, Mk. 12:18). Another sect (mentioned in this passage) is the Herodians. There were also the Essenes, the Zealots(of which Simon the disciple came, Lu. 6:15) and the Samaritans (Jn. 4:9).

One of the things I find fascinating, is the “history” behind which these sects are formed. It’s not unlike Christianity today, in that what started out unified, is now splintered into “denominations” and like Judaism in the first centuries before Christ, came the rise of “remnant theology.”

Remnant Theology was developed during and coming out of the Exile. Mainline Jews declared that God would preserve a faithful remnant of His people, who would be the seed of the “new” Israel. For the first time in their history, they entertained the notion that not all Jews were “chosen”. During the Exile, synagogues had been built all over and rabbis (at least those well versed in Torah) expounded on their view of what it said. So in Exile, as these different sects formed, and rabbis with different views taught Torah, they came out with different “interpretations” of what the Hebrew Scriptures said. Of course, like today, more than one sect, considered itself to be the “faithful remnant of God”. This is the mind-set of the sects of Judaism prior to and at the time of Jesus.

The Pharisees descended from a group called the Hasideans. During the time of the Maccabees they are referred to as, mighty warriors of Israel, all who offered themselves willingly for the law(I Macc. 2:42). After the Maccabean revolt, during the time of the Hasmoneans (when John Hyrcanus named himself king and priest in 135 B.C.) The Pharisees emerged from this sect, as master interpreters of the oral traditions of the rabbis. Most Pharisees came from middle class families of artisans and tradesmen (as St. Paul was a tent maker). The historian Josephus observed that when the Jewish people faced an important decision, they relied on the opinion of the Pharisees, rather than that of the king or the high priest (Antiquities, Bk.XII, Chap.X Sect. 5 ). Because they were esteemed so highly by the people, they were often chosen for high government positions, such as the Sanhedrin. Could this be a/the reason why they feared Jesus so, His ability to draw large crowds ? Of all the sects of Judaism, the Pharisees were more in line with Jesus’ teachings on the resurrection of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.

Now why, as we read in our text for this week, did the Pharisees go out and take counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death?

Not much is known about Herodian beliefs as a sect. We do know that they were basicly a political group, made up of Jews from various religious sects. As their name suggests, they supported the dynasty of King Herod the Great, and some scholars believe that they may have taught that indeed, Herod was the Messiah (though there is no hard evidence to support this veiw). But, if this were true, The Pharisees could certainly count on the Herodians to help dispel this Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, not only from the religious side, but from the political side as well.

One thing is for sure though. Jesus was not  the Messiah they were expecting! And the Pharisees, the Herodians (as well as all the other sects) reacted just as they had every other time before. When some self-proclaimed, or people anointed “messiah” came along, they got rid of him by any means possible – even if that meant using the hated Roman authority.

So, what does all that have to do with us?

Plenty!

Do we think of Jesus in a one way only kind of faith? In other words, do we put God in a box? One that He couldn’t possibly work out of? Is He not what you expected, and you’ve made Him into what you did expect?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit
 

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“Behold, I am doing a new thing.” Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.
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The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,” speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
    And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
713    The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.” These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.” Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
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This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:
    The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
    he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
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The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. 
716        The People of the “poor”—those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah—are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”

Maybe we need to use our time this week, to re-examine who Jesus the Messiah is, in our own lives.

Is He the long awaited Messiah, or is He only what you were expecting the “messiah” to be?

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.”

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.