Sunday, February 22, 2015

1st Sunday in Lent - Mark 1:12-15 - The Kingdom of God!

The Kingdom of God is at hand!  
It is here and now!  
The Kingdom of God lives within every disciple – within each and every one of us.

Our discipleship makes manifest God’s Kingdom. 
In loving as we are loved by our heavenly Father, we bring the love of God’s Kingdom into the world. 
As we listen to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, we come to know the Truth of God’s Kingdom.  
By living faith-filled lives, we live in the Light of Christ; reflecting God’s Kingdom to the whole world.  
In speaking the truth of the Gospel, we bring His Kingdom into the dark places of this world, so others might hear our witness and come to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

Each day, when we take up the cross of Christ, we profess our belief in God who loves us so: to send His only Son into the world to save us from our sins and bring us into the Father’s heavenly Kingdom where we will live with Him forever and ever.

As Catholics, as Christians, we live in an increasingly hostile world to the love of God.  This is a world where darkness looms; threatening to block out the Light of Life.  Each day we are faced with ever more challenges to living as disciples of Jesus, of practicing our faith and bringing the Word of God, the love of the Father, to the world.

The agents of the evil-one tirelessly work to redefine the meaning of family – the basic faith-sharing core of the Church, where children learn the rudiments of faith from loving committed parents in a safe and stable environment.

Our understanding of marriage is called ‘out-of-touch’ in the modern world: condemned as short-sighted, narrow-minded.  We are faced with increasing pressures to accept the unacceptable - through the rule of law - despite our right to live in peace and practice our beliefs according to the tenants of our faith.

The culture of death advocates that human life, from the very outset is an inconvenience, inconsequential, so therefore disposable.  God’s unique gift of life-creation is reduced to a recreation, where self-indulgence and personal satisfaction are held in higher esteem than the precious gift of loving and sharing life.   

This slippery slope has already softened our worldly culture into accepting as norms behaviors that were unimaginable.  Under the guise of freedoms, the evil-one has enslaved more to worldly pleasures and the pursuit of attractions to things offensive and degrading to the human spirit: behaviors which erode the essentials of dignity and respect which God bestows on each human.

As Christians, we are called to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel: to live lives of true discipleship in Christ Jesus.  This means taking up our Cross of Christ, the yoke that is easy, the burden that is light, because He is with us, so we may live our faith in the world and bring others to know and love the Lord.  He sends us His Holy Spirit to dwell among us; guiding us through every hill and valley - from darkness into light, so we may place His light on a hilltop for all the world to see.

These are trying times for Christians.  Everywhere we turn we see this world filled with the works of the evil-one.  From our own secular culture; attempting to erase God from our daily lives, to the agents of evil who evangelize by the sword; vowing to destroy the Seat of Peter.

We are a people of the Cross.  We are a chosen people; living in this world, but apart from this world.  We aspire to greater things – to holier things, - the things of God.  We await the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ in whom we find strength, hope, mercy and love.  
In Him is our peace and our life, 
In Him is our comfort and consolation, 
In Him is our redemption and salvation - for us and for the whole world.

Be filled with the Almighty God,  Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as were the 21 Martyrs of Egypt, who when faced with the sword of evil, - Professed ‘Jesus Christ is Lord!  

Let us declare the presence of the Kingdom of God to be at hand!  
Let us glorify the Lord, by our lives!  
In this Lent, let us repent sins, resist temptations, and avoid the snares of the evil-one, cast off oppression and hatred: reject the treasures of this sinful world and strive to bring about God’s Kingdom for all people.  

Rejoice in the Lord!  Live in Hope of God’s promise of Eternal Life!  Believe in the Gospel!  Profess, by every word, thought and deed, that Jesus Christ is Lord! ~Amen

Deacon Don

Saturday, February 14, 2015

6th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 1:40-45 - "Be Healed, My Son"

Imagine what would life be like as a leper; having to live outside the community, - away from family and friends – unable to be part of the social life of the community, unable to be with family, unable to gather join your worship community, unable to take part in business or work at your trade or participate in   whatever recreation you enjoyed. – This was a leper’s life – a non-life, a living death - in the time of Jesus.  Being a part of communal life was everything to the people of Jesus’ day.  All their life-being, their safety and security, their livelihoods, their social life was centered on living among others.

As we heard in the first reading, an afflicted person had to go before a priest to be judged if they had leprosy.  Every pimple, blotch, dark spot and freckle was possibly leprous.  If the priest said it was leprosy, the victim had to tear his garments, uncover his head -- cover his face and warn people of their presence announcing, “Unclean, unclean!”  They were banished from their life – from their community, family and friends- they were like the real living dead.  

In order to rejoin their community, family & friends, the leper had to go again before a priest for examination to ensure that they no longer had disease. Again, imagine how hard this was to prove.  Remember – every mark or spot on the skin might be considered leprosy!

This is why Jesus tells the leper he healed, to present himself to the priest, so that he may be judged clean according to the Law of Moses, -- so he may return to life and live again among his family and friends; rejoining life again.
Have the stain of sin upon us is like being a leper in the time of Jesus.  Not being in a state of grace, the stain of sin places us outside our Christian community.  Sin is both private and public - an act against God and against the good of the community.  Sin separates us not only from the love of God, but also the peace and harmony of our community in which we live, so we become like the leper – separated, banished, apart from the community, relegated to live alone.

Several years ago I watched a short film called ‘The Lump’ in which the narrator tells the story of his 7 year old son, who commits a “grave sin” – he hits his little brother and then lies to his mother when she confronts him.  His response to being “busted” by Mom is to run away and hide.

Later, when his father comes home and learns of the incident, he goes about the house searching for his son (does that sound familiar?).  He finds a “Lump” about the size of his son under the blankets of their bed.  Dad sits down near his son, who has been hiding under the covers for a long time.  Slowly the father peals back the covers to reveal his son all curled up, sweat-soaked – with eyes red and swollen from crying.

The son, in his shame, has separated himself from his community - his family.  He banishes himself from his society; crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” as he runs away to hide – alone, -- away from his communal life because of his sinfulness.
When the father finds his son and reaches out to him, his son climbs up into his father’s arms and receives his father’s loving embrace.  The sons reaching up to his father is the son, in humble submission asking for mercy and forgiveness.

The father taking his son into his arms; holding him in a loving embrace is the father’s mercy that forgives.  In this exchange of love of son for his father and the father for his son, the son is healed of his affliction.

Just as the leper in Mark’s Gospel asks Jesus for healing – both he and the boy want to rejoin the loving embrace of their community: to return to life, to Live in the Light live in the love of God and family to be alive among friends made whole welcomed, not banished,  as if dead to the world.  

Receiving forgiveness takes no more trial than the asking.  The leper asked Jesus for healing – to be made clean and the son -- in his sorrow -- climbs up into his father’s arms: -- both trusting in the love of the Father -- that they would find healing and forgiveness.  We too must trust in the love of our heavenly Father to heal us of our afflictions, forgive us our sins.
But the story for the boy doesn’t end there – he receives forgiveness, but he must also be reconciled with his community. Just as Jesus told the leper to go before the priest to be declared clean, -- the father tells his son he too must take a positive action to make things right within his community.  He must apologize to his brother and mother to make things right again among the family; returning his community to harmony and peace. So too we must be reconciled to God and our community when we receive forgiveness.

The sacrament we celebrate is Reconciliation, not forgiveness.  Forgiveness is only the beginning of our journey to healing and our return to life within our community.  The restoration of peace and harmony is made manifest when we seek to make things right again with God and community through Reconciliation.  

So when we sin we desire to seek forgiveness, but for real healing to take place we desire to seek Reconciliation with God and with Community so we might live again in the Light of Christ among our brothers and sisters in love, peace, and harmony. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, February 8, 2015

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:29-39 - On Suffering

Jesus heals Simon's Mother-in-law
In the ancient world people believed in a cause and effect of sin and suffering and righteousness and reward.  You suffered because you were sinful and were rewarded with a good life for being righteous.

Today, while many see their success in life as a matter of their own making; failing to thank God for His blessings upon them, many others continue to equate their sufferings as punishment or loss of favor with God.  The struggle to find meaning to human suffering is still a mystery of life.  

God’s people continue to cry out, “Why must I suffer?” or “Why do good people suffer, while evil people are untouched?”  “Must innocent children die?” or “Why are their horrible and painful diseases?”

These questions lead us to ask: “Why does God allow us to suffer?” or “If God says he loves us, how can He allow such hatred and barbarism to exist?” or “If God is all powerful, why does He not banish all evil and pain from the world?”

Since the fall of Adam and Eve humankind has endured hardship in life, including sufferings of disease, poverty, evil and death.  Some human suffering comes from God’s gift of free will wherein humans make poor choices with bad outcomes.  Other sufferings come from humans turning away from the light of God to dwell under the power and influence of the evil-one who delights in human suffering and misery.  There is also sufferings which are beyond our comprehension – such as diseases and natural disasters.

Through all this suffering and destruction the evil-one works to leads us away from loving God.  He deceives us with falsehoods of human mastery and self-deception to look for comfort and healing within our own powers.  Bringing many today to believe there is no God, thereby seeing human existence as having no meaning beyond what we experience in the here and now.  Theirs is a cold and unfeeling world void of love or hope – a drab and hollow existence filled with self-glorification and immediate; unsatisfying worldly gratifications.

We hear today the lamentations of Job, a righteous man who suffers greatly.  His sufferings are a mystery to him for he is a righteous man whose faith in God is unwavering.  Despite physical afflictions and material losses, Job proclaims, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Lord.”  He understands that there is no cause and effect to sin and suffering.  There is only the encounter with God.

Jesus’ power to heal afflictions and sufferings cause the people to seek him.  His actions of healing the people of their sufferings restores them to their families and their community life.  This foreshadows His power of forgiveness that will restore the people to God’s covenant; bringing them to a new life in His heavenly kingdom.

“Jesus grasped (the) her hand” (of Simon’s mother-in-law) “and helped her up.  Her fever left her and she waited on them.”  What we see in this exchange is not hungry men looking for a woman to serve them a meal, but the call to discipleship through the encounter with Jesus Christ.  

Simon’s mother-in-law, lives in his (Simon’s) house by his kindness alone.  She is a poor widow with no family of her own to care for her.  She is one of the least: marginalized; living at the mercy of others.  Her encounter with Jesus empowers her with purpose and meaning that brings her to a new life; calling her to serve the Lord through her witness of His power to heal and save.

All human suffering is not meaningless, but serves in ways unknown to us.  Job’s cries and complaints were not indications that he’s lost his faith in God.  His faith and trust in the Lord, no matter what purpose his suffering served, strengthened him to endure.  

In our suffering and afflictions, we are called to encounter Jesus; laying bare our wounds and miseries at the foot of His cross.  In His crucifixion and death we see our own pain and suffering: by His resurrection we see His love and healing.  Our lives are forever changed when we accept the hand of Jesus, who restores us and raises us up to new life in Him, as beloved of God. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, February 1, 2015

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:21-28 - "The Voice"

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”

There is so much noise in the world.  Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with messages: sights, sounds – ever more bright and dazzling, ever more spectacular and overwhelming – ever more daring and innovative - each elbowing the other out of the way - to grab hold of our attention for even the briefest of moments.  Each voice shouting proclamations to be the best, the newest, the most authoritative, the most profound, most informed – the decisive, absolutely definitive, latest word of ‘a new truth’ for the new age.  It is an upsurge of noise, a crescendo – up to full volume – that has become our constant background of life.

And within each message there is an air of knowing; an assertion of sophistication, an aura of superiority that intimates, “If you fail to agree with this message of ‘a new truth’; you are na├»ve, uninformed, out-of-step, uncool, unhip, not one on the cutting edge with ‘the in-crowd’.”  Many voices claim authority of being the newest voice of ‘a new truth’ leading others to confusion and hesitation; sowing seeds of doubt, suspicion and mistrust -sprouting into weeds of disbelief. 

The plethora of channels of mass media communication, especially through the internet, with its tools enabling everyone to communicate with everyone else, - has further increased this noise level of ‘a new truth’: creating a wasteland; a vast desert, a new wilderness of bewilderment and over stimulation, where nothing is really heard amid the mind-numbing discord. 

All this noise makes it increasingly crucial to listen to the one voice that speaks with real authority – the one voice that speaks with real truth – the one voice that even demons recognize as the one true voice of ‘The Truth’ and obey His commands.  The voice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  He is the one who speaks ‘The Truth’ with real authority.  The one of whom God spoke to Moses, saying, “I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all that I command.”

Jesus speaks to the people
Jesus is the one who speaks with real authority, unlike the scribes who cited scripture to authenticate their teaching.  Their teachings always began, “There is a teaching that says . . . or “It says in the book . . .” while Jesus spoke in the first person: “I say to you love your enemy and always pray for them.” or, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I love you.”

By His voice alone Jesus brought healing to the afflicted and restored life.  He cured the blindness of Bartimaeus, the withered hand of the man in the synagogue and the paralysis of the man lowered from the roof by His words alone.  Jesus’ voice commanded Lazarus to come out and the little girl to awake.  

Jesus’ voice is the only voice we need to hear.  His is the voice of the Father, the voice of ‘The Truth’ of God’s love and promise of salvation, the voice that breaks through all the noise made by man.

By the voice of Jesus Christ we are healed of our afflictions.  
By His voice alone we are forgiven our sins.  
It is in His voice that we receive eternal life and are welcomed into the Kingdom of the Father.  

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” 

Let the voice of Jesus continue to bring healing and forgiveness; light and life, peace and love into the world. ~Amen

Deacon Don