Mark 14:32-42

The Gospel of Mark is not one that I would normally choose to read. The sparseness of this particular Gospel and the frequent use of the word “immediately” disturbs me. I prefer reading a Gospel that tells a story and tells it in detail. The evangelist Mark doesn’t write that way. So when I opened my Word on Fire Bible this morning and opened to a page in Mark’s Gospel, I was surprised. I had decided to just open my Bible this morning and read what appeared on the open page.

Garden of Gethsemane

Here is what I read: “Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. (The Word on Fire Bible uses the word “agitated” and not distressed). Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch”. He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will”….

I never noticed nor thought about  some of this passage before. Jesus tells his closest friends that he was troubled and distressed. (agitated) The Bible doesn’t say that Peter, James or John ask Jesus why or try to comfort Him. I know that comforting others isn’t usually the purview of men. Women are the ones who have taken upon themselves that role and perhaps it is more suited to the personalities of women. But still, these are His closest friends who have spent the last three years with Him. They have just witnessed and participated in the Last Supper where Jesus tells them that He will soon be arrested and put to death. Did these three apostles say anything to Him when Jesus admitted to be distressed? This Gospel doesn’t tell us. I would like to know if the apostles tried to comfort their Friend.

Then I thought that Jesus had known all along that this Passion was His fate, what He had come to do. Is the Passion what distressed Him? Or rather was He distressed because of Judas’ act of betrayal? After all, Judas had been chosen from among many to be His companion. Judas had been present and witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles. While the Gospels tell us that Judas was a thief, did Jesus think of him that way? Did He believe that Judas would be saved? How many times did Our Lord warn the apostles? Even at the Last Supper, Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him. Would that not have been enough to stave off the betrayal, with the betrayer knowing that He was known to the Master?

The text continues: “When he returned, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test…..He withdrew again… Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him….”

I know how difficult it is to stay awake when a person is really tired. I rise early and go to bed early. Staying awake past my normal bed time after a busy day is not something that I can do. After a long day, the apostles were no doubt exhausted. I hear great sadness in Jesus’ words. Did the apostles try to maintain a vigil? Or were they so tired, that none could keep his eyes open? And after Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted, did the apostles castigate themselves that at the hour of their Friend’s greatest need, they could not even remain awake to comfort Him?

There have been times in my life when I have made a choice, even though someone I loved was in great need, and my choice was the wrong one. I understand why I made my choice, but I can never forget those actions. Why didn’t I have the courage, the strength, the foresight to have made a different choice? And what if I had made a different choice? Would it have made any difference?.

Mark 3:13-19

Written in 2012

“And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnames Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

Those whom Jesus called to be Apostles – I wonder how they felt about it. A sense of purpose perhaps, pride in being one of the few, expectation as to what would be revealed?. And what did they think of this Jesus? A brilliant preacher, kind and gentle, strange, awe inspiring for what He could do in healing the sick, eyes that seemed to see the soul, deep understanding of human nature, Scripture scholar? Did they question just who this man was – after all, he was just a carpenter from a small, out of the way place?. Did some think that God was working through him to heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind? Was he a prophet? Was he the Messiah? What did this Jesus see in them? They were common people – fishermen, tax collector, day laborers, farmers, merchants.  As time went on did they opinions of him change? Did their opinions of themselves change?

Days followed one upon the other. They ate and slept and traveled together. What did they see? What did they hear?

Four Gospels

Compare and contrast the 4 Gospels – meditations during Adoration. These thoughts occurred over several months as I spent an hour with the Lord each week.

Story of John the Baptist

Mark – introduces characters, basic information, a voice speaks to Jesus (written in Rome to Gentiles we think)

Matthew – shows John more fully like the prophets (Elijah), confrontation with Sadducees and Pharisees, Jesus has a winnowing fan to separate the wheat from the chaff, He identifies with us, tells John that He and John should fulfill all righteousness, the voice of God is heard by others (written to a Jewish Christian audience so it was necessary to align Jesus and what happened to Him with the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament

Luke – adds historical markers to show us where and when and align with history, John baptized in more than one place, he confronted crowds – not sure if these confrontations were only with Sadducees and Pharisees. John tells people what to do after repenting of sins, confirmed that he was not the expected Messiah; he had trouble with Herod due to Herod’s living with his brother’s wife.

John – little different arrangement, starts with John the Baptist after introductory prayer or song, John the Baptist gives testimony about himself, no angry confrontation with Pharisees and Sadducees, tells us where Jesus came to John’s baptism – Bethany. John had been called by God, like simeon, God had imparted important information to him. He calls Jesus “son of God” though others alluded to it.

Temptation of Jesus

Mark – very short, immediately after His baptism, the Spirit of God led him to the desert which is a place of great danger with little water or food. The desert was a place where Israel rebelled after leaving Egypt. Yet here was a place  where in the solitude Jesus found and understood His mission – obedience to the Father’s plan.

Matthew – We learn how Jesus is tempted, (1)to be a bread king and accepts whatever God wills, (2) Jesus refuses to test God as Israel did demanding signs, (3) Jesus will not worship anyone but God while Israel built an idol in the desert. Matthew shows how Jesus’ experience is like the Jews in the desert, but Jesus does not sin.

Luke –  Both Luke and Matthew flesh out the devil who may have guessed who Jesus truly is. The order of the temptaions is different. Third temptation is in Jerusalem where Jesus’ final obedience to His Father is revealed. Luke speak to Gentiles – just as everyone is tempted by drive to power, worldly honor or material good, Jesus was tempted by chose obedience to God.

John – does not reflect on this story.

Beginning of Jesus ministry

Mark – this is one sentence but full of words that speak of amazing things. Gospel means “good news”. Jesus says: “This is the time of fulfillment ( what the Jews were promised, what they were waiting for)  The kingdom of God is at hand (it is here where you can touch and see it.) Repent and believe the Good News. (Prepare yourself by changing inside so you can listen and see). The scene makes me think that Jesus was saying as clear as could be – Yahweh is here and I am He. The Jews would have understood that.

Matthew – After John’s arrest, Jesus left Judea and went to Galilee. He left Nazareth where He had been living and working and went to Capernaum. Did Mary go with Him? One would think so, for He would not leave her alone to fend for herself. Capernaum is part of the prophesy of Isaiah, that “a great light” would come from that land. There Jesus began to preach that the kingdom of heaven was here. God has come as He had promised.

Luke – Jesus returns to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” – don’t really understand that, but news of Him spread, so He must have been preaching and healing. His works announced that God had come, as He had promised.

John – John does not reflect on these first days except to speak of the call of the Apostles.

Call of the first disciples

Matthew and Mark are almost word for word the same. The call of Jesus “entails abandonment of the family and former way of life and emphasizes Jesus mysterious power.” (footnote) In Mark, Zebedee the father of John and James is left with hired men to help him. There is no indication in Matthew that someone is left behind with the father.

Luke – the story is arranged differently. We first see Jesus curing people and being rejected by those in the synagogue in Nazareth and had left Capernaum to ray in a deserted place. The story is arranged so that one who assume that the disciples had a previous encounter with Jesus for we read that He healed Simon’s mother-in-law. Then he preached by the side of the sea where Simon and his friends were working, cleaning their nets. Andrew is not mentioned. Jesus gets into Simon’s boat uninvited and suggests that they row out a bit and lower their nets. They had been unsuccessful with fishing the night before (the ordinary time to fish) but they comply with Jesus. After catching so many fish that help was needed to haul them all ashore, Simon recognizes Jesus power and along with James and John decides to follow Jesus. Jesus tells Simon “do not be afraid”, a customary saying when one is approached by the supernatural.

John – The first disciples have Jesus pointed out to them by John the Baptist who has baptized Jesus and then calls Him the “lamb of God”, a phrase ripe with meaning. Having been disciples of the Baptist, (Andrew and John)  they understand his words and begin to follow Jesus as they believe Jesus is the prophesied Messiah. So they follow to find out if the Baptist is correct. After spending the day with Him, Andrew gets his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus telling him that they have found the Messiah.

The author of this Gospel was a witness to these events, so I wonder if this re-telling is closer to the actual events. Did Andrew bring Simon first – perhaps he was close by? There are some suggestions that the Sabbath was quickly approaching as we are told it was 4 in the afternoon. Sabbath would have begun at sundown.

Cleansing of a Leper – June 1, 2012

This story only occurs in Matthew Chapter 8 vs. 1 -4 and Luke Chapter 6, vs 12-16.  The words of both of these episodes are exactly the same. The leper says to Jesus: “Lord, if you wish, you could make me clean”. Who  could cure leprosy? Only God could, so it appears that the leper has faith and great courage in approaching Jesus, for lepers were required to stay away from the healthy. The leper fell prostrate – only God deserves such honor – it speaks of total vulnerability. Leprosy was thought to be a sign of sin. Who can forgive sin? Only God can.

Jesus replies: “I do will it” and then He touched the leper. According to the Law, touching a leper was one of those actions which made a person unclean. Most people would not touch a leper, fearing they would contract the disease. Isn’t that what Jesus does with every man’s sin? He touches us and cleanses us of our sin. In Jesus words “I do will it” – those hearken back to the words of creation.

Then to touch another or be touched by another – what a gift that is, especially for the leper. How long had it been since the leper had been lovingly touched by another?

At least three gifts were given by this act of Jesus – a touch of love which is acceptance of the man, forgiveness of sin, and healing of a horrible disease which returned the leper to society and to his loved ones.

Touch encompasses acceptance and communion with others. God says in Genesis: “It is not good for man to be alone”. Yet the leper or anyone with a skin disease became an outcast, and therefore, alone. In so many of these stories of healings, Jesus returns the sick to society, and more importantly, to worship. Even now He does that, for what is a sinner but one who is sick and separated from God? 

Healing of the paralytic

Matthew Chapter 9, verses 1-8

In this story Jesus is back in Capernaum where He is living, although the story does not tell us the exact location. Knowing Jesus had returned people brought to Him a man on a stretcher. Jesus acknowledges the faith of the people and addresses the paralytic, telling him his sins are forgiven. Scribes standing nearby know that only God can forgive sins for it is God who is offended by our actions. Jesus questions the scribes, whom He knew were questioning His actions, and asks which is easier to say – your sins are forgiven or rise and walk. Each of these statements requires some kind of action which only God can do. To prove that He has the power to forgive sins, Jesus heals the man to the amazement of all.

There doesn’t seem to be any question that the man was truly paralyzed for all must have known him.

Mark Chapter 2 verses 1 – 12

Same basic story as in Matthew except Jesus is in His(?) house and the men who are carrying the paralytic cannot bring him to Jesus so they take him up on the roof and open the roof above Jesus’ head. There are 4 men – wonder if they are brothers or close friends of the man due to the extent they were willing to go to bring him to Jesus. (storming heaven with our prayers)

Luke  Chapter 5 verses 17 -26

Same basic story as Mark and Matthew although Pharisees are there as well as the scribes. The setting has changed somewhat. There are tiles on the roof, reflecting a Gentile home, rather than a dirt and straw roof. After the man was healed, he glorified God and went home, which we were not told in the other versions. The crowd states that “we have seen incredible things today” as if this were some kind of performance, although it may not have been meant that way. When Jesus is surprised by the faith of the four men who brought the paralytic, is He forgiving the four who brought the man or the man himself. In the other versions, he seems to be forgiving the paralytic.

June 15, 2012 The call of Levi (Matthew)

In Matthew’s Gospel we are given a name of this man – Matthew, one of the 12 apostles. The story is almost exactly the same in Mark and Luke except the tax collector is called Levi. Mark’s gospel adds “son of Alphaeus”. Alphaeus – who is he? Was another apostle also a son of this man – James, the first bishop of Jerusalem who wrote the Letter of James and was one of the early martyrs. There is some question about James the less, son of Alphaeus and James the apostle. The Gospels never mention that Matthew and James were brothers.

Only in Matthew’s Gospel does Jesus say to the Pharisees and scribes who question his eating with tax collectors and sinners “learn the meaning of the words “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. 

I question how it was that the Pharisees and scribes knew what Jesus was doing. Did they follow Him about or have spies watching him? Why? The only answer I can come up with is that the miracles of Jesus and the prophesies let them to wonder whether Jesus was “the one who is to come.” So they would watch and judge His actions to determine if they fit with what the Scriptures claimed.

In addition, they were zealous for their faith and tried to follow all of the laws of Moses. They may have considered themselves less sinful than the common man. They seemed to be the elite of their community. Did they work at all or spend all their time studying the Scriptures?

When Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners”, was he being sarcastic, referring to their belief about themselves?

We see many common people are friends of Matthew and came to the banquet he hosted. Perhaps he welcomed any who accepted him.

Job of the tax collector – one needed some education and an ability to speak with Romans. They kept records, tallied up sums and would have been separated from most Jews who considered them traitors and thieves.

The question of fasting —

Matthew 9:14-17

Remember that Matthew is addressing Jewish Christians. People watched Jesus and His disciples much as people today watch others who interest them – I do this too – in Adoration Chapel I watch how people reverence the Lord and try to imitate behaviors that I find beautiful. We watch how people live, what they wear and eat, whether they are kind and charitable, what friends they have and if these people meet with our approval, we imitate them. This is no different than people have always done.

So it must have been with Jesus. People were curious about Him. They expected the Messiah and wondered if He fit the image they had of who the Messiah would be.

Jesus compares Himself to a bridegroom. God often spoke of Israel as His spouse. At a wedding banquet people eat, talk, dance and celebrate the beginning of a new life which two people are making. The disciples of John would have noticed the connection Jesus was alluding to – John may have been imprisoned or dead at the time, so it would have been natural for John’s disciples to seek out Jesus – the Baptist had pointed to Him. Jesus tells them He will be forcibly taken away and then His disciples would mourn. Given the way John the Baptist was taken, his previous disciples could visualize this as well. No doubt they mourned and fasted for him, praying that God would restore the Baptist to them. Jesus calls His disciples wedding guests who would be celebrating. He questions why they should mourn when He is near.

There is a comparison of old and new cloth and old and new wineskins. How is this connected to the bridegroom? Perhaps as the footnote describes Jesus is bringing in a new tradition. Patching it with parts of the old would not work – the old would be damaged in some way. Perhaps He is saying the old is still good, but the Bridegroom is a new way of being.

Mark 3:18-22

In this version written to the Gentile Christians of Rome, it is the generic “people” who objected that Jesus and His disciples did not fast. Others – disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees – did. Perhaps these groups were seen by the “people” as being more outwardly religious and therefore closer to God – they made a point of fasting. So why doesn’t Jesus – who presents Himself as close to God – fast?

When the bridegroom is taken away – again not by choice “on that day”, the disciples of Jesus will fast, for then they shall mourn. Again Mark continues with the old/new cloth and wineskins.

Luke 6:33-39

Luke also addresses the Gentiles but gives a little fuller description of the event. We read that the disciples of John and the Pharisees “fast and offer prayers”, but Jesus and His disciples eat and drink! Jesus once again speaks of a bridegroom and guests. Then we are told that Jesus tells them a parable of cloth and wineskins. In the other two versions the statements are just given to us but here Luke tells us they are parables – a message perhaps that Jesus is expressing something important. 

The cloth story speaks of tearing a new cloak (this is different – before it was just new cloth patched to old) which is the way of Jesus, and patching the old cloak which was the old covenant. New and old won’t match – the old will be torn by the new. The wineskin story just repeats the idea. Then an addition to the previous two Gospels – Jesus says that no one who is drinking old wine wants the new. The footnote says this may be sarcasm about the Jews.

Further notes: Jesus often speaks of Himself as the Bridegroom.

Calming The storm at sea – Matthew 8: 23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25 no corresponding story in the Gospel of John

Note previously written in Matthew about this episode — They looked to Jesus to save them when they were powerless to save themselves.

Matthew –This Gospel was written for Jewish Christians primarily. Many Jewish Christians in Palestine would have been familiar with the Sea of Galilee, so the story about the storm might have made sense to them. According to Fr. Robert Barron storms on this large lake were not predictable, at least in the time of Jesus, and seemed to come up suddenly without warning. The story tells us that the disciples followed Jesus onto the boat. If he was their teacher, they would have followed His lead, walking after Him. The author leaves out any information as to where they were going or the time of day or even how long they had been rowing. The disciples must have believed that Jesus could do something to help for they call out “Lord, save us, for we are perishing.” Many who heard the story would have marveled that Jesus could sleep through a storm in an open boat with the waves breaking over the boat. The audience would have been able to envision the story, especially if they were familiar with the sea of Galilee. Though the Apostles believed that Jesus could help, He chides them for their unbelief. When He does calm the sea, they were amazed for only God controls the natural world.

Mark – expands the story, perhaps more for Gentile hearers. He sets the stage by telling the time of day and that there was more than one boat. Perhaps not all twelve apostles could have fit into one boat. Mark tells us that waves were breaking over the boat and it was filling up with water. We also learn that the squall was violent and where Jesus was seated.  In this version Jesus is addressed as “teacher”  instead of “Lord” and is asked “don’t you care that we are perishing”. One could imagine the scene and wonder why He wasn’t helping bail out the water. The apostles don’t ask Him directly to save them. Jesus asks why they are terrified. “Do you not yet have faith?” So we can conclude that the apostles have seen much that Jesus has done. After Jesus calms the waves, the apostles are filled with awe. Only God’s actions fill us with awe.

Luke— In Luke’s story addressed to Gentiles, the sea of Galilee is termed a lake. One would expect that the hearers did not have experience of the sea of Galilee. The selection opens just like a story — “one day he got into a boat”  and said to the disciples “Let us cross to the other side”. We see Jesus directing the action. They set sail so we see a sailboat perhaps with oars although that is not told to us. A squall comes up after Jesus has fallen asleep and the little boat takes on water – not a good sign in a boat. Jesus is called “Master” in this story. He is told that all in the boat are perishing. He is not asked to do anything, but after He awoke “He rebuked the waves and wind”, acting in the person of God and the Word of God which causes events by His very words. Afterwards He asks them “where is your faith” They are filled with awe once again and spoke to one another “Who then is this (man), who commands the winds and waves and they obey Him”. So no matter what they have seen or heard, they still do not see Him as God but as a man with extraordinary knowledge, ability to communicate and close to God who gives Him the power to do what He does.

The healing of the Gadarene demonic

Matthew 8:28-34

This story appears in all synoptic Gospels, but Matthew’s is the shortest. In his version, there are two men (unlike Luke and Mark) who are possessed by demons. The  men live away from the nearby community. Jesus is recognized by the demons who plead that they will not be tormented by Him “before the appointed time”. I suppose the message here is that the demons recognize the Son of God and His power – this Gospel is directed originally to Jewish Christians who would have known that the Gadarenes were Gentiles. What is amazing to me is that the demons beg not to be tormented when that is what they are doing to the people they possess. I wonder if there is a message there for me.

The demons ask to be sent to a herd of swine (Jews would not associate with those who raised them, considering swine to be unclean) The demons immediately rush into the sea once they are allowed into the herd, destroying the entire herd. The people in the nearby town come out to meet Jesus and are so afraid of Him that they ask Him to leave.  They apparently recognize Jesus’ power. They may also not want anyone around who messes with their way of life, their ability to make money.

The demonics in all three stories are so debased by their lifestyles that they live among the dead in what seems to be a cemetery. I think here of drug addicts and alcoholics and anyone possessed by some kind of addiction which drives them away from human contact.

In Mark and Luke, the longer versions, we read that the demonic individual has been so violent that he had been chained to keep him from hurting others, but he was able to break the chains. This makes me think of people addicted to pcp’s. In Mark we see the poor man hurting himself with stones. In Luke he has no clothes – he could not fall any further and had become like the wild animals.

In Mark and Luke it is revealed that more than one demon possesses the man. They call themselves Legion. In both Mark and Luke the healed man wants to accompany Jesus, but is sent home to speak of his healing. Wouldn’t we all like to stay close to the One who has healed us, but we are asked instead to speak God’s Words to others.

Curious that the demons wanted to inhabit the pigs which were considered unclean – perhaps it points to their (the demons) uncleanness.

This is one of the most curious of the stories I have read so far.

July 20, 2012

Luke Chapter 1 (no comparisons today)

Luke is a second or perhaps third generation Christian writing around 80 -90 AD. He is a Syrian from Antioch. His purpose, as stated in the prologue, is to write down, in an orderly sequence, as accurately as possible, everything he has been taught, read and learned about Jesus. His sources were the Gospel of Mark, a written collection of sayings of Jesus (Q) and other un-named traditions used by Luke alone. This Gospel is written primarily for Gentiles.

When I think about these stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood, I can’t help but believe that he or someone close had personal access to Mary. For who else would have known all of this? Perhaps these stories were written down or came from John the Apostle, with whom Mary lived after Jesus death. These stories have too much detail to have been imagined.

Luke sets the time and place and relates this to both Palestinian and Roman history. Then he begins to weave the stories of Jesus with Old Testament prophesies.

We meet Zechariah and Elizabeth first. They were two faithful Jews who have an important part to play. Through God’s design they give birth to the one who will announce and prepare the way for the Messiah. An Angel (Gabriel) appears to Zechariah while Zechariah is ministering in the Temple in Jerusalem. He becomes troubled and afraid, which is understandable. The angel tells Zechariah that his prayers will be answered and more spectacularly than could be imagined. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are both elderly. They have prayed throughout their marriage for a child, but none came.

It is curious that Zechariah does not believe the angel. But even now ministers of our faith caution us to test what may appear to be a revelation from God. Had an angel appeared to me I would question whether my eyes were deceiving me or if due to my age I were hallucinating. Nevertheless, Zechariah questions.

Yet the angel knew Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers – surely that would count for something. What the angel reveals about the son to come is spectacular – like Samson and perhaps other ancient heroes _ he will drink no wine, he will be greatly favored by God, he will receive the Holy Spirit in the womb, and he will turn many hearts back to God.( In every age many turn away from God. Surely Zechariah had seen this in his time.) The angel also says that his son will fulfill Old Testament prophesies.

But Zechariah questions the angel. But his questions don’t revolve around his son’s ability to do great things for the Lord, but the ability of an old man and an old woman to conceive a child – the mechanics of it that seem to puzzle him. The angel strikes Zechariah mute until the child is born and named John.

Elizabeth conceives after Zechariah returns home mute. Then curiously, Elizabeth secludes herself for 5 months after conceiving. Why?

Luke Chapter 1 (continued) The Angel Gabriel visits Mary

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary – there is no indication where or what time of day. He addresses her as someone greatly honored. As with Zechariah, the angel tells Mary that there is no reason to fear. And just as with Zechariah, the angel tells Mary what her child will be like – what honors will be bestowed on Him. And the angel names the child just as he did with Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child.

As the angel gave Zechariah a sign (making him mute for his disbelief), the angel gives Mary a sign, although she did not ask for one. She did question how an unmarried woman could become pregnant. The angel tells Mary that the conception of Jesus will be miraculous. The sign he gives is that her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman who has been barren, is with child, also by God’s intervention.

Mary had to discern if the angel was from God, but since we believe that she was born without sin, the devil would not approach her (at least that is what I think).

Then Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. I assume that Mary had been around pregnant women before and knew that difficulties even a young woman would face during a pregnancy. Seeing her cousin pregnant would confirm the angel’s message.

Love and concern for others is a natural condition of the human heart. Mary displays this by making the difficult and dangerous journey to visit her cousin.

The Holy Spirit is given to John at this time (Mary’s visit) and also given to Elizabeth. Perhaps Elizabeth had been told what the angel said to Zechariah about the child she carried but until Mary’s arrival she did not know just whom John would announce.

Mark 1:40-45

jesus-heals-a-leper“He spread the report abroad (the leper)
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
Jesus remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.”

I thought about this this morning. After healing the leper and warning him not to say anything, the leper told everyone that Jesus had healed him. I imagine the the leper was so ecstatic, so overcome with joy, that he couldn’t keep the news to himself. But then Jesus had to remain in the wilderness, outside of towns and villages, if he was to have any rest. Still the people searched for Him. As with all things, even this inconvenience served the Lord, for he had time with his disciples. I imagine he was speaking with them, training them.

What did the disciples think when they witnessed people being healed? Were they impressed or were they still waiting for the “political” Messiah? Still, those times alone with the Lord, sleeping under the stars, sitting around a campfire talking – those had to be special memories for all of them.

March 8, 2020

This was the reading this morning in the Magnificat. I pondered this passage for some time this morning. We can see the reverence in the Leper as he kneels before Jesus. We can almost feel Jesus’ compassion toward the man as He reaches out His hand and touches the Leper. And with the power of God, Jesus heals the man.

Bishop Barron has a reflection on this passage in the Word on Fire Bible. He states: “Leprosy frightened people in ancient times – as contagious and mysterious diseases frighten people up through modern times. But more than this, leprosy rendered someone unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship…”

We, in this modern time, have been dealing with our own leprosy – covid 19. In the beginning of the “pandemic” it was understandable that restrictions were enacted to protect people from the disease. Even our churches were closed. But now that we know that 95% of the people will recover from the disease and that there are many treatments for the disease should be be infected, why are our churches still partially closed? We are we required to wear masks in our churches, forbidden from being close to others by limiting the number of people in a pew and leaving every other pew empty. What is it with our Bishops? They are treating us like lepers. Like the man in the Gospel story, we are “Israelites in exile from the Temple of God” – and as Bishop Barron says, ” an apt symbol of the general condition of scattered, exiled and wandering Israel.”

Mass is available to watch online for those who are ill. But for those of us who are not ill, the churches should be open and our community should be gathered together as they once were.

Oremus Mark 10:46-52

Mark 10: 46-52

The story of blind Bartimaeus. I love this story about a blind man who hears that Jesus is passing by him, on the road where the man is begging. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, even though the crowd tries to stop him. Bartimaeus calls louder and Jesus asks for him. Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and ran to the Lord. Then when asked by Jesus what Bartimaeus would have Him do for him, Bartimaeus replies, “my teacher, I would see.”

There is so much here, so much I recognized before. This morning I thought more about the story and thought that at the end of my life, I would like to throw off this human garment, which is my body, and run to the Lord. When I read about St. Therese, she did this though she started much earlier. And then later today, I was touched by the words of Bartimaeus, when he says “my teacher”. Jesus is my teacher. He teaches by His Words and by His actions. I just need to watch and listen.

Mark 11:27-33

overturning the tablesThe Gospel reading this morning was from Mark, chapter 11 verses 27 through 33. These passages always cause me to pause. Apparently Jesus has thrown the money changers out of the Temple; the Temple authorities want to know “by what authority do you do these things?”. The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t arrest Jesus for doing this, which is surprising to me. These authorities must have been disturbed – at least some of them – by the constant noise, bleating of animals and the general market mentality that pervaded the Temple, although there is some question as to whether any of them profited from the sales. Some of these leading men knew that this was God’s house, that it should be a house of prayer, a place of quiet and reverence.

Jesus had been telling them, over and over, who He was, where He came from. Not only by His words but His actions had to be obvious to anyone who was really looking. So Jesus won’t tell them by what authority He threw the money changers from the temple unless they answer a question for Him. Imagine that! These authorities are always asking Jesus questions, but now “He turns the tables on them” just as He did the money changers.

“Was John’s baptism of heavenly or human origin?” Instead of answering Jesus, they discuss the question, trying to figure out which answer will put them in less trouble. How like a politician, who is more interested in his personal power and retaining it, than in speaking the truth. These were religious men who had studied the Law, whose lives were centered around the Temple. They knew the truth, but wouldn’t or couldn’t speak it!

Am I like this at times? Do I avoid answering truthfully when I think it might be more advantageous to not answer at all or to lie? Maybe, for me, that is the point of this passage. Rather than judge what others have done to look at myself, question myself as to my behavior and then to guard my behavior, to answer truthfully at all times.

May the Holy Name of Jesus be praised!

Oremus Mark:10:46-52

blind BartimaeusThe reflection yesterday was from Mark, Chapter 10:46-52 – the Healing of the Blind Bartimaeus.  I could totally immerse myself in this reading. I saw a broken man, Bartimaeus, sitting by the wayside when Jesus comes by. Even though the crowds tell him to be quiet, perhaps some doing more than just talking, Baritmaeus persists in “his prayer” for assistance. Jesus hears the voice of Bartimaeus and calls him to Himself. Bartimeous discards all that would hold him back from reaching Jesus – his cloak in the story – and approaches the Lord. When Bartimaeus voices his need – to regain his sight – Jesus listens, remarks on Bartimaeus faith and grants his desire. After having his sins removed and his body healed, Bartimaeus follows the Lord.

This touched my heart because in a small way, I have found myself doing the same. Little by little discarding the habits of the past, all those things that hold me back from God. It has taken a long time and I am still on the journey. Do I continue in my prayer? Do I keep asking the Lord for healing?

Gospel of Mark, Chapter 4: 35-41

Mark, Chapter 4Jesus wishes to go to the Gentile area across the sea from where He has been preaching. The verse says “and leaving the crowd behind, they took Him with them in the boat just as He was.” What does that phrase mean: Just as He was? I imagine Jesus was fatigued. He has been teaching the people and healing all who came to Him. Probably He had been up since before dawn, as it was His habit to go out alone to pray before anyone else was awake. The phrase is curious. Jesus allows Himself to be led away, leaving the crowd behind. The text also says “other boats are with with” – not just Peter’s. What happens to those other boats when the winds pick up  and the waves toss the boats about?

All that I could think about was that going to the area where Gentiles predominated would require a faithful Jew to carry his own food as the Gentiles food might have been considered unclean. One might also need a traveling bag, extra sandals or other necessities as those wouldn’t be purchased from the Gentile lest one become unclean.

The other boats aren’t with them as the storm intensifies, much like those who fall away from Christ when the storms of life batter our lives. Only those in the boat with Jesus stay with Him.

Also today I read Matt 9:1-8. Jesus heals the paralytic. Jesus says to the man: “my son, your sins are forgiven.” With what tenderness Jesus speaks to the sick man! How often has anyone spoken to him in this way? Did anyone ever speak with him? He would have been considered a sinner since he was paralyzed and therefore unclean and outside society. Did the sound of Jesus’ voice raise the man’s hopes knowing that his soul was clean? Do I feel this way after Confession when God says to me that I am absolved of my sins?

Mark chapter 2:13 The Call of Levi

Matthew is a tax collector. The Jews who followed this profession may have been more educated, but their fellow countrymen hated them. What did Matthew think when Jesus called him? Was he curious about Jesus? Had he heard stories about Him? Watched him? Listened to Him? Was he surprised at the call? Matthew was considered an outside, a sinner due to his profession. Did he ever go to the synagogue or Temple?

Did Matthew “sit” in his tax collectors booth and think about his life? Regret some of his decisions? Why would he be so eager to follow Jesus? Was he willing to do anything to be loved?

In verse 13 we read that Jesus again went beside the sea to teach the crowds which gathered around Him. Was this common for Him?

In verse 15 we read many sinners followed Jesus. It is still true. But Jesus accepts and welcomes us – me. Jesus said that he had not come to call the righteous – did anyone think that was an insult, as who can be righteous before God? What was His tone of voice when He made that statement? Abraham was considered righteous because he believed in God’s promise to him.

Question about fasting – perhaps it was in preparation for a Jewish religious feast.  Here Jesus identifies Himself as the “bridegroom” – a clue to who He is. When Jesus speaks of new wine and wine skins, is that an allusion to the New Covenant?

On a sabbath day Jesus and His disciples walked through a field of grain. Where was this? We are not told. The Law limits how far one can walk on the sabbath. It sounds as though this is the first rule Jesus broke that day – that had been seen by His enemies. Then the disciples pick some grain and eat it – another broken rule either stealing or working to gain food on the sabbath. The Pharisees witness the event. Were some following Him everywhere He went? They would have broken a rule as well – walking more than allowed. When the Pharisees question Jesus, He reminds them why there is a sabbath. Yes, it is to worship God, but it is for the benefit of man – to allow man a time of refreshment, a time to praise God, to meditate on God and life, to enjoy the fruits of his labor and his family. The Pharisees, by their strict interpretation of the Law, have enslaved man, not given them the freedom God wants for us. They Jesus says, because of all of this, He, the Son of Man, is “Lord of the sabbath”. So once again Jesus gives strong clues as to Who He is.

After this Jesus enters a synagogue. It is still the sabbath. Again the Pharisees are watching to see what He would do – they should have been worshiping, meditating not casting their eyes about watching. Knowing this, Jesus asks them if it would be against the Law to cure the man with the withered hand. They will not answer. Have they no compassion on the suffering of the man? Why is the man allowed in the synagogue? Is it only the Temple where sick people are not allowed? Jesus became angry and grieved that the Pharisees would be so heartless, to not recognize the suffering. So Jesus heals the man, incurring the rancor of the Pharisees again, who enlist Herodians to help them destroy Jesus.

Gospel of Mark – continued

Mark 1:25 In the early morning, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place to pray. Jesus told us to do the same – to pray to our Father in secret.

Since Jesus left the house without telling anyone, Simon and the others began to look for Him. Simon told Him “Everyone is searching for You.” I wonder if the crowds had appeared once more at Simon’s house. I wonder if the crowds appeared once more at Simon’s house. Instead of returning to Capernaum, Jesus suggests that they visit the surrounding towns to proclaim the good news – already Jesus speaks of His mission, of what He has been sent to do. He visited local synagogues and cast out demons. Visiting synagogues was important. Jesus was a faithful and practicing Jew; the synagogues were places where people congregated to worship.

Jesus cleanses a leper – the leper begged to be healed, kneeling before Christ – a reflection on Jesus’ status – and the leper believed that if Jesus wanted to, He could heal him. Because the leper spread the word about his healing, contrary to what Christ had told him – Jesus didn’t go into towns anymore, but staying in the countryside. People went to Him.

We still go to Him in our hearts, but He is with us.