Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Matthew 6:7-15 How to Pray: Our Father

Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
"If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

In this passage Jesus reminds us that our relationship with God is one that is close and intimate. In the Old Testament, God is often called lord, or King. He is in heaven far from his people. Jesus reminds us that God is also close. Our relationship should be like a father, daddy, to a child. In this prayer we see  a focus on forgiveness. Sins are forgiven as we forgive others, because when we allow our hate to over come us, it eats away at our soul. Forgiveness of debts is important because debt is what traps us. It creates slaves out of free people. As a society we should focus on eliminating debt so the poor can be free to live out their own lives. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Matthew 25:31-46 We are called to feed the hungry

Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

In this passage, we see Jesus reminding us that we are called to serve others. Here Jesus does not encourage us to feed the hungry, he demands we feed the hungry. He is not simply saying we have a moral obligation to serve others, he is demanding us to do so or else we will never see the Kingdom of God. During this season of Lent, we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead, and visit the sick.

Mark 1:12-15 Jesus Tempted in the Desert

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

In this passage we see Jesus retreating to the desert to find himself. He goes to fast, to escape from the world, and be tempted by Satan. So many times in our lives we refuse to enter the desert. We refuse to make time for God and ask the hard questions about ourselves. Jesus reminds us that without the desert, we cannot truly reflect on who we are. During this time of Lent let us be be given the grace to go forth into the desert so that our relationship with God may be strengthened. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Luke 5:27-32 Jesus came for sinners not the righteous

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."

In this passage, we see Jesus calling a tax collector to follow him. The reactions of the Pharisees was typical because tax collectors in the time of Jesus were considered to be 'sell outs' to the Roman Empire. They collected taxes on behalf of Rome and they often inflated the taxes because they were not paid a wage by the empire. So often in our lives it is difficult to stop what we are doing to follow our Vocation. Here it is the tax collector who shows us how we should answer God's call.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Matthew 9:14-15 Can the Wedding Guests Mourn as Long as the Bridegroom is With Them?

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."

In this passage, Jesus is explaining that his time with the disciples is short. He, the Messiah, has very little time on earth. His time should be used to celebrate and usher in the Kingdom of God.  His example of the bridegroom is important during the Lenten Season because it points to his crucifixion. God incarnate, will sacrifice himself for our sins out of his profound love for us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Is holiness about fasting to be seen, praying out loud to be heard, or giving to the poor to be popular?

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

In this passage, Jesus outlines for us how we are to pray, give alms, and fast. These are the pillars to inner purification. These acts help us centre ourselves on God rather than our own selves. The danger of these practices is if we turn it to benefit ourselves. It is our egos that often prevent us from establishing a relationship with God.  If we fast to impress others, give to charity in order to help ourselves, and pray in public to appear to be holy, we lose sight of the real purpose of these exercises; establishing a relationship with God.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mark 8:22-26 Jesus Heals the Blind Man: The meaning behind seeing trees

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
"Do you see anything?"
Looking up the man replied, "I see people looking like trees and walking."
Then he laid hands on the man's eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, "Do not even go into the village."

 In this passage, Jesus touches the blind man and gives him sight. At first the blind man does not see clearly but after Jesus laid his hands upon him a second time he is able to see. This story represents our own spiritual journeys. So often we are called by Christ and attempt to respond but when we first respond we do not fully understand our vocation. It is not until we are called multiple times do we respond. We, like the disciples in the Gospel of Mark, and like the blind man, only see clearly after we encounter Christ multiple times.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mark 8:14-21 Jesus Feeding the Multitudes: Two Stories or Just One?

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, "Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod."
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
"Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?"
They answered him, "Twelve."
"When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?"
They answered him, "Seven."
He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"

In this passage, Mark the Evangelist explains the significance of the left over bread from the two multiplication of the loaves stories. The first number, 12, represents the twelve tribes of Israel. It shows the connection of this miracle to the history of the people of Israel. The second number, 7, reminds us of the 7 days of creation. Meaning that this miracle is perfect just as creation is perfect. Some scholars believe that the story of the multiplication of the loaves was likely one event that morphed into two stories, while others maintain it is two separate events.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mark 7:24-30 The Gentile teaches Jesus to open up his ministry to all people.

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, "Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs."
She replied and said to him,
"Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps."
Then he said to her, "For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter."
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.

In this passage, we see Jesus change his mind regarding his ministry to the gentile community. At first Jesus says no to the gentile woman insisting his ministry is for the Jewish people. The woman convinces him to change his mind. This is significant because it highlights Jesus' humanity. Many scholars believe this story points to a real event because it is uncharacteristic of the stories abut Jesus.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mark 1:29-39 Jesus drives out demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you."
He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come."
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

In this passage, we see Jesus' ministry activities. Here he heals the sick, preaches the Kingdom of God, and drives out demons.  One interesting line is that he dove demons out preventing them to speak about him because they knew him. This is one of the themes of Mark's gospel. The people, the disciples, and his close friends do not know he is the messiah. It is the demons who know his true identity. Jesus is able to drive out these demons because he is invested with the power of God. He makes the Kingdom of God a reality by serving God's will on Earth.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Matthew 6:14-29 The Death of John the Baptist

King Herod heard about Jesus, 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.
Herodias 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.
His 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?"
Her mother 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.

In this passage, Mark the Evangelist gives us a glimpse into the life of John the Baptist. It is clear from this text that Jesus was often mistaken for John the Baptist.  Some thought John the Baptist had been reborn in the person of Jesus. This is likely because Jesus spent some time with John the Baptist, learning from him and ministering with him. All we know about John the Baptist is found in the gospels. John the Baptist follows the tradition that prophets must be killed and are not respected in their time. The head of John the Baptist is often used as a subject in iconography and is the object of veneration.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Luke 2:22-40 Presentation of the Lord: Jesus is blessed in the temple

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

"Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel."

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
"Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

In this passage, we see Jesus being presented in the temple. Here we see Jesus' deep connection to Jewish traditions. We also see him being blessed by Simeon who proclaims his ministry to the gentiles and alludes to his saving works.  We also see a prophetess, Anna, being present at this ceremony. The inclusion of Anna, reminds us that prophets are not always male and that God uses both men and women to proclaim His good news.