Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matthew 13:44-46 The Kingdom of God is worth selling everything!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."

In this passage we are reminded that the Kingdom of God is priceless. It is so priceless that when we realize what it is and its true worth, we are willing to disregard our old lives and do everything we can to work for it. The Kingdom of God is so priceless that selling everything to get it represents ending our way of life so we can live a new life in God. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

John 6:1-15 Gospel of John and the Role of Signs

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days?' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.'"
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

In this passage we see the role of signs in the Gospel of John.  Signs, unlike in the synoptic gospels, are used to bring people to faith. They are signs that point to Jesus' relationship to God and illustrate the new relationship with the Kingdom of God. The symbolism of 5 fish and 2 loaves is that they add up to 7 which represents perfection. 7 represents perfection because it recalls the days of creation. The left over baskets which numbered 12 recall the 12 tribes of Israel. The symbolism here is that in the Kingdom of God, you will be nourished.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Matthew 20:20-28 Sons of Zebedee and the Christian Paradox

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
"What do you wish?"
She answered him,
"Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom."
Jesus said in reply,
"You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"
They said to him, "We can."
He replied,
"My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In this passage we are reminded that prominence in the Kingdom of God is not about glory and power, it is about being humble and serving God's will. Jesus reminds us that it is when were are able to totally surrender themselves to the will of God that they will be great in the kingdom of God. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus' yoke is easy

Jesus said:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

In this passage Jesus reminds us that following him means following the laws of the commandment. In other words when one follows God's divine law, it actually makes life easier. Why is this? When we follow God's call we receive grace. We are given grace to perform these works and it is grace that makes the load easy. It is when we choose to work for ourselves and not God that things become difficult. Therefore, Jesus' yoke is easy. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Matthew 11:25-27 The Mystery of Faith

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

In this passage we see Jesus explaining his relationship with God the Father. He is basically saying that only those who are childlike can encounter God. This is because those who are childlike are free from bias. Those who are childlike are ready to depend on others. So often it is ourselves, specifically our pride that prevents us from knowing God. We believe in ourselves and place no trust in God. It is only in trusting in God that we are able to know God. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Matthew 10:16-23 Insight into the Persecution of the Early Church

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes."

In this passage we see Jesus foreshadowing the fate of the early Christian community. What likely is happening here is Matthew explaining the suffering of the early Christian community with theological terms. It is likely the early Christians were expelled from the synagogues and conflicts among Christians and their Jewish neighbours were increasing. Family members were turning on family members and Matthew is trying to interpret its meaning theologically. Matthew highlights the Father and Spirit's role in our suffering and explains that grace is given to those who are working for the Kingdom of God. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Matthew 9:18-26 Miracles need faith to work

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,
knelt down before him, and said,
"My daughter has just died.
But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
"Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you."
And from that hour the woman was cured.
When Jesus arrived at the official's house
and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion,
he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping."
And they ridiculed him.
When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand,
and the little girl arose.
And news of this spread throughout all that land.

In this passage we see Jesus healing both the hemorrhaging woman and the official daughters. In the first case, the hemorrhaging woman is cured by her faith. She tries her very best to touch his cloak and Jesus recognizes this effort and cures her. It is really important to note it is her faith that saves her. Without faith the miracle would not work. In the second case it is the faith of the official that allows the cure to take place. These stories both show the importance of faith in the working of Jesus' miracles in the synoptic gospels. They also show the historical Jesus was known for healing and that people would regularly approach him for healing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mark 6:1-6 Did Jesus have Brothers and Sisters?

Jesus 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.

In this passage we see the possibility that Jesus had sisters.  According to some protestant theologians Jesus had brothers and sisters because Mary had children after Jesus. In the Catholic tradition, Jesus is an only child and the reference to brothers and sisters is reference to extended kin, such as cousins. Without more primary sources referencing the relationship between Jesus and his family, this will continue to be a mystery.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

John 20:24-29 "My Lord and My God" Jesus is fully human and divine

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."
But Thomas said to them,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

In this passage we see St. Thomas saying the most important words in the Gospel of John. He says that Jesus is both his physical lord and he is also his God. In other words, Jesus' dual nature is revealed by St. Thomas. The Church would later interpret this passage as demonstrating Jesus' full humanity and full divinity.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Matthew 8:18-22 The Son of Man has No Where to Rest His Head

When Jesus saw a crowd around him,
he gave orders to cross to the other shore.
A scribe approached and said to him,
"Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
Another of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But Jesus answered him, "Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead."

In this passage we are reminded that Jesus' mission is never over. He has no place to rest because the crowds are constantly following him, people are begging for healing and miracles, his disciples are in constant need for attention, and his work is so immense it is never ending.  When we mission in this world to make the Kingdom of God a reality, we too have no place to rest. It is only in God that we can find rest and comfort.

Mark 5:21-43 Jesus Healing Miracles: Your faith has saved you

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

In these passages we see Jesus healing three different people. In the case of the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus is astounded at the woman's faith. At the touch of his cloak she is healed. Here his high christological identity is reinforced. He heals without knowing it. In the example of the 12 year old girl, he brings her back from the dead with words. This shows that he is the word of God. The active agent of change in the world. Through his words he is able to heal, just as God created the world with words. All these healing miracles remind us that it our faith that will bring us healing. We must desire the healing ourselves. Without faith, there is no action.