He is the Christ!

Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare’a Philip’pi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them; “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Mark 8:27-29

This conversation in Mark’s gospel comes after Jesus has spent considerable time moving about the countryside. He has healed people, he has taught the crowds, he has walked on water, and he has miraculously fed thousands. Now he is “checking in” with his disciples. He starts with an easy question, “Who do people say that I am?” They have lots of answers for that one. Then he pushes a little harder, “But who do you say that I am?” The group goes silent. Peter emerges, as a leader, and proclaims, “You are the Christ.” In another gospel account of this story, Jesus commends Peter and says, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 16:16).

Jesus is not merely a wandering teacher, healer, miracle-worker, holy man. He is the Messiah. He is the of whom one the prophets foretold, the long-awaited savior of God’s people. His disciples are not just his good buddies, or groupies with whom he pals around. They are the very particular people that He has chosen for a most important task. He wants to make sure that they know who He is, because, when He returns to the Father and leaves the earth, it will be their job to go out to the whole world and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).

In this passage, which is told in some way in all four gospels, we witness Jesus preparing his disciples for their mission, and we see Peter developing as the leader of this group.

For Reflection

If you have a relationship with God, if you feel a closeness with Jesus, it is not just for your own happiness and good. He loves you and he wants to be close to you, but understand that he also has a special job for you. Ask him what that job is. He’ll tell you when the time is right.

Activity

At bedtime tonight, pray this prayer, “Here I am Lord, I’ve come to do your will.”

For the moms and dads…

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

Mark 6:30-34

I don’t think there is a conscientious parent who reads this passage and doesn’t commiserate with the Apostles. For the parents of little ones, there seems to be no end to the demands made of us. When I had four kids below the age of five, I used to regularly hide in the bathroom for a moment alone. 15 years later, I only have one younger than 5, but I still frequent my old haunt. When her siblings are at school, my little shadow, who pursues me everywhere, perches herself outside and talks to me through the door.

This gospel is a good reminder that Jesus wants us to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” It is absolutely essential to the healthy and holy living of our vocation that we find times and places for rest. And though the bathroom maybe good for a quick fix, it is not going to the get the job done long term.

We must take time for prayer, leisure, and creativity out of the house, away from the children. I advocate a weekly holy hour in Adoration – rest with the Lord and giver of all good and all rest. I also believe in a weekly date night. If the spouses regularly reconnect and rekindle their affection, the home will be stable, the kids will thrive.

Do not be afraid. Do not feel guilty. Walk out the door and don’t look back. Even if the babysitter is peeling the little ones’ hands from your legs and shirttails!

Reflection

What is keeping me from setting aside times for rest? Am I being just to myself, my husband, my God if I do not take times for rest?

Activity

This week, spend time alone with Jesus. Go into a quiet church and sit with the Lord. If you have never made a holy hour, start with 15 minutes. Spend at least 5 of those minutes silencing yourself and focusing on what God might be saying to you. If you don’t hear anything it’s okay. Keep up the practice and you ‘ll learn to hear Him.

Who are my mother and my brothers?

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31-35

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all. As the Creed tells us, He is :

the only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

Nicene Creed

It is a great gift that anyone who is baptized as a Christian becomes a child of God and an heir to Heaven. In Baptism, we, or our parents and godparents, on our behalf, reject sin and profess our faith in God the Father, and in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We acknowledge our belief in the Holy Spirit and the holy Catholic Church. Guided by the Spirit, the Church continues Jesus saving work on earth. By Baptism, we enter this Church and become His brother or sister. This makes us destined for Heaven and eternal happiness with God and the saints.

In this passage, Jesus tells us what is necessary to remain a child of God, a member of his family, destined for Heaven.

We must do the will of God.

Do you want to be a brother or sister of Jesus? Do you want to enjoy his friendship, guidance, and care? Do you want to inherit Heaven and an eternity of happiness and peace?

Do the will of His Father.

Reflection

Do I strive to do the will of God the Father? How can I know His Will?

Activity

God reveals his will in Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of the Church. Before you go to bed tonight, look over this examination of conscience and see if you are following God’s will. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/upload/Examination-of-Conscience.pdf

Something new

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, 
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

MK 2:18-22

There is much going on in this passage that may be confusing to us. So we will go through this passage bit by bit to make sense of it.

The “John” referred to is John the Baptist. The Pharisees were scholarly Jews, who kept strict observance of the Jewish law. Fasting was seen as an important practice to atone for sin.

This story takes place early on in Mark’s gospel as Jesus is first calling his apostles to Himself and revealing Himself through signs and teachings. Some people want to follow Him, others distrust Him. Many are wondering, “Is He the Messiah?”

Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom. This is important. He is the Eternal Bridegroom. As we study the Scriptures, we learn what this means. Jesus is the bridegroom. The Church He establishes is the bride. He will love her and give up His body, His life for her. He will live and die so as to save her and unite her fully with Him. All who are members of the Church will share in His life, death, resurrection and ascension. All who are part of the Church will eventually be where He is, living as He lives, in eternal happiness, in the Love of the Spirit, and the presence of the Father.

Finally, when Jesus speaks of the new cloth and the old cloak, the new wine and the old wineskins, He is alerting His listeners – He is utterly new. His mission is unique. There has never been another like Him, nor will there ever be. He is the one, and the only one, to follow.

Reflection

Do I realize that there never was, nor will there ever be any Savior but Jesus? Do I live my life, listening for Him? Trying to understand Him? Following Him?

Activity

For the next 5 days, keep a “journal” – notes on a phone or a piece of paper next to your bed. At the end of every day, look back on your day. Whom did you admire, emulate, want to be like? Whom did you follow and put your trust in?

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkenss has not overcome it.

JN 1:1-5

Perhaps you heard this reading at mass on Christmas day? It is the Prologue or the “words that come before” of John the Evangelist’s gospel. It’s a bit puzzling to listen to, and for some, it is not as interesting as the other gospel readings from the Christmas masses. Those readings may fill our minds with images, smells and sounds of angels, stars, and shepherds, stables and hay, a young woman about to give birth, and her protective, solicitous husband who struggles to find a suitable place for the Child to be born. Compared to those, this reading may have seemed dull and you might have been inclined to drift off and start thinking about the lovely gifts you’d be opening or the rich Christmas dinner you would be enjoying later in the day.

If you did zone out at mass during the gospel reading, take a minute now and ponder what the Evangelist writes about God.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. God’s Word is so utterly complete and powerful, that is a person. It is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son. Just as our words are a way for us to express ourselves and communicate ourselves to others, God’s Word is His self-expression. It is His means of communicating Himself. But for God, self-communication is total, and effective. His Word is not only a person, the Son, and as John says, “in him was life.”

These are difficult concepts. Indeed our language is utterly insufficient to speak about God, because God cannot be contained or restrained by human words and ideas. If our words and ideas could capture the essence of God, He wouldn’t be a very impressive God! But still, God wants us to know Him. So we try to speak of Him. This is John’s attempt. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John tells us that the Word is the Son. He was with the Father from all time. He was the Word that God spoke when He created. He is life and light for all mankind.

In fact, the self-communicating Word of God is the whole purpose of Christmas. God who is all glory, goodness, power, majesty, life etc. decided to become a tiny, poor, baby, born among animals, in a stable just outside of a little, sleepy, ancient town. God did this so as to communicate Himself, his Word, to us, so that we could approach him, gaze on him, and contemplate him, without fear. So do not be afraid, but rejoice, for, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it! 

God’s will be done!

Mt 7:21-23

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in yur name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'”

Jesus is very clear hear about what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do the will of the Father. We can pray. We can call ourselves Christians. We can exercise the gifts that he gives us and do so in his name.  None of that will matter if we are “doers of evil.”  Heaven is not for those who perform mighty deeds, show up at prayers services or the mass, or rattle off words of prayers. Heaven is for those seek and do the will of God.

God’s will – this alone matters. It should be the driving force in our life. We should tirelessly, day in day out, moment by moment, decision by decision, seek and follow the will of God. This is our path to heaven. This alone, will make us happy.

Reflection

I think of myself as a Christian.  What does that mean?  Would others think of me as a Christian based on my actions?

Prayer

For the next three days, as often as you think of it, pray this prayer throughout your

walter_ciszek_sj_-_he_leadeth_me

day:  God’s will be done! 

All for the Kingdom of God

altar arches architecture art

Photo by Xiaoyu Chen on Pexels.com

Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“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.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

The Christian must be willing to give up everything- comfort, home, family, and perhaps most difficult, the appearance of being a good person. What does Jesus say to the one who wants to bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead.” These are difficult words! To neglect burying one’s father would be a grave negligence for a faithful Jew. And yet this is what Jesus demands.

And what is the return for those of us who are willing to give up- home, family, comfort and reputation? Nothing less than the Kingdom of God.  A Kingdom of goodness, truth, beauty, love and life that stretches beyond our imagination throughout eternity.

Reflection

What is keeping you from inheriting the Kingdom of God? What are you unwilling to give up for the sake of Christ?

Prayer

Lord God, you are the source of all good things. From you I recieved my home, my family, all that I have, all that I am, all that I love. Help me to entrust back to you all these goods, and let nothing separate me from your love.

What were you discussing on the way?

Mark 9:30-37

They went on from there and passed thought Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teahin his disciples, sayint to them,  “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and hey will kill im; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.

And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he aksed them, “What were you discussing on the way?”  But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.  And he sat down and called the Twelve and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Word of Jesus’ teaching, authority and power have spread. Every where He goes, there are crowds, pushing in on him, asking for miracles, expecting something great to happen.  In this story, Jesus sneaks away from the crowds so that He can teach and guide his Tweleve Apostles for the great task that they will have of leading his Church and spreading His Gospel to “the ends of the earth.” He foretells his passion, death and resurrection. He is sharing with them important and intimate details about himself.  He gave up the glory of being God and became man to suffer, die, and rise. He does this to save humanity from sin and death, and to open Heaven to mankind. He is speaking to them of the coming climax of his earthly life and the great task he has come to accomplish. What is their reaction?

Silence. They don’t understand, and they’re afraid to ask questions.  When they do begin to speak again, what do they speak about? They argue about which one is the greatest.

What foolishness and vanity! Blinded by their pride and ambition, they do not even recognize the sifnificance of what Jesus is telling them, or how painful it might be for him. Jesus patiently corrects them. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Reflection

We all want to be well thought of and liked. But this cannot be a driving force for us Christians. Look at your relationships, do you try to show others how important you are, or are you content to be quietly serving others?

Activity

Next time you are with a group of classmates or friends, try not to speak. Try to really listen to what the others are saying.

Jesus-Disciples-Listening-to-Him

Amazing Faith

Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not conisder myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here, ‘ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him…

How does one amaze the God-Man?

Faith. Jesus says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

The Centurion is a Roman soldier. The Romans were pagans who often worshipped many false gods. The Israelites were the “Chosen People” of God. God had revealed himself to them and continually saved them and cared for them. They should have had great faith, and indeed many did.  But let us compare the faith of the Jewish elders in this story to that of this Roman soldier.

Remember that the soldier sent “elders of the Jews to Jesus” because he did not believe himself worthy of asking Jesus’s help. What do the elders say? “He deserves to have you do this for him…” The soldier is so humble, he will not approach Jesus. The elders on the other hand tell Jesus, “this man deserves to have you to do this for him.” While they tell Jesus what he should do, the soldier acknowledges that he is not even worthy to have Jesus enter his house. He humbly awaits Jesus’s command, knowing that even a word from Jesus will accomplish all that he asks.

For Reflection:

As Christians, we have been baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and given the gift of faith. Do we believe that Jesus owes us something? or are we like the Roman centurions, humblying asking for Jesus to make us worthy of his help?

Prayer:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my house, but only say the word,

and I shall be healedrome-clipart-roman-centurion-10

If you have thoughts you would like to share…

Even the demons testify to Jesus.

Gospel Lk 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.He taught them on the sabbath,and they were astonished at his teachingbecause he spoke with authority.In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice,“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?Have you come to destroy us?I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”Then the demon threw the man down in front of themand came out of him without doing him any harm.They were all amazed and said to one another,“What is there about his word?For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,and they come out.”And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

          This reading comes early in the Gospel of Luke, in the fourth chapter. The chapter begins with Jesus going into the desert, to fast and pray for 40 days, in preparation for his public ministry.  After his time of prayer and fasting, he goes first, to his home town of Nazareth. Jesus preaches in the temple there, but the people reject him. They are surprised that Jesus, a carpenter and the son of Joseph, could preach with authority and grace.  Still they are curious.  They want to see him perform signs, almost as a test.  But they are full of jealousy and doubt. Jesus knows this. They refuse to believe that Jesus is really the Christ so, “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill … to hurl him down headlong.” (Lk 4:29)  But Jesus escapes with ease.

         Next Jesus goes to this town of Capernaum, where again people are astonished at his teaching.  But here, he is not mere spectacle of curiosity. Rather the people are astonished “because he spoke with authority.”  They acknowledge his authority in his words.  Then, as confirmation of his authority, he preforms a great sign. He commands an unclean demon out of a man. The demons recognize what the people of Nazareth refused to acknowledge. The demons cry out, “you are the Holy One of God!”  Not only that, the demons obey him! At the word of Jesus, the demons leave the man in peace.

Reflection:       

 What about us? Do we recognize the authority of Jesus? Do we obey? For if we don’t we are truly fools!  Even the worst enemies of Jesus recognize his power and serve him.3234343kksdl

Prayer:

You alone are the Holy One! You alone are the Lord! You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ!