Unbind him and let him go

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him;
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus said to her,
Your brother will rise.”
Martha said, “I know he will rise,in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life ; whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me, will never die.”
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go
.”

-John 11:17, 20, 23-25,43-44

Jesus continues his march to Jerusalem where he will allow himself to be convicted, scouraged and crucified. Raising Lazarus from the dead is actually the last of Jesus’ miracles before his crucifixion.

In fact, if you read on in John’s Gospel, you will find that by raising Lazarus from the dead, He so enfuriates the Jewish leaders that they begin to plot the death of Jesus.

In this story we have a bit of an allegory for the whole of Jesus’ mission. What does Jesus do? He resurrects a man to life who has been dead for 4 days. What does it cost Him? He sparks the furry of his enemies and they make plans to kill Him. Jesus liberates Lazarus from death and the tomb and in exchange, He boldly approaches his own self-sacrificing death.

For Reflection

We have eternal life because Jesus died for us. He died that we might live free, unafraid, and happy with Him forever.

To Do

There are lots of fun Lazarus crafts and games online if you look. The one I thought was coolest requires at least three people and two sheets. One player wraps the other two up in a sheet. Once they are both secured in the sheet, it’s a race to see who can escape first.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am (which means Sent.) So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said “I am the man.”

John 9:1, 6-9

This excerpt from John’s Gospel takes place as Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem. There, he will be crucified and will give his life for the redemption of the world. Several of the events that occur and the encounters that Jesus has as he makes this journey fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah from about 700 years before the Incarnation. Isaiah proclaims, “Behold, your God will come…He will come and save you. The the eyes of the blind shall be opened…(Is 35:4-5)” Isaiah continues to list the wonderful signs that will accompany God’s salvation. Throughout the gospels, Jesus shows himself to be the one foretold by the prophets. This story is just one of many such episodes.

It might seem strange how Jesus chooses to heal this man. What does He do? He spits on the ground. He makes a muddy, clay mixture and smears it on the man’s eyes. Surely, as God, Jesus could have come up with a more hygienic and palatable way to restore the man’s sight! And yet, this is what Jesus does, so we must think about why He would do such a thing.

First, recall the creation account from Genesis. God makes man from dust of the ground. Now consider saliva. Saliva is over 95% water. Also, in this case, the water comes from the body of Jesus. The Church uses water in Baptism. So, in the Scriptures, man is created from the dust of the earth, and in Baptism, men and women are recreated- freed from sin, and made children of God.

In this story, Jesus is signaling that His mission is to “recreate.” He is the one whom the prophets promised would be sent to make God present among the people and to restore what was lost by sin.

For Reflection

What does it mean that Jesus has come to “recreate”? Does creation need to be redone or fixed? Do we believe that Jesus has the mission and power to do this? How is this work continued now that He has ascended to Heaven?

Activity

At Baptism, you were given new life in Christ. Find your Baptsimal certificate. Read it over. Mark the date of your Baptism on your calendar. Thank God and your parents for the gift of your Baptism.

If you knew the gift of God…

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”

-John 4:4-10

It is a great mystery that God became man.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son, in an act of obedient love, gave up all the majesty, power, and glory of God to take on a human nature. He came into the world as a poor, tiny child, who would eventually be imprisoned, beaten, and crucified.

In this gospel reading from John, we are invited to contemplate, once again, the utter humility and giftedness of God the Son. Jesus is “tired from his journey.” God is tired and thirsty. The Word of God, through whom the seas and the entire universe was created, asks for a drink.

The woman balks at this idea, because “Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans.” This was because the Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Though they both traced their heritage back to Jacob, the Samaritans had intermarried with pagans and adopted some of the pagan traditions. Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.

Jesus’ “living water” is his own life, poured out for us. He did this once and for all on the Cross. Each time the Church baptizes a person, Jesus’ living water is again poured out. It cleanses the soul and makes a new creation. The baptized is given a new life in Christ that he/she may enjoy for all eternity.

For Reflection

God will never force us to love him and serve him. It is our free will choice. He comes to us in humility and invites us into a relationship, just as he did with the Samaritan woman.

Activity

Look for an opportunity to cheerfully serve another person. This could be something as simple as getting a drink for a younger sibling who cannot reach the cups, or offering to help a parent do the dishes. Do one small activity of service this day, and offer it to Jesus.

Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me?

Jesus said to [Thomas], I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? he who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells inme does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…”

John 14: 6-11

What is at the core of being Catholic? Why were we Baptized? Why do we go to Mass? Follow the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes? Why do memorize all those wonderful old prayers?

At the center of our Catholic Faith, is a person, the Person- Jesus Christ! He is the reason for all that we do and all that we believe. Above all to be Catholic is to be in a relationship with Jesus, and through that relationship to be a beloved child of the almighty God and Father of all.

For Reflection

Do I have a relationship with Jesus? Do I try to know Him and talk with Him?

Challenge

Visit a Catholic Church where Jesus is present in the Eucharist outside of mass time. Say to Him- “I know that you are real. I know that you see me and know me. I would like to know you.”

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!