Time with God

We hear in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Simon and Andrew near the beginning of his earthly ministry. “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.” (NAB, MK 1:29-30)

After healing her, Jesus spent the rest of the evening curing and healing many of the town residents. And after a long night of ministry, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” (1:36) Jesus teaches us the importance of prayer, the value of getting to a place of quiet, and spending time in conversation with our Father. Our lives are extremely busy, and with all of our commitments and responsibilities, it is sometimes difficult to set aside time for our Lord, and yet he calls us to himself. Time spent with God energizes us and reinvigorates our souls to press on in our spiritual journey. Time with God is an additional gift from our Father, he who awaits for us in the quiet.

Heavenly Father, help me to find time for you. Give me insight to be a good steward with the time you’ve given me, so that even when life gets busy, I set aside quiet time to be alone with you. Time is an irreplaceable investment in our relationships, and my relationship with you is most important to me. Thank you for your gift of time. Amen.

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Astonishing Authority

Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing were shocking to his contemporaries. They were amazed and astonished at what he said, and his miracles and healings further demonstrated the truth and power of his words. In his Gospel, Mark describes an event that occurred on the Sabbath, as Jesus entered the synagogue and taught the People of God, and cast out demons from a man possessed by an unclean spirit.

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.’” (NAB, MK 1:22, 27) Are we astonished by his teaching today? Do we see that his words are life-changing? Do we defer and recognize his authority in teaching us his New Commandment of Love? Do we allow Jesus to free us from our demons and to protect us from our enemy, the evil one, Satan? Do we believe the He has the power to do so?

Lord, your teaching still astonishes and shocks the world today, because your Gospel of Love is counter to the prideful, selfish, and “me-centered” society I live in. Help me to trust in your authority and believe in your teachings. Give me the grace and strength I need to abandon myself to you, knowing that you who are supreme, all-powerful, and all-loving, will rescue me when I am lost, heal me when I am broken, forgive me when I am sorrowful, and protect me when I am tempted by the evil of this world. Amen.  

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Repent & Believe

After Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, and John’s subsequent arrest by King Herod, Jesus began his active ministry by calling his first disciples and proclaiming the immanence of his Kingdom. The Gospel of Mark tells us that “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.’” (NAB, MK 1:14-15) The Kingdom of God is continuing to be revealed ever since Christ’s Passion, and this Kingdom will eventually be handed over in glory to the Father by Jesus himself. The Kingdom is the complete fulfillment of the Gospel that began at the Last Supper, the eternal sacrificial banquet that calls all of God’s people to unity.

It is through the continuous unfolding and revelation of the Kingdom where we act to do the Will of God. We pray daily, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We cooperate in the coming of Christ’s Kingdom as we unite ourselves to the will of the Father, as we unite ourselves to his Son, Jesus Christ. It is in this singularity of will, this singularity of love, that Christ is made known to humanity. Through repentance from our sins and belief in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit dwells within us through the richness of God’s grace. We are made Temples of God, and the power of the Spirit lives in us as we participate in his Kingdom. St. Paul reminds us, “The Kingdom of God [is] righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (ROM 14:17)

Lord, I am called to be your disciple, your faithful follower. Allow me to seek and know your will, to unite my will with yours, and to live my life now in your Kingdom, where righteousness, peace, and joy prevail. Give me grace to truly repent of my sins, to be purified, and to ever more believe the Good News of your Son and my Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Christ First

When John the Baptist was still preaching and baptizing, his disciples became concerned about Jesus’ ministry and that people had begun to go to Jesus instead of John. John replies to them, “’No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (NAB, JN 3:27, 28, 30)

This Gospel message is a wonderful reminder that our call to follow Jesus and to preach and live the Good News is all about Jesus, not us. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in ministry activities and evangelization that it becomes “our” thing. True ministry is never “our” thing. Serving God must be about him, and him alone. Service comes from a loving relationship for the one we love, not actions and opportunities for us to be glorified, admired, or revered. Today’s Gospel message calls us to check ourselves and remind that Jesus must be first and primary; he is the reason for all we do. He must increase; we must decrease.

Keep from the sin of pride, Lord, and all the other sins that can tempt me when I put myself first. Allow me to become small and transparent, so that when others see me, they only see you, and that in accordance with your will, everything that I do and say brings you, and you alone, everlasting glory. Amen.

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Jesus is the Victor

Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life….” (NAB, 1JN 5:5, 12) Oftentimes it seems like the world is “winning,” life is unfair, suffering doesn’t make sense, and good didn’t seem to triumph this time. While it’s true that sin abounds and evil is present all around us, we are unable to see the whole picture. We are unable to see the depth of another’s heart, and God’s ways are impossible for us to wrap our heads around. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (IS 55:8-9)

We are called to trust our loving Father, to live in faith and hope as we lovingly live the life he has given us. When we accept the eternal life that has been offered, when we accept the gift of renewal, and when we accept the gift of God’s grace, our lives are transformed as we enter a deeply personal relationship with Jesus in communion with his whole Church. In Jesus, we are victorious over this world, which frequently offers us death in sin; we have life because we have the Son of God, the one who conquered sin and death through his infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Jesus, help me to remember your gift, the gift of life, eternal life, a life You possible through your Passion and love for me, when you defeated Satan and all his evil works. Now, draw me close to you, so that I may see the power of your salvation. Increase my faith. Give me your grace. Purify me, so that I may be one with you in victory over the temptations, trials, and tribulations of this life. May you be glorified forever. Amen.

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Freedom in Law

For many of us, we have grown to find rules restrictive and constraining. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we can feel overwhelmed, suffocated, or even enslaved by the rules imposed upon us. And there are many who believe this to be the case when it comes to religion as well. The thoughts go like this: “Why must I do certain things and not do certain other things? Why should I submit to some authority I don’t even see, just because a lot of other people do? Moreover, religious people don’t even follow their own rules and it all seems like hypocrisy.”

The Truth is that Jesus came to bring freedom, to release us from the slavery of sin, a slavery of which we are far too often unaware. If we are careful to consider rules in our world, we can quickly see the benefits. Traffic rules and civil laws keep society orderly. Other rules and laws protect the vulnerable in our world. These are just rules and laws. God gives us rules to follow from his infinite justice, flowing from his infinite love for us. The Incarnation perfects the law of the covenant between God and his people because he is the fulfillment of the promises of that same covenant.

Luke’s Gospel sheds light on this very issue. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and was reading from the Prophet Isaiah: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’” (NAB, (LK 4:18-19) After returning the scroll to the attendant, Jesus said, “’Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (4:21)

Jesus, the New Covenant of Love, is fulfilled and revealed in freedom. This freedom is not one free of rules or laws, but it is made possible by obeying his commandments. “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, but whoever is begotten of God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (1JN 5:3-4) We are made free by obedience to the love of Christ.

Your Law calls me to freedom, Lord, a freedom from the chains and slavery of sin. Increase my desire for this life of love, and increase my faith, so that I may live more obediently according to your Law of Love. And let me share these same “glad tidings” with others, so that they also may come to know you and experience the joys of your freedom. Amen.

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Love Conquers Fear

Water was not only a symbolic element for the Israelites, but it was also an integral part of society at the time of Jesus. After all, many of Jesus’ followers were either fishermen or dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihood. The local economy was heavily influenced by this industry as well. So, it is natural that many scenes reported in the Scripture take place in or near bodies of water.

One such scene takes place after the miracle of Jesus feeding of the 5,000, and we hear about it in Mark’s Gospel: “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida…. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (NAB MK 45-50) The disciples were afraid, perhaps afraid of the unknown, perhaps afraid of what they saw, the threat of the sea, or whatever else, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

There will always be unknowns and there will always be various threats to our safety, to our emotional or financial stability, to the integrity of our relationships, etc. What overcomes this fear is our trust in God, a trust fully founded in love. God loves us with an incomprehensible and infinite love, and if we are able to live in that love, we will live without fear. In John’s First Letter, we hear, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1JN 4:18) That is true of judgment and in all other aspects of our lives. Love conquers even our fears.

Jesus, I trust in you. Increase my trust and increase my love. Take away all my fears and doubts, as my faith grows ever stronger in your love and care for me. Allow me to abandon myself entirely to you, laying all my fears at your feet, and leaving them there as your trusting child. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

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