Real Friendship

Mark’s Gospel tells us of the story of a paralyzed man who was healed. More importantly, the man was first forgiven of his sins. “They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.’” (NAB, MK 2:3-5, 9)

Jesus consistently demonstrated his authority and power to forgive sins through the various miracles and healings he performed. Oftentimes, those occasions involved individuals, but the healing of this paralytic would not have happened were it not for his friends. It was the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends which moved Jesus to mercy and compassion: “Jesus saw their faith.” (2:5) He was paralyzed, but not helpless, not alone. It was his weakness and powerlessness that presented the opportunity for his friends to demonstrate the strength of their faith, by which Jesus exhibited his power of healing and forgiveness. It is truly in our weakness where strength abounds.

The paralytic’s friends took him to Jesus. They recognized their friend’s needs, and out of their love for him and their faith in Jesus, they demonstrated their commitment and fraternal love by seeking the Lord. What kind of friends do we have? Do they bring us closer to Jesus? Do they share a faith that calls us to a deeper conversion to and love of the Lord? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of friend are we? Do we draw others to Christ? Does our faith compel us to help others in bringing their problems to Jesus, the Healer and Forgiver? Do our lives lead others to the Lord?

Jesus, my all-loving, merciful, forgiving, and healing Lord, may I seek you in all things. You made me, not to be alone, but rather, to live in community, as a brother or sister, and as a friend to others. May I be a true friend, by bringing others to you and by drawing them closer and leading them in faith and love to receive your healing, forgiveness, and mercy. Amen.

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Make Me Clean

Jesus frequently used healings and miracles to support and emphasize his teaching of a New Law and a New Covenant. In the Gospel of Mark, for example, we hear early on of the healing of a leper. Lepers were ostracized from the community and were not even allowed to participate in worship; they were absolute outcasts from family and society in a truly profound way. So, being healed of leprosy meant being reunited with family, reunited with friends, and reunited with the People of God, being able to properly worship with the community in the Temple and synagogues.

A leper came to [Jesus] and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I will do it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.” (NAB, MK 1:40-42) We are all in need of cleansing, and our faith reminds us that we can turn to our most merciful and forgiving Savior at any time, and he’s there, waiting for us, ready to give us the gift of renewal and reconciliation. The depth of our sins is insignificant in the presence of the power of God’s grace; his infinite love for us provides immediate rescue when we call upon him in faith.

When is the last time you knelt down and begged Jesus to make you clean? It takes humility and faith to admit our sins and confess them, and it takes the strength and courage that come only from God’s grace to keep us from sin in pursuit of holiness and sanctity. We are each called to be a saint; we are called to unity with our Lord in a perfection that can only be accomplished because of the Sacrifice and Passion of God’s Only Begotten Son. We are made perfect through his perfection, and we are made holy through his sanctifying life.

Lord, Jesus, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Open my mind and reveal to me my sins, that I may honestly and openly confess them with a most contrite heart. I desire nothing less than you, and you desire nothing less than my salvation. Give me a truly sorrowful heart for all of my offenses, and give me your grace, so that I may change my life and pursue the life of holiness to which I am called. Amen.

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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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Our Transforming God

Anyone who were to look upon the face of the winged, Greek mythological Gorgon known as Medusa, would instantly be turned into cold, lifeless stone. By some accounts, she had been an incredibly beautiful young lady, attractive to all men, but as punishment for a misdeed, her hair was changed into serpents. and her face made so horrible that anyone who looked upon her instantly would be turned into stone. So, as the myth goes, Medusa’s power was revealed in her ability to transform a living person into dead earthen rock.

Another mythological creature, King Midas, had what was known as the golden touch or the Midas touch. As a result of a wish having been granted to him, everything that met with his hands turned into gold. Midas was joyful and elated, touching everything in sight, including the flowers near his house. His daughter, whom he greatly loved, however, was dismayed and greatly saddened that the flowers no longer had their uplifting fragrance, but were now cold, hard, and lifeless. Midas attempted to comfort his precious daughter, and as he began to embrace her, she likewise turned into solid gold by his touch. Full of sorrow, he repented and begged to be released from his wish. The “gift” Midas had received had become a curse and his greatest sorrow; touching his loving daughter changed vibrant life into  dead earthen metal.

Unlike these mythological characters of old, we know of one who can truly transform lives, our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is true God and true man, who humbled himself to be born of the Virgin Mary in the poverty of an animal stall, to grow up as an exile and an alien in a foreign land, and to return to his homeland for his adolescent years. He studied and learned the woodworking craft of his father Joseph, and at a time preordained by God the Father from the very beginning of time, Jesus began his ministry on earth. Today, we hear from Luke’s Gospel, the events that unfolded on that first day.

After all the people had been baptized [by John in the Jordan River,] and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (NAB, LK 3:21-22) The mysterious Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, revealed at this moment, the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry on earth and his revelation as the Messiah, the Christ, the long-awaited Second Person of the One True and Only God.

Jesus, who was without sin, did not need baptism, but in being baptized in water, Purity and Holiness itself sanctified the waters of earth. He who was present at the waters of creation now changes what is of earth into the holy, giving life to what was dead. When Jesus touches, he sacramentalizes, he makes holy, and he sanctifies whatever is profane and ordinary. He elevates what is of this earth to the heavenly heights, for heaven and earth are united in him and through him. Jesus, who emptied himself and became one of us, subject to the laws of this world, performed his ministry of teaching, healing, and forgiveness in real and tangible ways. He touched people, He ate with them, He cried with them, He held them, and He died for them. In his humility, he sanctifies humanity itself, making possible the blessed and eternal life for which we hope.

Jesus, you emptied yourself by becoming one like me, and you further humbled yourself by submitting to John’s baptism of water. You did this out of love for me, and thereby sanctified the water, making it holy, that I may be reborn in water and Spirit, through your grace and the saving, sacramental waters which flow throughout your Church. Your touch brings life to what was dead. Touch me! Touch my heart, so that I may faithfully live in your love, proclaiming your Kingdom, as I await the fulfillment of my eternal hope. May you forever be glorified. 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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