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Do not be afraid. Just have faith. Mark 5:36

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Offer It Up!    January 31, 2014

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

 

Like electricity, many of us don’t know exactly how it works; we just know that if we continue to pay the electric bill, we flip a switch on and we get light. We flip it the other way and it goes off. Nothing too hard about that—we just know that it works and we’re glad it does.

 

Some of us are like that with plants. We don’t know exactly how they grow but we do know that with proper light, the right type of watering and soil, they will usually thrive in their environment. Rose bushes take different care than lilies. Some indoor plants require more light than others and less watering as well. Not sure what the differences are but we just know that they will live and thrive if we care for them that way.

 

With our faith, we may not know all there is to know—check that: we don’t know all there is to know and will neverknow all there is to know. But that should not keep us from learning more about it. Just like it should not keep us from turning on a light when we need it. Just like it should not keep us from tending to the plants that need the care. We need the light to live. We need the care to survive, just like the plants.

 

In the gospel, the seeds were scattered and tended to. The man did not necessarily understand but he did what he could do and knew how to do. As the plants matured, he harvested them. And as for the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, it yields the ‘largest of plants’ and serves as shade and as rest for the birds of the sky.

 

Like our faith, it grows so that it can be harvested for the good of others. It is scattered from family to friends to those we meet. It begins small and grows to serve as a place for those who need rest and comfort. And like our faith, nope, we’ll never understand it all. The disciples and apostles never did. The saints never did. But that never kept them from putting forth the effort. The Kingdom of God is theirs. And it is ours now to share for our salvation.




Offer It Up!   January 30, 2014

Philippians 2:12-16 clearly states that our purpose is obedience and service to His Will. Do so without fear, grumbling, or doubt. God, alone, gives you purpose and desire for His works to flow through you so that you will be light for others, even in the midst of a darkness in the world.

 

Paul's words mirror what Jesus shares in Mark 4:21-25. Using the analogy of a lamp, whose sole purpose is to shine, Jesus asks, "Do you put the lamp in a tub or under the bed? No, you set it on the lamp stand so that it can do its job: illuminating so that nothing is hidden from sight!!

 

So it is with us: we must exist to shine God's truth to all, especially those who are living in the darkness of sin and suffering caused by our human condition. The things in darkness can, will, and must be exposed when we allow His Light to shine and increase from us. Jesus states that this light will grow in intensity and scope the more we allow it. Our only challenge is to place ourselves, in the "room of life" where that light will shine and illuminate for all, not just in the hidden recesses of our lives.

 

Let us pray for the grace to give of ourselves to others, as God Wills, so that the collective body of believers will continue to grow and the collective light consume any darkness around us. Happy Thursday!

Paul B



Offer It Up!    January 29, 2014

We know, from our human experiences and relationships, that if we want a rich, deep, fulfilling, and "fun" interaction with each other we, have to invest time, thought, conversation, and overall effort into seeking like-minded partners in friendship and love. In Mark 4:2-9, we find Jesus using a favored method of teaching: the parable. Here, He compares our lives-our relationship with Him (and each other)- to one who sows seed.

 

He illustrates one example, in which some of the seed happens to fall on rocky ground, where it dies from lack of depth. He describes thorny, weedy ground, where the seeds are choked-out by the growth of less-useful undergrowth/brush. Finally, he shares that some of the seed that falls on rich, fertile soil has the opportunity to thrive. So it is with our relationship with God.

 

Lord, help me to seek and find ground in which my depth of faith will become firmly rooted in your Word, soil that will nurture my desire for you over the temptations, threats, and trials of the world, and nourishment that will stimulate unshakeable roots of faith that will yield a rich harvest in my own life and in the lives of others to further Your Glory!

 

Have a great Wednesday.

Paul B



Offer It Up     January 28, 2014

Mark 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters 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.”

 

Maybe you have heard the saying that blood is thicker than water. 

Maybe you have also heard that true faith is the thickest bond of all.

 

In today’s gospel, Jesus is in a house with a group of people and there are those outside asking for Him. If you have ever been on the outside of a conversation, on the outside of a particular group, on the outside looking in so to speak, it may make it easier to see what was going on in Mark’s gospel. There are those on the outside of the house asking about Jesus and there are those on the inside who want to make their way closer to Him. Both groups seem to know Him. Both seem to want to know Him more, to be on the inside with Him.

 

As families go, we know who are our brothers and sisters, our cousins, our aunts and uncles…even the in-laws make the cut. Being born into such, that makes us part of our family tree, regardless of how we might feel about the different branches if not the roots from which we came. By birth then, we are considered inside the family. By marriage and adoption, others then are brought into the fold, the inside.

 

With our baptism and our continued faith in Jesus Christ as children of God, we are brought on the inside. But just being on the inside is not enough. We have to follow the will of God as we are graced to be there. That is our relationship with Him. That is our relationship with all who believe. Indeed, a bond that holds truer than blood, deeper than the oceans and lasts for our all our salvation. That is our family of our brothers and sisters. Our mothers and fathers. Of all who hold true to the faith of Jesus Christ.




Offer It Up!    January 27, 2014

Have you ever held a pencil, taking one end in your left hand and the other in your right, and just snapped it in half? Pretty simple, huh? Have you ever held twenty pencils, one end of the bundle in your right and the other in your left, trying to snap the bundle in half? You will find it impossible to break the collective strength of 20 pencils.

 

So it is, as Jesus shares in Mk 3: 22-30, with the collective strength of those who believe and rely on the Power of God. The scribes, in an effort to discredit Jesus among his followers, try to convince them that He is of satan, not filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus, in turn, reminds them clearly that "satan cannot (will not) drive out satan".

 

Logically stated, an individual in doubt and turmoil cannot last against his own doubt. In larger terms, a household, divided, shall struggle to exist. And, finally, a kingdom or nation, thus divided, cannot thrive. So, as we progress in our journey, while we must tend to our spiritual development, Jesus reminds us that we must unite to stand against the forces of temptation in the secular, materialistic world.

 

The Kingdom of God, on earth, must build its strength from the collective body of believers, united in Faith in the One, True God. Ask yourself, how united are we as a Christian body of believers? How do I fulfill that role in my own church, work-place, or community?

Have a great Monday!

Paul B

 
 


Offer It Up!    January 26, 2014

Matthew 4:18-23

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.He said to them,“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”At once they left their nets and followed him.He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their fatherand followed him.He went around all of Galilee,teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,and curing every disease and illness among the people.

 

Before Jesus had Peter and Andrew drop what it was they were doing, Jesus Himself had to drop what He was doing to begin His ministry. Being the carpenter He was, it could be presumed then that there was some change in His vocation as He set out to preaching the Good News.

 

Jesus also had a plan that He was going to need help to get the message of the Good News out. That plan included His apostles and disciples. All He had to do was call them and they ‘at once left their nets and followed him.’ Ordinary men with extraordinary hearts, chosen from within those very hearts to help change the world. The world as they knew it would also change as they grew in the spirit of what Jesus was teaching them and the wisdom they held onto in the lifestyle they were now living.

 

They trusted Jesus—obviously—as they left behind all they knew to be with Him. They were learning how He lived and how they were going to live when He was gone, in the love and care and kindness He showed. They were a part of Him as He was a part of them.

 

As we are called today, Jesus is as much a part of us as He was for His first disciples. He chose them just as He has chosen us. And just as the first followers and disciples did not fit Jesus into their lifestyles—they fit their lifestyles into Jesus—so must we put our hearts, our minds and souls into His love and care.




Offer It Up!    January 25, 2014

My journey through Mark's Gospel "fast-forwarded" me to 16: 15-18, where Jesus shows Himself to the Eleven and commissions them to proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation and to baptize those who believe!

 

Are we not all, then, as believers and baptized, commissioned to preserve and proclaim this same Gospel through our daily lives? As such, we must ask the Lord for the graces we need to live the Gospel values more fully so that our lives will draw ourselves and others closer to the Truth and Salvation God has poured out for us.

 

Take a moment to read Romans, Chapter 12 today. It will provide strength for your acceptance of His Commission! Thanks to my friend, Dennis, for sharing that this morning. Ask yourself, today and every day, "Is the Good News of Salvation my fundamental "compass" in my daily living?" Have a blessed day!

Paul B




Offer It Up!    January 24, 2014

Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach  and to have authority to drive out demons. He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

 

Everyone likes to be picked….  From being the first, second, third, or last one picked during a playground game of “kickball”, to being selected for the “varsity squad”, to being selected for the coveted position in your company…  We always strive to be among “the chosen”. 

 

Today, in Mark 3-13-19, we see Jesus selecting His “team” of Apostles. He chose men, not of “perfect observance”, rather He chose men who had what, He new, was needed to serve His Father’s mission. They had what was needed to bring forth the ultimate goal: Proclaiming His Kingdom of Salvation.  How do we answer His Call to “join the team”? Do we “show up” for “tryouts”, daily?  Do we strive to accept the call that is already there for each of us, to which each has been called? 

 

May God give me strength to seek, hear, and answer His call and to fulfill His will. May I show and live the desire to be on His “team of faithful” in word, thought, and deed. May “Pick me, Lord, I am here to do your will” be part of my daily script!

Paul B

 


Offer It Up!    January 23, 2014

1 Samuel 19:1-7

Saul discussed his intention to kill David with his son Jonathan and with all his servants. But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him: “My father Saul is trying to kill you. Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning; stay out of sight and remain in hiding. I, however, will go out and stand beside my father in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you. If I learn anything, I will let you know.”

Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, telling him: “The king should not harm his servant David. He has not harmed you, but has helped you very much by his deeds. When he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD won a great victory for all Israel, you were glad to see it. Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause?” Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.” So Jonathan summoned David and repeated the whole conversation to him. He then brought David to Saul, and David served him as before.

 

Does it not just eat at you sometimes, that jealousy thing? Someone kills ten thousand and you only killed thousands? You’re the king of hundreds and hundreds of villages and towns. He’s the king of hundreds and hundreds more. The people singing the songs are not so much singing the songs for you anymore; they’re singing them for the new guy who is the latest war hero. Yup, that jealousy thing could be enough to make you want to kill for the resentment one feels as another gets all the glory.

 

Of course that is where Saul was headed. All that insecurity he was wrapped up in had him weakened enough to try and take David’s life. As he swore he would be safe, David was safe—at least this time around—for that jealousy thing would not let go of Saul. Or better said, Saul could not let go of it. He wanted the glory that David was getting, felt he was entitled to it and saw that with David out of the way, he would get it. That is all that mattered to him—the glory.

 

What should have mattered to him was that glory does not belong to either of them. The glory belongs to God. Period. What he should have taken away from it all was the goodness and kindness and grace we get from God for being who He wants us to be. He does not want us wrapped up about what we see in others or what we would want to have from others. He wants us just us as He made us, and continues to form us, into His image and likeness. And if we are to be so intent about having something somebody else has, we could do no worse than to strive to have all God has to give us.





Offer It Up!   January 21, 2014

Mark 2:23-28

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Yesterday found the Pharisees questioning Jesus' and His disciple's observance of "the law". Continuing in Mark 2:23-28 we find this "theme" again. We also find Jesus able to clarify for them (us) that, while laws are made for the common good, justice, and peace in our earthly existence, obedience to them is not the sole and primary means to the end: His Salvation.

 

The Pharisees advocated obedience of their religious laws to the minutest detail. Jesus' point, in all of this, is not to advocate civil disharmony, rather, that to love God we must have the wisdom to identify the Spirit of the Law and to act in concrete ways of love toward each other, our neighbors, not just the motions of "observance".

 

God's Love, Law, and Will does not exclude the necessity for laws of the common good, but it is and must be our primary call to action in all that we think, say, and do. Spiritual observances and prayer must translate into action; otherwise we run the risk of "hypocritical faith". May we ask the Lord to give us wisdom to discern, more fully, how God's Law and Will should, can, and will guide us today!

Paul B



Offer It Up!   January 20, 2014

Mark 2:18-22

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.”

 

Some people need to have it ‘their’ way. They just have to be within themselves, without any consideration for what even a modicum of ‘change’ may offer them. They are forever espousing the mantra ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and there’s no need to change even if something that proves itself better comes along. It’s as if they will lose a part of who they are if they were to give up and try anything that would allow them to be different, to be better, to grow even.

 

It could be that way for some of us, even if we fashion ourselves as one of those so-called ‘change-agents’. We find something that works and we develop a routine and stay with it, even when presented with evidence of a better way. In a worldly sense, it’s easy to dismiss. We deflect the criticism and roll with the punches. In our faith and spiritual walk, it gets a bit more challenging. It’s not as easy to hide in the darkness when we can readily see the Light we should be living in.

 

Maybe that is what Jesus was getting at when He was talking about the wineskins. He wasn’t dismissing the old way of doing things nor was He embracing the new way alone. It takes both; what they had learned and what He was teaching them. There is a need for balance in what we believe and in the way we live. Jesus provides us that steadiness when we pour ourselves fully into what He has taught us.


2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

"I will make you a light to the nations; that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth!"

Taken from Sunday's first reading from Isaiah, we cannot help but carry the phrase in our minds pondering as we listen to the Gospel and John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God. We must, I believe, take time on this day of the Lord to converse with Him as did Jesus. It is a necessary work to help us to understand who Jesus is and what it means to be His disciple. The words of Isaiah are a reminder to Israel that God is their redeemer, yet perhaps it was difficult to imagine being a light to the world announcing universal salvation.

 

Here we are faced with the Risen Jesus who commissions us to proclaim Him and his mission to all peoples? If you Christians were asked what it means to be Christian, what is your response? Further how would you, or do you, announce the Good News of Jesus Christ to your world? Does your life, your demeanor, announce to the world that you are Christ-like? What does it mean to be Christ-like?

 

All of us are at some level aware of God in our world. Perhaps we compare ourselves to others and see them as closer to God, but how can that be? If God is present, always He is near us all! Perhaps we must ask: am I near Him in thought, word, deed? We claim He sent His Word, became a man, lived a human existence, gave His life in atonement for human sinfulness, and the question that haunts us: how do we respond? If Jesus came to redeem us, to give us abundant life is it only for some after life or is it now?

 

Why not spend some time this day, this week, with the Lord in prayerful conversation and in the silence of mind and heart, hear the Spirit speak to you. Thy will be done, Lord. I come to do Your will.

 

See God's will in the simple demands of your life that fulfill your vocation. Created in the image of God, all of us, can we serve one another in peace and love? 

Deacon



Offer It Up!    January 18, 2014

Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus,sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  

Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

 

How convenient would it be for us all to have the ease and pleasure of no need for a doctor. Ever. Of any kind. Life with a clean bill of health. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. And while we’re at it, how about prayerfully and spiritually? Certainly the advantages of such a life would be great. Yet think of the burden of having to keep yourself that way…

 

There are those people that presume such a lifestyle, albeit under some sort of false pretenses. They live as if they do have a clean bill of health, no illnesses, no worries—no darkness of sin hanging over them. And they are the same group that live most often in a state of denial. No need to see a doctor. No need for a medicine if they are not sick. No need for forgiveness if they have never wronged anyone or if they have never been wronged by someone. A virtual state of perfection.

 

Jesus said so much about them when He said ‘those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.’ They just don’t acknowledge the sickness they have. They choose to look at the way they live on the outside as opposed to what goes on within. Jesus sat and ate with the sinners and tax collectors. ‘They’ saw no gain in such wasteful exercise. Jesus was there to cure them and lead them to salvation. ‘They’ were there only to cast doubt and judge His motive.

 

So where do we sit? Are we with the judging and doubters? Or are we sitting with the sinners and tax collectors, reaching out to them as Jesus did? Our tendencies may be to go the easier route and stick with what we know—those people we know even. Nothing wrong with that. Yet the gospel can be carried out beyond to those who may have never heard His Word.


Birthday Notes...
Not that she needs or wants to be reminded, but a good dear friend celebrates the anniversary of her birth today. 
No huge milestone like her fiftieth or seventieth or anything like that. I'm not even sure if she is even close to either one of those markers yet. Suffice to say, she takes such great joy in life that no matter the day, she captures each moment with love and intensity and power. And not a bit of it is her own.

The love she has is from the love God has for her and she has for Him. A love that is beyond her comprehension yet a love that is shared in her faith with her family and her friends. There are some people that you can know for years and finally get to know them. There are some people you can know for a few moments and see the realness of their love and compassion-that would be what you will see and come to know in Tonya. Oh, she has her opinions for sure and she will share them with you. Yet she also has the kindness within to know that the love God has for her is meant to be the love He has for others as well.

The intensity she draws from Jesus Christ. As Jesus lived and witnessed to others, so does Tonya. If there is a ministry to be served or a project to be done and her time and family allows, she is there. She does these things even if a sacrifice needs to be made, she does so without so much a complaint. We would all do well not only to take a page from her book as she trusts and follows Christ, but to also share in her intensity for life. Indeed, she is intense on the Word of Christ.

The power she draws from the Holy Spirit. With all that she has accomplished in her life, she certainly needs as much of this as she can get! Without question, she puts so much effort into all she sets out to do, especially in the life of her son. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she has made a life not so much about her but about him and others. About their faith and giving and sharing so that others come to know Christ through them. That is power through the Holy Spirit. That is Tonya. Not so much what she does but who she is and what God has brought her to be. And it is our prayer that He's not finished with her yet either!

Happy Birthday Tonya!
May God bless you today and bring you as much joy as you bring the world!



Offer It Up!    January 17, 2014
Happy Birthday Paul!

Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
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.”

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

 

Mark begins Chapter 2 of his Gospel with an example of the importance of faith in God and willingness to share that faith with others. He shares the story of four men who were willing to go to extraordinary means to bring a friend into God's presence. Huge crowds, again, had gathered to hear Jesus speak and to experience His healing powers.

 

The men, carrying their paralyzed friend to see Jesus, could not get through the crowd to the door of the house. Their bond of friendship was so strong and their belief that Jesus could help their friend so passionate that they climbed upon the house and stripped back the roof so that they could lower him into the room where Jesus was.

 

Jesus, of course, moved by their faith and willingness to spare no effort to bring their friend to His presence, astonished the crowds with His healing power... The man, as a result of his friends' willingness to go the extra mile, got up and walked out of the house on his own accord. Lord, help me to be that friend who spares no effort to bring himself and others to your Glorious Presence through thought, word, and deed. 
Paul B

Birthday notes-
Paul is not growing any older as the calendar might say he is. (Well, old not like a tree is old anyway.) Not a chance that can happen as God has too much planned for him to let him grow 'old' like that. Instead Paul continues to add youth and vitality to his life through his faith, his family and his friends. And that 'youthfulness' is shown as he not only spends time but makes the time to share with his grandchildren, his children, his wife and his family. They all bring him the joy and happiness that keep him young at heart and in spirit.
 
And  speaking of spirit, it is the Holy Spirit that guides such a man to be such a husband, father, grandfather and brother and son. With this guidance, it is his faith that is deeply rooted, kind of like that tree, that keeps him faith-filled and strong. A faith that is full of service, of giving and of true devotion to God the Father. Whether at work, at home or wherever he is, if an opportunity is there for the sharing, Paul is in for the giving. And not a bit of it is about him-though in the long run, it contributes to making him all that God would have him be.
 
To say Paul is in a class by himself may not be exactly true but whatever class he's in, I'm sure it doesn't take long to call roll.
He has class.
He has love.
He has friends.
He is my friend.
Happy birthday 'Jake'.
May God bless you always and in all ways.

Offer It Up!   January 16, 2014
 
 
submitted by ls


Offer It Up!   January 15, 2014

Mark 1:35-39

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

 

There are those times we’ve managed to rouse ourselves early from our slumber to do as Jesus did: to get away to get more rest and relaxation. The R and R He sought though, had more P and P—prayer and purpose—in it than what we may associate with ours. For just as He said, ‘For this purpose I have come.’, that is, to serve however it is that He may serve. Be it freeing us from the darkness of sin, healing our sickness or renewing our trust in Him, He has His purpose.

 

As much as everyone was looking for Him then, think of those that are looking for Him today. Think of those that are not. Think of those that should or could be. Even being the Son of God, He was only one man. He needed help then to spread the Word and He found the people He needed to do just that. People to live their witness just as He was living the message He spoke about. As He did, He cured them, He healed them and brought them a message of hope and salvation. The purpose for which He came gave those a purpose for which to live.

 

We may not be the miracle worker or cure for whatever ails someone. We may not be the greatest at what we’ve been called to do. What we can do and are all called to be is as giving and generous as our own needs allow. Not to points of destitution or illness. Not to points of burnout. Not at the cost of the quality we find in our relationships with family and friends. Jesus found time for His rest, His balance. He wants the same for us to be as good as we can for His witness.

 


Offer It Up!   January 14, 2014

Mark 1:21-27

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “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, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

 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.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

 

This morning's reading, Mark 1:21-27, describes Jesus teaching in the synagogue and people being amazed at His words and actions, both of which came with authority (of/from God). People were in awe as He expelled, from a man, an unclean spirit who was questioning Jesus' purpose, while at the same time confirming His "identity" as God. In response to the demon's recognition of Him as God, Jesus dismissed the unclean spirit from the synagogue (and, therefore, God's presence). How often do we read about Jesus and "listen" to God's Word without truly allowing Him to touch (affect) our life with His Presence and Teaching?

 

To experience His Grace we must do more than read...we must INTERNALIZE and ACKNOWLEDGE that He is God and, in turn, ACT accordingly, so His Presence is evident in all that we do. In this case, "experience" becomes an action verb, not a passive, "do unto me"... We must do more than read about Jesus in order to experience the Grace of His Presence in our lives. May I act, today, upon my belief and faith, so that His Presence fills me to the exclusion of worldly distractions and to the inclusion of His Goodness.

 

Paul B


Offer It Up!   January 13, 2014

Mark 1:14-20

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.”As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;they were fishermen.Jesus said to them,“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”Then they left their nets and followed him.He walked along a little fartherand saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.They too were in a boat mending their nets.Then he called them.So they left their father Zebedee in the boatalong with the hired men and followed him.

 

How would you/we handle it if something like what happened to Jesus and John happened to us? Just how far out on the gamut of emotions and passion would one go, hearing the news that your best friend—even a family member—had been ‘handed over’, or arrested? Never mind the circumstances; the initial news is usually a shock to our systems. From there, how long would it take for us to come back and regain our composure? To put ourselves in a position to do something about that situation and even more?

 

People being ‘handed over’ today are most often being arrested. Outside of those near to us, we read about them and hear about them—from celebrities to the no-names—practically daily. And what is our response? Sometimes a bit of surprise. Sometimes we might even say ‘it was only a matter of time’ for that individual. Worse yet, we could even relegate our compassion and care to no feelings at all, shrugging it off as if there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

 

There was no such indifference with Jesus. Jesus sets out on His mission:

“This is the time of fulfillment.The Kingdom of God is at hand.Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

As painful as it must have been for Him to hear the news, He also knew of greater things He was here to do. He could not do those things on His own and He set out to get those that would help carry out His mission. As each heard His call, they responded in kind, as they ‘gave up’ what it was they were doing with their lives to follow Jesus. Nor did they ‘shrug off’ their choices or take their decisions lightly. Leaving all they knew, family and work and life, they gave themselves over to follow Him.

 

Each day we have that same opportunity. Indeed, this is the time here in His kingdom today. How we choose to follow Christ will be the difference for us and for those that come after us. To paraphrase Blessed Mother Teresa, the time is now for our fulfillment of His Word; let us begin then to do as we are called.




Offer It Up!    January 12, 2014

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

 

In returning the Matthew’s Gospel, today, in 3:13-17, the Baptism of Jesus is the focal point. Jesus, the Son of God, in true humility asks John to baptize Him. The Blessing of Jesus’ Baptism brings the Holy Spirit upon Him, through and after which God announces, “This is my Son….”  The blessing of baptism cemented Jesus’ mission to go forth and proclaim Salvation as God among us. 


This commission to witness is conferred upon each of us through our own baptisms. We are called to live the Gospel and further Christ’s mission. How do we live our baptismal mission in our daily lives? Lord, I pray that your divine dignity, present as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be revealed in me and through me. May I be washed, daily, by your Grace, Blood, and Spirit, each of which bring me closer to the eternal salvation promised through baptism.

Paul B



Offer It Up!   January 11, 2014
Happy Birthday Brandy!

John 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned.  Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings.  So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”

John answered and said, “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. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

 

How much harder is it to stay like you are than it is to change, to grow—to be transformed? How much time and energy do we waste doing the same things over and over, expecting things to be different or even ourselves to be different? How many times have we said to ourselves we can’t do something, we don’t have that gift, we are not talented enough, there’s not enough time for that right now… choose one or all that fit or recall one that works for you. 


Now put the glove on the other hand or the shoe on the other foot. What if all that energy were generated toward greater things, not so much for you but for you and others for the greater glory of God? What would be the outcome of that? There would be some sort of risk involved for those of us who have never tried something like this or have rarely and fully submitted to God’ will and trusted in His way for us.


John the Baptist had things going his way but knew better. He knew who was to come after him. He knew who was greater than he and that his life on earth was only incidental compared to the greater glory prepared for him and his salvation. All for the greater glory of God. We can do as John did as we make less of ourselves and put more of Christ ahead of us for all the greater glory of God.




Offer It Up!   January 10, 2014

Luke 5:12-16

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.


Luke 5:12-16 drives home two points. Jesus wants to heal us, if we just desire and ask. How often and why do we truly ask? When physically or emotionally challenged, we ask! What about healing and help in our daily  spiritual challenges? This type of healing requires daily refection and prayer... Which brings up the second point:  How do we ask?  Luke notes Jesus would become so overwhelmed by the crowd's needs and desires that he would (often) retreat to a quiet place and pray.  How do we handle it when overwhelmed by personal, family, or work needs? Are we "too tired" to pray?  Where is our "quiet and deserted place" to which we (often) retreat to "refill our spiritual tank"? Do I have one (a place AND a tank)? Lord, may I take time to tend to my need for spiritual healing and renewal today and make it part of my daily desire.

Paul B




Offer It Up!   January 9, 2014

1 John 4:19-5:4

Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

 

And we thought this love thing was all about us and falling into it.

Uh, not hardly. And it’s not even about the ‘birds and the bees’ so much as it is about the love we first must have that God has in us and for us. And that is just the beginning.


Love cannot be about you and me and us and them before it must be about the love of God. The love He has made for us. The love He made us for. The love He made us with. The love then that we have been made for Him and for one another. A love that we believe in because God made us all in His image and God is love.


That is the real meaning of love. That is why we love. That is why we fall in love. That is why we stay in love. The real, full love of God. We have been made by Him for Him and commanded by Him to love like Him. And as noted by John, a love from His commandments that is not burdensome for we are from Him and we hold Him and the love He has made us in, in our faith.




Offer It Up!   January 8, 2014

This morning, thanks to the sharing from a friend, I took a "diversion" from the Gospel readings (Though I still read Mk 6:46-52) and read Eph 4:1-6. Simply put, in reviewing the entire chapter, it becomes clear that humility, patience, and gentleness with self and others must be present for the true Love of Christ to exist within and among us.

 

To guide us forward in faith, Paul makes a plea to Christians to allow themselves to be fashioned into a harmonious body that focuses on a single Lord; a one-way salvation through faith in Christ. May we continue to build His Kingdom through development of personal and collective faith, sharing of gifts, and daily renewal with one another.

 

It is through this collective strength that we can clear our minds of worry and fill it with faith in thought, word, and deed, knowing, through faith, that He is among us and will provide..! (P.S. Mk 6:46-52 strengthens this notion by demonstrating that if we live our faith with deeper trust in God, the "storms" of our lives will help us become stronger in emotion and Spirit... Think what we can accomplish by unified our collective Spiritual Courage!) Have a blessed day!

Paul B


Offer It Up!   January 7, 2014

"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread-but hungry for love.

Naked only for clothing-but naked of human dignity and respect.

Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks-but homeless of rejection.

This is Christ in distressing disguise.”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

submitted by ls



Offer It Up!   January 6, 2014
Happy Birthday Christy!

The Christmas Season continues as we meet Christ revealed to us at Epiphany, and move on toward the Baptism of the Lord. We struggle in our celebrations of the Christmas season to recognize Jesus in our daily lives.  We meet Him in our liturgies as we come together in worship on Sundays, yet as we go out from our gatherings and our communion with Him, do we consciously remain with the Lord who has come to us and given us His Spirit? In our daily living, do we live lives in the Spirit?

 

Saint John reminds us that we recognize the Spirit of God in those who accept Jesus as Son of God. By our actions in imitation of Christ we live spirit-filled lives which proclaim Christ among us. This in itself is fulfilling the mission of evangelization before a word is spoken. Immersing ourselves in the Gospel message we live each day, being transformed into the image of God. We become more deeply aware of the restlessness in our hearts that can only find rest in God. We encounter Christ in many forms during our journey, and filled with the Spirit of God, we are urged to respond as Jesus did when He walked among us.

 

Falling in love with Jesus, we spend time with Him getting to know Him.  "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you" as the song goes, a love song from the past that young men sang to the girl that stole his heart.  These lyrics are apropos to our getting to know Him in the depths of our being. To fall in love with Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Our Savior, He who was there when we were created, this is the ultimate goal of our life, this is birth to an eternity beyond our present ability to comprehend. So, we proceed in faith that we may understand.

Deacon

 


Offer It Up!    January 5, 2014
Happy Birthday Nancy!

Below is from Chromatius, a bishop who died in the early 5th century. As a friend and colleague of Jerome and Ambrose and John Chrysostom, he gives an extraordinary view of the revelation that is the Epiphany.

Like the minds and hearts of the Magi were opened, so too may our own hearts be opened, filled and transformed as we come to know more fully the power and majesty of the Christ Jesus.



Let us now observe how glorious was the dignity that attended the King after his birth, after the magi in their journey remained obedient to the star. For immediately the magi fell to their knees and adored the one born as Lord. There in his very cradle they venerated him with offerings of gifts, though Jesus was merely a whimpering infant. They perceived one thing with the eyes of their bodies but another with the eyes of the mind. 

The lowliness of the body he assumed was discerned, but the glory of his divinity is now made manifest. A boy he is, but it is God who is adored. How inexpressible is the mystery of his divine honor! The invisible and eternal nature did not hesitate to take on the weaknesses of the flesh on our behalf. The Son of God, who is God of the universe, is born a human being in the flesh. He permits himself to be placed in a manger, and the heavens are within the manger. He is kept in a cradle, a cradle that the world cannot hold. He is heard in the voice of a crying infant. This is the same one for whose voice the whole world would tremble in the hour of his passion. 

Thus he is the One, the God of glory and the Lord of majesty, whom as a tiny infant the magi recognize. It is he who while a child was truly God and King eternal. To him Isaiah pointed, saying, “For a boy has been born to you; a son has been given to you, a son whose empire has been forged on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).”




Offer It Up!    January 4, 2014

John 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.Two disciples of John the Baptist were standing with him as Jesus passed.

 

On the simple words of John, "Look, there is the Lamb of God", the two followed Jesus. Jesus, then, invited them to "Come and see...". One of the two, Andrew, went immediately to his brother, Simon, and said, "We have found the Messiah" (and he, too, followed). Jesus, then called Simon, Peter (Cephas), which means "Rock". How do we respond to Jesus upon His invitation to us to "Come see where I live"? Are we worthy of being "rocks of faith", as Peter, simply upon the Word?

 

We, too, are invited to know Him more personally with simple words, "Come and See". Lord, may we accept the invitation to deepen our faith and make you the "rock" of our daily living. If you are our "rock" we will weather, better, the joys, trials, and tribulations of humanness and, in turn, be "rocks of faith" for each other.

Paul B




Offer It Up!   January 3, 2014

1 John 2:29-3:6

If you consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.
Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.

 

If you consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him.

If were that simple, how come more people are not then considering God righteous and living accordingly? Before you answer that, you might want to take a look at your hole card and see what hand you might be playing out. As righteous as we might think, believe and act, we are all subject to and fall into the darkness of sin. The beauty about all that is this: God still loves us. As His children, as His own who still seek to know more of Him.

 

It’s true we don’t know all we could possibly know about God. We’re not even close to understanding all the mysteries that have been, those that are and those that are yet to be. That is part of our hope and our faith. As such, that does not prevent us from coming to Him and asking more of what He would have us do and be to serve Him. We get to be humble and serve, that is what we ‘get’ out of being God’s children, for those that need something in return.

 

Out of that service and humility, we still must keep ourselves in His grace. And we do so by fulfilling His plans for us—plans that include living in His light, without the burden and darkness of sin. For all that we have been given and have come to know, living fully in the Light of Christ can’t happen while we’re walking in the darkness of sin.

 


Offer It Up!    January 2, 2014

1 John 2:22-28

Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.
Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life. I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. And now, children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

 

No one likes being called out for not telling the truth, even when they know they are speaking falsely. (Well, I guess it would be especially painful to their ego when they are speaking falsely...) As noted in John’s epistle, denying Christ is akin to denying the truth. Denying the truth to those who believe in Christ is the same as sin, either as a believer or to those we are witnessing to.

 

What we have been taught—so that you do not need anyone to teach you—has been brought to us all through the writings inspired by God. What we have learned are lessons from the Son of God. What we continue to live and understand comes from the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, our advocate, who helps keep us in the light. None of these will ever deceive us.

 

As the New Year begins to unfold, let us remember well then what we have been taught and use the skills and gifts we have learned. As we do, let us yearn to ask more of what God wants from us instead of more of what we would want from God.

 

 


Offer It Up!    January 1, 2014

John 1:1-5

In the beginningwas the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


The last day of 2013. And now a new day and New Year! What does 2014 hold store? Perhaps the Gospel of John offers some hints… a new beginning? How many new beginnings in one lifetime? We progress, we stumble and fall, we rise and in faith hopefully we continue on trusting in the guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT and the bountiful MERCY of God our loving Father.


In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God!

Jesus, God's Word eternal before time began, was in the beginning! 

Jesus, whom we receive into our midst as we celebrate the Christmas season, as a tiny baby-one of  us sharing our humanity and desiring to share with us His Divinity! Can we grasp the awesomeness of it all?  

Repeatedly, Jesus Christ comes into our lives and too often we don't even blink. We too often fail to recognize the brightness of the light. Are we simply blinded and need to have the blindness healed? 


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God as we begin the New Year. We celebrate by coming together in community to celebrate Eucharist. In that time we will hear God speak to us as a community and individually and we will come to Jesus Christ to receive Him in Holy Communion. In those brief moments we will have the opportunity to open our minds and hearts to the Triune God and be filled with the Holy Spirit.


This is an opportunity to give our lives fully to dedicate ourselves to service, to evangelization, to becoming really and actively children of God living lives in the Spirit. The world is longing for Peace, the kind of peace that only God can give. Yet too sadly we choose to trust that we know better! 


This time Lord, I turn to you and plead that You pour forth the Holy Spirit and that I may turn to You at all times. Let my very breath be a constant prayer and my life be a response to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May the constant pleading of Blessed John Paul II "Be not Afraid" be a rallying cry to all evangelistic efforts and all response to Your will! Amen.

Deacon





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