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

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OFFER IT UP!  SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

 

Storms come upon us at any time in our lives, at any time of any given day. Be they storms we are in the middle of ourselves. Be they outbursts or dust-ups that occur around us with family or friends. Or those that are explosions half way around the world that knock us all back a few steps. They have happened. They are happening. And they will happen.

 

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus brings the day to a close as He has the disciples make ready to cross the sea, leaving behind the pressing demands of the crowds. As went Jesus, so went His disciples, whether they knew where they were going or not. Maybe this trip across the sea was one where they didn’t know exactly what was going on but one thing was for sure: Jesus knew what was to come.

 

Jesus knew and knows what is to come. The storms, the surprises, the graces, the miracles—all were then within His gifts and powers as they are now. And that the disciples were a bit distraught about the storm they were in was a bit of an understatement as the waves crashed about them, taking up more space in the boat than they were. And Jesus was sleeping throughout the whole ordeal, seemingly unaware, if not uninterested, in the goings-on.

 

With but a few words, from the storms there came peace and quiet. And from the peace and quiet, the disciples saw the power that can only come from the love and majesty of the Son of God. Seeing that their faith could grow from their doubts and fears, from the power that Jesus had shown as He calmed the seas.

 

Very much the same can be said for us as the troubles of our lives start taking up more of our ‘boat’ than what they should. They start to overtake us and become more of what runs us instead of us taking care of and running them. That is when the fears settle in and take control, just as they took on the disciples. As Jesus asked about their faith, we can question the depth of our own when things get more than we can bear. Are we to trust in our ways or in the ways that God has for us?

Today's Gospel reading brings us back to reflection on what the kingdom of God is like. A mustard seed, Jesus says, that grows into a large plant. Something very tiny that when planted grows, we aren't sure how into a large plant, a place for the birds to build nests, and  find protection from elements. 

 

We as followers of the Lord Jesus are like that seed, as our faith is nurtured and grows in our participation in the life of Jesus Christ, in the life of the Church, we see growth. Our life of faith is infectious and the germ of faith is planted in the minds and hearts of those we may infect.

 

Our witness can and does affect the lives of others whom we meet in the course of our living. Likely in occurrences we would not likely notice, in the course of a day, in prayer, in helping another, in visiting someone who is lonely or sick or in prison. In the care of our children, in the love of our spouse, in all the moments of intercourse with our fellow humans. Each moment of each day, we are in the presence of Our Creator God, who moment by moment is creating and allowing us to be co-creators sharing in the wonder of all that flows from His love.

 

What is the Kingdom of God like? Stop today and spend some moments alone in the silence that is God, bask in the light of love, allow the blood of Christ to wash over you and free you from sin. Let go and let God embrace you and perhaps provide a glimpse of the Kingdom. Today, look to the others who are part of the fabric of your life and see the image of God.

Deacon

We see, throughout the Old and New Testaments, the image of light being used to explain the presence and understanding of God. In reading Mark 4:21-25 we find Jesus comparing God’s Word, God’s Revelation, God’s Salvation to a lamp. He asks, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a tub or under the bed? Surely it is brought in to be put on the lamp-stand.” 

 

Just as in Psalm 36, God is the light be which we see the light. Jesus proclaims that the power of God’s light—His Truth and Salvation—must shine in and through us. It should not be hidden. 

 

We are each called and challenged to exude the Word and be the person He calls us to be, in His Image (ref: Genesis 1:27). Throughout the New Testament we are called to be “Christ-like” in our thought, word and deed (and Jesus is God and we are made in His Image). What does it mean to let His light shine in us? 

 

Throughout the Gospels we see that Christ is compassionate, forgiving, generous and caring. All of these are elements of love—His Infinite love. We also know, from John’s Gospel, that God is the Word!  Therefore, the Word of God is our “lamp” that Jesus is referring to in Mark’s account of His speaking crowds in 4:21-25. We, therefore, are the “lamp stand” from which that light shines. We must not be the tub, the bed, the “bushel-basket” which hides or dims the Word. Rather, Light must shine from us for all to see (in thought, word, and deed). 

 

Think about the fact that we are blessed with the Gift of Faith that allows us to believe in the Good News of Salvation. Are we not, therefore, obligated to make it known to others so that they, too, may see and follow the Light to Eternal Salvation? 

 

Lord, send the Gift of Your Spirit to illuminate our own path’s and give us courage to be the stand from which Your light shines! Jesus, Only You.  J.O.Y.

Paul B

How does God’s Word take root in our hearts? How do we use the freedom we are given to tend to our “spiritual garden”? In reading Mark 4:1-20, we find the familiar parable about the sower of the seed—about the type of ground upon which the seed, the Word of God falls. 

 

As Christians, it is our freedom, in our human condition, to choose to cultivate the type of soil He desires. In the end, it is our own cultivation of our “spiritual soil” that determines how It takes root in our thoughts, minds and deeds. Two primary tools of cultivation for our “spiritual garden” are “Prayer” and “Reflection” in and upon the Word of God. The (ultimate) result is (divine) inspiration that waters and sustains our spiritual growth. So, as Christians, we are called to ask, “What type of soil am I?  What type of ground am I and have I cultivated in my life’s endeavors? When God’s Word is planted upon and in me, am I open to receiving it? 

 

Let’s face it, the quality of a garden is judged by its yield; a tree, by the fruit hanging upon its branches.  What are some things that I do that draw people to see and benefit from the yields of my spiritual garden? Can I or others see or positively partake of the fruits that grow from my life’s labors? 

 

Finally, we must realize that we not only cultivate our own soil, we are called to be “sowers” of the Seed—God’s Word, upon which others can grow. What can I do to share the secrets of God’s kingdom with those around me in my family?  At work? At play? In Mark’s account of this parable we find the twelve (in 4:9-10) sitting together, alone with our Lord, discerning what the parable(s) means. 

 

Lord, today’s Gospel draws many questions upon which we are called to pray and reflect so as to better cultivate our spiritual soil. May I prepare myself to better receive and grow in Your Divine Truth and, ultimately, share the fruits of that labor with all with whom I interact.  J.O.Y.

Paul B

“Anyone who does the Will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” 

In Mark 3:31-35 Jesus shows that we all belong to God’s family and are, therefore, called to live out our lives as contributing members of that family. This is a central element to a sadly-weakened concept today:  Family! 

 

As members of a family we must, first, be open to the sense of commitment and responsibility towards the welfare of each other. It is no different in God’s family. We must open ourselves to Him—specifically to His Gift of the Spirit within us. The sense and desire to commit to family is an important step to the belonging and unity that comes with being a family. In God’s family the Holy Spirit is the bond that ties us together. He (The Spirit) is there to allow us to receive insight, strength and direction to respond to God’s commitment with commitment. By living His Ways, our conscious commitments eventually become “unconscious actions” or “habit”. Just as bad habits can become common, we must remember that good habits do also. 

 

How we treat each other on a daily and even momentary basis becomes habitual. Perhaps, we can (or should) turn verse 35 of today’s reading around a little bit in order to actually put it in into action? This verse calls us to understand that “Faith in Action” means that to be a true brother or sister in Christ we MUST DO the Will of God. We are expected, within the family of Christians, to develop the habit of acting in and upon God’s Will in our interactions, and then we can extend that example to all, thus increasing God’s family! 

 

Jesus always points to the highest reality/priority: a relationship with God! To conquer the “human condition” we must encourage each other to commit to His Will. 

 

Spirit, the source of all true friendship and love, guide all my relationships toward the Father, focusing me and my fellow believers on Your Will. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B

Mark 3:22-30 continues with the scribes’ accusation that Jesus is expelling demons with the power of satan, not that of God. We see these leaders reacting strongly against Jesus’ healings and exorcisms, opposing him with malicious slander. Because of their lack of understanding, they question Jesus’ source of authority to release people from the grip of satan’s influence and control. 

 

In Mark’s Gospel account, here Jesus asserts that no kingdom divided against itself can survive (basically, why would satan expel satan?). If satan lends his power against his own forces of evil, he is finished. Jesus expelled demons from the bodies of afflicted persons and these demons left unwillingly due to the power of opposing force (God). It only makes sense, as Jesus explains. 

 

In our own lives, when “danger” to our comfort lurks, what kind of protection do we seek? As Christians we call upon the Lord to be present in and among us.  Jesus’ primary purpose in becoming man was to provide us with freedom from the corrupting force(s) of evil—the slavery of sin (ref: John 8:34). In doing so, He personally introduces us to God’s presence (literally) and shows us that evil is not some “impersonal” force that just occurs. 

 

Evil has a name and seeks to master hearts and souls and we must desire (and count on) the Spirit of God to be our strength against evil. The scribes attacked His very Spirit by speaking against God, denying that it was God’s power and authority upon which Jesus was relying.  Jesus gives an example of a strong man, in his own house, being overpowered. The only way his goods and possessions—his house—can be overtaken is by someone stronger. Satan is that stronger foe. And, only the strength of God can give men the stout-hearted courage and power to overcome him and protect their “spiritual house”. 

Lord, you are my hope and my salvation! Be the ruler of my heart and home! J.O.Y.

Paul B


 

His friend being arrested, Jesus was now on His path of being ‘handed over’. And as He does so, He wants those who hear Him and those who follow Him to prepare for that time. For when that happens, that time will be a time for salvation for their sins.


For that preparation to begin, a cleansing needs to take place, a cleansing that comes from within that Jesus tells us comes from our belief in the Good News. For that preparation to continue, the gospel needs to become even more a part of our lives as we become more a part of the gospel as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.


Everyday, we are reminded that the kingdom is close at hand. We may think of the kingdom as a place or even an end—as it may be. Yet we are also living in His kingdom on earth, knowing also of His kingdom in heaven. We believe as we follow Christ. We trust as we are called to do His will, as ‘thy kingdom come.’ So how do we keep doing what He calls us to do, to be?

Our conversion, our transformation, our ongoing changing to come closer to believing and knowing all that He has for us is how. Moving away from our dark and sinful manners toward those people and ways of life that keep us in His light. A total commitment to accepting what God sends our way and living through it as He calls us to. 


As Jesus called His disciples, we are called today to follow from Him as well. From our vocations, our ministries, our families, we can respond to that call and surrender to His will. Not knowing when or how the call will come, we have to be ready to drop our nets and be free in His will to go where He calls.




 

About everywhere Jesus went, His disciples were with Him. And as often the case, so were large crowds following them. As they went into the house, the crowd followed them, creating more than just a small disturbance.

 

We’ve often read or heard of the crowds that have followed Jesus—for a touch of His cloak, a touch of His healing hand, a curing word. Maybe that’s all they wanted, just to be free from their ailment. Or maybe they did hear and heed what He had to tell them. Either way, the crowds were there.


The crowds were difficult to understand for those that didn’t understand Jesus. Didn’t understand His compassion. His mercy. His love. How He forgives the illnesses of those He cures. How He bears the burdens of our sins and carries us through our trials. Yes, just how difficult is it to understand the great, wide and glorious mercy of the love of our God?

Join the crowd... 



We are each singled out, called by God, to serve His Kingdom. Our first task, therefore, is to listen for this call and to look for opportunities to respond. Jesus, in Mark 3:13-19, summoned the twelve personally and by name. These men were chosen in spite of their simple, imperfect and even sinful lives. They were called because they had hearts with a fire to serve God’s Kingdom. 

 

In this call, of course, there were trials.  And they were trials that they did not always “win”, because in our respective calls we are still given free will to listen and follow (or not). In this free will is the continued challenge of the “human condition” and this makes the joy of victories won (in Him) even sweeter (for God and for us). 

 

As we read the accounts of Jesus’ call to His disciples, we must note that Jesus sees each persons’ (including our own) weaknesses and sinfulness. More importantly, though, He sees our potential goodness and gifts that can be used to proclaim His Good News of Salvation.  So, in spite of ourselves, Jesus still calls us to be His disciples.  What a powerful call, what an awesome gift! 

 

This past Sunday, one of the readings was 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19. Here Samuel was awakened by the Lord’s voice. Not recognizing the voice, he ran to Eli saying, “Here I am, you called me.”  Eli sent him back to sleep. Upon the third time of this calling, Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and told him to respond, next time, with “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.” This became Samuel’s response and he grew up, from then on, allowing God’s voice to have an effect upon him (v19). 

 

Do we recognize God’s voice and call in our lives? In turn, how do we respond to His personal call of us? We often pray, “Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call!” How often do we listen for and hear His? 

 

Lord, help me to hear and respond to Your Call.  Make my life’s work Your own! J.O.Y.

Paul B

Recent reflections have focused on “the Sabbath” and “keeping Holy His Day”. While it is imperative to “give time to Him”, we are called to bring attention to Him in all that we do each day and every possible human moment! 

 

Today, in Mark 3:7-12, we find Jesus being followed by crowds of people, all seeking Him because they had heard of His wonderful works of curing, releasing demons, and preaching love and mercy. In today’s world, do we sense this same excitement when we share in worship each Sunday or other days of prayer and sharing the Word? Do we truly understand that we are going to church to literally share Jesus? This sharing of Him is in fellowship of The Word and the Body: it is the sharing of Him with each other! 

 

What is our disposition when we worship? Are we active?  Attentive? Passionate? Wherever Jesus went, people flocked to Him because of what they had heard about the deeds He performed. They were hungry for God and desired healing of body and/or spirit. In faith, many literally touched him. As they touched Him His power came forth and many were healed. 

 

How do we seek, in today’s secular world, to take hold of Jesus’ presence? To take hold requires, first, faith! We must seek him in faith that He will ultimately, guide us patiently. Faith requires that we desire and believe that He “responds to our touch and reaching out”. While it is the right direction to reach out, ultimately though, we must faithfully accept His will and guidance, in turn. 

 

We see, in Mark 3:11, that the demons tremble in God’s, Jesus’ presence. Why? They recognize His heavenly authority! As we recognize His Heavenly Authority, we are called to go beyond recognition and to actually respond with love! This is our call as Christians! 

 

Lord, You are God’s Son and Savior of the World. Fill me with expectant faith in You. Set me free to ACT in and for You. Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B

Mark 3 begins with the account of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (referenced yesterday). In Mark 3:1-6 we find the Pharisees watching Jesus, yet again, to see if He might do something that they could “hold against Him”. Knowing this, Jesus brought a man with a withered hand to the forefront and asked all the question, “Is it permitted, on the Sabbath, to do good (or evil)? To save life (or to kill)? There was total silence, as the Pharisees had no response. 

 

Jesus was saddened by their stubbornness and, to show compassion and hope against hope for their understanding, had the man hold out his hand and the hand was restored. 

Instead of seeing the wonders of God, though, the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him. In this Gospel reading, we find those who would rather find fault with Jesus, rather than see and accept the fact that God is all-powerful and desires only to guide us to Him. 

 

Such people, with “fault finding attitudes” are not at peace with themselves, with God, or something in this world that He created. Because of this they are unable to accept the Spirit’s guidance. This is divisive and it results in conflict instead of unity. 

 

With whom do we identify in our own walk? Do we identify with the man who was in need of healing? Do we identify with those who were skeptical and willing to find reasons “not to believe”? Just as in yesterday’s reflection, we see that we are called to focus on what we can do to further Christ’s kingdom in our families as well as our work and “play” times. As stated yesterday, it is not that the Sabbath is not important—We must set aside time for God, but it can’t be just “pigeon-holed” time. It must be daily, often, and we must return to Him each time we “slip”. 

 

Lord, challenge me and give me courage to do more good (than not) and to make a difference in the world around me—leading more to You!  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B

What is the purpose of the law? As we walk with the Lord and listen to His Word, surely we must ponder what is the purpose of God's law?

 

We read joyfully the Lord will remember His covenant forever. We are eager to hear the command to love God with all our being, and our neighbor as ourselves.  Then we create a number of laws based on these words and begin too often to control others and to judge their actions often without truly looking lovingly at what God and what Jesus in today's gospel points to. 

 

We are too prone to taking the law into our own hands and trying to create situations we can control. We even add to the basic laws our own need to keep things organized.

 

As we consider our actions this day, perhaps we may look at our actions and reflect on how the virtues are displayed in or in adherence to God's law. Where is mercy, forgiveness, justice, patience, kindness, JOY, and how do they demonstrate themselves in the love we bear?

Deacon

Old T-shirts or shoes, comfortable, ratty-looking pair of jeans…. We are often reluctant to part with these items because of their comfort. At the same time, we don’t wear these things to our work or to church on Sunday. Compare this, now, to who we desire to be after we come to understand that we have been “made clean and new by God’s love” in our lives and the acceptance/ understanding of that love. This “new” person is incompatible with the general “human condition” in which we exist when we lose our way in life. 

 

How often do we “drift back” into “our ways” in our daily life? In Mark 2:18-22, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “No one sews a piece of un-shrunken cloth on an old cloak….” And in another analogy says, “Nobody puts new wine into old wine skins….” As the new, un-shrunken patch shrinks, it tears at the old cloth and makes the original tear worse. New wine in an old skin will cause the old skin to burst. 

 

As our journey with Jesus continues let us pray for the grace to patiently accept God’s will in our lives. Let our change be filled with the strength of His Grace and our “new skin” retain the Good News of Salvation within our hearts and minds, allowing it to be used to serve Him and all others with whom we interact. In our humanness, we often “slip” and drift back into the secular values from which His Word and Will move us away. The comfort of sliding back to the human condition is appealing, especially when things seem to be “going our way”. 

 

In Mark 2:18-22 we are, also, reminded that we are called to celebrate with the bridegroom while he is still with us. It is this way with God. Though they did not know this, Jesus was prophesying His passion, death, resurrection and return to the Eternal heavens. 

 

Lord, help me to live the Good News and embed your personal, just, and compassionate love in my life at always, not just when “appropriate”. 

Jesus, Only You.  J.O.Y.

Paul B

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 Jesus 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.

 

Andy Warhol said that we’d all get our fifteen minutes of fame. Some of us might still be waiting for that quarter hour… some may already be well beyond their glory moment. Yet, in the greater scheme of God’s providence, how many of us really do expect to have such an impact?

 

Andrew made an impact. The man—a fisherman at that— who was one of the first to follow Jesus, did not necessarily gain the fame that John, Peter or even James did. What did impact Andrew was John’s statement: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ He knew there was something much greater about this Jesus. Jesus made an impact on Andrew. But he himself was about to make an impact on others. He found the Messiah and then brought Peter to Him. We can agree that was quite an impact, one we still recognize today as Peter being our first pope. He had brought Peter to Jesus and Jesus brought Peter, in a sense, to us. Think about your life in that perspective; who has had an impact on you? Who might you have had an impact on in a similar fashion?

 

‘Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” ’

 

God has given each day we have as His gift. What we do with that gift as we look to serve Him is how we can give back just a bit of what He has given us. As we do, we look for something more than what we have, something more in our faith to bring us closer to Him. We are not satisfied with where we are or even with where we have been. Something within us is driving us toward a change, a transformation.

 

We reach moments, times, milestones in our lives where we resolutely claim: I am not going back-I will only move forward in my faith. As Jesus knew what they were looking for, He knows what we all are in need of. As He told them to ‘come and see’, He tells us the same. To come and follow Him. Of course some trust is involved but what is faith if not for trust?

 

Throughout our lives, we’ve all wanted to come and see; our faith is evidence enough of that. As we are called, let us do as Andrew did and serve others and bring others so that they too will come and see what we are looking for.

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.”

 

By the sea, by the roads, the towns, Jesus found those who were to follow Him. Wherever they were, whatever it was they were doing, He knew the time to bring about a change for them with two words—‘Follow me.’ From fishermen to tax collectors, they dropped what they were doing and did as He told them.

 

For them to follow Jesus would mean to indeed drop everything they were doing and knew and come to learn a new way of life, a life that would lead them to be like Jesus the Christ. He didn’t judge how they were in their current roles or professions or walks of life. He knew who they could and would become as they made the transformation from their old world lives to a new life of faith in Him. Transformation from lives of sin, just as those who that sat with Him and His disciples at table.

 

Maybe we’ve been seen with those who have not had such a great background. Maybe we’ve been thrown into that same bunch just by association, just as the Scribes did with Jesus. As disciples, it is what we are called to do, to help those in need... those that are in decent shape require less help if any at all. As it was the mission of Christ then, so it is our mission as believers today as we reach out to those in need.

 

It’s easy to love the lovable. It’s easy to serve those who have needs we can readily and easily meet. What is hard to do and often kept ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is to serve those no one else wants to serve. The destitute, the homeless, the criminals. They too all need the love of Christ. The Gospel message itself is not meant that we keep it from them but to carry it to them.

Mark 2:1-12, is an account of four men whose faith was so strong that they were willing to carry their paralyzed friend up to the rooftop of the house where Jesus was staying, strip back the roofing, and lower their friend to Jesus in the hopes, desire, and belief that Jesus would use His merciful power to restore! 

 

Jesus, seeing their strength of faith, healed the man. How easy would it have been for these four friends to sit back and not make the effort to (literally) lay their concerns at the feet of Jesus for the intercessions of their friend?  When they saw the crowds clamoring for Jesus’ attention, desiring something from Him, they could have simply said, “There are too many others for Him to consider….” Instead, they persevered in faith and Jesus had mercy upon the man and ordered that His sins be forgiven and that he “get up, pick up the stretcher, and go home.” To the wonder of all, the man walked out the front door of the home in which he had to be physically lowered.

 

Through these and other actions throughout the Gospel, we see that Jesus not only proved that His Authority is God’s authority as He is God, He showed the mercy and love of that authority.  By forgiving the man’s sins (which, if you recall, the scribes considered blasphemy due to their unwillingness to believe He is God) AND healing him, Jesus freed him from both spiritual and physical burdens. 

 

As we consider this act of mercy, let us acknowledge how it applies to our own lives: is (Are)there any area(s) in our lives that cripple us in our ability to walk in the freedom of Christ’s transforming love and forgiveness? Do we believe in His transforming power of forgiveness, merciful love, and restoration to wholeness? 

 

Lord, May your healing power and love touch every area of my life—thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions so that I may walk confidently in You love, truth, and righteousness. J.O.Y.

Paul B

The message, from Mark 1:32:39 is one that drives home the point that we are to bring the Gospel to others—not just keep it within ourselves or even within the “inner circle” of a few like-minded persons—friends. We are blessed to receive and believe the Good News of Salvation. Therefore, by and through that blessing, we are called to share!

 

As we meet and greet our family and friends, daily, and when we have the opportunity to meet new people, we must ask ourselves, do they see the “zeal” or “fire” of His Spirit in us, upon those greetings and meetings? Jesus, when His disciples tell him, “Everyone is looking for you”, replies, “Let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring towns, so that I can proclaim the message there, too, because that is why I came.” 

 

In His ministry, Jesus did not live for the approval of those around him, nor did He worry about building a “likable” reputation for Himself. His sole commitment—fidelity and obedience—was to the Father’s Will—the commission of His Plan for Salvation for all men.  Therefore, it must be the goal of all of us, who are believers in Christ, to pray vigilantly and focus on the final goal of His ministry and desire for us: that we imitate Christ and strive to lead others to accept God’s Gift of Eternal Life/Salvation. 

 

Do we give in to the crowds and popular trends? Do we stay where we are “comfortable” and exhibit only the proverbial “preaching to the choir”? Today’s Gospel clearly calls us to our mission of “Faith in Action”.  Our actions are empty without faith and our faith is minimized without action. This is a powerful realization. Jesus, as noted in Mark 1:38 as saying that we must move on to neighboring villages and proclaim the Good News. Jesus is willing to come to us! Do we give him the “key” to our hearts? To our lives? 

 

Lord, grant me the courage to accept Your call to share and serve you to/through others. J.O.Y.

Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue 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.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
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.

 

Balance and burn-out.

If we don’t have the first, the second is often not far away. From our vocations to our families, from our hobbies to our volunteer time, there is only so much of us to go around. As much as we often think of others before we think of ourselves—a very good practice to follow—we do need to tend to our own needs from time to time so that we can better tend to those of others when called upon.

 

From healing Peter’s mother-in-law to cleansing and healing the sick and those possessed, Jesus found Himself with many demands being made of Him. As available as He made Himself, Jesus knew He needed to find time to pray, to rest, to re-energize. He was serving the community and there were many communities more to serve. They knew what He was serving and wanted much of what He had to give.

 

When we are served by Christ and healed with His mercy and forgiveness, how do we respond? Are we as anxious as the people that Jesus cured? Are we as grateful as Peter’s mother-in-law who served Jesus and the disciples upon being cured? How we respond is how we give back what we have been given. Not to a point of burn-out but to a point of grace, a grace that comes only through being and doing who we’ve been called to be. Through prayer, through rest and through healing we can all avail ourselves to God’s calling.


God’s divine power and His Spirit is fully present in His Son, Jesus! Mark 1:21-28 shows us this divine power and authority. While preaching and teaching in the synagogue, Jesus exhibited such authority and understanding, unlike any that the people had seen before. They recognized His authority for two reasons: 1) He began preaching under His own authority and, while he often quoted Old Testament scriptures, he also preached a “new” love and commitment to faith and, more importantly, faith in action; and, 2) He showed that unclean spirits bowed to His Authority—God! 

 

It is this example of humility and power that exemplifies divine authority and wisdom to teach and preach! It is the Spirit of God that provides the courage and humility to live that which we teach, preach, and understand. As Christians, followers of Christ, the Son of God, we profess a confidence in the protection, guidance, and power of God. In doing so, we must examine our thoughts and actions related to that profession—do we live as an example of that profession of faith? 

 

In Mark’s account, here, Jesus demonstrates His power over all dominion and over evil by rebuking the disruptive presence of the unclean spirit that filled a man in the synagogue where He was preaching! People saw and were amazed that He had the authority and courage to command (and be obeyed by) such spirits! What does it take in our lives for us to be “amazed” at the power of God? Do we wait for some powerful circumstance or, do we strive to recognize His dominion each day, in all for which we have to give thanks or seek comfort? 

 

Ask yourself, today, “Do I (truly) believe that God’s word has the power/authority to transform my life or any given moment in my life? 

 

Lord, Your Word (You) are power and life! May I never doubt this power and Your mercy to bring fullness to my life.  J.O.Y.

Paul B.




The Apostles were called to serve—to proclaim, through word and action, the Good News of the Salvation God has brought to the world. Each of us too, is called, by God, to examine the “place” we have put God in our lives and the importance that we have given the Mission of sharing (and being examples) of His Good News. Are we examples to our family? Are we example to friends? Co-Workers?  Strangers? 

 

In reading and reflecting upon Mark 1:14-20, where we see the call of the disciples, we find Jesus saying, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. He called, and they answered: each called by name, each called to ensure that they place God at the center. How serious are we in serving our call? The question that we must ponder, at the end of each day, is “Did my words or deeds draw me closer to God today?” And, perhaps, more importantly, “Did someone in my sphere of interaction see God in my words and deeds today.” 

 

We are called to live our lives in a manner that delivers the “Good News”! What does this mean? When we have good news, such as pending nuptials, the arrival of a child, landing a job, or other such changes that bring joy, we share such news with smiles, hugs, handshakes, and general exuberance! We literally “shine” so that people say, “What’s going on with you, you look like the proverbial “cat who ate the canary?” Should we not be the same each day that we hear/share the Good News of the Gospel? Just as He chose the first disciples, “ordinary people”, Jesus chooses us. Jesus wants and needs “ordinary” people to do “extraordinary things under His Authority, because ALL things can be accomplished in Him. 

 

Lord, help us to believe and see all that you want for us, in our call from You. Just as Simon, Andrew, James, and John, we are called to Your service. Help me to believe Your Word and follow faithfully! J.O.Y.

Paul B

Isaiah 55:6-11
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

 

What good does it do to turn on the shower if you are not going to get in and get clean? What good does it do to fix a good meal if you don’t plan to eat it? Why bother to buy the medicine if you don’t plan on taking it as the doctor prescribes?

 

Isaiah is calling us to do some amazingly simple tasks here. We are to call on the Lord while we still can, while we are still in that state of grace. And if not, let us forsake our ways and turn back to him, taking the time for reconciliation and forgiveness. After all, what good does it do for us to make all the preparations if we don’t put them into practice?

 

One definition the dictionary gives us for osmosis is that it is an ability to learn and understand things gradually without much effort. As the rain and snow make the ground fertile, so too does the Word of God make our hearts and minds just so, soaking them all in, giving us the gifts of knowledge and understanding. Not according to our will, but His, as we commit to life in Him and with Him. That is how it works in a community of believers, all who renew their lives in Him, achieving the goal for which He sent us.




 

Scripture tells us much—if we just take time to read it and heed it. For all that times we’ve been told to pray about something, John reminds us of that key facet of prayer: asking anything according to His will. As easy or simple as that should be, how often is it that we try to make the will of our prayers anything but God’s will? Our prayers are offered with confidence not from our perspective for our own desires but for that which we would have from God and His will for us. That is the sort of confidence we seek as we pray and submit to Him.

 

As good as we might think we would have it with our own will, how great are things with the will of God, our God who wants nothing but the best for us? It is not a power struggle but a cooperative effort, with God bringing us to where He would have us as we live in communion with Him. There is freedom in that sort of effort, one that allows us to be doing all we would want and having all we would have as we give ourselves to Him. Even if we are to find ourselves in sin, in darkness, there He will be to lead us back to prayer and His will.

 

As we are all children of God, we are His to be protected. Yet in the darkness of sin, we sometimes feel like we are on our own... and probably for good reason. Satan is out there, prowling and waiting for his next opportunity to lead us from God and deeper into darkness. Yet God has given us His gift of free will to show us ‘the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true. He is the true God and eternal life.’ Let us stay true to Him with love, stay true to ourselves in love and remain on guard against those things, those ‘idols’ that would lead us from Him.





In Luke 5:12-16 we find a man with a skin disease, leprosy, who sees Jesus and immediately falls prostrate and implores Jesus with the following words, “Sir, if you are willing you can cleanse me!” Jesus, touches him, says, “I am willing. Be cleansed.” At once, the man is cleansed. So simply, this man recognized Jesus’ power to heal Him. He yielded, as we all should, to the authority of God and humbly asked…”If you are willing….” 

 

How, in our lives, do we extend ourselves in heart, mind, and body to Jesus and humbly say, “Lord, you can….”, and turn ourselves over to him so completely? And, in doing so, putting HIS Will before our own? In our human condition we find it very difficult to understand the “mystery” of God’s will, therefore, that “mystery” makes it difficult to turn ourselves completely over to him. 

 

In today’s society, more and more, not only do we fight “self-centeredness”, we fight instant gratification! We want and we want NOW. And, society caters to the “now” and we have, therefore, come to expect everything “now”. Today, as we ponder the story of this man with leprosy, we must remember and focus on the confidence and humbleness with which this “outcast” approached Jesus. By doing so, Jesus not only granted him the request, He modeled a love and compassion that society did not afford people with this disease. He responded with love and compassion and, against the norm, physical touch! 

 

The norm of the day regarded such contact to be an incredible risk of infection ones’ self. Not only does this action physically heal, but certainly has an emotional impact as well. How do we approach those around us who are difficult to love due to some real or perceived weakness? 

 

Lord, yet again, I implore you to cleanse my own heart, mind, and soul so that I never cease to show others mercy and love.  J.O.Y.

Paul B





“This text is being fulfilled today, even while you are listening.” Luke 4:16-22 records Jesus’ “grand entry” into public ministry, as He spoke to people in the temple, reading to them from the Prophet Isaiah. Here He proclaims the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would come in the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing freedom to the oppressed (Isaiah 61:1-2). This was Jesus’ first public message intended to awaken the Hope we are to have in God’s promises to us. 

 

Luke records that the people listened in wonder and amazement at the words Jesus shared. We must take this as evidence of the hunger they have (and hunger we have) for the Word of Life. This begs the question(s): do we look to the Word of God with confidence and hope? Do we expect the fulfillment of His promise? Finally, do we strive to seek and understand how the Spirit works within us and in our lives to lead us to the fulfillment of eternal life’s promise? 

 

As Christians we must remember that the word “Gospel” means “Good News”. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come to set people free, not only from infirmity, but also from the affliction from which we all suffer, “sin”. The Gospel, though, can only be “Good News” for those who seek and desire to receive it. We must understand that God (first, foremost, and solely) desires to save us from the periods of dejection, hopelessness, and emptiness of the human condition.

 

Today, let us try to put ourselves in the synagogue in Nazareth—let us hear these first (public) words of Jesus telling us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News….” How do we respond? 

 

Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of hopes and dreams of those who believe! Through Your Spirit bring us truth, freedom, and life. Fill me with the Good News of Your Word and inflame my heart!

Jesus Only You—J.O.Y.

Paul B





Yesterday, in reading the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes with just a few fishes and loaves, the reflection focused on two elements of that account: 1) compassion; and, 2) action. 

 

After feeding the multitudes both spiritually and physically, Mark reports that Jesus retreated up the mountain for prayer and solitude while sending His disciples across the Sea to await Him. While they were on the sea, a storm kicked up. Jesus saw them struggling in the high winds. Does Jesus ever seem to be on a distant shore when the “high winds kick up” in our own lives? 

 

Imagine the disciples, experienced fishermen though they were, in this horrible storm. Even the most experienced have some fear. And bodies of water are often known for sudden storms, with forceful gales, kicking up and creating danger. The Sea of Galilee is no different. 

 

So, the disciples had real fear that their boat may capsize. Jesus, in His time of prayer and solitude, though not with the disciples, was keeping vigil upon them. When He saw their struggles, He came to them, walking on the sea. His disciples, in their fear (and still, hard-heartedness) responded with terror and confusion, rather than Joy in His presence. Rather than initial trust, they thought a ghost was heading towards them to “seal their fate”. They could not believe it was Him until they heard His voice and words of assurance. Once they opened their minds and hearts, their fears (and the storm) calmed. Thus, we must ask ourselves, “Do we recognize His presence or does He appear distant when trials come our way? 

 

Lord, help me to not doubt Your Presence and to recognize You in times of adversity in my life! Give me courage “amidst the waves” to hope with steady and unwavering perseverance of faith. You call us to compassion and action; therefore may our Trust in You give us strength to answer You.  J.O.Y.

Paul B





How many times have we in our Scripture readings, read various passages repeatedly, over the course of time? Mark 6:34-44, the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes, is one such piece that we have read and, most likely, one about which we’ve heard more than one sermon or homily.

 

In reading it this morning, two pieces of the passage stood out to me: 1) “…He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them….”(Mark 6:34); and,2) “...He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves…”(Mark 6:37).

 

Both of these passages struck me as the “heart” of Jesus’ presence: why He came into this world,; why He set the ultimate example of love and peace among us; and why he sacrificed Himself through Passion, Death, and Resurrection. In this Gospel passage, it is not just about His power to “multiply fishes and loaves”.  As we are taught (and know), nothing is impossible with God! 

 

So, rather than focus on just what He can do for us, we can take the two verses from this passage and apply them to what we can do. Jesus’ compassion went far beyond being aware of the immediate hunger and need of the people. His message was to His Disciples: “Feed my people.” We see, later, in John’s Gospel (Ch. 21) when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” and “Do you really love Me?” Peter, as do we, responds, “Lord, You know I love You!” At this point, Jesus says, “Then feed My sheep!” 

 

To be a disciple of Jesus, therefore, we must be in tune to the needs of those around us. So in taking today’s passage, let us ask ourselves how we can show compassion and provide the proper example for those around us, to nourish them in His Love! 

 

Lord, may we feel compassion for those around us, in their (our) human condition AND find/accept Your strength in our lives to do what we can to lighten their load. J.O.Y.

Paul B




In Matthew 4:12-24, we find Jesus fulfilling the words of Isaiah, as he begins his public ministry in the area of Galilee. It is here that Isaiah had prophesied that the people, living in darkness, would see a great light, the dawning of new light in a country of dark shadow.  From the point of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus began His proclamation of the Good News of Salvation throughout the region. 

 

Just what is this Good News? It is the Good News of PEACE! It is the Good News of HOPE! It is the Good News of TRUTH! It is the Good News of PROMISE! It is the Good News of IMMORTALITY. It is the Good News of our eternal SALVATION. These messages of Christ are beyond simple words on a page!

 

First and foremost, peace is the reconciliation of our kinship with God—Jesus’ presence is the ultimate example of God’s desire to establish this peace. His dwelling among man gives us hope of our eternity with Him in the heavenly kingdom. By coming as man, God gives us the truth that can set us apart from the lies and deception of Satan—offers us the Spirit to dwell in us, opening our minds to God’s revelation (Ref John 8:32). Jesus fulfills the promise of the Old Testament—the promise to reward those who seek Him—the reward of the treasure of heaven for eternity. 

 

Finally, we see Jesus bringing the good news of Immortality, of Salvation! By teaching us the way to overcome sin and death in our humanness (and, then showing us His willingness to lead us there through his own suffering, passion, and, ultimately, Glorious Resurrection) He delivers us from every fear, sin, and obstacle, if we so desire!  The price we pay is much simpler than His. He only desires two things:  Repentance and Belief! 

 

Lord, Your ways are light and life! May Your Word and Desire penetrate my heart and transform my mind so as to be filled with Your Wisdom! May I see Your Power and Glory: Your Light! J.O.Y.

Paul B


 

How is it that we could miss this passage from Isaiah? Well, we don’t and didn’t. The passage is famous all the way from the Latin liturgy as we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.

 

The light that was followed shone brightly then as it shines for us today-the light of the Christ Child. Though the darkness of Herod was about them then, the wise men made their way to see what glory was before them, as ‘kings by your shining radiance’, they came upon Christ Jesus.

 

The star they followed led them to the Light of the World, the light of salvation. The angels, the shepherds and the wise men—all came to see the glory of the LORD. For as they believed, so too did they come to know the wonder and love, splendor and majesty of this King of Kings wrapped humbly in swaddling clothes. Indeed, here was the love of God Incarnate.

 

As they knelt and paid Him homage then we have that opportunity to do the same today. To cooperate with those plans God has for us to follow His ‘light’, His ‘star’ that we all have in His providence. That is our goal to be in union and in communion with Him. May we find the courage and strength through His mercy and grace to be as He would have us be.





 

Yet so we are.

So we are all children of God, indeed begotten by Him to be made more in His image. For the love He made us with and makes for us today is just the beginning of all He has for us as His children. Who are we to argue with that... and why would we want to?

 

Yet so we are.

The world does not yet have a firm grasp on this love and sometimes-if not all the time-neither do we. Even with His love, even as His children, we still find ourselves in states of sin. Sometimes it’s seems as a darkness which we cannot escape as we pray for the hope and endurance to see His light again.

 

Yet so we are.

From that darkness and with God’s righteousness, we do find our way. We do come to know more of His revelation in our lives. Not Him in His entirety—that’s for a later time. Yet for now, we can come to know a life of hope and purity, one filled with His light and grace. Just as He gave us His Son to save us, we can give more of our lives to save ourselves as we remain in Him. 





“O Come Let Us Adore Him!”

Do we acknowledge the presence of the Lord, Jesus Christ? John the Baptist, as Herald of Christ, answering the call to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, does a great job of stirring the peoples’ expectation of the arrival of the Messiah that some even question that he might be the Messiah, himself. 


John, as evidenced in John 1:19-27, had no sense of mistaken identity or importance of his own role. In total humility, sincerity and service, he told all who would listen (and all who asked) that he was only a voice calling for preparation of the way for the coming of the King. John the Baptist sets an example for us that is totally selfless and single-minded. He rejected any form of glory, attributing it to Christ instead.

 

His example calls us to question: “Are we self-seeking, oversensitive and insecure in our service to Him?” To avoid this, we must recall John’s words to the Pharisees, “…unknown to you is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of His sandal.” Is this the manner we carry on ourselves as Christians? Do we point others to Jesus Christ by our testimony (of word, thought and deed)? 

 

To be faithful and steadfast witnesses for Christ, we must actively prepare the way—helping others to know him not only by words but by deed—deeds of love, compassion and peace with everyone. 

 

As the New Year begins it’s second day, let us ask ourselves, “Do we strive to know God better so as to prepare the path we are called to blaze in His Name? Do we help others to know God by doing so? Finally, “How do we say “yes” to Him?” 

 

Lord, fill me with Your Spirit so as to be a true herald of truth and grace. May the joy of the Gospel fill me so as to be my life’s testimony to You. J.O.Y.

Paul B





“O Come Let Us Adore Him!” 

As we look, resolutely into the face of the in-coming year, we offer each other well-wishes, wondering where the last year (and years) have gone while pondering what lies ahead!

 

We are also mulling over “promises” to ourselves to do things “differently”, “better”, “more often” (or “less often”), and simply looking forward with a renewed hope and vigor! This is the human ritual, at year’s end and year’s beginning! We have spent the last few days considering the call to “Adore Him!”  This is not a “seasonal” or temporary call. The angels, in Luke 2:16-22, spoke to the Shepherds, telling them of the Birth of the Messiah. They heard, they believed and they immediately went to Bethlehem. Upon finding Mary and Joseph, and seeing the infant, Luke 2:17 says, “When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” 

 

It does not say they “came, looked, and went on with their lives.” They “made known the message that had been told them….” This is what we are called to do every day of our lives through what we say and do to and with others.  o, here, in the most austere of circumstance, Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, who came to save all humankind, chose to be born in bitter-cold, less-than-ideal circumstances, and laid in a manger….we find simple adoration.

 

How motivated are we to find opportunity for simple adoration in our lives? How do we take time, each day, to spend time at the Manger of Jesus (the Word, as we learned yesterday)? So, as we look, resolutely, into 2015, may we ponder the Ways of God daily, in our hearts (as did Mary in Luke 2:19) and glorify Him daily, as did the shepherds, upon finding Him!

Paul B