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

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How often do we discount the very person(s) closest to us? It seems to be part of our human nature to take things around us for granted. Today, in reading Luke 4:21-30, we find this very thing happening. Jesus, having begun preaching throughout the country side, ended up in the synagogue of His hometown, Nazareth. People are amazed at His eloquence and reading of Scripture. Yet, at the same time they begin questioning, “Isn’t this (just) the son of Joseph, the Carpenter?” 


Jesus knew that people had come to the synagogue to see Him because they had received word of the healings by His hands around the country side and, also true to human nature, they had come to see the “spectacle” that comes with the hype. So, though they expressed wonder at His words, He knew that they wanted to see a “show”. So, never afraid to speak His mind, He called them out, telling them, “And you will say, ‘Do here also in Your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ And, He said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophets hometown.’” (Luke 4:23-24) 


He goes on to share the limited acceptance of Elijah among the widows and Elisha, among the lepers. As often is the case, the truth hurts our feelings and the people of Nazareth became angry at Jesus and tried to drive Him over the cliff. But, he walked through their midst, away and unharmed. As Christians, let us reflect on our own experience of our expectations of Jesus and our acceptance or rejection of His Presence in any given moment (good or bad) in our lives? How do we fare? Do we take him for granted in the times of joy and success? Do we call out in anguish and expectation in times of trial? 


Lord, help me to be more fully aware of Your Presence in my daily living, accepting You in every waking moment! May I bring You closer through each encounter, rather than moving away! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B


Faith and fear: how do we balance these in our lives? In reading Mark 4:35-41 we see Jesus’ disciples, who had left all, their work, families and friends, to follow Him in faith, experiencing a moment of fear in the boat, when they were being tossed about by violent waves and strong winds. Jesus was calmly sleeping in the boat was with them, yet they still became scared and called upon Him, waking Him up. 


The disciples, battling this storm, must have wondered how Jesus could remain asleep. When their fear reached the “panic level”, they called out to Him. Let us consider our own lives, the times when we face storms or trials of life. Are we like the Apostles, getting wrapped up in the distractions and fear, having a tendency to forget that Jesus is with us, in our midst—in our “boat”? Yet, in our distraction, we seek our own solutions, sometimes in seemingly (and actual) futile measures. It brings to mind Einstein’s “definition” of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 


Is this us in our stubbornness when it comes to fully relying on God for all things? Rather, we try to prevent our “drowning” in our own way. How often do we reach a point of fear before we remember to call upon Him? And, when we do call upon Him, He always responds and calms the storm—placing peace in our hearts. That peace and calm ultimately gives us strength to move on. Jesus said to the storm, “Peace!  Be Still!” Immediately it ceased. He then asked, “Why are you still afraid? Have you still no faith?” Finally, the apostles asked themselves, “Who is this that the wind and sea obey Him?” (Mark 39-41) Do we ask ourselves this when we realize He is with us and has power over all? 


Lord, help us to seek (and find) the answer to the question, “Who is this….” in our daily lives.  May we seek You, first, in this life! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B


God Is! It is that simple for those who believe and know that the world around us is a complex and wonderful creation! With the distractions of our human condition, the challenge of a continuous, unwavering faith in word and deed, the simplicity of faith sometimes becomes a big challenge to uphold. But no matter the challenge, we are called to take in the wonder of His creation at every opportunity because, as told in Mark 4:26-32, God is simply “there”: “He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.’” (26:28) 


In “advanced” society, we have been able to use the intellectual (and other) gifts that God has given us to make great advances toward understanding the “science” of life. But, even in this understanding, the simplicity of these versus—the fact that we are provided for in this “cycle of life” on this earth is simply amazing and awe-inspiring. Ultimately, we are able to harvest and collect—providing for our own physical well-being. 


The strength obtained from these provisions is what God ultimately desires we use to bring ourselves to Him in thought, word, and deed. That is the true cycle of life that brings us to our eternal reward, when our human existence, as we know it, comes to an end.  God desires that we understand this cycle revolves around Him. He after pointing out the mystery of “what is” in the seed that grows, Jesus emphasizes that the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed, produces the largest shrub in which to shelter birds and animals. 


Lord, help us to understand that “You Are” (Ex 3:14). May the simplicity of this acknowledgement show in how we care for ourselves and each other. Let us build Your Kingdom, both here and for eternity through, continual praise and thanksgiving! J.O.Y.

Paul B


"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

Thomas Merton


The parable of the Word, sown as seed upon the ground, in Mark 4:1-20, is one that all Christians have heard in sermon upon sermon being told. In this passage we are reminded that He provides each of us the seed(s) of faith. How and where we sow this seed is important and is certainly something God desires us to ponder and effectively do! 


As Christians we must examine the effort of our faith—how do we use our gifts to sow God’s seed? Do we seek opportunities in which we can effectively sow it? The analogy of fertile and effective gardening (or farming) is one that can be clearly understood—The Word, just like seed, is most effectively cultivated in rich soil. But, let’s not forget that it takes some effort to improve the richness of the “soil”, especially in places where the initial “ground” is hard, rocky, or choked by distractions of this world! 


We cannot get frustrated by this. Nor, can we take it for granted when the seed has been planted and is (seemingly) growing well. We must continue to enrich the soil and “replant” so that we do not fall into complacency of presuming that our faith will maintain (and grow) without attention. We know, no matter the strength of the root, our faith will be tested by the trials of life! These trials, like wind and rain, will work to erode the roots that have taken hold (in any ground).


Therefore, even after the “stalk” of faith has grown up and the roots have taken hold, we must continue to strengthen and grow the stalk and roots of faith, so they withstand the storm! Life does not always present situations in which we dwell and grow in rich soil. So, we must be prepared to enrich any situation, helping ourselves and those around us to grow in Him, no matter the circumstance. 


Lord, may I sow Your seed throughout the world and to find ways to grow You (the Word) through my words and deeds, using the gifts You provide, to ensure a richness that cultivates Your Ways! Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B.


2 Timothy 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God, whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day. I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you.
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.


Paul has goodness in his heart for just about everyone in all his letters. As he writes to Timothy, ‘dear child’, one could imagine him addressing us with the same grace and mercy he may have shared with him—with the same grace and mercy he received from God the Father and Jesus Christ! How often are we shared that sort of welcome, that sort of love today what with the electronic messaging we have so much at our fingertips? Rarely do we see such exchanges.


Paul shares more about his own gratefulness that God has blessed him with the gifts he has, including a clear conscience, as he prays for Timothy. Again, an example of which we rarely see today. How often are we asked to pray for someone and how often do we actually do so? How often do we ask others to pray for us? How often do we remind others to ‘stir into flame’ the gifts in their hearts?


For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

 2 Timothy 1:7


We have been given so much in that power of free will and love and self-control. That brings about our courage of faith, our power to live our witness and our strength to proclaim the Good News, regardless of what might happen to us. Let us dare then to do His will, His way as we have been called.


Mark 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the eleven and said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Mark records these final words of Jesus, before He ascends to be with God the Father, in heaven. These words are clear evidence that Jesus’ departure was both an end to His human form presence among us and a beginning for us, His disciples, in striving to live the example He created and endured. These words mark the beginning of His presence with us in a new way—through the Holy Spirit. Through these words, we are not left in sorrow and pain—rather, we should be filled with Joy in the fact that we who believe and accept His baptism will be saved and be receivers of His Grace, Power, and Authority. 


Jesus last words to His Apostles are inspiration for them and for us, pointing to our mission to be witnesses to God’s Glory: His ministry, His Saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Our task is to proclaim His Good News (of Salvation) to all nations, understanding that it is not for “just a few”, rather for the whole world—all who will listen and accept. Though Jesus spoke these words to His Apostles, it is clear that He calls all of us, as believers, to go into the world and share Him, through wondrous words and works! 


Lord, through the Gift of Your Presence—Your Spirit—fill us with constant desire to praise You! Fill us with the Joy of Your resurrection—our salvation— so we may live a life of thanksgiving in and for Your Glory. So, may we be witness, to all around us, to the Joy of Your eternal Kingdom. 

Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B


Every four years in our nation, our collective national attention is shifted to a president’s “inaugural address”, as the nation installs a new president (or a new second term begins). Today, in Luke 4:14-21, Luke gives an account of what might be considered Jesus’ “inaugural” address, in His hometown of Nazareth. 


Matthew, Mark, and Luke each give an account of Jesus’ return to His hometown. Each mentions the “astonishment” of the people. Luke, just prior to this account, shares the Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3) and the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13), both which serve to affirm the Authority and Power of Jesus, as the Son of God. Luke also gives a little more substance in his “reporting” of Jesus’ return to Nazareth, as he cites Jesus’ specific words, reading from Isaiah 61. Jesus clearly announces that He is the anointed one and He is here, specifically, to bring salvation: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 


Luke reports that Jesus had already spoken in several areas, throughout the region, so you can imagine that the people of Nazareth, having heard of Jesus’ ministry, were anticipating their “hometown boy” speaking. Each of the three accounts records an initial, positive reception. In our world, we all anticipate the arrival of a “celebrity”. Do we anticipate the arrival of Jesus in our daily lives with that same excitement? Do we seek to hear and understand Him? Jesus words to His hometown crowd were simple, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled” (Luke 4:21). 


Lord, may Your Spirit be upon us, so we may fulfill Your desire that we hear and live Your Word. Let us listen to You attentively and responsively. J.O.Y.

Paul B


How do we honor Jesus in our own homes/lives? In reading Mark 3:19-21, it says, “Jesus went home, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of Him, saying, ‘He is out of His mind!’” 


Why do we often see families getting upset with their own, even when they are placed in such visible positions as Jesus was, ministering and tending to others? Jesus knew that He would be in a position to be criticized and ridiculed, even among those closest to him (ref: Matthew 10:36). Jesus’ friends and family, around whom He had been raised and played as a child and learned the carpentry trade—probably questioned His leaving these things to become, what they perceived as, a “traveling preacher”. 


Do we get concerned about our own friends and family when they seemingly throw away the “safety and comfort of home” for something we may not deem “fruitful” or beneficial? How challenging must it have been for Jesus to meet the opposition of those who knew Him best? As we look at our own lives, how often do we find the hardest resistance coming from those closest to us? How often are we the hardest opposition to those nearest us? 


Jesus, in the face of any and all opposition, met it with a focus on His final mission—Salvation. He met it with grace, prepared fulfill that which His Father had called Him! How ready are we to follow God’s will, even when others around us may ridicule and reject us—even those closest to us? Our own (and others’) human limitations cause misunderstandings among us. It must, therefore, be our goal to seek God and find understanding of Him through the Word and through acting according to His will in the Word. 


Lord, may I always put you in front of my thoughts, words, and deeds, finding joy in serving You and seeking Your Will for me, in spite of opposition and trial!  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B


In Mark 3:13-19, we find a simply stated account of Jesus’ appointment of the twelve Apostles. Jesus went on the mountain, away from the crowds who were seeking Him out, and called these men to Him. There is no doubt, in doing so, He prayed and conversed with His Father in this discernment. There is no lost significance in the solitude and loftiness of the place to which He summoned them. It is in this same solitude, loftiness, and conversation with God that we are to ponder our own gifts and talents—asking ourselves, “To what heights is God calling me?” 


In this Gospel reading, Jesus, by name, appointed these men. These twelve were His closest “companions” and were given the mission to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel and were given the power to drive out evil spirits (Mark 3:14-15). As the original disciples, consider the fact that they did not choose to be followers of Christ—they were personally, mercifully, and thoughtfully chosen. 


Now, consider our own path—while we are given “free will”, we must remember that God has provided us with everything we need to live and proclaim Him. So, we must consider this. Has He not chosen us, simply by the gift of life and the talents given to us for living this life? Consider the playground—all of us have heard the “pick me” stories, ranging from the excitement of the “first picked” to the disappointment of the “last”. In order to be picked (sometimes at all), you must be willing and able to be productive in the game at hand. So it is with God. 


We must use the gifts He has given us to produce good results around us. He is waiting to “pick us” (has picked us), so it is up to us to produce to the best of our ability, just as He expected of the twelve, even in their imperfections (ref:  Peter and Judas). 


Lord, help us to hear, respond and remain faithful to You! You have called us, therefore give us courage and strength to climb Your mountain and follow You J.O.Y.

Paul B.


Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him

and shout, “You are the Son of God.”

He warned them sternly not to make him known.


Crowds beget crowds. And the bigger the drawing card, the greater the crowd is going to be. Think of a recent time or the last time you heard about a celebrity sighting and you had a chance to go see them. Or from a material perspective, what about those un-announced sales that happen at your favorite clothing store and as soon as word gets to you, you’re on your way and as you go, you’re on the phone either calling or texting someone else about the big event. People will be coming from all over to see the celebrity or to their savings on the big sale.


I heard recently about the opportunity for the faithful to be presented with a way for them to have their faith forever renewed. To have it burning bright, to keep it in their hearts so full that there would be no way but for them to share it. And it was all free—all they had to do was show up! On the other hand, if there was a way to give away ‘free happiness’ every day, folks would be there trying to get more than their fair share. Maybe that’s what was going on with this crowd as they pressed against Jesus. Maybe they had heard of what He could do for them—heal them of their illnesses, have the evil spirits taken from them, the blind see and the lame walk—if for others He did this, He could do this for me... and I would be happy.


They did this and they still did not know the fullness of who He was and why He came for them. Yes, there is faith in that they were healed yet their attitudes were like that of many others, in that they were largely for themselves. Sort of like ours when we drive so many miles to see a celebrity. And why would we go out of our way to go buy something we really may not even need or wear but maybe once or twice a year? Why would we go to mass and miss out on the opportunity to have our faith burning bright within us every time we celebrate the liturgy and receive His Body and Blood at the Eucharist?


Let our journey not be for the happiness we find along the way here on earth but let it be for the fullness of joy we find as we live our lives for Christ. As we receive Him, let us go and give Him.


Mark 3:1-6, Jesus is in the synagogue, on the Sabbath, when a man with a withered hand appears before Him. Knowing that the religious leaders are watching and ready to “pounce” on Him, trying to find ways to discredit Him, asks, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4) 


Just as with the criticism of Jesus’ disciples, for plucking grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:24), the Pharisees were watching closely to see if Jesus violated the “rules” by offering healing to the man. So, as we will see throughout His ministry, He challenges them with a question. The question asked is one which is a perennial question for all of us, who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. No matter the day, we are called to live a wholesome life of serving others. In order to live this life, we must focus on our own life, weeding out behaviors that limit our ability to love and serve others—self-centeredness, superficial, or rigid/blind behaviors. 


We must realize that, to the Pharisees, Jesus was perceived as a “threat” to their influence, honor, and power over people who looked up to them. How does this compare to us in today’s world? What place does Gold hold in our lives? If we only give him “the Sabbath”, how much of that day do we give Him? Is it the “standard hour” (which, incidentally, is 0.6% (less than 1%) of our weekly time). Even if we devote the entire Sabbath, “hour for hour”, that would be 14.2% of our weekly time. So, Jesus’ point was that we can and should focus all our time to serving Him (through service to others in this life). 


To do so, requires that we take care of ourselves and use those same gifts to take care of others. We need earthly strength, using that same strength to build His Kingdom. John, in 3:30-27-30, reminds as that all things come from Heaven and in order for Him to grow among us, we must focus more on Him, then on self. 


Lord, give me the strength to live Your Will every day of my life. Jesus, Only You. JOY

Paul B


In Mark 2:23-28 we find an account of Jesus and His disciples walking through the cornfields, on the Sabbath. As they proceeded, the disciples were plucking grain. The religious leaders, already challenged by Jesus’ authority (and popularity), were looking for things to “criticize” about Him and this was an opportunity to do so. They asked, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (Luke 2:24) Their stance was that the Sabbath is to be a “day of rest” and a celebration of God’s goodness. 


The scribes and Pharisees scolded Jesus and His disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath, rather than focus solely on God, resting in Him. Jesus’ response was to use scripture to argue that human need takes precedence of “ritual custom”. He cites 1 Samuel 21:1-6, when David and his men were hungry, fleeing for their lives, and the only bread available was the Temple bread, reserved for priests. In their hunger and desperation, they partook of the bread. Through this, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the Sabbath is given for man’s benefit, to refresh and renew us in and for God! It is a day intended for Good—God’s Good. It is not a day intended to withhold kindness, mercy and care for self and others. This includes personal sustenance, in both the physical and spiritual sense. 


Yes, we must be careful that the Sabbath is not the “only day” we take a brief opportunity to worship God, as we should strive to make our whole life (every moment) a testament to Him. And, to do so, we must maintain spiritual and physical strength every day! We must spiritually nourish ourselves on the Sabbath and every other day. So, to, must we keep ourselves physically strong so as to serve Him (every day). 


Lord, may we honor you by our entire life and being. May we “honor the Lord’s Day”, worshipping You, but also maintaining strength to share Your goodness on that day and every day of our lives. Jesus, Only You!

Paul B


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.”


Fasting has been with the Church since its beginning. It’s not something we do just for Lent though there are those whose practice of it is limited to that 40-plus day yearly window. The Pharisees and even John and his disciples practiced it, and yes so even did Jesus—when the time was right. But to the point that the Pharisees brought up, Jesus told them that the time would come when the bridegroom would no longer be with them. That would be the time to fast.


The storage of wine in the wineskins also helped explain the change of heart and the way of thinking and believing Jesus was trying to make. New, fermenting wine would expand and to store it in old wineskins would be a waste as the old skins would break. Much like sewing the new cloth on an old garment—the stronger, newer patch would hold up far better than the old and tear the worn-out material, often leaving an even greater hole.


As Jesus often spoke in parables to help His followers better understand His message, these metaphors also helped explain His teaching. His was not so much about the Pharisee’s way—the letter of the law, self-aggrandizing and the large phylacteries they wore. As good as that may be, what Jesus was preaching was a shift to the way of love, in relationships and in prayer. The ‘new wine into new wineskins’ represented a shift in the way of not just thinking but in living as well.


Two thousand years later one might think we would have that message pretty clearly engrained and practicing it ourselves. And there are some that do. Yet, as the saying goes, the only people that like change are babies with wet diapers. Many Catholics, many Christians, still hold on to old habits and old ways, filling the pews as pew-sitters, with little or any active participation in the liturgy or service. Indeed, there is more to attending than that.


For all of our beliefs, for all of our commandments, for all that we have come to know and believe to be true in our faith, all the things we do will remain like the wine in old wineskins if we don’t pour out ourselves into the love of Jesus Christ and have new life in him.


John 2:5 reads, “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary says this to Jesus in His hesitancy to respond to the fact that the wedding feast, at Cana, has run out of wine. Mary had brought it to Jesus’ attention and His response was, “….what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) 


Being obedient to His Mother, Jesus, though, responds to her request that His directions be followed. This, the time of Jesus “first miracle”, comes about in a way that should catch all of our attention. The statement, “Do whatever He tells you”, stands out as a call to each of us; and the result is a clear testament to God’s power in response to our obedience. 


Mary, too, shows the ultimate example of confidence (in God), though Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come”, she simply knew! She not only knew from her experience of raising Jesus, but she knew because she had saved and pondered all that had occurred, since the angel’s visitation and annunciation, in her mind and heart (Luke 2:19). She was the ultimate example of obedience to God and, in turn, had confidence that calling others to His obedience would unleash His compassion and mercy. 


The miracle at Cana, (and, perhaps, the subsequent multiplication of loaves) are examples of God’s compassion and the abundant, overflowing nature of that compassion. This, of course, leads us to a more comprehensive understanding of the ultimate demonstration of His Love and Obedience—the Gift of His Son, sacrificed to this earthly life to provide an example, through His life’s ministry, as to how we should live. And knowing that in our stubbornness that sacrifice would be suffering, death and resurrection, He still was obedient. 


Lord, give us the confidence to approach You and lay our needs and concerns before You!  In submitting to You, we will experience Your abundance.  J.O.Y.

Paul B



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.”


The more Jesus did, the more Jesus was to those that were coming to know Him.

Actually, let me rephrase that; the more Jesus does, the more Jesus is to us. From His miracles to His teaching to His sermons from town to town, His ministry and His mission grew. Sinners and ‘saints’ alike were flocking to this man as the Pharisees continued to question His integrity.

Were it not for our illnesses or our frailties, what need would we have for doctors or medical professionals? Were it not for our accidents or miscalculations, what need would we have for those who are in the banking world to help us when we need their assistance? Jesus knew then what we learn today: He didn’t come to make ‘weller’ those who were already well, He came to save us all from our sinful ways. And just as doctors keep us from getting sick again and the professionals keep us from financial ruin, Jesus gives us the Way, the Truth and the Life to keep us on the righteous path to holiness.

We can find help today in scripture.

We can find help today in prayer.

We can find help today in the sacraments.

We can find help today in His Body and Blood, His Real Presence.

Let’s stay found and stay on the path with Him.


In Mark 2:1-12, God offers us something that most of us cannot fully comprehend: forgiveness! In our human condition it is inevitable that we are going to stray from the desires He has for us, even when we believe (and know) that He desires only what is good for us and from us!


Mark describes an encounter, describing many people who came to see Jesus—so many that there was no room inside or around the doorway of the house. There were four men carrying a paralytic on a stretcher, trying to get to Jesus, believing that He could and would offer healing to their friend. Because there was no way to get close to or in the house, they hoisted the stretcher onto the top of the house, stripped away the roofing, and lowered the stretcher into the house! Oh, that we would all take such effort to experience Jesus for ourselves and for those around us!


Mark recounts, in 2:5—”Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Of course, such a bold statement, “Your sins are forgiven”, was considered scandalous by the religious leaders, as they immediately thought, “Only God can forgive sins” (Mark 1:6-7). How often do we, in our stubbornness, see the wonders of God and forget to realize His presence right before our very eyes? Because of their stubbornness to see and understand that Jesus is the Son of God, the religious leaders failed to see the wonder of Jesus’ words, “Your sins are forgiven.”


If we truly believe that eternal life with God awaits us, it is the healing of forgiveness that must be the most important gift and grace from God. In order to “prove” the origin of His authority, Jesus cured the paralytic of his affliction. Let us strive to see His complete healing of body, mind, and soul.


Lord, heal our imperfections with total redeeming love and mercy, touching our innermost thoughts, freeing us to live for You now and forever: seeking You First! J.O.Y.

Paul B


Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.


From Luke’s gospel last Friday and from Mark’s gospel today, they both relate how a leper came to Jesus who was full of leprosy, asking to be made clean. Such an appalling disease, the only solution to it was to stay clear of those people who had it. Yet this man would persist in coming to Jesus to free himself of his debilitating illness.


With great faith and trust, this leper asks Jesus ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ A great faith that somehow brings him to believe that Jesus can and will make him clean. Yes, the leper probably heard of what Jesus had done for others. This is all that he needs to believe—just the word that what He did for someone else, He could do for me. That is what he understood.

And with this faith and understanding comes his healing.

‘I do will it. Be made clean.’


So what did Jesus do? He reaches out and touches him, going completely against the rules and conditions of society. With compassion and mercy, He puts Himself with the leper. As He does so, He cleanses him, making him clean and whole again. Though immediately healed, his healing process continues as he goes to the priests and makes his offering of thanksgiving. They will examine him and then pronounce him fit to re-enter society. Jesus told him not to say anything about his healing but he does so. Jesus wants it to be about the Good News and salvation, not about the performing of miracles.

Just as the leper’s grace came to him from such a cross, often our graces come to us from the burdens and trials we bear and suffer, our own crosses. It would safe to say that most of our crosses are carried without the general enthusiasm shown by the leper. For sure we don’t welcome every burden but it is true that we welcome the love of Jesus Christ that He gives us with our crosses.


From John 1:16, we are reminded about the graces upon graces we receive in our lives: ‘from his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace.’ Let us not regard others less than us; let us reach out to all that are in need. We don’t know the fullness of grace God has for them to share with us as they wait for us to share those graces God has given us, with them.


In Mark 1:29-39, we find Jesus leaving the synagogue after amazing the  people with His Word and Wonder—having compelled even the unclean spirit to obey His direction. From the synagogue, that day, they went to Simon’s and Andrew’s house. They found Simon’s mother-in-law laid up with fever. Jesus, going to her, took her by the hand, at which time she arose, the fever leaving her, then serving them (Mark 1:29-31). 


As Christians, in this brief account of Mark’s, let us first and foremost, note two things: Jesus’ saving power and, more importantly, what Simon’s mother-in-law did as soon as she was given His healing grace—”She served Him. As Mark continues, he reports that word spread, immediately, of Jesus’ authority over illness and possession, and that day many were brought to Him (Mark 1:32-34). He goes on, in verse 35, to report, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed.” 


The day before, in Mark’s account, was a “big” day for Jesus. In this first account of Jesus’ ministry beginning, in earnest, we find people hungering immediately and passionately for Him. Though they did not quite understand, they still had desire to seek what He offers.


Is this not true for us, in today’s world, for all Christians? Though we don’t always (truly) understand God’s grace (probably less often than we “admit”), we desire Him. Though we often get distracted, we return to Him! Jesus, in His own human nature, had to be often “overwhelmed” by the many who came to Him. And, as noted in Mark 1:38-39, after His prayer respite, He knew He had to move to other places to impact more people. 


Lord, in the distractions and desires of this world, may we continue to seek you and, ultimately, serve you! May we never forget to be thankful in word and deed. J.O.Y.

Paul B


Mark 1:21-28

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.


Early on in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is carrying out His mission of healing and teaching.

Teaching at the synagogue and the congregation around Him and healing the man there with the unclean spirit. Even then, the unclean spirits knew about the holiness of the Son of God.


And as the unclean knew of Him, so too did those who heard him in the synagogue. They and the others became impressed with the message He gave and how He gave it as they had said: ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and the obey Him.” As much as the Scribes knew about Scripture, Jesus spoke even deeper about the truth He was to bring them.


The more Jesus spoke, the more the question was asked: who is He that brings out these unclean spirits? Who is this man that is teaching us with such truth and authority? Who is this Jesus? 

Let us ask the same questions today of ourselves: who is Jesus that brings out the unholiness—the unclean spirits—in our lives?

Who is Jesus that is the Good News of salvation for us all that is given us in scripture and in our church traditions?

Who is Jesus in the Body and Blood in the real presence of Eucharist?

Who is Jesus that we now know as the way, the truth and the life everlasting?

Who is Jesus to you?


Serving God is an on-going, ever-present opportunity to put Christ above all, over our own “popularity” and pride. Luke 3:15-22 gives us another account of John’s total humility in His service to “preparing the Way of the Lord”. Luke tells us that John, feeling the anxiety and confusion of the people whom he was baptizing, declared, “I baptize you with water, but Someone is coming, One Who is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to undo the strap of His sandal….” 


In our lives we are called to accept the fullness of God’s power and do so, ultimately, in total trust that He will provide for us, not only here in our present life, but for all eternity.  John was able to fulfill His mission, one that began when he leapt in the womb of His mother, Elizabeth, at the recognition of the presence of Jesus, living in the womb of His mother, Mary! As Christians, this is an awesome realization—we are called to be humble enough to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. In this world, our free will allows us opportunity to make this choice! So, we must make a conscious effort to crave Him over our own pride—power and glory. 


We often hear (and, perhaps, utter), “All Praise, Honor, Power, and Glory are His”. How do we make this simple prayer a reality in our lives? Do we approach situations at home, work, or play with humility, recognizing the fact that we exist because of His Will, therefore, our existence is to be one of service (and thanksgiving) to Him? There is a song with the chorus, “We are called, we are chosen, we are Christ for one another. We are promised to tomorrow while we are for Him today. We are sign, we are wonder we are sower, we are seed. We are harvest, we are hunger.  We are question, we are creed.” 


Lord, may this song be my daily “Anthem” in which I strive to serve You in a way that moves me closer to you and leads others to see You!. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B


Luke 3:15-16,  21-22

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying,  “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

And a voice came from heaven,  “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”


Maybe you’ve heard the question or even asked it yourself—why did Jesus get baptized? Being the Son of God, wouldn’t that be enough for Him?

Of course it would. And being the Son of God made man also would have Him be like us—He was baptized for us to be like us, to save us from our own sins, He Who had no sin. As John was not worthy to untie His sandals, nor are we ever worthy to receive anything from Him in our sinful human conditions. But what does Jesus show us by His baptism?

He shows us His own humanity, His oneness with us, as He was being baptized with the others. Our baptism is with His as it joins our eternal lives with His, cleansing our souls in preparation for our salvation. As His love is forever, we may stay in that love by following His will. Outside of His will, He gives us the sacraments to rescue us from the grips of sin.

From our baptism or from our prayerful reconciliation, we may not hear the voice of God speak to us as Jesus did. We may not have any huge conversion experiences either. Yet what our baptism allows us and what our faith gives us is that opportunity to take all that God has for us. The gifts, the blessings and the graces, not because we have earned it or have been good girls and boys but only through His love, mercy and kindness for us.

That’s why God sent His Son for us; to live, to be baptized, to die and to be resurrected so that we too might have eternal life. As we celebrate Christ’s baptism today, let us also celebrate our own as we commit and cooperate with the love God has for us today and always.


John 3:30 reads, “….He must grow greater, I must grow less.”  As we read John 3:22-30, we find some followers of John expressing “concern” that there is a man, on the other side of the river who is also baptizing. They had concern that “everyone is going to Him.” John, in humble acceptance and understanding, responds, “I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of Him.”. John’s response was filled with great joy and understanding at the fact that Jesus, the Messiah, was growing greater, as he, John, was growing less the focus. 


We, as Christians, need to understand that this is the purpose of the Baptism, the cleansing, that we receive. God provides us this opportunity to be cleansed, so that He can grow in us, free from the distraction of sin. When we allow our hearts to be filled with the true Joy of His Spirit, all that we are and have becomes more and more free to be used to serve God! Do we not believe and profess that we are to be imitators of Christ? Just as John the Baptist, here, reminds His disciples that He is only here to serve and pave the way for the Son of God, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 


In this world of our limited humanness, we must strive to find ways to discern God’s presence. Ultimately, as John’s Gospel tells us, God is the Word! (John 1:1).  We must always and ultimately return to the Word of God to truly seek what He desires from us. To do so, we have each other, in the form of fellow Christians—some are pastors, deacons, preachers—but there are also many who simply live and strive to live as Christ calls us, in a more quiet, yet still serving manner.  Let us seek to surround ourselves with those striving to “pave the way” to and for Christ! 


Lord, let us be filled with the humble understanding that we must allow You to Grow and consume us. May Your love grow in us so as to move ourselves and others to You!  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B


How do we approach those in our lives who make it difficult to respond with love, whether it be a momentary objectionable action or those who may be continually “shunned” by others? The difficulty may lay in something they have said or done or it could be some type of personality or physical disorder or weakness, but they are “outcast”, nonetheless. We know, as Christians, we are called to offer kindness—mercy and compassion. Jesus, in Luke 5:12-16, shows such example through His willingness to touch and heal a man with leprosy. 


We know that Jesus developed a reputation for “consorting with sinners” and that His stance was, “Does a well man need a doctor?” (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; and Luke 5:31) In this case, Jesus risked contracting the disease by simply being near, let alone touching the man, breaking Jewish law in the process. As we read this passage we must note several things: 


1) The man approached Jesus with expectant faith, stating, “I know if You are willing, you can cleanse me.” 

2) Jesus, in compassion, responded by touching the man and saying, “I am willing. Be cleansed”. 

3) In addition to the physical healing, He cleansed him spiritually, asking the man to give thanks and offering, according to the Laws of Moses. 


This, surely, was to help the man truly understand from where his answered prayers came—God! Jesus is ready and willing to show mercy and free us from any and all things that make us unclean, unapproachable, or unlovable. Instead, He calls us to be clean, approach others, and to love them, in the same way He lived. We are called to live and forgive in the same example of Christ.


Lord, fire within me a love for You and others through that love! Cleanse me in body and spirit so that I may truly worship You in all I say and do. May I never cease to show You to others. Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B


Jesus, after His forty days in the desert, returned to Galilee and, ultimately, to Nazareth. Luke, in 4:16-22, tells us that upon His return to His “home town”, He went to the synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2): The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.” 


Upon reading this, He spoke, in His own words, “This text is being fulfilled today, even while you are listening.” (Luke 4:21) Today, as Christians we profess that Jesus came deliver us from the sin in which we are enshrouded. Jesus’ ministry was (is) about unfolding the “mystery” of God’s love. It is a difficult task to “preach” to those who “know” you. And, in Jesus case, in Luke 4, He was in front of people who had watched Him grow up from childhood to adulthood. 


As we read this passage, it indicates that they were amazed at His words. Jesus knew that this was no easy task, to “preach” in the presence of those who “know you most”. The amazement of some was truly out of faith that Jesus speaks the truth. For others, it was an amazement filled with doubt. They questioned, “Is this not the son of the carpenter?” Others asked for “proof” in the form of miracles they had heard about—needing evidence (Luke 22-23). Jesus understood that it would be difficult, even (especially) in His hometown (Luke 4:24). 


This mentality continues today with the theory that “experts” are those who are fifty miles from home! Jesus, even with those who doubt, had pity on those who could not benefit from His words because they only saw him as the “carpenter’s son.” How do we see Him in our lives? 


Lord, give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so as to discern beyond our human comprehension and allow ourselves to be molded in God’s ways! 

Jesus, only You. J.O.Y.

Paul B


In yesterday’s readings, we heard about the love of God and how He sent it forth in the form of His Son and how His Son then shared it with us through the fishes and loaves… two forms of sharing of His love. One that transcends anything we can possibly imagine in the love of Jesus Christ, and another that, even in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, we can somehow put ourselves in that picture, either as one of those sharing or as one receiving what is being shared.


Our lives are not meant to be about us. As the disciples found out, they are meant to be about giving for the sake of others. Imagine the astonishment they must have experienced to realize just how much they had left over from what they started with. How often are we left similarly astonished when we give all that we have to God and He gives back to us so much more?


Maybe if we look at the New Year like that… instead of making huge resolutions that overload us, we simply give of ourselves to God, fully and completely so that when He asks, we can respond as He would have us respond? What if we take simpler steps to being more Christ-like, more as His disciples were and are? This is not anything new or revolutionary by any means but really something we can all put forth the effort in. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing the change in yourself as others see it in you as well.