February 17, 2018
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. (Luke 5:27-32)
The twelve men ultimately called to be the Apostles of Jesus were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied and trained for years before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.
Jesus, on the other hand, called fisherman and farmers…and today, Matthew (Levi), a tax collector. He taught them through parables, which they often had difficulty understanding. Even after they were called, their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming.
Yet that is who Jesus called. That is who Jesus would later send.
The apostles were not special because they were called. They were special because they responded. They didn’t ask for some time to think about it, or tell Jesus they’d get back with Him. They immediately responded. They were special because they dropped what they were doing and followed Him.
February 5, 2018
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. (Mark 6:55-56)
Believing they could be healed by simply touching the tassel on Jesus’ cloak. That is total trust in the power of Jesus.
Hearing of such faith makes me ashamed of my own tenuous faith. My inability to give up control sends the message to Jesus that I am not sure He can provide all that I need. Each time I ignore His help and instead rely on myself, my lack of trust is revealed.
I pray for the courage to place all my trust in Jesus, and perhaps someday hear His words: “Your faith has saved you.”
February 4, 2018
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place… (Mark 1:29-39)
This is not the only time we hear of Jesus going off by himself. With the public life He was living, He was always “on.” People demanded so much from Him and He recognized how important it was that He respond to their needs. They were, after all, “like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus recognized His own needs as well. Sometimes He just needed to get away – to gather His thoughts, to reflect, to mourn, and to pray. He was expressing His humanity and setting an example for us. After all, if it’s good enough for Jesus…
Solitude is underrated. It offers us time away from all of the distractions of life. We can focus, calm ourselves, and clear our minds. We can reflect on things we have done or are considering doing. And, of course, we can pray. We can have open, honest, one-on-one conversations with God.
The peace and quiet that comes with solitude will also allow us to hear God’s response.
January 31, 2018
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mark 6:1-6)
These are the words of Jesus after He was rejected in His hometown. The people who lived in His native place could not wrap their minds around the fact that Jesus, that young man they had watched grow up, was “special” in some way. It made them uncomfortable, so better to reject the notion.
I think of this Gospel passage when people seem to pick and choose which teachings of the Catholic Church they will follow. We consider ourselves Catholic (so Jesus should be accepted) but they reject the teachings we don’t like or those that make us uncomfortable.
I am Catholic, but I choose to live with my partner outside of marriage…you know, to save money. I am Catholic, and social justice is important to me…but I get tired of all the free handouts. I am a pro-life Catholic, strongly anti-abortion…but I can’t concern myself with the needs of the elderly, the imprisoned, or the homeless. I am Catholic…but fudging a couple of numbers on my tax forms is OK; the government doesn’t deserve so much of my hard-earned money.
When we act as “cafeteria Catholics,” we are no different than the people in Jesus’ hometown who rejected Him.
January 28, 2018
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. (Mark 1:21-22)
The residents of Caperaum came to the temple, as they did every sabbath, to listen to the scribes teach. When they heard Jesus teach, they were “astonished.” Why?
It is similar to the “Telephone” game we used to play when we were kids. The first person would whisper a sentence into the ear of the next person. That person would whisper it to the next person, and so on. The last person to hear the sentence would say it out loud, and everyone would hear how much the original sentence had changed along the way.
When one of the scribes taught, he repeated what he had learned from the Rabbi under whom he had studied, putting his own spin on it. The Rabbi he had studied under repeated what his mentor had taught him, adding his own interpretation. And so on, and so on, all the way back to those who first read Scripture, the divinely inspired Word of God.
When Jesus taught, the people of Capernaum heard the Word of God in its original form, pure and unchanged.
Jesus wasn’t playing Telephone.
January 27, 2018
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?” (Mark 4:35-41)
Control – the Achilles’ heel of Christians everywhere. We want to feel as though everything in our lives is under our control. We profess to love and trust in Jesus, but the fact is we are relunctant to relinquish control.
When the storms of our lives come to pass, such as the storm that rocked the boat of the disciples, we panic. As much as we want to be in control, we quickly realize that we are powerless. We call out to Jesus for help.
It is at those times that Jesus locks eyes with us and asks, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
We would be so much more at peace if we simply put our trust in Him.
January 26, 2018
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mark 4:26-34)
I think when we hear the phrase ‘Kingdom of God,’ our thoughts immediately turn to heaven and the gift of eternal life. However, Jesus is preparing us for eternal life by encouraging us to live out the Gospel message here and now.
Jesus had more in mind than the next life. If we truly prepare as He instructs us, we are in reality creating a Kingdom of God right here on earth.
If we plant our mustard seed of faith (tiny as that may be), nurture it with loving service to others, and shine our light on it, it will grow. Our witness will be life-giving, and others will seek refuge in it (“dwell in its shade”). They in turn will plant their own seed…and so on, and so on.
Eternal life is definitely our goal, but joyful preparation for the Kingdom of God will help create our own heaven on earth.