January 15th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (2:1-12)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, please open my heart and my mind to the lessons you have for me as I reflect on this Scripture. I know you always want the very best for me and that you meet me in these moments of quiet so that I can get to know you better and trust you more.

Encountering Christ:

Jesus was just beginning his public ministry and already crowds encircled his home until there was no room for them. This crowd–these individual souls–were of utmost importance to Jesus; they were the very reason he came to earth. With all eyes on him, Jesus did not choose at first to work an astounding miracle. He chose to preach the word. Even when the paralytic was brought before him, Jesus was intent on working an “invisible” miracle—the forgiveness of his sins. Only to convince the doubters did Jesus perform a physical healing. Jesus has one priority—that we listen and obey the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, and seek forgiveness of our sins when we fail to do so. This is a matter of eternal life or death.

I think sometimes we often look for the sensational in our lives rather than the ordinary. Isn’t that human nature? OR is that often times our downfall? 

This gospel begins with Jesus teaching in the ordinary way to all that had gathered around him and in his home. He surely spoke to them about the kingdom and yet this gospel points out a couple of other interesting or “sensational” points. First, the scene is of overcrowding and the need of the people to hear what Jesus was talking about that day. But then the story shifts and begins to tell of the four men and the paralytic that wanted to see Jesus for healing. How did those five men come together? Which of them had faith enough to decide to bring the paralytic to be cured, was it them OR was it the paralytic himself? In any event we know that as the paralytic was lowered into the room his sins were forgiven AND he was healed. Who wouldn’t be excited to get the two for one deal!

Jesus showed ALL gathered that day that he was the son of God, yet sadly the scribes had to be the ones to continue to spread doubt and test Jesus. Why? We should spend some time thinking about that!

So how does this gospel challenge us today? Our pandemic and political world brings us to a point that we might begin to doubt that God really IS in charge and that maybe he is taking a break from watching over the world.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. If we look hard enough into our daily lives we find the gift of life each morning we wake up and even come to read this daily posting. We are blessed in so many ways that we often just assume it will continue – health, family, job, etc. Do we ever take the time to look deep within ourselves and ask the question “do I truly believe, recognize and give praise to God for what he has done for me?” OR how about do we sit and reflect and give thanks for each gift we are graciously given by God? Are we responsible stewards of those gifts? Do we see ourselves like the paralytic man – asking for physical healing rather than spiritual healing? Jesus was so generous that day. He gave the paralytic both! What a blessing!

Take today and spend some time in prayer amidst your busy day and surrounded by distractions and think about how significant Jesus is to you. How has he blessed you and how has he answered your prayers. When we recognize the gifts from God we then become his living witnesses to the truth of God’s great care and love for each of us. Be that person today that will astound others around you by your positivity and love of God. Be bold, be Catholic and be the voice of Jesus – spreading his love.

Closing Prayer: Loving Father, I thank you for every blessing you shed upon me. Help me be a better servant for you and your kingdom. Give me the grace to persevere thru my times of doubt, personal pity and moments of feeling abandoned. Let me have faith that you will restore me, just like the paralytic man. I offer myself completely to you this day AMEN

Action for the Day: Sit for ten minutes this morning OR evening in quiet prayer and list the blessings that God gave you today. Then list the opportunities you had to share those blessings with others. When you have done that – now ask yourself…. Did I share or hoard what God entrusted to me.

January 14th, 2021

The Gospel according to 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 him, 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.

Opening Prayer: Lord, I know that I need healing. I can see my flaws and infidelities. I come to you with my hands open, asking for your touch. Come to me now and help me to see how I can be fully restored in you.

Encountering Christ: Some if not all of us have felt the sting of being an outcast.  Someone who is not welcome because you are (fill in the blank). I know how it feels to question one’s value when pushed away. It is a lonely place that, although can be overcome, may linger for a lifetime.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for the leper in today’s Gospel.  Not just pushed away but feared, destitute, hated, completely cut off from family, friends, and everything that provides meaning and purpose to life.

One of the most compelling depictions of this moment is in a scene from the series The Chosen. Having read and heard this account hundreds of times I watched with new eyes and heart.  The turmoil and emotion visible in the leper, Jesus, and the apostles who witness this miracle were deeply inspiring.  Yet the miracle should not be our focus or take away from what is at the heart of all of Jesus’ miracles.  At the core of his mission and purpose was to restore us from the destruction of sin.

The leper came with a contrite heart asking to be healed.  This is an irreplaceable component to the process of reconciliation. We must first acknowledge and be remorseful for our choice to separate ourselves from God and our faith family.  We too can approach God with a humble heart full of desire to return to relationship and ask, “If you wish you can make me clean.”  In every Liturgy of the Mass, in every moment of prayer and most especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can receive the gift that transforms lives through the forgiveness of our sins.

What is keeping us from asking?  Rest assured, as we read in Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your patience and mercy while we work through anything that may keep us from approaching you with a humble and contrite heart.  May we, like the leper, ask you to make us clean so that we may serve you and others with the love born of the sweet fruit of forgiveness.

Action for the Day: In the Liturgy of the Mass, reception of Holy Eucharist, in personal or communal prayer, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation ask God to relieve you of all that separates you from Him.  Then, with the grace of God, seek out another who needs to hear the words “I do will it.”

January 13th, 2021

The Gospel according to 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.

Opening Prayer: Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care, O Lord, we pray, that they see what must be done and gain strength to do what they have seen. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Encountering Christ: Jesus entered Peter’s home and immediately healed his mother-in-law, who was seriously ill to the point of death. Peter had witnessed Christ’s miracles already, but this healing under his own roof of a member of his family must have moved him deeply. Not only was she completely restored, but also she began to wait on them, as we can imagine she had before she got sick. In our own lives, we can read about Christ, share insights with others, and even preach about him, but our souls change forever and irrevocably when Christ touches us personally. We can delight in the truth that Our Lord wants family intimacy with each of us. He wants to “make it personal.” 

I personally have been blessed by several encounters with Christ, starting several years ago, through the Eucharist. I have continued to have these close experiences with Christ when I am on the alter during mass.

No sooner had Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law than the whole town showed up for healing or exorcism. Jesus had become a very popular preacher. He taught with authority. He showed great compassion. And he had powerful healing gifts. His ministry was moving forward with great momentum and he was entering the dynamic, busy, interpersonal, exhausting yet exhilarating period of public ministry. For three years, Jesus would work tirelessly, often not even stopping to eat (Mark 3:20). When our ministry is tiring, when we have given all we have, when we’re so exhausted we’re tempted to discouragement, we can learn from Jesus. Although he tired, his heart was constantly “moved with pity,” or “moved by compassion,” so that he never ceased to do the Father’s will, which was to bless, heal, restore, and redeem mankind. In our limited way, we are called to do the same in the short time we have to give to Jesus, remembering that we do our best work when we rely on Jesus, not on our own strength. 

The crowds had come to Peter’s house after sunset for healing, likely staying until very late, and still Jesus got up “before dawn” to pray in a deserted place, a haven of silence and solitude. Do we need any further encouragement to set our alarms so that we have time to pray, each morning? I take the first part of my day when my mind is free and clear and not cloudy from the day’s work and the day to day struggles with life to pray and share my thoughts and hopes and disappointments with Jesus. Whatever in our lives prompts us to start the day; Our Lord is calling us clearly to begin beforehand with prayer. Notice, he didn’t rouse his disciples to join him at that early hour. He wants us to make a decision out of love to rise in time for prayer. 

Closing Prayer: May God, the source and origin of all blessing, grant you grace, pour out his blessing in abundance, and keep you safe from harm throughout the year. Amen.

Action for the Day: Each night examine your conscience on the day that has ended. Ask God for the grace and wisdom to see where you missed His presences.  

January 12th, 2021

The Gospel according to 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.

Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to recognize Your voice in my life.  Help me to see that reaching out to those around me in love is how I make Your Kingdom present right now, right here.  Give me Your wisdom to know where You are calling me, and help me to try more and more every day to walk in that path with You.  Amen

Encountering Christ:

Even from the beginning of His Gospel account, Mark highlights that Jesus was always about action, demonstrating that the Kingdom of God was truly at hand.  It is interesting that Mark’s focus on action also was on the teaching power of Jesus and how different it was from the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His time.  This story today reminds us of that fact.  Yes, the people were amazed at how Jesus healed the man possessed by evil spirits, but the comment they made is specifically about His teaching and the authority with which He spoke.  Mark’s Gospel account shows that Jesus’ followers had to act boldly to share His Good News.

Jesus calls each of us to live a life that stands out.  We are called to love others and to care for them at least as much as we do ourselves.  That life and love must be demonstrated by our actions.  We are called to forgive and to go out of our own “comfort zones”.  Jesus did not promise that life as His follower would be easy.  Truly, He calls us to give and love even (and especially) when we don’t have the energy or ability to do it.  Being able to do that is the gift that God gives to us.

Many of us likely looked at the unrest in Washington DC this past week, or at the many protests around the country from this past summer, with the same sense of alarm and concern.  That is a very natural human response.  We naturally want to live a life of peaceful tranquility, and know that we can focus on our own lives and not worry about the underlying structure of our society.  Both events may have caused us to wonder about that underlying structure.  What can each of us do to make a difference when there is such pain, and such unfair treatment in our world and in our country?  We may feel powerless, or guilty, if we haven’t always demonstrated the equality of all in God’s eyes.  

Let us not be discouraged, though.  We need to start by focusing on Jesus, and prayerfully asking Him to show us the actions He wants us to take to make the world a better place.  We may not think that just praying can make a difference.  Prayer can change everything, if only we trust in the One to whom we pray.  And, let us do as St Teresa of Calcutta once said, and strive not necessarily to “do great things, but to do small things with great love.”

Closing Prayer: Lord, I am faced with a world filled with violence, greed, hunger and evil. I struggle to believe that you have overcome evil.  Help me to see that you are at work in the small signs of love, justice and truth around me.  Amen.

Action for the Day: Think about what word you would like to hear God speak.  Take a few moments this week to listen to God and prepare yourself for his loving touch.

January 11th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Opening Prayer: Lord, I come before you as I am, with the gifts you have given me, aware of my weaknesses and dependent on you. Help me see the world the way you see it and to love accordingly.

Encountering Christ: “Fisher of Men”, this really hits home for me from a couple of viewpoints. One, I have been an avid fisherman for most of my life and two, I work for homeless men at a place called Mary’s Village which is a Transitional Living facility in San Bernardino. 

Mary’s Village is a place where the men can be at peace, while having a place to lay their heads and a place to fill their belly. “We joke about this being a place where you can sleep with both eyes closed” and that isn’t far from the truth. I have heard numerous stories of the men getting mugged and robbed while living on the streets. At Mary’s Village, we also teach them life skills so they move forward in life, so we customize their programs to accomplish specific goals such as education, employment, responsibilities etc. Their personal stories that I hear from them are tragic and it’s no wonder they are in this situation. But I have realized that they are also training me, opening my eyes, and helping me to understand their world. Just like today’s scripture, all of these men still BELIEVE in God and carry Bibles. They are not mad at God for what they have encountered but are grateful because God helped them get to The Village. WOW! 

I have been fishing mostly in the Eastern Sierras for over 50 years, and there was a time when all I wanted to do was fish and didn’t recognize the beauty that surrounded me. I fished until I dropped and that was all that mattered. Today, when I visit the trout streams, I see scripture all around me. I see the “shoots of Jesse”; “roots to the water”; the high mountains; etc.  My life is consumed by this beauty and I am haunted by all my surroundings. From the pebbles in the river to the boulders in the ground; there are no two alike. And then I think that they represent Our Lord, Our Rock and Our foundation. Henry David Thoreau says, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”. 

When I go fishing, I take all my gear including a small Bible and a rosary. These are tools that are necessary for me when I fish. I say this because I now take the time to sit by the river and read and pray and meditate. Sometimes that leads to some of the greatest naps I have ever had. I recall a time I took some good friends with me. I told them I will be walking downstream for a couple of miles and I will see them at lunch. At some point, after fishing a few hours, I decided to sit under this old oak tree that had high grass under it. I thought that I would lay on top of the grass and take a nap and did I ever. The next thing I remember is waking up to a slight drizzle hitting me in the face but when I woke up, I realized my two buddies (one on each side of me) were sleeping right next to me. I guess you can say that they were baptized by the river. 

My brothers and sisters, we are born in the image of God who is our creator, we are also called to create goodness and love and friendship in that very same image.  

Closing Prayer: Lord, you are great indeed, and holy is your name. Thank you for this time with you. Help me to trust you, love you above all things, and follow you according to your holy will. Never let me be separated from you.

Action of the Day: Today by your grace I will entrust my work to you, and consciously offer my labor as a sacrifice of love for those dearest to me and to that stranger I have been talking to.