June 4th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (Mark 12:35-37):

As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said, “How do the scribes claim that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him ‘lord’; so how is he his son?” The great crowd heard this with delight.

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, I come before you in prayer. I ask you to increase my faith so that I may hear and understand what you will tell me. May my understanding of your word and your mysteries lead me to a deeper love, and may that love move me to greater obedience to you.

Encountering Christ: Today’s gospel gives us an insight into Jesus’ main mission on earth in the salvation process. Jesus not only came to redeem mankind from sin, but he also came to help sow the seeds of wisdom and understanding of his Father’s love. He demonstrated and spoke about the Father’s love constantly AND he spent much of his life teaching others through his example.

We are called to a much deeper relationship with Jesus and the Father, and the way we can come to that deeper understanding is to read and pray the scriptures. We are called – and instructed – by Jesus to immerse ourselves in the “Word” and then to go out and be the “Living Word” for everyone to see AND to experience.

In the description of “The Great Crowd” we see that Jesus was affirmed in his teaching and those people were happy to learn that there were no contradictions or weaknesses in his teaching. In other words – the crowd learned and rejoiced that Jesus was in fact… The Real Deal….sent by God the Father to teach and redeem.

In our lives today we must delve into the scripture often in order to experience and learn about our own growth, challenges and limitations. We are called to see the opportunity to grow our faith and to not become complacent with the current state of our faith, but rather to constantly seek out a better OR clearer understanding of scripture and the direction it is pointing us in.

Just like the “Great Crowd” – we delight in knowing that Jesus speaks the truth even though we do not necessarily know its complete meaning. We trust in Jesus. That is FAITH! Our journey in life allows us to continually look toward scripture to find answers to our daily lives. Amazingly, the living word speaks to us differently at various points in our lives. We ought to pay close attention to the message!

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let me realize that your mystery constantly transcends me. Let me accept that your thoughts are not my thoughts, your ways not my ways (Isaiah 55:8). Nevertheless, I ask for the gift of understanding to grasp better the truths of faith, so that in turn I may live more accordingly. I marvel that you stoop to my lowliness so that I may know, love, and serve you. I thank you, Jesus, for such constant signs of love.

Action for the Day: Lord, today by your grace I will try to communicate some aspect of the faith to a friend by way of imagery or comparison. 

June 3rd, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (12:28-34)

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other;’ and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’, this is much more important that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, help us in this time of study and reflection to hear the words of this Gospel as if we were there when you said them to the scribe that day.  Help us to understand what you truly mean by saying this is the greatest commandment so that we can apply this to our daily lives.

Encountering Christ: As a follower of Christ, I know that I am called to love God and my brothers and sisters.  However, there is one problem, me.  I struggle every day to maintain the peace that God gives me.  I can go from zero to sixty faster than a super sonic jet.  Whether it be the person who just cut me off, a tragic event such as the killing of Aiden Leos, the six-year-old boy shot as the result of a road rage incident, or any number of situations that ignite my rage.  There are countless incidents that rob me of my peace and take me to a dark place where I want to do anything but love another.

Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans (7:15) says, “What I do, I do not understand.  For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”  This is the perfect passage to help us understand the tug of war we are constantly dealing with.  One minute we may be experiencing a moment of bliss, then the next we want to yell at the top of our lungs.  Wait a minute.  Am I alone here???

God, in His infinite wisdom did not send His son so that he could turn us into perfect beings.  Jesus came to conquer sin and death.  Then why aren’t we living in a Shangri la?  Because God will not take away our free will.  He will also not take away the gift of our unique and beautiful human nature.

I have encountered the following theology several times in my life and every time I re-engage this thinking, I find a tremendous amount of grace and peace, it is in our desire to please God that God is pleased.  I wish I could remember or find where this thought comes from.  And I hope I am not committing some sort of heresy.  It just seems impossible to do what is right all the time.  And as hard as we try, as many times as we go to confession, as many times as we fall and get up and try again our momentum toward what is good is interrupted by a choice we make that takes us in the other direction.

I have beat myself up plenty of times because of my failures and the joy of success can only last for so long.  In between and in all the ups and downs is our desire to please God.  If we will one day be judged by our successes and failures, then I am not sure I would look forward to meeting our maker.  But if we sit down with our Father and look at our lives and see that we always wanted to please God then we will see a life filled with grace.

To love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves is not accomplished by our own virtues.  It is fulfilled by the desire to seek God that we grow closer to this holy ideal.  To love and be loved is the result of a desire to love and be loved.  And the incredible thing about this miracle is that God gives us everything we need for this to happen.  He created us in his image.  God is love and so are we.  If we so desire.

Closing Prayer: Dear loving and merciful Lord, please help us seek what is good and pleasing to you.  May our resolve to follow you, in good times and in bad, strengthen our desire to love you and our brothers and sisters with all our hearts, minds, souls.  

Action for the Day: In prayer today think about how much you want to please God.  Also realize that your day is not to be judged by your successes and failures but by how your hearts yearn to do what is right and good.  Then let that grace lead you to a person or place that can use the mercy and love of God manifest in your desire to love.

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June 2nd, 2021

A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to Mark (12:18-27)

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. And the seven left no descendants. Last of all, the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him; I am the God of Abraham, (the) God of Isaac, and (the) God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”

Opening Prayer: Grant us, O, Lord, we pray, that the course of our world may be divided by your peaceful rule and that your Church may rejoice, untroubled in her devotion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.

Encountering Christ: It is in the resurrection that we touch on the mystery of a body, not just Jesus’ body but our own, which will express us at our best, will not dull our spirit with weariness and rebellion but express it with ease and joy. This is a mystery beyond our imagination, but it is the center of our faith. As we grow older, nothing in our faith makes more sense than the passion and the resurrection, the certainty that our bodies, like Jesus’, must suffer and die, and the certainty that we, in our bodies, have a life beyond death.

Jesus’ humility and concern for souls shone forth in his encounters with his enemies. Although keenly aware of their insincerity and verbal traps, he nevertheless took their questions at face value in order to teach them and lead them to conversion. He ignored the mockery and instructed their ignorance: “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 7:29). Jesus teaches as one with authority. He provided us with a profound pedagogical lesson. Whenever there is a question about the faith, even if couched in ridicule, we have an opportunity to give an answer. We should do so with as much clarity and charity as possible. Our confidence lies not so much in our delivery, important as that is, but in the power of truth and the subsequent work of the Holy Spirit. 

Our Lord revealed a profound truth that goes to the heart of the Sadducees’ disbelief in the resurrection of the dead, starting with what they did believe. They believed in God and in his revelation to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They believed that God spoke to Moses. Therefore, if they believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they implicitly believed in man’s everlasting life. Jesus told them that God still “is” the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not “was.” Therefore, not only does God still exist, but so do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is God of the living. God is the very source of life. God is never “stuck” in the past. Death does not have the last word with God. Our Lord’s Resurrection will make this truth even more abundantly clear.

Lord Jesus Christ, with the aid of your Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Magisterium, continue to lead me from my errors and confusion into all truth (John 16:13). However, I want more than simply seeing clearly; help me to grow in my personal relationship with you. Increase my faith so that I may see your hand at work in even the smallest details of my daily life: a sunset, a flower, and a child’s smile. May I have the humility to realize that I still have much to learn about my faith, and the generosity to share the truth about you with others.

“Hope lets us literally see the presence and action of the holy in our everyday lives. This is not an imaginary desire viewed through rose-colored glasses. It is the solid evidence of the power of love made visible in abundance.” – Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston.

June 1st, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (12:13-17) 

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent
to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech.
They came and said to him,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.
You do not regard a person’s status
but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?
Should we pay or should we not pay?”
Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them,
“Why are you testing me?
Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him.

Opening Prayer: Father, I depend on You for my life.  Help me to offer it in service to You, in whatever way You wish to use me.  Let me consider my highest calling that of repaying to You what has been given me by You.  Amen.

Encountering Christ:

Today, we remember the early Christian apologist and philosopher St. Justin Martyr.  Because of his background as a philosopher, he had a unique view of the faith, and of how God longed to relate to humankind.  One great lesson we can take from the life of St. Justin is the depth of his faith, as, given the opportunity to turn away from it, he chose to trust in the God he followed, and he gave his life as a result.

Jesus was in a similar spot in the Gospel today.  Two groups, the Herodians and the Pharisees, came to Him, hoping to catch Jesus in what He said, so that they would show that He was not who He said He was.  Instead, Jesus turns their argument against them, and they are left “utterly amazed”.  The last line that Jesus spoke is the one I would like to consider for a moment: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

We are all under human authority of some kind.  We live under a government’s authority over us.  Those of us who are students have a teacher in authority over us.  Those of us who work have a boss whose authority we must abide by.  That is the aspect of our lives that Jesus refers to in that first phrase “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.  We are called as followers of Jesus to submit to the human authorities that apply to us.

It does not mean, though, that we should mindlessly accept human authority.  In many parts of the world, human authority is corrupt, seeking only its own benefit, not that of the ones who are governed.  In those cases, and in any situations where what authorities demand of us conflicts with God’s law of love, we are called to “repay to God what belongs to God”.  Put a different way, the “Caesar” side of this equation is all about telling us what we must to do to submit to human authority.  We don’t have a choice in the matter in most cases.  The “God” side of the equation is all about choosing to love, even though we are not demanded to do so.  That’s the love that Jesus shared with His followers, and it is the love that we are called to emulate.

We Christians walk a fine line in our society today (as has always been true, going all the way back to the time of Jesus).  We are called to love and to be good citizens, but also to pray that God’s love will be shown in our lives, and that it may dwell in those who govern us.  God, who can do anything, can change the hearts of those who govern us, if they do not follow His ways.  Our job is to love as best as we are able, and to ask God to show us how to make the world a place more receptive to His love, and more filled with His love.  That is the challenge we face today.  May we be willing to accept that challenge, knowing that God will give us His grace to do what we can to serve Him better, and to truly repay to God “what belongs to God”.

Closing Prayer: Loving Jesus, help me to be a beacon of hope in the world, in my community and in my home today.  Give me Your grace to act as Your hands, Your feet, and Your voice.  Let me truly repay to Your Father what belongs to Him, to have my life be a witness of God’s goodness!  Amen.

Action for the Day: Pray for those in authority over us, that they be open to God’s wisdom, and to remember that they have the power to minister to the weak and the forgotten, and to provide for them.