Archive for August, 2022

Mark 14:17-21: The Betrayer

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

During Holy Week we often reflect on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper. Today in our journey through Mark, we open scripture to the moment when we hear Jesus announce that his betrayer is quite close by. As we read varying translations of these verses, we ask ourselves if we have suffered betrayal at the hands of someone close to us . . . or if we have been the betrayer. In either case, Christ understands the piercing pain of this intense suffering that comes when we arrive at the end of our strength.

From MAGNIFICAT: In the suffering of Christ, we hear the depths of God’s love spoken in a language we can understand. (Cameron 78)

From Psalm 69: More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me without cause. Those who attack me with lies are too much for my strength . . . You know how they taunt and deride me; my oppressors are all before you. Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength.

God says: Life will include sorrow but you are not expected to cry alone. Life will include joy. Remember me as you celebrate. When you are betrayed, remember that my son has walked this Way before you, and he walks with you today.

This is the dreadful beauty of the story of Christ. He suffers with us . . . so that we might believe. If we can but stay with him a little while.

When we spend time with Psalm 69 and Mark 14:17-21, we find the gift of Christ’s company. If we can stay awhile with him. Choose a face in the image above and focus on the emotion Caravaggio communicates. Who are we in this moment of betrayal? And what does Christ say to us? 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 20 March 2008: 78. Print.

Image from: http://www.lentmadness.org/2015/03/spy-wednesday-2/

Adapted from a reflection written on March 20, 2008.

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Mark 12:35-44: Comparison

James C Christenen: The Widow's Mite

James C. Christensen: The Widow’s Mite

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we are struck again by his immediacy and precision; and we see how Jesus turns stark divisions into unifying calls. 

The widow we meet today who gives from her poverty is seen in sharp contrast to the scribes who give from their surplus. Jesus as the son of God is also juxtaposed against those who would be servants but who are more enamored of status, money and place. The obvious lesson here is understood quickly, even by children. The widow’s contribution – small as it is – is worth as much and perhaps even more than the large amount given by others from their surplus; and the widow herself is as valuable, or more, as those who profess great learning and experience. We can see that this portion of Mark’s Gospel asks us to take a deep look to examine our own status, our own motivations, our own spiritual life in Christ. The more obscure lesson is this: We ought not to worry if we only have two cents when come forward to add to God’s treasury . . . God is counting on this small gift to appear and God has a plan for this small gift which we cannot see from where we stand.

My dad, the oldest of eleven, always used to say that when we compare ourselves to others we will always come up way short of some and way ahead of others. He would encourage us to compare what we have done in a day to what we might have done on a good day. He asked that we measure ourselves against our own potential. He directed us to steer well clear of comparing ourselves to others in any way with the words: You have no way of knowing what God knows. And when he himself became frustrated with life and with what he believed to be his own weaknesses, he would often murmur repeatedly in low words: God only knows. Only God knows. God only knows. Only God knows. 

My mother, born the seventh of eleven, was fond of telling us – when we balked at going somewhere we thought we might be bored – Did you ever stop to think that God might have need of you today? Did it ever occur to you that your presence has a purpose even when you do not see it? Maybe you are being asked to bring something you do not realize you have. Go and find out what it is.  And so we would go . . . and we always found out that yes, we had two cents, and they belonged in God’s treasury.

When we believe that the efforts we make are puny in attempting to answer God’s call, we might remember the contributions of the scribes and the widow.

When we fear that we have erred in responding to God’s call, we might remember that Jesus sees all of us, knows our worth and values our gifts accordingly.

When we feel that we have somehow gotten things wrong, that we have misunderstood the instructions we think we hear, we might remember that with God, our two cents are worth worlds . . . because we have come to God, trusted God and loved God.

And so we pray.

Precious God, We know that we often misunderstand messages. We sometimes doubt our ability to hear you clearly. We also know that we ought to be wary of those wearing robes for the sake of show. We sometimes become enamored of the robes ourselves. We always know that when you destroy temples you also rebuild them in days . . . deep within our hearts. Continue to guide us as we filter through the pageantry of life to find that which is worth more than the mere two-cent value it appears to have at first glance. Help us to compare ourselves to our own work rather than to the work of others. Lead us to your way of seeing and thinking. Lead us to your way of trusting and believing. Lead us always back to you. Amen. 

Image from: http://datinggod.org/2010/08/22/today%E2%80%99s-parable-of-the-widow%E2%80%99s-mite/

A favorite from August 23, 2009.

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Mark 13:32-37: The Need for Watchfulnesslittle boy praying

Monday, August 29, 2022

Today in our journey through the Gospel of Mark, we reflect on what it means to wait for the Lord. 

Christians are recognized, collectively and individually, for their willingness to Witness, Watch and Wait. Will the master recognize us when he comes?

Our waiting is to be an active time of Witness, not a time for passive sitting and listening. It is a time for speaking when we are called to speak, being patient when we are called to patience, rebuking when we are called to rebuke, making amends when we see we have transgressed our covenant, pardoning and being pardoned, loving and being loved. It is a time of putting on the armor of God so that we might be able to stand firm, as St Paul tells us in Ephesians 6.  It is a time for standing fast with loins girded for battle, clothed with righteousness and our feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  We must hold faith as a shield, wear the helmet of salvation, and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 

How are we clothed? What protection do we step behind or put on? What do we see as important for ourselves? How do we communicate this to the others? Will Jesus recognize us when he comes?

Watchfulness, for one who follows Christ is not optional, it is not quiet, it is not an inert state in which we sit idly waiting for Jesus.  Indeed, as Jesus himself tells us, you do not know when the master of the house is coming. 

Will he recognize us when he arrives?

Image from: http://parakaleomoms.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html

Adapted from a reflection written on August 6, 2008.

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Mark 9:1-7: Jesus Transfigured

Icon: The Transfiguration

Icon: The Transfiguration

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Rather than ask for a sign of our worthiness or God’s presence, we might act on the opportunity we are given to witness to Christ’s transformation as did Peter, James and John.

When we pause in the rush of life to examine those around us . . .

When we listen for God’s voice and do as God bids us . . .

When we are loving in our approach to enemies . . .

When we are patient with ourselves, faithful to our covenant, hopeful that our impossible dreams will be realized . . .

We see miraculous conversions taking place around us constantly . . . and this is our sign.

We witness the transformation of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we discover that we ourselves are transfigured . . . and this is our sign.

We see the blessing of the gifts offered by the Holy Spirit . . . and this is our sign.

We keep vigil at the tomb to witness to the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of ourselves and so we begin to fully understand that it is through his own transfiguration that Christ transfigures each of us. And this surely and simply and certainly is our sign . . . that we are well and truly loved by God.

For more on icons, click on the image above or visit: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/transfiguration-icon-the-event-and-the-process/ 

Adapted from a favorite written on March 22, 2008.

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Mark 8:11-13: The Demand for a Sign1765_Jesus-Man-of-Sorrows-628x416

Saturday, August 27, 2022

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

I am certain that Jesus sighs deeply in his spirit many times in a human day. And I am equally convinced that he smiles with our many little triumphs over self. His humanness wants to celebrate with us. His divinity wants to heal us. Despite all of the evidence we have before us of God’s constancy and love, we still do not trust God. We still ask for signs.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

Luke 3:10-18 is a story of an encounter which John the Baptist had with the Jewish and pagan world.  He cautions the Jews that they must share what they have rather than hoard it for themselves.  He asks the tax collectors to cease cheating people.  And he reminds the soldiers that they ought to be content with the power they have and cease their grumbling. As Bishop Robert Morneau tells us in Daily Reflections for ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2009-2010 when he writes about this episode: Joy lies in perpetual gratitude.   The more we practice gratitude, the easier it is to live in trust and faith.  The more we live in trust and faith, the less need we have to ask for signs.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

In Matthew 21:23-27, Jesus is asked by the chief priests and elders by whose authority he speaks. Jesus replies with a question – as he does frequently when he knows he is being baited. He asks who gave his cousin, John, the authority to baptize.  He wants to know: Was it of heavenly or human origin?  When they refuse to commit themselves, Jesus declines to answer their question. They had not really been looking for an answer. Are we always asking for an answer when we question or are we trying to control God in our lives?

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

We humans question God continually. We want to know our next steps. We want to know the reasons, the origins, the causes and the effects. We are a bit afraid, or a bit too proud, to allow our sophisticated selves to experience wonder or mystery; and yet it is through the mystery of Christ’s presence in our lives each day that we are stirred to ask questions, to delve deep within, to step outside of ourselves.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

We imagine that Christ sighs a great deal as he accompanies us in our journey toward him. We also imagine that he smiles a great deal as we learn to capitulate ourselves into the safety of his hands.

Image from: http://biblefeet.blogspot.com/2009/03/and-did-those-feetthe-meaning-of-feet.html

Adapted from a reflection written on December 14, 2009.

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Mark 6:1-6Jesus of Nazareth

Diego Velázquez: Christ Cricufied - The Prado Museum, Madrid

Diego Velázquez: Christ Crucified – The Prado Museum, Madrid

Friday, August 26, 2022

“What is this wisdom that is given to him?  What mean such miracles wrought by his hands?” . . .  And Jesus marveled at their unbelief.  (Douay)

“Where did this man get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?”  . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (NAB)

“This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon?  His sisters, too, are they not here with us?”  And they would not accept him. . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (Jerusalem Bible)

“Where did he get the things he is teaching?” they said.  How can he perform such miracles?”  . . .  He was amazed at their unwillingness to believe.  (William Barclay translation)

When I reflect on the Crucifixion, call to mind the image created by Diego Velázquez that tells us – much like Marks’s Gospel – of the stark reality of the love Jesus, this God-man, has for each of us. It seems to me that Velázquez has captured the unambiguous difference between the healing, merciful Christ and the Jesus of Nazareth who is disbelieved in his own town. The mystical eeriness produced by the floating cross coupled with the universality of Jesus’ half-covered face allow us to personalize this image with our own version of the very human Christ.

I imagine that our own lack of faith proves a heavy obstacle to the performing of miracles and to the healing of bodies and souls; yet Jesus of Nazareth abides. He still performs the impossible.

Let us invite this Jesus into our homes today and every day. Let us open our hearts and minds to the wild possibilities he dares to dream with us.  Let us gather together as his resurrected body to bring healing and hope to one another.

Use the scripture link above to explore other translations of these verses.

Adapted from a favorite written on June 8, 2008. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_picture_candidates/Crucified_Christ_(Vel%C3%A1zquez)

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Mark 3:20-35Jesus and his Family

Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

James Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

Thursday, August 25, 2022

He came home. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 

As I was growing up and moving into womanhood, my oldest brother – twelve years my senior – would come home from college, visit us when he had military leave, and then brought his family to visit from places across oceans. When he did, the clan would gather to celebrate. My sisters – both older than I but younger than this brother – came home often, and they brought their families from places nearby. They believed that the celebrations for my brother were more enthusiastic than those for their own families. Perhaps they were. I do not remember seeing the difference. My younger brother and I watched this curious mixture of disappointment and love, feeling that push and pull of family dynamics and understanding that this was how family functioned. A dichotomy of conflict and acceptance, worry and love. I suspect that each of us has similar family experiences.

In today’s Noontime we see Jesus return home from a pilgrimage of healing and transforming others, and so many gathered that it was impossible for them even to eat. Jesus’ family, worries that he will come under scrutiny by the officials, declares that he is out of his mind. The scribes, worry about losing influence with the people, decide that Jesus is possessed by the devil. This is a confusing, jumbled juxtaposition of celebration and dangerous plotting.

Life is never a simple picture. Reality is always a combination of highs and lows, positives and negatives, sorrows and joys. Today’s Noontime, much like my own family memories, presents us with a picture of sadness mixed with delight, celebration with worry. And this is as it should be. For this is how families are. And this family of Jesus that we read about today is very much like our own families.

All of this makes sense when we watch Jesus return home and we consider that he is, after all, our brother.

Tomorrow, Jesus of Nazareth.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 31, 2010.

Image from: https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/jesus-speaks-of-his-relationship-with-the-father/

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Mark 1:3The Voice

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness is often drowned out by the din of the world that clamors for its own comfort and pleasure. Prophets and martyrs are derided and put aside, punished and even murdered because of their fidelity to the voice that speaks to them in the inmost heart. Those who hear and respond to that voice in the wilderness are more often ridiculed than praised and more often silenced than thanked. This is the struggle we experience daily. How do we sort out the inner messages that tug at us?

Those who refuse to kowtow, who insist on speaking truth, and who ask tough questions also expect justice and mercy to overcome deception and evil. John the Baptist was one of these clear-throated voices that pierced through the cacophony of the moment to burn so brightly that we remember him still today. Most of us do not expect to live in such a momentous way, but our more quiet lives are no less important.

Satan Tempting Jesus

Satan Tempting Jesus

Matthew 4:8-10 is part of the Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT today and it tells the story of the conversation between Satan and Jesus at the moment when Christ begins his ministry.  In the meditation today entitled The Heart of True Wisdom, Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart. (a spiritual writer of the last century) tells us that when we hear the voice of darkness whispering in our ear, we will know how to react according to the measure of our love for God. What is difficult here is to know whether the voice we hear speaks from good or from evil. This is our constant struggle; yet we will know that the source is goodness when we hear it calling us to right wrongs against those among us who are the weakest. We will know that the source is darkness when it encourages us to seek self-pleasure and comfort at the expense of the marginalized and forgotten.

hearing god's voiceIn the end, we act according to our understanding of the voice we hear and tend to best; even our most quiet activities are a demonstration of what we believe and what god or gods we worship. So this is perhaps what we must say to ourselves – just as Jesus does: The Lord my God I shall worship.  Him alone will I serve. 

Tomorrow, Jesus and his family. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.9 (2009). Print.  

A Favorite from September 16, 2009.

Images from: http://sarahellenbrown.com/tag/john-the-baptist/ and http://www.catholicmannight.com/learn-about-jesus/blog/page/13/ and https://renewingthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/on-hearing-the-voice-of-god/

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Mark 1:14-45: The Mystery of Jesus – Fire and Water

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Guercino: Jesus and the Woman at the Well

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri): Jesus and the Woman at the Well

The Good News of Mark draws for us the lightning bolt experience of God’s visit amid us in the form of Jesus the Christ. He appears, pronounces, sets a model, calls, loves, exits, returns and abides, all in such a quick flash of time. Today’s Noontime allows us to reflect on the blaze of light which Jesus can bring to us if we only respond to his call as his first apostles and disciples did. We can also think about the image we heard in yesterday’s Gospel of John: Jesus arrives as a refreshing drink of cool, running water on an arid day.  This water satisfies for a lifetime, not only for a hot afternoon.  This running water of Jesus’ Word is not the warm water of the cistern with its temporary quenching.  This Living Water lasts forever.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT reflection on the woman at the well reading from John is written by Fr. André Louf, O.C.S.P.: Everything speaks to Jesus; everything is a sign and a sacrament; all things sing of the glory and love of his Father:  this water, this well, the thirst which both of them feel, this desire to drink, even the unbearable thirst of the Samaritan woman.  It was a thirst she carried with her everywhere from man to man without being able to quench it, until she no longer knew who her true husband and what true love were.

Mark opens the window for us to see who and what Jesus is. Mystery. Light. Trust. Truth. Love. Fire. And water. Mark gives us a quick-moving, rapid-eye version of the passion that Jesus ignites in the world. We experience Jesus’ thirst for his people as he moves like a prairie fire through the towns and villages of Galilee: he calls, he cures, he heals, he cleanses. He is the Living Water that slacks deep thirst. And this is the picture which John paints in chapter 4 of his Good News.

jesuswellThe woman at the well in Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel also had a thirst for love, just as Jesus did; but she was dipping into the still water of the town’s cistern just as she was dipping into the lives of men without truly connecting, without pre-thought, without remorse for quick and superficial relationships. She perhaps was hoping to quench her desire for authentic companionship with her string of relationships. We will never know. But what we do know is that she finds something new when she encounters Christ. At first she diverts Jesus’ observations about the men in her life by moving to the topic of worship, but she cannot escape the truth. Jesus establishes trust, is patiently relentless, and once she lets him into her heart and her life – when she opens to his words – he changes her forever. She is never the same.

What are our thirsts? For what do we hunger? What worries might we allow Christ’s mystery and fire to consume? What anxieties grip us that might be stilled by the Living Water? What might we change?

Jesus is clearly calling each of us to work in his kingdom just as he called the apostles and the Samaritan woman. Perhaps we might also leave our empty water jar at the well and run to tell this Good News to all. Perhaps we might put aside our strings of temporary relationships and commitments. Perhaps we might set fire to the dryness of our lives as Mark does in the opening of his Good News story. And perhaps we might allow Jesus to both set us afire and quench our thirst for life and love. Perhaps in so doing we will enter into, and find union with, the mystery that is Jesus the Christ.

Tomorrow, listening for the voice.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.2 (2008). Print.  

Images from: https://www.museothyssen.org/en/collection/artists/guercino/christ-and-woman-samaria-well and http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.8.Samaritan_woman.htm

Adapted from a reflection written February 25, 2008.

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