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Posts Tagged ‘John the Baptist’


Mark 6:30-33: Return of the Disciples

Seventh Sunday of Easter, June 2, 2019

The Gospel of Mark is intense and to the point – and this citation is no exception.  Today we reflect on the return of the disciples to Jesus after they had been sent forth with his Word to heal and free the oppressed and suffering.  Looking at this chapter as a whole, we read of how Jesus appears on the world stage, preaching in synagogues on Sabbaths, answering the many questions put to him, and also challenging his listeners with questions of his own.  He makes a circuit of the villages.  He sends forth the twelve in twos, giving them power over unclean spirits, instructing them to take nothing for their journey but their trust in the Lord.  He schools them in how they are to enter a house and offer peace – and that if this peace comes back to them they are to shake the dust of this place from their sandals and move on.

Sandwiched between the departure and return of these disciples, we have the story of how John the Baptist is executed to serve the silly jealousy of a corrupt family.  This serves as a clear instruction to us, Jesus’ 21st Century apostles, that while following the Master is a glorious and rewarding journey, it is a path hemmed in by dangers of all kinds.  Following the return of these workers, we see Jesus feed five thousand followers from five loaves and two fish.  Then Jesus walks on water and performs other miracles.  This is a chapter packed with energy and wonder.

This is what I like most about Mark, his clean presentation of the lightning bolt effect Jesus has had on our physical and spiritual worlds.  There is so much going on that when we to pause to meditate on just a few verses we see well beyond the words . . . we understand stories recorded in our collective experience.  Who among us has not at some time done something we never thought possible?  Who has not reached the safety of a refuge after a rewarding but difficult day of working in God’s vineyard to collapse into the sureness of God’s love?  Who has not desired to draw apart for a little while and found that the very people we were escaping have met us on the shore?

Today we reflect on how these disciples blunder along behind Jesus, are sent by him and return to him in awe of the sign of Christ’s love for them . . . the gift of healing they have been given to share.  We see them pile into their fishing crafts to withdraw and rest in a desert place . . . to be met by a mass of people who have anticipated their landing and who have hurried to meet them.  These people hunger for the words of life which Jesus offers them, and so these weary apostles gird themselves, put off their own search for quiet and peace, and do as Jesus tells them.  They trust in their Teacher.  Their rest will have to happen later.

And so we pause to pray, we who seek to draw apart a while into the desert and rest, but who are met by the mass of demands of our life of apostleship:

Jesus, friend of all, we return to you weary from the life of work which we have done in your name: Give us refuge and strength.

Jesus, master of all, we return to you with the fruits of our journey, the signs of our love for you: Give us food and drink.

Jesus, lover of all, we follow you into the next life where we wish to dwell in the house of the Lord: Give us insight and compassion.

Jesus, brother of all, we bring ourselves to you, a gift given and now returned: Give us peace and joy. 

Amen.


A re-post from May 19, 2012.

Image from: http://www.gil-bailie.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

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Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 

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Job 25-27The Storm Wind

Hurricane Gertrude hits the U.K. in 2017

Sunday, August 19, 2018

This weekend we have considered Job’s plight, and Job’s questions. We have observed Job’s interactions with his friends, and we have witnessed his fidelity, hope, and righteousness before insurmountable odds and circumstances. Today we return to a favorite from December 9, 2010 as we look at the next few chapters of this story.

Job refuses to bend to social pressure.  He refuses to cave in to public opinion.  He remains faithful to God.  He knows that only God has the power to give us immortal breath, only God has a love that will sustain us through all misery.   He knows that only God brings true and eternal serenity and joy.  Job responds to God’s call – even when this call comes to him through storm clouds.

Father Alfred Delp was a German priest condemned to death by Nazis in WWII.  He died in 1945.  His words are today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation, and they refer to John the Baptist who, like Job, sought God, heard God, and were condemned for conveying God’s message. They were tossed by storms, but remained faithful to God.

When the Christian is asked, or asks himself, “Who are you?” this is primarily a questioning of his reality.  Are you a person whose concerns are with God?  Are you a person of whom it can be said that your heart and your mind are filled with a peace that surpasses all comprehension? . . . [T]he Calling-God [is one] who calls out in the midst of the wilderness through voices of men.  He has filled them, and their very being documents that such perfected people are among us, sent by God. 

Job tells us that only through, and with, and in God, can we weather the deadly winds whipped up by the storm.  His friends do not bring the voice of God to him, yet he persists in faith.

Fr. Delp and John the Baptist are destroyed by the winds.  Job is not.  Yet all three men tell us who God is by the manner in which they live their lives in the tempest, in the wilderness, and through the maelstrom.  What documentation of our faith to we show others when we weather the storms of life?  What is our story?  How do we live it when we are buffeted by the winds of the storm?


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.12 (2010). Print. 

Tomorrow, in praise of wisdom.

Image from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/639377/Gertrude-chaos-hurricane-force-winds-transport-power-lines

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Matthew 11: A Message of Healing

Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, 2016

Guercino: Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Salome

Guercino: Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Salomé

John the Baptist was imprisoned and when he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” (MSG) This week we are given an opportunity to give our own testimony.

When we read these ancient verses we tend to leave them in the past where they were first spoken and written, forgetting that Christ still lives among us to heal and bless. Just as Jesus spoke to John’s disciples, he speaks to each of us today.

Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:

The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.

“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” (MSG)

Like John’s disciples, we may stand in disbelief, wanting evidence, weighing the promise against the reality of the moment. So Jesus continues.

“Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing: the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean,[a] the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. How happy are those who have no doubts about me!” (GNT)

Like John’s disciples, we watch Jesus’ face, suspecting that his words are only words, hoping that his words bring the healing and grace we so need individually and collectively. So Jesus asks us a question.

Tell me, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes indeed, but you saw much more than a prophet. (GNT)

Today we have the opportunity to consider what we have witnessed. We have the opportunity to consider what we believe. And we have the opportunity to act on this belief.

The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed! (MSG)

On this third Sunday in Advent when we celebrate the joy of God’s message, let us decide to believe in the healing message of Christ.

When we explore differing translations of these verses, we discover a message of restoration and compassion that we have been longing to hear. When we take in the meaning of these verses, we open ourselves to the healing and redemption Jesus promises.

For interesting information on the sale of this painting through Sotheby’s, read THE ECONOMIST article, “Schemers and Squinters,” by clicking on the image or visiting: http://www.economist.com/node/12917657

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Mark 1:1-11Wading Into the WatersCopy_of_jesusbaptism1

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I am wondering what I might have thought if I had seen and heard John the Baptist telling the good news that freedom from fear was arriving.

I am wondering what I might have said if I had watched or even experienced the healing work of Christ and his apostles.

I am wondering what I might have done if I had been called into the river to immerse myself in the waters.

And then I realize that . . .

I have heard and seen . . .

I have watched and even experienced . . .

I have been called into the river . . .

And at times I wade into waters that are sometimes dark, murky and swirling.  At other times I thrill at the clarity and purity of the water.  And always my God walks with me to heal, to proclaim and to call.  I have but to answer with my hands, my feet, my heart and my will.

A favorite from September 14, 2010.

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Mark 1:3The Voice

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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. 

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

A Favorite from September 16, 2009.

Tomorrow, Jesus and his family. 

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Ezekiel 33:14-16: We Shall Surely Live

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life".  (John 6:68)

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. (John 6:68)

March 4, 2015

Though I say to the wicked man that he shall surely die, if he turns away from his sin and does what is right and just, giving back pledges, restoring stolen goods, living by the statutes that bring life, and doing no wrong, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the sins committed shall be held against him; he has done what is right and just, he shall surely live.

Just when we believe that there is no redemption we read these verses. The wicked may also survive to live eternally once they repent. If there are enemies among, let us pray as Jesus asks us to pray.

From Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.: “A prophet is one who keeps God free for people and who keeps people free for God. It is a two-sided task. He or she is committed to the covenant love between humanity and the Divine–at all costs–and keeping God totally free for people. That is a very hard thing to do, because at least in the Bible the priestly class invariably makes God less accessible instead of more so: ‘Neither entering yourselves nor letting others enter in’ as Jesus boldly puts it (Matthew 23:13). For our own job-security, the priestly mentality tends to say, ‘You can only come to God through us, by doing the right rituals and obeying the rules.’ Formal ministers are too often good at teaching people ‘learned helplessness.’ That’s why the prophets spend so much time destroying and dismissing these barriers to create ‘a straight highway to God’ (Matthew 3:3) as John the Baptist tries to do, and Jesus does with such determination and partial success. But now you know why they were both killed”.

Spend time with these verses from Ezekiel and Matthew today and reflect on their meaning along with the words from Richard Rohr and consider . . . as we go through our days, do we liberate more than we bind, do we heal more than we hurt, do we love more than we judge, do we live more than we die?

Richard Rohr citation in this post is from “Prophets as Liberators,” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for Monday, February 20, 2015. http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Richard-Rohr-s-Meditation–Prophets-as-Liberators.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=O17vFLcGtV4  

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Monday, December 2, 2013

El Greco: St. John the Baptist

El Greco: St. John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-17

Turning Many

There was a priest named Zechariah who had a wife, Elizabeth.  Both were righteous in the eyes of God, but they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.  An angel of God came to Zechariah and announced: “Do not be afraid, your prayer has been answered. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God”.

John the Baptist turns many to God.  Might we say the same of ourselves?

God says: Each of you is my witness.  Each of you has the capacity to call others to my side.  The work of witnessing does not require great works.  On the contrary, it only requires simple and honest living.  Your actions speak far more eloquently than your words so do not worry about what you might say on my behalf.  Live your life in fidelity to me.  Live your life with integrity in the Spirit.  Live your life openly and honestly as Jesus does . . . and this will be witness enough.  In this way, your life will be the turning of many to me.

We too often depend on our own resources to do God’s will when all God asks is that we serve as a faithful conduit.  We must learn to let God do the heavy lifting, quick thinking, and clever speaking . . . through the authentic living of our lives.

To learn more about John the Baptist, enter his name in the blog search bar and explore.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zechariah, John, Elizabeth and Mary

Zechariah, John, Elizabeth and Mary

Luke 1:67-79

Benedictus

In the tradition of The Liturgy of the Hours this Canticle of Zechariah is sung as part of Lauds, or Morning Prayer or Prime, and although the verses are intoned by Zechariah on the birth of his son John the Baptist, they prophesy the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Light of the World. Commentary tells us that their origin may have been an early Jewish Christian hymn that Luke adapted for his story. (Senior cf. 100) Today we examine these verses to see how we might bring full voice to our thanksgiving that God is not a remote and distant deity who merely observes the events that surround our lives, but a merciful and loving parent who chooses to live and move among us.

Zechariah begins by praising God for releasing us from all that binds and for delivering us from our enemies the prophets have promised.  He reminds us of the covenant we have with God and all that it promises, and then he urges his child, John, to fulfill his role as herald of the Word.  Describing the coming Messiah as the dawn from on high, Zechariah recalls for us the purpose of this light for the world: to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

In our world of immediate satisfaction and quick fulfillment, it is difficult to find our place in God’s plan that unfolds through the millennia to unite billions of souls, and it is both fitting and helpful that we rise each morning to intone these words of Zechariah as part of our morning prayer.  When we pray the Benedictus we unite ourselves with all the faithful who greet each day with these same words of thanksgiving, remembrance and promise.  So let us give thanks.  Let us remember God’s promises.  And let us walk with our God in the way of peace.

When we look at the entire first Chapter of Luke we discover how God prepares the faithful for the coming of Emmanuel, the incarnation of God’s Word Among Us, Jesus the Christ.  We also understand more fully how carefully God’s heart and hand entwine with each precious life.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.100. Print.

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