Archive for category Mark
Giving is necessary expression of Christian faith and love, the spontaneous outcome of Christian life. “Freely you received, freely give” (Mt 10:8). James I. McCord (1919-90) once said, “I cannot think of a better definition of Christianity than that: give, give, give.” “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving” (Richard Braunstein). Hence, Christian who never gives is a dead Christian. As the saying goes, “The Dead Sea is the dead sea because it continually receives and never gives” (Anonymous).
The essence of generosity is self sacrifice. As Barclay says, “Giving does not begin to be real giving until it hurts.” Jesus commended the widow not for giving away so much, but for keeping so little” (Ed Owens). “He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice” (James Taylor). “Our culture values the size of the gift, but God values the size of what we keep” (Ed Owens). Hence, Bishop Fulton J, Sheen warns, “Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents a poor widow as one who gives all, personifying one who loves God with all her being. A widow is also portrayed as a disciple who gives with a joyful heart, in imitation of Jesus who gives his very life for the sake of others. Simply said, the widow is praised for her boundless generosity and self-sacrifice.
Francis M. Balfour teaches us how to concretize this virtue of giving when he wrote:
The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.
Prayer: “Dearest lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost” (Ignatius of Loyola
Today is Passion Sunday, popularly known also in the Philippines as Palm Sunday. Why Palm Sunday becomes popular for Filipinos? It is for the simple reason that we Filipinos give more emphasis on the triumphant entry of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem where he was welcomed by his people as KING with their leafy branches while shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David, the king of Israel. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
The celebration of the Passion Sunday signals the beginning of our celebration of the Holy Week in which we commemorate with great solemnity the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the Messiah. What Messiah? A Suffering Messiah as prophesied by prophet Isaiah. Why a suffering Messiah? Because God wills that it is only through his passion, death and resurrection that he can gain for us forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, redemption, salvation and fullness of life.
There was a girl who never saw the light of dawn. From birth she never had her sight. One day her mother asked: “Lucia, what do you want to receive as a gift on your eighteenth birthday?”
She replied, “I want to see God. I want to see you mom. And I want to see myself.”
This I promise you,” the mother replied,” Your wish will come true.”
The mother went to the doctor and asked, “How can my daughter Lucia receive her sight?”
The doctor replied,” If you want to make her happy give her your eyes.”
And the mother said, “Yes.”
Finally, the doctor performed the eye transplant for Lucia. She immediately received her sight through the successful eye operation. Now her mother was very happy to hear Lucia’s dream came true.
Do you want to be happy? Then, make others happy.
Do you want to be successful? Then, make the other’s dream come true.
Do you want to enjoy your life? Then, invest in making people’s lives enjoyable
This is also what Jesus did for us and for our salvation. He suffered and died for us so that we may have life to its fullness (John 10:10).
“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.” (Mk 2:11).
“Jesus is now back in Capernaum after a long Galilean tour of teaching and healing. The flames of his fame—fanned by his words, fed by the flow of miracles—are blazing forth in every part of Palestine. Never was a man’s name on as many Palestinian tongues as is this Man’s. His doctrine, his deeds, his doings—all that he says and every good thing that he does—are discussed in every home, at every festive meal, in every synagogue. The believing among the sick and the penitent among the afflicted seek him with a hope of being healed; those who hunger and thirst after righteousness hang on his every word and find peace to their souls as they live in harmony with his teachings; the rulers and the rebellious rate him as an evil troublemaker and seek ways to entrap and defame and even to slay him.” (Bruce R. McConkie. The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 47.)
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 the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven (Mk 2:1-5),” “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 (Mk 2:11-12).”
This miraculous healing is remarkable on many levels. If faith precedes the miracle, then friendly foursome had faith even as great as a grain of mustard seed. So many of us would have seen the crowd huddled around the door and given up exclaiming, “I hate crowds.” Others might have edged as close as possible, hoping to hear a word or catch a glimpse. Still others when hindered by the press might begin to press others out of their way.
But faith is the power to see things which are unseen. This includes the power to see possibilities that others do not or will not. Such is the faith of the four men. Their faith was the kind of faith that thinks of a way to accomplish the impossible. Theirs was the faith that breaks down barriers, tears up roofs, and uses ropes or whatever is needed to accomplish the task. His ingenuity and persistence are an example to all of us on the path of discipleship. If we are hindered by ‘the press,’ or turn back because we can’t seem to get close enough to the Lord, it is only because we lack the faith and persistence to receive both forgiveness and a physical blessing at his hand. Indeed, only persistence amidst the press brings us to the presence of the Master.
The story is one of the many “faith-making miracle stories” that can be found throughout the gospel, Unlike most “faith-making miracle stories” in the gospel, here Jesus did not heal the paralyzed man because of his faith. Jesus did not heal him because he asked for it, he prayed for it. Rather, Jesus healed him because of the faith and prayer of the four men who brought the paralyzed man to him for healing, deliverance and reconciliation. The words of the gospel said it best:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven (Mk 2:1-5),” “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 (Mk 2:11-12).”
The central message of the gospel story is this: the prayer of intercession works. The story proves to us the validity and the power of intercessory prayer. Intercession belongs to the prayer of petition. We are indulging in intercessory prayer when we are asking others to pray for us or praying in behalf of others.
What does the prayer of intercession consist? Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It conforms us and unites us to the prayer of Jesus who intercedes with the Father for all, especially sinners. Intercession must extend even to one’s enemies. Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2634) says: “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners (Rom 8:34). He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,’ (Heb 7:25). The Holy Spirit, ‘Himself intercedes for us…and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’” (Rom 8:26-27)
When you know someone who has a problem, who is in crisis, in great trouble and danger, or afflicted with various diseases and disabilities, like what the four men did in the gospel story, let us also bring him to Jesus for healing, deliverance and reconciliation. Let us never ever hesitate to approach Jesus who will always be there to help and save us, who will always be there to listen and grant what we ask for our families, relatives, friends and even our enemies.
Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications
Spencer W. Kimball
“Transgression and uncleanness and filth are found in all sexual sins. In clarifying a parable, the Savior said: .
‘.. Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.’ (“mark 7:21″mark 7:22″mark 7:23Mark 7:21-23.)
“It is not the soil of earth or the grease on a person’s hands that defile him; nor is it the fingernails ‘edged in black,’ the accumulated perspiration from honest toil, or the body odor resulting from heavy work. One may bathe hourly, perfume oneself often, have hair shampooed frequently, have fingernails manicured daily, and be a master at soft-spoken utterances, and still be as filthy as hell’s cesspools. What defiles is sin, and especially sexual sin.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 62)
Reflection: From their hearts. One is right before God not because of the clean food one eats or because of the washing ritual prescribed by the Pharisees. What matters is conversion or change of heart. To be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus is to have a contrite heart and to live an honest and holy life.
We can all relate with God and enter into communion with God. We are not categorized as clean or unclean. We can share in God’s life and work in God’s vineyard. Jesus calls for purity of heart which expresses itself in inspiring others, doing good for others, caring for people in need, forgiving, and seeking forgiveness.
What is in your heart? What comes out of your lips?
“In the court of most Jewish homes sat water pots. These stored water not only for cleansing and cooking, but also for the ritual washing of the hands and feet of guests. The host would show respect for the guest by offering a filled pot, and the guest would plunge the lower part of both arms into the water, which ceremonially washed off any pagan contamination. It was also the practice among many Jews to so wash before eating. The criticism leveled at the Lord about the disciples eating grain in a field without first washing had to do with this practice. (See Mark 7:1–5.)
“The custom of ritual washing required a great amount of water if one entertained many guests. Thus, the water pots were often quite large. At the marriage feast in Cana, during which Jesus performed his first miracle (see John 2:1–11), John tells us that there were six empty water pots ‘after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece’ (John 2:6). Firkin translates the Greek word metretes, a unit of measure equal to about ten (U.S.) gallons. The total amount the six pots held would therefore be between 120 and 180 U. S. gallons.” (Richard D. Draper, “Home Life at the Time of Christ,” Ensign, Sept. 1987, 58)
“The Pharisees and the Essenes…believed in something called the ‘oral’ Law. This was a body of oral traditions which interpreted the written Law of Moses and applied it to new situations. It was often claimed that these traditions had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai; but actually they were attempts of later teachers to ‘fine-tune’ the Law of Moses. This was done (in the absence of revelation) in an effort to extend or even to alter the requirements of the Law in the face of changing social circumstances.” (Stephen E. Robinson, “The Law after Christ,” Ensign, Sept. 1983, 69)
“Often called ‘the tradition of men’ or ‘the traditions of the fathers’ (Mark 7:8; Gal. 1:14.), these interpretations and commentaries on the law in large measure came to govern Jewish life. Had the Pharisees been more intense in their study of the law itself rather than in the commentaries upon it, they might have recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah. And had they been more eager to apply its teachings rather than to seek for further things they could not understand, they might have been able to accept him.” (Robert L. Millet, “Looking beyond the Mark: Why Many Did Not Accept the Messiah,” Ensign, July 1987, 61)
Traditions can be good or bad. The Pharisees are not the only ones guilty of placing traditions before the word of God. Let us not allow ourselves to be hindered and prevented by merely human tradition particularly that deals with ritual purity from knowing, doing and believing what is right, just, and true. There are many Christian, whose faith and commitment, after sacrificing all they have for the work of God, fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions.
In today’s gospel story we heard that Jesus heals Peter mother-in-law who was threatened by a convulsion caused by a high fever which was considered a deadly disease in the ancient times.
The healing of Jesus was considered a miracle for three reasons:
- Caused by the personal intervention of Jesus
Because of this healing miracle of Jesus, news spread near and far, that Jesus has the power over sickness and death. As a result, “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” (Mk 1:32-34).
What is something unique in the story is this. In spite of being busy doing the “work of God” Jesus never fails to forget the “God of work.” As the gospel writer relates, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35).
What usually is our justification for failing to pray, for failing to go to Mass? Usually it may be one of the three or combination of them all.
- I’m busy.
- I’m self-sufficient so what’s the use of praying.
- My work, apostolate, service is my prayer.
If there is any person who has the credibility or right to say them all is no other than Jesus. But Jesus never fails to find time and place to be alone with God the Father in prayer, intimacy and friendship.
Ezra Taft Benzon says it best when he wrote:
“[Jesus] communed constantly with his Father through prayer. This he did not only to learn the will of his Father but also to obtain the strength to do his Father’s will. He fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights at the beginning of his ministry. (Mt. 4:2; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2) He prayed all night just before choosing his twelve apostles. (Lk 6:12-13.) He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mt 26:39) It would seem that during his earthly ministry he never made a major decision or met a crisis without praying.” (Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 44.)
When you have problems, when you are in trouble, in crisis, and difficulties, when you are confronted with major decisions and tasks in life never fail to find time and place to be one with God in prayer, communion and friendship. With God everything is possible. With God we bear abundant fruits. With God, like Jesus, we can also overcome the world.
Reflection: Rest a while. Jesus invites his disciples to a quiet place to rest, giving them a chance to recharge and refresh themselves. Returning from a mission of preaching and healing, the disciples are offered an opportunity to pause a while and spend time with God. People see them leave and get ahead of them at their place of retreat. Jesus’ heart is moved with compassion for the people. Allowing the disciples their moments of rest, Jesus proceeds to minister to the crowd.
Jesus suggests that we take time from our hectic schedule to be with God in prayer, listening to God speak to us. Our prayerful communion with God must then lead us to be more committed to the well-being of God’s people. Our resting in the Lord refreshes us for better service.
Do I resent it when someone intrudes into my scheduled rest to ask for my help?