Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rest in Peace

Our community is united in prayer today.

We pray for the repose of the souls of Cathy Murch, Mitchell Murch III, and Mary Claire Murch.  May the Lord welcome them into his eternal embrace.

We pray for Mitchell Murch II as he mourns and seeks meaning.

We pray for our community: may the bonds of Faith, Hope, and Love that join us together grow stronger as we pray and cry together.

(We will pick up with Mark, chapter 5, tomorrow.)

Peace to you today; tell and show your spouse, children, and closest friends you love them!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mark Chapter 4

The majority of chapter 4 is given to us through parables. We already talked about the literary device of parables (Matthew Chapter 13 Summary), lets look at these parables specifically. Depending on how strictly you want to apply the definition of parable as a literary device, this chapter contains either two or three parables. The first is the famous parable of the Sower (vv. 1-9); the second is the parable of the Seeds (vv. 26-32). The third potential parable occurs in the verses between those two and is sometimes referred to as “the Hidden Lamp” (vv. 21-25). What is interesting though is that the Hidden Lamp parable comes after Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower (vv. 10-20). One could say then that the saying about the Hidden Lamp is not necessarily another parable, but is instead an illustration of the explanation of parables that Jesus makes in vv. 10-20.

Another pericope of this chapter occurs in vv. 35- 41 and is the famous episode when Jesus calms the stormy sea after having been awoken from his nap by his scared disciples.
[Notice the constant movement of Jesus. He is teaching in one place, finishes, and then head off to another. He is a man on the move!]

This scene, in particular, is a wonderful scene to pray with in your imagination. The application of this scene and the words of Jesus to our daily lives is something that all of can appreciate since, chances are, most of us have ‘storms’ in our lives that shake us and scare us and rock our boat to the point of tipping. But Jesus that still, calm voice of reason and comfort; of faith and reassurance: “Peace! Be still!” If even the winds and storms of life obey at his very words, could not we too?  This perhaps is a point for prayer.

Point for Prayer
Pray with the parables: what stands out in your imagination, in your mind; what connects with your way of thinking and of looking at the world, your relationships, your own Faith-journey?  Is there a part of those parables that causes a reaction in your mind or ‘gut’? Pray there, what’s Jesus trying to tell you?  Or, go back to the scene in the boat: pray with the storms of your life. Where do you need Jesus to break in and say, “Peace. Be still!”  He says these words to both the storms, and to us!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mark Chapter 3

The chapter begins, yet again, with another healing episode (vv. 1-6).  The rest of the chapter, pretty much of it anyways, has to do with Jesus’s identity. Although, the means by which Jesus’s identity is revealed is somewhat puzzling. 

We see Jesus healing a multitude of people by the sea (vv. 7-12).  When those demons are exorcised from the people, they shout out, “You are the Son of God” (v. 11)! Interesting that it is the demons who know who Jesus is. Yet this bold proclamation of Jesus’s identity by the demons is quickly silenced by Jesus who warns the demons not to “make him [i.e. Jesus] known” (v. 12). This is odd and yet here we see the two major themes Mark’s Gospel that we mentioned in the introduction: Sonship and Messianic Secret.

Let’s talk about this Messianic Secret thing a little. This is a common tactic of Jesus. He will enjoin this silence on his disciples too, several time, during the course of his public ministry. The question is why? Why command this silence on his true identity? Why keep it quiet?  Scholars offer three theories:
1. Jesus wanted to avoid a sensationalist reputation- he’s a healer and nothing more. In reality his healings and miracles go hand-in-hand with his saving message or repentance and redemption.
2.     He wanted to avoid the political and military expectations of the supposed Messiah.
3.     He didn’t want to ignite the wrath of his enemies before the appointed time of his Passion.

 In these short five verses we see Jesus’s Divine Sonship revealed, and then quickly covered over by this Messianic Secret. Jesus then reinforces, at least a little, this idea of identity by contrasting himself to the Evil One, Satan (vv. 19b-30). In this parable it’s important to remember that Jesus is NOT the strong man. The strong man is the Evil One and Jesus is the clever robber who breaks into the strong man’s house to steal back the souls that were never his [i.e. the strong man’s] to begin with.  It’s a beautiful image, I think, of Jesus overpowering the strong man and rescuing us from the Evil One.

Point for Prayer
“Wise Jesus, your ways will sometimes seem like madness to others, and yes, to me. Divine methods do not always seem sensible in human terms. Yet your ways are the true paths to joy and fulfillment. Make me wise so I can be your true disciple” (from To Love and Be Loved by Jesus, by Rev. Alfred McBride, pg. 40).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Vatican & Women Religious

Check out this segment from National Public Radio.

Bishop Blair does a great job of explaining not only the situation between the Vatican and the Women Religious group, but he also does a great job of teaching the theology that provides the foundation and reason for the "why we do the things we do, the way we do them."

Questions? Comments? Let me know.

Peace to you today.

Mark Chapter 2

Chapter two continues with Jesus healing a paralytic (vv. 1-12). I like the way this particular episodes ends. Those who witnessed the healing praise God by saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (v. 12)!  This is certainly more than just a passing comment on Mark’s part. He is saying something definite about Jesus and his ministry. This is one of those episodes that begins to relate to us the true Identity of Jesus.  This is the same idea that motivates Jesus’s response to the Pharisees and disciples of John who question him about the fasting practices of he and his disciples (vv. 18-22). The image of the cloth and wine skins are designed to relate to us the Newness of Jesus in the same way that Jesus preached about the New Covenant and the Kingdom of God from Matthew’s Gospel. Likewise, Jesus’s teaching about the Sabbath that comes after the teaching about fasting (vv. 23-28) are also there to relate this Newness that Jesus is ushering in.

One major marker of this Newness is the way in which he responds to the crowds after calling, then dining with, Levi (a.k.a. Matthew) [vv. 13-17]. Jesus reaches out to a known and very public sinner- tax collectors.  Everyone knew that tax collectors were corrupt and collected enough taxes for both the government and for themselves too.  So, here’s Jesus, reaching out to one of these sinners and not only calling him to become a disciple, but then going to his house and eating with him- which was considered a very intimate social occurrence.  Furthermore, when confronted, Jesus makes that very famous proclamation about himself and his ministry: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners”(v. 17). This is just the first instance of Jesus breaking the social norm and reaching out with mercy and compassion to those who need it the most. And notice the imagery of healing again: the sick and physician is equated to the conversion of sinners- metanoia, baby!

Point for Prayer
The paralytic man’s friends lower him through a hole in the roof- a drastic means to attain Jesus’s healing and forgiveness.  In what ways does something drastic need to happen in our life to lowered down in front of Jesus so that he can heal us? Is there someone in my life that can help lower me down? Is there someone I can do this for?

Click here for daily Scripture readings

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mark Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Summary (Click for text of chapter)
Mark does not include an “infancy narrative recounting the birth and childhood of Jesus. Instead, Mark begins his Gospel with the Baptism of Jesus by John (vv. 9-11), and then immediately recounts Jesus’s public ministry. This will be the style of Mark throughout his Gospel: he has Jesus on the move doing things; preaching, healing, moving towards Jerusalem. The idea here is that Jesus has come to accomplish something, namely, the Father’s Plan.  Jesus is single minded in his mission.
He immediately calls to himself his first disciples (vv. 16-20). And in doing so begins to preach the Gospel Message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (v. 15).

A quick word study: Repent. The word repent or repentance, as Jesus uses it, comes from a Greek word 
metanoia. Literally the word means “a change of mind”.  We tend to use another word nowadays: conversion, or conversion of heart. The word is used by Jesus 22 times in the New Testament and his invitation is for one to turn away from sin, away from vice, and towards God and virtue. This is the very essence of the Gospel, the very center of a faith life in Jesus Christ- conversion of heart, repentance, a drawing closer to God. This process is the Christian life: our ongoing, steady conversion of heart.

In the first chapter, Jesus we have four instances of Jesus’s healing ministry (vv. 21-45). There is this connection between the healing ministry of Jesus and the Gospel message of repentance. The two are inextricably linked, almost to being one in the same. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, that healing is at the very center of Jesus’s ministry and is also the very center of the Church’s mission (pg. 176).  We will see this developed more as we move through Mark’s Gospel (and especially when we get to Luke’s Gospel).

Point for Prayer
How do I perceive this idea of healing and conversion? Where do I need healing in my life? Healing of memories? Emotional, physical, psychological healing?  And where do I need to experience a metanoia? Do I see the connection between the healing Jesus brings and my ongoing conversion of heart?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Gospel According to Mark - Introduction

The Gospel According to St. Mark - Introduction
-Mark was a disciple of Simon Peter. Mark was not an eyewitness to the happenings of Jesus’s active ministry which means that Peter was his primary source of information.

-According to the Acts of the Apostles, we also know that Mark was a companion of St. Paul’s on some of his journey and that they had some sort of falling out, but were reconciled later (cf. Acts 13:5, 13:13, 15:36ff; Col 4:10) .

-The best hypothesis we have as to the dating of Mark’s Gospel puts composition around the year 70.  At this time, there was a fierce persecution of Roman Christians.

-Mark was writing for non-Jewish (that is, Gentile) believers in Rome. Mark regularly explains Jewish customs and Aramaic words that would be unfamiliar to a Latin-speaking audience. He also, at times, uses the Latin, and not Greek, equivalent to some words. Finally, the climax of Mark’s Gospel is the Confession of Faith by the Roman soldier at the foot of the Crucifixion (15:39).

-Mark’s Gospel is near and concise and follows a clear-cut outline. He does not offer unneeded details but presents the course of events in a chronological, linear manner. He uses words and phrases that highlight the reality of Jesus making steady and untrammeled progress from Capernaum, where his ministry begins, to Calvary, where it ends. In other words, Jesus is moving through His mission with purpose (Mark uses the word “immediately” over 40 times).  Dr. Scott Hahn denotes two major and two minor sections.

            1. First Major – 1:16-8:30 – which culminates in Peter’s Confession of Faith.
2. Second Major – 8:31-15:47 – which culminates in the Roman guard’s Confession of Faith.
1a. First Minor – 1:1-15 – the Prologue to the Gospel that sets the stage and begins, immediately, the public ministry of Jesus.
2b. Second Minor – 16:1-20 – the Epilogue that crowns the Gospel by proclaiming the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

-Thematically, Mark’s Gospel revolves around Jesus’s healing ministry and the powerful works (i.e. miracles).  Jesus asks questions and makes bold statements throughout Mark’s Gospel that invite the reader and, “every believer to look at Jesus with the eyes of faith, embrace him in hope, and imitate his heroic love” (Hahn, Ignatius Study Bible, 62).  Finally, the themes of Jesus’s Sonship and Messianic Secret (Identity) are the over-arching themes of Mark’s Gospel (more on this as we go).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wrappin' Up Matthew

Yesterday we finished our daily journey through the Gospel According to Matthew.

-Matthew's main theme appears to be "The Kingdom of God". He recounts Jesus using that phrase more than 30 times throughout his Gospel. The Kingdom of God (or Heaven) has three essential meanings:

1. It is a place where the Gospel message is lived out in a perfectly ethical way. It is a place where those who have heard Jesus's message live it our perfectly- or at least, close to it.

2. It is a place that is represented by the Catholic Church and the Church Community (on the parish level). It's the place where the message of Jesus is preached and people are baptized into the Church.

3. It is the place that we commonly call Heaven. It is in Heaven that all is perfectly united to God the Father and Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier is a perfect harmony where Love and Peace reign in all hearts and minds.

Also, if you're interested in further reading and study of Matthew's Gospel, here are some resources that you may find helpful. If you would like an electronic copy of the compiled daily summaries, let me know and I'll be more than happy to share them.

1.     Barclay, William, The Gospel of Matthew (2 Volumes) in the Daily Study Bible Series, (Louisville: John Knox, 1975).

2.     McBride, A. Rev. O. Praem., The Kingdom and the Glory: Meditation and Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, (Huntington: OSV, 1992).

3.     Mitch, C. & Sri, E., The Gospel of Matthew, in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010).

4.     Schonborn, C. Rev., My Jesus: Encountering Christ in the Gospel, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2002).

5.     Shea, J., On Earth as It is in Heaven, (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2004).

Next for our study and prayer, the Gospel According to Mark. We'll begin that on Tuesday, July 24th.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Matthew Chapter 28

So concludes Matthew’s account of the Gospel- the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel has three distinct episodes: the Resurrection of Jesus (vv. 1-10); the reporting of the guards (vv. 11-15); and then Jesus commissioning the 11 Apostles [Matthias was not yet chosen to replace Judas] (vv. 16-20).

A few insights here. It is to 2 women that Jesus first appears after his Resurrection. In this case, it is Mary Magdalen and “the other Mary” (v. 1) who become the first bearers of the Good News. They run to his 11 Apostles and tell them: Jesus Christ has risen from the Dead.

A few reflections on the Resurrection event. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Resurrection is both a historical and a transcendental event (cf. CCC 638-655 [these are paragraph, and not page, numbers])

The evidence of the Resurrection is the empty tomb, the testimony of the women, our Lord’s own prophecy about himself, and the appearances of the Lord to his Apostles and Disciples. Whether or not we believe that the evidence means he was raised from the dead is strictly a matter of Faith.

The fact that no one saw the Resurrection (remember, the guards fainted at the tomb [v. 4], so they didn’t see anything), and none of the evangelists were eye witnesses, it remains a great mystery as to how God raised the body of Jesus from the dead.

At the end of this final chapter, Jesus met his 11 Apostles in Galilee (where all this first started) and gave them the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples… baptizing them… teaching them…”(vv. 19-20). A mission that is still carried on today in ways big ad small by all sorts of peoples in all places and times around the world and throughout history.

And thanks be to God, we’re not at this by ourselves. We have as our ultimate guide and model and teacher and leader: Jesus Christ. Who promises us, the end of the Matthew’s Gospel, “…Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (v. 20).


Point for Prayer
“Risen Jesus, you fill me with hope and songs of alleluias. You convince me there is a future full of promise. You have conquered the world’s worst evils- sin and death. I praise and thank you with all my heart. Alleluia! Amen!” (from McBride, The Kingdom and the Glory).