Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 4:1-15,25 + Mark 8:11-13
February 18, 2019
He sighed from the depth of His spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?”
Do we search for heavenly signs as assurance that we are on the right path in life? Today’s Gospel passage, brief and to the point, ought to make us realize how pointless such a search is. Jesus’ sigh—”from the depth of His Spirit”—speaks volumes. His departure from the midst of the Pharisees show his recognition that even His divine words do nothing for one unwilling to listen in to Him in faith. Christ asks us to dedicate each day to him in faith.
A life which is not dedicated to God ends up being a selfish life, a life that excludes both God and one’s brothers and sisters. This sort of life is opposed to both arms of Jesus’ Cross, which form His single command to His disciple to follow Him. The horizontal arm is the call to love our neighbors as oneself. The vertical arm is the call to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. Living out the latter opens our hearts to further grace from the God who is love.
The selfishness of sin shows our need to cooperate with God’s grace to conquer the power of sin. Sin is conquered first through faith, further through hope, and perfectly through charity. We are invited to share in this perfect love of God through the Holy Mass. When we are sent forth from Mass, we take and offer this same love to our brothers and sisters within our daily lives.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 6:5-8;7:1-5,10 + Mark 8:14-21
February 19, 2019
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Frustration in and of itself must not be a sin, or Jesus—according to the portraits painted by the evangelists—would not be divine. We see such a portrait in today’s Gospel passage. This passage ends with a question from Jesus. While we can be sure that Jesus’ next action involved compassion, we might instead back up and reflect on this passage in terms of ourselves, inasmuch as we often imitate the disciples in this passage.
There are two things lacking in these disciples. First, they “had forgotten to bring bread”. This is a practical omission on their part, and surely each of us can relate to it. But this is not Jesus’ real concern.
Instead, when Jesus enjoins the disciples to “guard against the leaven” of the Pharisees and Herod, the disciples take Jesus’ words literalistically rather than as an analogy. In other words, the disciples were so concerned with physical hunger that they couldn’t see past it. They couldn’t see that Jesus was speaking about something far more important: the spiritual means by which the Pharisees and Herod, on one hand, and Jesus on the other, considered spiritual growth to take place. Pray today that your very real practical concerns about life might never obscure the even more important spiritual needs that require your tending today, not with the leaven of the Pharisees, but with the leaven of the Eucharist.
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 8:6-13,20-22 + Mark 8:22-26
February 20, 2019
Then He laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly….
An obvious question leaps out from today’s Gospel narrative. Why did Jesus have to lay hands upon the blind man twice for him to see clearly? Doesn’t the fact that He did reveal some weakness or impotence on the part of Jesus?
There is an assumption within this latter question: that Jesus could not have healed the blind man by a single laying on of hands. But if Jesus could have done this, why did He not?
This question (neither Jesus Himself nor the evangelist specifies why Jesus laid hands upon the blind man twice) points to a general theological principle about God: that is, that God does not always effect His Providential Will in the most direct manner possible. In other words, God does not always choose to manifest His power in the briefest, most direct and most “efficient” manner possible.
This principle does not answer the question of why God acts as He does. But the truth behind this principle is related to another, that God sometimes chooses as the agents of His Will not the strongest, brightest, or best qualified. God has a love for the poor, the simple, and the feeble.
To return again to today’s Gospel narrative: perhaps Jesus wanted to foster perseverance within the blind man. Perhaps Jesus wanted the blind man to desire healing more deeply. Perhaps Jesus wanted the blind man to appreciate fully the gift he was being given. Regardless, the unfolding of God’s Providential Will, whether or not it takes the form we think it should, reveals God’s love to us even in the manner in which it’s revealed.
Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 9:1-13 + Mark 8:27-33
February 21, 2019
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected….
Asking the right question is extremely important in many situations that we face in life. It’s also important to ask the right type of question. For instance, there are questions that ask “How?”, calling for technological answers. On the other hand, “Why?” questions deal with meaning: they call for deeper answers.
We find Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel account asking his disciples to tell Him who they think He really is.
Jesus had two reasons for asking His question. One was to have His disciples give some serious thought to just who they thought they were following. The other was to take the opportunity to teach them about what was going to happen to Him. In other words, where was He going? By extension, where would they end up if they kept following Him?
Is Jesus an interesting historical figure? Is He, as the Muslims say, a great prophet? Is he one among many in a long line of Jewish rabbis?
Or is He unique? Is Christ Jesus God in the Flesh, in order that we can see Him, know Him, and love Him as one of us: in other words, God so that He can save us, and man so that we can receive His divinity through His humanity? Christ Jesus is God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, made incarnate, made human flesh and blood for us. It is, then, His suffering greatly and being rejected that makes possible this “great exchange”: our sinfulness for God’s own divine life.
The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
1 Peter 5:1-4 + Matthew 16:13-19
February 22, 2019
“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven….”
Peter is one of those saints so important to the life of the Church that he has more than one feast day during the year. Today is the feast of “The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle”.
The chair is a symbol of authority. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 23:2-3, when He commands and warns the crowd and His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Of course, Moses must have had an awfully big chair for all the scribes and Pharisees to be able to fit into it… unless this “chair” is metaphorical, referring to the teaching and judging office that Moses held in the Name of God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares to Simon: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”. The name that Jesus gives to “Peter” is a second metaphor for an office of teaching and judging, but to drive the point home, Jesus uses a third metaphor by speaking of the “keys of the kingdom of Heaven”.
The “power of the keys” is used in many ways: some are specific to the Office of Peter (that is, the papacy), while others are shared with those ordained to priestly ministry (for example, the Sacrament of Confession). Jesus mediates the grace of His Death and Resurrection to us through the ministry of mere human beings. These human leaders of the Church have been chosen by God, and so we pray for them, that they might always be faithful ministers of God’s grace.
St. Polycarp, Bishop & Martyr
Hebrews 11:1-7 + Mark 9:2-13
February 23, 2019
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
St. Peter’s ignorance is on display when he exclaims to Jesus: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Peter’s suggestion is so simple that we might overlook what he means. Tents means something different to us today than they did to people in the day of Jesus. Tents to us mean camping, recreation, relaxation in the great outdoors. Tents in ancient days—when many persons and extended families were nomadic—meant putting down roots, staking a claim, and not moving on. So tents to Peter meant permanence, and meant having arrived.
The problem for Peter was that Jesus had no plans to rest. Jesus had a journey to make. He didn’t come into this world for rest and comfort. So Peter, likely reluctantly, followed Jesus back down the mountain, knowing that He had to stay with Jesus if he ever wanted to see such brilliance, beauty and glory again.
At this point in their journey, Jesus planted that seed in the apostles’ minds, and it began to germinate during the remainder of Jesus’ public ministry. Whenever in their memories they saw the sight of the Transfigured Jesus, they also must have heard that strange phrase: “rising from the dead”. Jesus helped them always to link these two: “rising”, and “death”. In other words, there is no Resurrection without death. There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There is no empty tomb without the tomb.