1st Sunday of Lent Year: B
Gen 9.8-15; Ps 24(25); 1 Pet 3.18-22; Mk 1.12-15
Listen Carefully – Try Reaching Back
There is a true story told by Stephen Covey about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull.
He went to this physician who found nothing wrong with him physically. The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal. He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else. The doctor then handed him four prescriptions - one to be read at 9 AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3 PM, and the final one at 6 PM. The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.
At nine AM he opened the first prescription, which read. “Listen carefully.” For three hours do nothing but listen??? Our friend was annoyed, but decided to obey. At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf—predictable beach sounds. But then he found himself listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as n child—patience, respect, the interdependence of the different parts of nature. Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.
At noon he opened the second prescription, and it said, “Try reaching back.” His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.
Examine your Motives
At three he opened the third prescription. This one was harder. It read, “Examine your motives.” Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life - success, recognition, security - and found satisfactory explanations for them all. But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment, that those motives were not enough, that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life.
“In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney. It is only when you are serving others, that you do the job well and feel good. This is a law as irrefutable as gravity.”
At six PM he read the final prescription. It said, “Write your worries on the sand.” He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away, never turning back. He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his anxieties would be washed away.”
Wilderness is an Opportunity
My friends, The Wilderness - the aloneness - the solitude that the wilderness affords - the hardship - is an opportunity - a blessing - from the Spirit of God. It is a place where we can be tested - a place where we can grow into the maturity that we require so that we can indeed face the world, in both good times and in bad, and do there those things there that God would have us do.
Meaning of Lent
Lent is a short season of six weeks intended to prepare us for the great celebrations of Easter. The word Lent comes from the old Anglo-Saxon and Old German words for spring marked by days that lengthen. The idea of penitence and fasting during Lent may have begun in earlier, hungrier times as a means of spiritualizing real shortages of food at this time of year. This refers to early European famine and drought.
The Gospel of today narrates how Jesus triumphed over Satan. While in the wilderness for forty days (this being a symbolic number), Satan tempted Him. Jesus did not allow himself to be seduced by Satan. He came on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came on earth to reclaim God's Kingdom that was rightfully his, but stolen by Satan through sin.
Jesus concludes in this passage the announcing in Galilee, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'
As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.
Doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the salvation that we shall inherit as children of God.
The Word of God
Jesus - had the Word of God - and he had prayer as his tools for surviving in the wilderness. He had used these tools before - in fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness. So Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence - or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in today’s scripture.
With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him - to help him in the wilderness. With it Jesus was able to resist giving in to the Devil.
When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are good to eat and which are poisonous.
Jesus’ Prayer Life
Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself. He knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the things that God wanted him to find.
Wilderness experience is a way of purifying ourselves from the toxins of the modern environment. This type of experience tames us from our pride and egoism. We begin to rely on God and not on ourselves. Wilderness experience is good physically, morally, spiritually and psychologically to uphold the values we stand for.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
6th Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B - Mark 1:40-45
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B
Lev 13.1-2, 45-46; 1 Cor 10.23-11.1; Mk 1.40-45
I am Crying for Myself
Once when Emperor Yu, the founding Emperor of the Xia Dynasty, went out to inspect his kingdom, he saw a criminal being escorted to be punished. He ordered his carriage to stop and asked, "What crime did he commit?"
The guards said, "He was caught stealing wheat and rice. We are taking him to the site for punishment."
Yu stepped out of his carriage. He came to the criminal and asked, "Why did you steal?"
The criminal faced a very important official and was so scared that he lowered his head and said nothing. Yu did not get angry but continued to advise him while shedding tears. The officials around Emperor Yu could not understand and one of them asked, "This person stole from others and should be punished. Why is Your Majesty suffering so much as to be shedding tears?"
Yu said, "I am not crying for him but for myself. When Yao and Shun were Emperors, all the citizens followed their hearts and moral standards. Now I am the Emperor, but my people are not following my moral standards, committing crimes such as this and hurting others. Seeing such a state of affairs in my own kingdom greatly upsets me!"
Emperor Yu asked someone to bring a plate and wrote "When citizens commit a crime, it is my fault." He then ordered the guards to release the criminal.
Sharing the Blame
It is written in the Old Testament that "the person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean'. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Leviticus 13.45-46). This was to share their shame and sin without in any way interfering in the so called sinless society. Indifference towards those lepers was normal and accepted behaviour.
Attain Small thing at a Time
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, and continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
Light a Candle
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
Jesus fearlessly engaged himself in liberating people. He acted and lived a life of service. That is what we have to learn from Jesus.
Whatever You Do
St. Paul tells us something very similar. Helping our neighbour, and glorifying God. Corinthians 10.31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.
I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context.
From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10.28).
Discernment in Life
Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.
Do Not Scandalize the Weak
Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble.
Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to the theme. What glorifies God the most? the salvation of the lost people.
Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B - Mark 1:29-39
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B
Job 7.1-4, 6-7; Ps 146 (147);1 Cor 9.16-19, 22-23; Mk 1.29-39
Novelist Russell Banks once wrote a short story called "The Fish." In this fanciful tale we are told about a giant fish that lived in a good-sized lake not far from a small Chinese village. For reasons no one was ever clear about, the authorities, led by a Colonel Tung, decided that this giant fish was a menace that had to be removed from the lake. But every time the colonel tried to kill the fish, the creature somehow survived unscathed. They fired automatic weapons at the fish, but no bullet struck it. They placed mines throughout the waters of the lake, and although the fish detonated the mines, it swam on. They hid floatable grenades amidst chunks of bread that were scattered on the water's surface. And although the fish ate the grenades along with the bread, it lived on.
Needless to say, each time Colonel Tung failed to slay the beast, the reputation of the fish grew. People delighted in astonishment that such a creature existed. Tourists began to come to the lake's shores to catch a glimpse of the fish, and soon people in boats trolled the waters to see it, cameras at the ready. But then one day someone began to circulate the idea that it must be the waters of the lake itself that contained the magic. Surely such special water had healing properties, could be an elixir for long life.
They Carried away Water
Soon, everyone who came to see the fish brought a mason jar, a bucket, or some other vessel with which to cart home some of this magic water. This went on for months. The authorities tried to control it, but under the cover of darkness some were now siphoning water out of the lake into tanker trucks. Before anyone could do much about it, the lake level dropped precipitously. A dry stretch of weather over the next summer depleted the lake still more until finally the terrible day came when there was no longer enough water for the great fish to swim in. One morning, people found the fish lying on its side, flapping its fins on a muddy flat that had once been the lake. They began to bring water back to the lake, dousing the fish as quickly as they could. But by sunset that night, they buried the fish.
We Ruin Things around Us
I am by no means certain what all Mr. Banks meant to convey via this story. Probably it means lots of things, but among them is surely this idea: there is nothing so wonderful in this life that we humans cannot find a way to ruin as soon as we make our own selves our sole reference point. As soon as something becomes all about me, the moment I spy something that I think I can turn to my private advantage, my perspective becomes narrowed, my horizons contract, and suddenly I discover that by trying to horde something for my own private benefit, I have killed that very thing.
Jesus Cared for all
Indeed, we human beings will go to extraordinary efforts to free ourselves of chaos, yet however the harder we try to destroy chaos, the worse things become. In some ways we have some success. Throughout the past two thousand years, Christians have done much good for those who have suffered. It is said that Christians learned the Muslim invention of the hospital, later of course we brought healing across the globe. We also created schools so that the poor could rise out of their poverty. We created social programs, did you know that it was Christians who brought about Universal medical care in Canada. Jesus cared for the sick, so we should too.
Getting Rid of Evil
However, we need to tell the truth about our Christian history too. There have been times when clearly we have tried to destroy what we thought was evil and in doing so unleashed hell on countless numbers of people. During the crusades, we killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims who would not convert. And of course we engaged in many wars in order to "rid the world of evil". And yet, the vain promise of "a war to end all wars" has brought instead a century of the worst violence in human history. Wounds are still alive, and hearts are restless.
Prayer was his Strength
More than ever we need to listen and follow Jesus. Did you notice what he did in the text after healing people and casting out the demons? After Jesus, in his compassion, heals those with disease and demons for a full day, he gets up in the early morning to pray. While it was still dark and goes to a place alone and prayed.
He Listened to His Father
The text doesn't say what he prayed; I wonder if he says nothing but just listens. An older Christian once said that praying was more about listening than asking from God. He said, "Most times just sit in silence and listen for what God wants you to know and do."
Everyone is Searching for You
And so his companions find him praying and begin to tell him what he must do. "Everyone is searching for you." OK, Jesus, they are saying, it is time for you to really show them your power and to expand your popularity. That is what we want you to do, be successful.
And yet, Jesus will not let the disciples set the agenda. Did you notice that? He says, "Let's go on to neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do." And he went through Galilee proclaiming the message in the places of worship and casting out demons.
The Time is Fulfilled
It is interesting that Jesus message itself casts out the demons. You remember what Jesus was preaching? "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news." It is a simple message however as we shall see; all the forces of Hell will set themselves against this one from Nazareth. And still he will not respond to their chaotic fury with a punch, or kick or slash of the sword or dropping of a bomb, but rather he will speak the truth to them and to us even to the point of death on a cross. Where we expect him to crush evil and chaos with a divine army, instead he speaks the truth, even to the point of a death on the cross.
What an Absurdity!
And to many, responding to evil in his way is folly; to respond to power with truth is insanity; and of course to die for one's enemies rather than fighting them to the last breath seems nothing less than absurd.
And yet, still we gather under the sign of the cross; the throne of God's power. We who have been called to proclaim the message of Christ's reign are entrusted to proclaim to those around us that there is a way which can cast out the demons that deceive us and create chaos in the lives of humanity.
Jesus Brings the Kingdom
Proclaiming the Gospel starts in a simple way. Do you know that you are beloved? That God has welcomed you, just as you are, into a new way of life. Do you know that Jesus, the Holy One has called us friends, broken people like us, troubled people like us, sinners like us; friends we who could not make it to God by being rich enough, or smart enough, or popular enough or good enough. The kingdom of God has come near, come to us in Jesus Christ. If anyone, even yourself tells you that you are unworthy of life, tell them, "Shut up!” If someone says to another that they are unlovable tell them, "Shut up!" And of course, there is more to the story, and more to the Gospel, but at the core is God's love for a chaotic and broken world.
His kind of power may not be what the world expected but it is enough to claim us and make us sons and daughters of the Most High God to call us to share in God's mission as the very body of Christ. For when all is said, we are called to proclaim with our lives that the power and truth of God is at work setting us free and the whole world free of death and destruction.
The Mission of Love
To follow this Holy One who does not destroy enemies, but rather gives his life for them, is the most important mission of all. While the world may not realize it and we may not yet realize it, but the church is the most important thing that is happening in the world. I sincerely believe that we have been called to follow Jesus and witness to God's loving power at work in the world. To be asked to share in the divine power and mission of Jesus is the greatest news of all and that is what we understand as LOVE mission.!
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you’
When we do good works people come in search of us because we become another Christ in our deeds and intentions. When we do bad things, people run away from us. We are called to be like Christ who always went around doing good works and helping people in need. He liberated them from their sufferings and pain.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
Monday - 4th Week - Year B - Mark 5:1-20
4th Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B - Mark 1:23-28
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B
Deut 18.15-20; Ps 94(95); 1 Cor 7.17, 32-35
In a worldly sense, Jesus did not have any power at all. He was not a worldly king with political or military power. He was not of the priests, who had the power in Roman Judea. He was not even a scribe with the authority of Jewish tradition. The only authority he had was the supreme confidence that what he did and said was God's will and God's truth. His authority lay in the sheer power of his words and in the example of his deeds. His authority lay in his living as God's servant. Jesus used his authority not to obtain power for himself but to serve humanity (Mark 10:41-45). This is the same kind of exousia, sovereign freedom, of which Paul speaks in today's second lesson [1 Corinthians 8:9]--sovereign freedom exercised for the good of others.
Here was a man who spoke with his own authority, not in the name of another. That alone was amazing. But if that were not amazing enough, Jesus demonstrated his authority when he told an evil spirit what to do, and the evil spirit obeyed.
In Jesus’ day, evil spirits were considered, even by many Jewish teachers, to be numerous and powerful, hanging around everywhere and doing whatever they could to inflict trouble and suffering. When someone seemed to be possessed of a demon, the exorcists, whether Jewish or pagan, used complicated magical rites and spells to compel the demon to leave. The power was in the magic, it was believed, so whoever knew the right incantations and ingredients and methods could use them to bring about the unseen conditions that would manipulate the spirit world.
But Jesus was astonishingly different. When the demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting, Jesus simply ordered the demon to leave, and it left. The people in the synagogue had never seen anything like it. Who could have such authority that even the evil spirits have to obey his straightforward word?
Jesus, the Son of God, had all the authority in the world—in the universe. God created all things through him and put all things under him. So even these spirits that turned evil, though he allowed them to exist, were completely subject to him (see Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:20-21).
Yet Jesus did not use his incomparable authority the way we humans tend to use our little sprigs of authority. Man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority, wrote Shakespeare. For many humans, authority becomes merely a means of enriching oneself, of getting one’s own way, of suppressing the truth, and of getting and holding the power to keep doing those things. Witness the parade of totalitarian regimes, corporate executive, government and ecclesiastical scandals, tyrannical parents, bosses, teachers, government officials and the like.
Not so with Jesus. He has all the authority there is, yet he uses it entirely differently from the way many people would. Let’s look at a few examples:
- He took action when necessary. Jesus did not stifle normal living by trying to prevent all possibility of something going wrong. He didn’t post sentries at the doors to keep all potential demon-possessed-looking people from coming in. He simply dealt with the problem decisively when it arose.
- He didn’t overreact. Jesus didn’t make a Broadway production out of making the demon leave. He didn’t knock the demon around for a while, tell it off for 10 minutes, scream at it, kill it or declare war on all demons. He just made it go.
- Jesus didn’t use the incident to further his image. He didn’t print up flyers and bill himself as the one who tossed out the demon.
Jesus uses authority to serve, not to be served. And that is how he wants us to use whatever authority we might have. Whether our authority is at home, at work, or somewhere else, he wants us to use it to help others, not to make ourselves into big shots.
Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus explained it to his disciples like this, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).
What a difference it makes when the authority we’re subject to is a blessing instead of a curse. “When the wicked rule, the people groan,” says Proverbs 29:2. It is when authority is used to help, not to overpower, that those under it can rejoice.
Jesus doesn’t overpower us to make us knuckle under. He serves us with patience and mercy, helping us grow to see how much we need him. Sin is a cruel, harsh, manipulative, unforgiving taskmaster. Jesus is compassionate, gracious, patient, loving and merciful. The authority of sin is fraudulent, but the authority of Jesus is absolute.
Walk with Jesus
When it comes to Jesus’ authority in our lives, how do you think he uses it? To help us, or to lord it over us? Many of us live as though we think Jesus uses his authority to lord it over us. We assume his love for us is conditioned on how well we behave. We feel discouraged and fearful that God no longer loves us when we fail to measure up in our obedience.
But Jesus uses his authority to help us, not to destroy us. He drives out the demons, not us. And literal evil spirits are not the only kind of demons Jesus has authority over and drives out for us. Sin itself is an enemy that does us damage and lords it over us. So are our fears and our doubts.
When our sins and fears start a commotion, it’s time for us to take them to the one who knows how to handle them. We can take them to Jesus in prayer and trust him to know what to do.
Why not take your needs to Jesus? Give your problems to him and trust him to see you through them. He’s there for you, now and always
Let us ask ourselves
- Why were those at the synagogue amazed at Jesus’ teaching?
- Why did the evil spirits have to obey Jesus?
- How did Jesus use authority?
- How can Jesus help you?