In The “Faith” of Adversity – Good News for January 30

30 01 2010

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

The Daily Path: Jesus asks them: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

It doesn’t get any easier to understand than that. Faith IS our calm in the storm.

Peace, my friends.

Private Lessons – Good News for January 29

29 01 2010

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

The Daily Path: Jesus explained everything in private…

The last two lines of Mark’s gospel are rich for consideration. We know that Jesus used parables extensively to teach the Way. For man, stories are the most engaging channel for a lasting education. From before the time of Christ, right up to the strategy behind Don Hewitt’s unprecedented success with CBS’ 60 Minutes news magazine, stories have captured our imagination like nothing else. (By Hewitt’s own admission, he borrowed his approach from the Bible!)

Yet, beyond the story, we also crave a deeper understanding of things. After class, Jesus would huddle with his disciples and provide “The Explanation” behind these stories. But how can we, some 2,000 years after Jesus returned to the Father in heaven, gather around the teacher for an explanation?

While there are many traditional paths to enlightenment, such as formal and informal study, I’ve come to understand that it’s through deepening our personal relationship with God that further enlightenment begins. That is where Jesus continues to offer us deeper insights as we reflect on the Word.

Room to Chat: Father, keep all who you’ve called to share their experience with You in the light of your presence.

Measurement – Good News for January 28

28 01 2010

Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”

He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Tropical Garden – Good News for January 27

27 01 2010

Mark 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him  so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them:

“Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

The Daily Path: When lava emerges from the depths of the earth, it’s molten hot. Nothing stands in its way. With exposure to the outer atmosphere of water and air, it starts to cool, comes to rest and begins to harden. For centuries it retains its sharp, rocky characteristics. But it’s also very porous. Millions of tiny openings wait for particles to come to rest and fill its little caverns. Eventually the lava does break down and ultimately becomes rich soil where, with some water, lush tropical gardens grow. But without the water, nothing will grow.

I recall the period in my life when Scripture had no meaningful place. My soil was all pathway made of lava rock. Despite the periodic opportunities I was presented to embrace the Word and allow it to sink in, it really had no chance to take hold. In most cases, I embraced my cravings and the hard rocky exterior. In doing so I just wouldn’t permit penetration to occur.

Of course, I do remember moments over time when I flirted with the Word. Little particles fell into my pores. But, just as Jesus describes in this parable, the interest quickly faded, once again overcome by the allure of the world. My rock was not yet rich soil.

But here I am, seemingly centuries later. Now there is soil. In the relatively short period since my reconversion, the seed of the Word has taken root. In many ways it has sprouted and shot up like a weed in the spring. But is this flower just a weed born of shallow soil and week roots? Will the waters of His grace continue to nourish my roots so that I can grow stronger and withstand the heat of this life?

I don’t think God has gone to all the trouble of getting my attention just to allow me to wither away. But I don’t expect it will be easy. In my little microclimate of spirituality, there will be drought that follows spring. Stark winter to follow the vibrant colors of autumn. But in those times when my roots will be tested, there is a constant… the Word. And in the Word exists the hope that a lush tropical garden will eventually spring forth for the rest of my days.

Family Discount – Good News for January 26

26 01 2010

Mark 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.”

But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The Daily Path: You’ve probably heard of “the family discount” in which someone provides a special consideration to you because they consider you a relative. Your formal status may only be that of a close friend but for purposes of a transaction you are counted as family. In today’s Gospel, Mark tells us of how Jesus demonstrated that the criteria of family goes well beyond blood relations.

Mary, Jesus’ own mother, the woman who is the role model for obedience to God, wasn’t going to go to the front of the line just because of their human genetic link between mother and son. Instead, Jesus says “Hey, I love these people, and yes, they are my family. AND so are ALL of you who have gathered here.”

As humans we are always trying to rationalize and fit our thoughts neatly into human criteria. I’m certainly no exception. As I interpret today’s Gospel, I see that the family deal extends to someone I don’t know who lives across the globe just as much as to my own genetic links right here in the house. It doesn’t matter if they eat worms and grubs, live in a cave, wear grass loincloths, and answer to the name of Rystamunchkanesta Ali de Hashimoto. It’s not a common family crest or genetic bonds that determine our brothers, sisters, and parental units in the family of God.

So to our old friend Stan, who couldn’t be bothered helping anyone who’s surname isn’t Doubtsall: “Get ready, Stan. Your family’s come to supper. And they are lined up outside the door, down the block, over the bridge, across the county, into the next state, and over the big pond.”

Ring! Ring! – Good News for January 25

25 01 2010

Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.

On his  journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”

But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

The Daily Path: The story of St. Paul’s journey to Damascus always leaves me marveling about how God goes about business. Time and again we read about how the most unlikely become his dedicated servants.

Perhaps overlooked amidst the awe of this account is the courage displayed by Ananias.

“Ring. Ring.”

“Hi, God. How’s the family? Glad to hear it. What can I do for you?”

“You want me to WHAT? Saul? THE Saul? The guy who’s running around killing people like ME? Boss, are you feeling okay today?”

“Alright, alright. I hear you. Just checking. I’ll do what you ask.”

“And, uh… you’re sure he’s on board with this instrument thing? Right. Okay. Mmm, hmm. Gotcha. I’ll head down to Straight Ave. right away and take care of the matter. I’ll call you when it’s taken care of. What’s that you say? Oh yeah, I guess I don’t need to call back. You’ll already know.”

I think we all have to display a little of that Ananias courage when living our faith. We may not get hauled off in chains if we express our beliefs and spirituality, but I’ve experienced times when I have kept my faith hidden so as to avoid “persecution” of those I would call friends and associates.

“What do you mean you can’t go to the game? Church? When did you become a holy roller?”

“A blog about being Catholic? Ooooh, you gonna preach to me?”

“Why is religion suddenly so important to you? It never mattered before!”

Perhaps picking up the phone when God calls is the easy part. The next step presents the biggest challenge. That’s when accessing a little of the radical grace inside of us becomes so important. The name I took at Confirmation was “Paul”. Perhaps I should have selected Ananias.

Room to Chat: Father, help me to always accept what you ask and have the courage to comply.