Tag Archives: Mark 6

16th Sunday of the Year – Cycle A – July 22, 2012

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34

The disciples have just returned from their first missionary journey, which we heard about last Sunday.  They were tired from their efforts, but at the same time filled with a sense of joy and excitement as they recalled all they had said and done.  Jesus, knowing their weariness, tells them to come away with him and rest for a while.  He knew also that this rest would give them opportunity to reflect on the graces they had just encountered on their mission.

A similar scenario happens each week as we gather for the Eucharist.  We come here weary from the events of the past week.  Hopefully we come here also with a sense of joy and excitement at the many ways Christ worked through us this past week.  We come here to be fed so that we can continue our mission for yet another week.

It is important to note that this gospel story precedes immediately Mark’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  For the next five weeks we are going to reflect on that miracle as we read from John’s bread of life discourses.  This event was so important that the evangelists recall the story six times in the four gospels.  Although the details of the stories vary from author to author, they all agree that this miracle is tied intimately to our celebration of the Eucharist, in which Jesus takes bread and wine, transforms them into his body and blood, and then feeds us.

An important thing to note about Mark’s account is that Jesus does not perform this miracle solely on his own.  Rather he empowers the disciples to be a part of the miracle with the words, “Give them some food yourselves” (Mark 6:37).  He then takes what little they have, five loaves and two fish, and from their gifts feeds the thousands that were there.

In a similar way, each time we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist Jesus takes what little we have, bread and wine, and feeds us.  As we eat and drink he refreshes our weary souls, and enriches us with the grace we need to continue our mission in the world.  In other words, what we do here does not stop here.  Each one of us is entrusted with the power to transform our world.  Each one of us is to be a shepherd, leading others to Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  We do this in our words and in our deeds.  We do this through sharing our faith.

Our task in the world is much more than merely feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.  Our task is much more than merely changing unjust laws and systems that oppress people.  Good humanitarian non-believers do these things every single day.  As baptized believers our task is to be Christ in our world.  In other words, as we carry out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we are also to share with others the faith we have been given.

Parents are to do this first and foremost with their children.  You can’t just bring your children to Church for the sacraments and think that is enough.  You can’t just drop off your children at Religious Education Classes or enroll them in our Catholic Schools and think that is enough.  You must have the conversations of faith in your home.  You must instill the discipline of prayer into your children so that they will develop a relationship with Christ.  The Church can assist you with the head-knowledge, but only you have the real power to help them to know and love Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

Beyond the home, each one of us must be the presence of Christ in the marketplace and in the workplace.  This means not turning a deaf ear to idle talk but rather calling people to task when they are engaging in inappropriate conversations.  This means also speaking the words of truth, as revealed to us in our faith, when others are confused by the many false opinions that are clamoring for our attention.

Through the waters of baptism we were anointed into Jesus’ threefold ministry of priest, prophet, and king.  As priest we are to transform the world through our sacred presence.  As prophet we are speak the words of truth to a world that so often does not want to hear the truth.  As king, we are to be a people who live in the world, but who belong to a kingdom beyond this world.  This means placing Christ and his kingdom before all earthly kingdoms.

This is our mission.  It is a difficult mission.  It can drain us of every personal resource we have.   It can truly weary our souls.  But it is our mission nonetheless.  Christ is expecting us to perform this mission and when we allow Him to guide us and lead us we will be filled with the joy and excitement that comes with being His disciples.  And so today we have come to this out of the way place so that we can find rest for our weary souls.  Eat and drink and be filled with the graces you need to continue your mission for one more week.  Eat and drink of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B – July 8, 2012

Ezekiel 2:2-5; II Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6

Today, like every Sunday, we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.  In the Eucharist we celebrate that universal unity we share as a Catholic Church praying with and for all members of our Church throughout the world.  We pray also for all Christians, and even for those who do not yet believe in Christ.  This past week we also celebrated our freedom and unity as a nation remembering the freedoms and liberties won for us by the lives of our ancestors.

But in all this celebration of freedoms, and unity, today’s readings speak about disunity and rejection.  As a prophet, Ezekiel was rejected by many of his countrymen.  They found his message too challenging and chose not to listen to the truth he proclaimed.  Paul, too, was rejected by many of the Jewish people.  This is because he once persecuted the Christians, as well as anyone who did not live according to the letter of the Jewish law.  After his conversion, he came to see the light of truth in Jesus Christ and became the foremost defender of this truth giving to the church some of our greatest writings on faith in the form of his letters to Rome, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, and the various other Gentiles cities he visited.

Jesus also experienced the rejection of his townsfolk and family.  They found him “too much for them.”  There was no way he could be a prophet, after all, he was just an uneducated carpenter.  Even his birth was questionable to them for they did not identify him as the son of Joseph, as was the custom of the time.  Instead they identified him as the son of Mary.

If we truly choose to live the faith passed down to us by the apostles and their successors, then we too can expect rejection.  This was the case in the early church.  Those first Christians were baptized into the church and out of their culture.  For them, baptism was both a religious ritual and a political act.  Christians were killed because they were counter-cultural.  They would not offer sacrifice to dead emperors or fight in foreign wars or perpetuate the bias against the poor.  Those first Christians were considered enemies of the state.

Today Christianity has been embraced, for the most part, by the entire Western world.  As we celebrate the 236th anniversary of our nation’s independence we can celebrate the fact that we still have religious freedom in this nation.  No one is going to kill us for being a Christian.  The church is a respectable institution in this country.  Even so, there is an increasingly vocal minority of people in this nation who are generally anti-Christian, many of whom are specifically anti-Catholic.

They have been given a powerful voice in the secular media which in so many ways has abandoned many of the ethical journalism principles of truth and fairness in reporting just for the sake of getting better ratings.  Stories against Christians are distorted and sensationalized, while daily we are fed a diet of falsehood and immoral values.  The existence of God is questioned and those who believe are ridiculed for following “antiquated teachings” of past illiterate superstitious people.

Christians are labeled as intolerant bigots.  The fact of the matter is that those who are shouting the loudest are those who are the least tolerant and accepting.  Anyone who does not agree with their particular philosophy or lifestyle is labeled as intolerant and prejudiced.

We live in a day and age that has embraced the belief that each individual person is the final authority of truth.  This has resulted in a moral relativism in which anyone can do anything he or she wishes with no apparent consequences.  Because of this many people have embraced values and lifestyles that have led them on a path of self-destruction.  This has resulted in a marked increase in depression, as well as a lack of commitment to family and community.  This has contributed so significantly to the decline of the family that today in America only 49 percent of all adults are married.  That compares to 85 percent in the 1960s.  What we now have is a society in which so many people have no hope.

If there is no hope then it is no wonder that a growing number of teenagers in this society genuinely believe they will not live very long.[i]  Contrary to the popular thought that teenagers have a sort of immortality complex, nearly 20% of teenagers believe they are going to die young.  This lack of hope, this fatalistic attitude among teens, is manifesting itself in self-destructive behaviors and even and increase in teen suicide.

This is further fueled by the secular media’s fascination with violence and apocalyptic entertainment.  WWF is not very far removed from the ancient gladiatorial contests in which contestants fought to their death.  Popular movies and video games are focusing on the destruction of the world.  At the very same time that people are rejecting Christ and his teachings on eternal life there has developed a fascination with death and the eternally “undead” as portrayed in the huge number of vampire movies being filmed today.  All of this is simply evidence of people either rejecting or at least being ignorant of the truth.

But we Christians have a response to this.  We Christians have the obligation of proclaiming the gospel of truth.  In an age where “anything goes” seems to be the standard by which people live their lives, we Christians need to model to others that there is another way.  There is absolute truth — there are standards by which we are to live our lives.  This truth is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the teachings of our faith.  When it comes to matters of faith, the truth is not negotiable.  The truth is something which is to be held sacred in our lives, and upheld by our own words and actions.  In a world where truth is being obscured by the opinions and lies of so many people, we need to listen to the Bishops of the Church as they lead us in the ways of our moral teachings.  This is the only certitude we have of knowing that we are following the way of truth.

As our Lord said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).  When we live the truth that Christ has revealed to us we will experience a freedom which gives us hope.

Like those first Christians, we were baptized into the body of Christ.  Unlike them, our culture does hold the principle of religious freedom.  On this Independence Day weekend, as we celebrate the freedoms won for us by our founding ancestors, let us remember also to pray and continue to fight for those freedoms which they held so dear; freedom from oppression and tyranny; freedom of religion and speech.  Freedom to be what God has called us to be, his beloved sons and daughters filled with the hope and guided by the light of truth.

[i] “Study: Many teens expect to die young,” Section B, Pg B2, Fargo Forum, June 20, 2009

15th Sunday of the Year – Cycle B – July 15, 2012

Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

The prophet Amos lived 750 years before Christ.  He prophesied in Israel at the city of Bethel which had become a great center of cultic worship.  The people there were quite prosperous and wealthy.  But the prosperity of Israel was hollow and empty because they were not being faithful to God.  After condemning the Gentile cities of Damascus, Philistia,Tyre and Edom, Amos then turns his indictment to Israel.  Through Amos, God speaks ofIsrael’s condemnation that comes as a result of their many injustices (Amos 4:1) and for their idolatry (5:26).  God even condemned the worship of the people because their sacrifices had become empty show with no sign of interior conversion of heart to do what is moral and just (5:21-27).

This is the context in which we hear today’s passage.  Amaziah, the high priest, tells Amos to leave Bethel for his prophecies are no longer welcome.  To this Amos simply responds, “I was no prophet . . . I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores” (7:14).  It was the Lord who had sent Amos to Israel to implore them to return to God.  Refusing to listen to his message Israel would eventually be conquered by the Assyria and exiled.

In a similar way, Jesus chose the twelve and sent them on a mission to preach the good news and to call people to repentance.  Like Amos they were chosen not because they were prophets.  They came from the common working class.  Along with their message of repentance they had been given the power to bring about the kingdom of God.  The power to drive out demons and to heal the sick, were signs of that kingdom.

At this time in history the City of Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship.  In all of Judea it was the most prosperous and wealthy of cities.  But again their sacrifice and worship were empty shows because of the immorality and injustices of so many people.  The poor were oppressed and the needy were being abused, just like at the time of Amos (Amos 4:1).  Some Jewish people were even paying honor to the Roman gods, especially if it meant peace with Rome and some degree of economic prosperity.  Because of this infidelity the city was eventually destroyed by Rome and no longer was Jerusalem the prosperous and wealthy city.

All throughout the Old Testament you can see this pattern of God calling his people back to fidelity.  It was a cycle that repeated itself over and over again.  The people would be called by God.  When they put their faith and trust in God, they would experience God’s blessings.  When they were not faithful to God their blessings would become curses.  In the times of their infidelity God would send them prophets with the message to return to the Lord.  In the times they returned, they experienced his blessings.  But in those times that they refused to turn their hearts back to God they suffered and were even separated from God.

This historical pattern is repeating itself once again.  This time it is not for the people of Israel, but for the people of America, and for likewise for all Christians in the world.  The very first Europeans to come to America came to escape religious persecution.  They were the pilgrims, the puritans.  In their hearts they saw America as the New Jerusalem.  They saw this as a time to start over.  They dedicated themselves, and this land to God.

In 1789, when America became a nation through the signing of the Constitution and the inauguration of its first president, this too was seen as an act of faith.  If you don’t believe me, do an internet search for George Washington’s inaugural address.  In it you will see that he firmly believed that it was God’s divine providence that formed this nation.  As his first formal act, he called a Joint Session of Congress, not on capital hill because it did not yet exist.  He called this session in St. Paul’s Church inNew York City and their first session was a call to prayer, thanking God and asking for God’s blessing onAmerica.

In the midst of his address he spoke some ominous words when he said, “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained.”

As a result of this act of faith of the founding ancestors of our nation, and due to the ongoing faith of the people of this nation, America became the most prosperous and wealthy nation ever in the history of the world.  This wealth and prosperity also had great global effect as the national principles of freedom and justice were promoted throughout the world.

We are now at a dark time in our nation’s history.  Like the ancient people of Israel, we have in so many ways turned our backs on God.  We have oppressed the poor, we have abused the weak, we have grown greedy in our wealth, we have allowed immorality to run rampant, we have even sacrificed our children on the tables of abortion clinics.  Add to this immorality the fact that many Christians are abandoning Gospel teachings and are adopting ideologies based on popular notion rather than on the standards of truth set forth by our faith.

Because of all of this we are now standing on the brink of a global economic disaster; we live in a state of constant fear at the thought of senseless acts of terror and violence; even our bizarre weather patterns (flooding one year followed by severe drought) is more than just a global warming phenomenon.  These things are happening because we have turned our backs on God.  When a people refuses to allow God into their lives, God, in a respect to their wishes, stays out.  There is nothing God can do for people if they refuse his graces.  If we do not turn back to God our nation will fall, and because of the influence of the United States in the world, the entire world could potentially fall.

My brothers and sisters the solution is so simple.  All we need do is return to God with all our hearts.  It is not enough to simply go through the acts of correcting injustices.  We must also have right moral hearts.  We start, by each looking into own our hearts and acknowledging whatever sin may lie there; any prejudices, negative attitudes, greediness, self-reliance,  pride, immorality that lies within us.  We must turn to God and ask God’s mercy.  Only then will our own worship be acceptable to God.

Then, we must not sit by idly, while others are abandoning our God given truth.  Through the waters of baptism each of us was anointed as priest, prophet and king.  Therefore we must, like Amos, be the prophetic voice of truth.  As part of a democratic nation this means we must also fight for the rights of religious freedom for all people.  We must vote, not just for the candidates who represent our political party, nor for the laws that will serve our special interest.  We must vote for those candidates and laws which uphold the truth.  We must also call others to turn their hearts back to God.  Then, and only then, can we expect God to bless America.

In this Eucharist, pray for the grace to turn your heart fully back to God.  Pray for the grace to be the voice that will help others to turn their hearts back to God.  Pray for the grace to be what God has called you to be, His beloved sons and daughters.