Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 9:1-8

13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 9:1-8

Today Jesus returns to his home town. When the townspeople heard that Jesus was home, they brought a paralytic to Jesus, carrying him on a stretcher. Clearly these people had faith in Jesus’ power to heal this man. Jesus then said to the paralytic: “Child, have courage! Your sins are forgiven!”

There were scribes amidst the townspeople. These scribes began murmuring among themselves about Jesus. They believed that Jesus was blaspheming. How dare Jesus think that he had the power to forgive sins. However, Jesus knew what they were thinking. Even though they had not spoken a word to him, Jesus could read their thoughts and their faces. Jesus also clearly felt their disapproval and negativity.

Jesus then confronted the scribes about their evil thoughts. He simply asked them: “Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to tell the man: ‘Rise up and walk?’ Jesus then spoke to the paralytic and said: “Rise, pick up your stretcher and return home.” The paralytic immediately stood up, picked up his stretcher and went to his home! Everyone was filled with awe! The people then began to glorify God, who had given such authority to men (Jesus).

Is there a scribe with us? I assume so. Do we recognize when our inner scribe is active? Do we recognize when we are murmuring? At times, does our inner scribe judge others? Do we ever criticize Jesus for what he does or perhaps for what he does not do?

We need to be mindful of our inner scribe’s voice and our tendency to judge and criticize others. If we become aware of our thoughts and criticisms, then we have the opportunity to step back and change our minds and stop our judgment or criticism. If we do this consciously for a period of time, we may come to realize that we are not judging others as frequently as we had been. Who knows: we also may find ourselves feeling freer and more at ease.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Refleciton: Matthew 8:28-34

13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:28-34

Today we have the story of two demoniacs who came out from the tombs to meet Jesus. At times, these men would be savage! Thus people who normally traveled this road would take other routes just to avoid the demoniacs. As Jesus approached, the demoniacs saw him and called out: “What do you have to do with us, Son of God?” These men were frightened of Jesus, yet they called him the “Son of God.” They believed that Jesus had come to torment them.

Jesus took pity on these men. Near the demoniacs was a herd of swine. The demons spoke to Jesus and said: “If you drive us out, send us into the swine.” In reply, Jesus spoke only two words to the demons: “Go then!” Immediately the demons went into the swine and rushed down into the sea, where they all drowned.

The men who were herding the swine ran away. They returned to town, and told everyone they met what had happened to the demoniacs and the swine. Rather than appreciating what Jesus had done for these two men, the townspeople were filled with fear. They went out to meet Jesus and begged him to leave them. Rather than being awed and amazed, the people were afraid of Jesus and his power.

Ask yourself: are you fearful of Jesus’ power? Or do you hope and pray that he will also drive out your demons? What are the demons you wish to be rid of? I assume each one of us has at least one demon that we struggle with. Or we may have more than one!

Demons are powerful. If we are not watchful, our personal demons will begin to control our lives. At these times, we need to turn to Jesus and beg him to drive out our demons and to once again set us free. We may try to manage our demons on our own. However, most often, they are too powerful for us. We need to turn to Jesus and ask him to cast out our demons or at least help us gain some control over them.

Today I invite you to take a few moments and ask yourself: What are my demons? How are they controlling my life? What is the damage they are doing to me and to the people I care about? Then take a few moments of quiet. Thoughtfully ask Jesus to drive out your demons, to heal you and to free you! Then sit quietly in Jesus’ presence for 5-10 minutes. Take in Jesus’ peace and love. Rest in him! This alone may drive out a few demons!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:23-27

Thirteenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 8:23-27

Today’s Gospel is a familiar story. It is the story of the storm at sea. As we know, Jesus’ disciples became very frightened when a severe storm came up. Despite the fact that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, the disciples were terrified. The storm was ferocious and waves were beginning to swamp their boat. And unbelievably, Jesus remained sound asleep in the boat while the storm raged all around him.

Finally, his disciples woke him up, begging him to save them. However, Jesus rebuked them and asked: “Why are you terrified, you of little faith?” Jesus stood up and rebuked the winds and the seas and immediately calm descended on the waters and on the disciples. Jesus’ disciples were awed and amazed! They asked themselves: who is this man whom the winds and waves obey?

Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you were extremely frightened. What was the “storm” that created such turmoil and fear in your life? Did you turn to Jesus and beg him to rescue you? Or did you simply hunker down in your little boat and hold on tight?

At times in our lives, Jesus may appear to be asleep in our boat when we desperately need his help and grace to get us through the ferocious storm we are experiencing. Despite his seeming absence or lack of concern, do we continue to trust that he truly is with us and that he is gracing us even if we don’t feel it? Often, it only is with hindsight that we come to know and believe that Jesus was with us every moment.

The next time you are in turmoil, I invite you to sit down and breathe slowly and mindfully for 3 or 4 minutes. Breathe in peace and exhale stress and fear. After your several minutes, check yourself: are you as agitated as you were before? Or are you calmer? Is your mind clearer? If so, then we know that Jesus is with us!

When we are upset or fearful, we automatically batten down the hatches, as the sailors would say. In our language we would say: “we shut down.” And perhaps we need to shut down momentarily. However, we need an additional step. We need to open our minds and hearts to Jesus’ presence. And if we truly do this, eventually we will become calm and peaceful. Practicing calm and peace will rebuke the winds and waves in our lives. Calm and peace are Jesus’ gifts to us! Today take time to consciously receive these wondrous gifts! It will change your day---and you!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 16:13-19

Saints Peter and Paul, Solemnity: Matthew 16:13-19

Today’s feast celebrates Saints Peter and Paul. These two men had a profound impact on the early church. They both were leaders in the “infant” Church. Today is a “solemnity” in our church. Thus, we have three readings today as we do on Sundays. The 1st reading for today focuses on Peter while the 2nd reading is the passage from Paul.

Paul did not have the privilege to know Jesus while he was alive. However, it is clear in Paul’s writings that he truly knows and loves Jesus deeply. Jesus is not an abstract person to Paul. For Paul, Jesus truly was alive! Is Jesus truly alive for us? In many ways, we are like Paul: we were not alive when Jesus was on this earth. Yet we also have his teachings. We have the Gospels and we also can come to know Jesus, just as Peter and Paul did. However, if we want to know Jesus, we need to read and ponder his words, his love and his actions.

On this feast of Peter and Paul, Jesus asks his followers: “Who do people say that I am?” They gave him various replies: John the Baptist, a prophet, even Elijah. However, Jesus then asks them another question: “But who do you say I am?” Today this is the question that Jesus is asking us: “who do you say that I am?”

I invite you to quietly sit with Jesus’ question for 15-30 minutes. Relax, be still and be patient. Allow your response to come from deep within. Don’t try to rush it, just sit patiently. It will come!

Cherish this sacred time with Jesus!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Reflection: Mark 5:21-43

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 5:21-43

Today’s Gospel includes two accounts of Jesus’ healing powers. The first story tells of a synagogue official who was desperate. His daughter was seriously ill and close to death. The official begs Jesus to come and heal her. Jesus did not hesitate. Immediately, Jesus went with the official to his house.

However, in the crowd around Jesus, there was another person who also longed to be healed. It was a woman who for many years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had tried all sorts of medications and treatments but nothing helped her. Her hemorrhages continually became more severe. She was desperate. There was no one else to turn to.

She had heard of Jesus. She also had heard stories of his preaching, his kindness and his power to heal. The woman’s faith in Jesus was absolute. She truly believed that if she was able to touch Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed. She didn’t need to talk with Jesus. She simply needed to touch his garment!

Thus, as Jesus was passing by, she did just that She quietly and unobtrusively reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak. And in that instant, she was healed! However, soft though her touch was, Jesus experienced power flowing out from his being into another! And he immediately asked: “Who touched my clothing?” Jesus was not angry. He simply wanted to see the face of the person who had touched him and had been healed.

The woman approached Jesus, uncertain and intimidated. Was Jesus angry with her? However, when the woman fell down at Jesus’ feet, he lovingly looked at her and said: “Go in peace! You are cured! Your faith has saved you!” What a wondrous and profound gift Jesus gave to this woman!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus would heal us as he did the woman with the hemorrhage? What is the “bleeding” that we are experiencing? Is it a physical illness, a difficult relationship, the struggle to make ends meet or perhaps the leftovers of shame in our lives? Will we come to Jesus and ask him to heal us, and to make us whole again?

I do believe that Jesus does heal us! However, it typically is not a miracle – an instantaneous act. Jesus more likely will heal us slowly but surely. Do we trust that Jesus is healing us, even if we don’t feel it? During these times we need to trust Jesus. We need to believe that he is at work in us, even if we can’t see it or feel it! At these times, we daily need to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak. His love and healing power will flow through us! And over time, we may realize that we have been healed! However, we have to have complete trust in Jesus and in his love and care for us! Jesus will not disappoint us!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:5-17

12th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:5-17

Today as Jesus is approaching Capernaum, a centurion soldier approached him. He told Jesus that one of his servants was paralyzed and he was suffering terribly. As soon as Jesus heard this news, he told the centurion to come with him to his home and cure the man.

However, the centurion did not agree to this. The man believed that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home. The man then told Jesus that he understood authority and how it worked. He truly believed that Jesus did not have to come and touch his servant. The centurion clearly trusted that Jesus could and would heal the man without ever seeing or touching his servant!

Jesus was astounded at this man’s faith, trust and belief in him and in his power to heal. Jesus then told the centurion that he had not encountered anyone who had such trust in him! Jesus then instructed the centurion to return home. And at that hour, the centurion’s servant was healed!

What is the healing we desire from Jesus? Do we have the centurion’s depth of faith in Jesus? If we ask Jesus to heal us, do we trust that healing will take place in us? The healing may not be an immediate miracle. Also, the healing may not take place in a manner or the timing that we hope for. However, this does not mean that Jesus is not at work in us. Jesus is always gracing us and healing us. Perhaps we actually need a deeper healing than we are longing for. Jesus desires to make us whole. Today, may we open our minds, bodies and hearts to his healing power! Jesus will not fail us!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:1-4

12th Friday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:1-4

In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes down from the mountain. As always, a great crowd followed him. A leper approached Jesus. He paid Jesus homage and then said: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean!” Apparently, the leper had heard of the miracles and cures that Jesus had done.

Without any hesitation, Jesus responded to the leper’s request. He reached out his hand and gently touched the man and said: “I will do as you ask. Be made clean!” Immediately, the leper was cured! Jesus then told the man not to tell anyone what had happened. He instructed him to go to the temple and show himself to the priest to prove that he truly had been healed of his leprosy. Then the priest could declare that this man once again was “clean.” This would enable the leper to return to his family, his community and his livelihood.

Jesus also instructed the man to “offer the gift that Moses prescribed.” This gift would serve as a reminder to the people that this outcast once again was in full communion with Israel. After many years of having to separate himself from his family and community, the healed leper once again could worship in the temple. And with this healing, the leper also regained his self-respect and his dignity.

What is your “leprosy,” your “dis-ease?” What keeps you or separates you from others? I assume we all have some form of “leprosy” or “dis-ease.” What is the healing you desire? I am sure we would love to be healed instantly. However, most healing is slow and natural and it takes time. And typically, it takes much more time than we would like.

Have you gone to Jesus despite your “leprosy?” Or do you stay separated from Jesus and others out of shame or fear? Jesus longs for us to come to him. Jesus loved the “untouchables.” He sought them out and often made them whole again. He healed not only their leprosy, He also healed their shame, fear and pain!

Today, may we have the faith to reach out to Jesus and ask him to heal us! Jesus will gently touch us and heal us with his love and healing power! Jesus will not fail us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 7:21-29

12th Thursday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 7:21-29

Today Jesus tells us that it is not enough to ask to enter the kingdom of heaven. We need to be women and men who truly do the will of His Father. This is the single criterion we will be judged on. If we wish to end up in heaven, then we need to “do the will of His Father.”

Sound simple? However, how do we discern what “the Father’s will” is? I don’t think we will find the answer on the internet, in a book or perhaps not even in church. We will find the answer by listening to Jesus’ words, not just once but every single day. We may find the answer in the Gospel reading. Or perhaps it may be by spending time with someone who needs a listening ear. Or it simply might be in silence and stillness!

If we truly listen to Jesus’ words and then act on them, we will be building our inner house on the solid rock of Jesus. And no matter what happens to us, if Jesus is at our side, we will be able to withstand any storm, flood or disaster. However, if Jesus is not our “rock,” our inner house will be washed away! It simply will not withstand a fierce storm.

Is Jesus truly your “rock?” Is he the one you depend on every single day, even in small matters? I hope so! It is trusting Jesus in the small matters that enables us to trust him when we are caught in a hurricane or tornado!

Today, examine the foundation of your house, your life. What/who is your foundation? There is always the opportunity to strengthen our foundation! Today may be a good day to do so!