Posts by Cathy Raffaele

Homily: Our Journey with Jesus

                 Genesis 9:8-17       1 Peter 3:18-22           Mark 1:9-13 

We have now entered the desert of Lent on a spiritual quest of our own. Lent often gets turned into a very domesticated kind of pious self-improvement; I give up something that most respectable people think is a good thing to give up, at least for a time — chocolate, beer, swearing, or something similar — drop a few pounds and maybe look a little more like what our culture thinks of as ‘good,’ and other than the purple on the altar Sunday mornings, hardly notice the difference. But if I want to experience this quest fully, I need to note for myself the ways in which the quest we’re on for these forty days is NOT tame or respectable. Jesus left his family and entered a desert with wild beasts and we are striving to follow him.

That sounds lonely as well as terrifying. How on earth could we do it? Why on earth would we do it? I think that this Sunday’s gospel provides a clue. Jesus enters that desert as a man who is discovering his Baptismal identity, taking it in fully and acting on what he hears from God in Baptism. Jesus has no family where he is — but in Baptism, God calls Jesus his beloved son, and Jesus hears God say, “with you I am well pleased.”

That means that Jesus has a family. His family by blood is going to come after him to drag him home as a crazy man who’s bringing shaming the family name, but in Baptism, Jesus has mother and sisters and brothers in whoever does God’s will. Jesus is leaving house and tools, but he will find shelter with others seeking God and God’s reign. Jesus is not alone on his journey, and neither are we.

We have one another, and we also have something else on our journey — the opportunity to encounter God as Jesus did, to take in deeply God’s word to us that we are God’s beloved children, to claim that identity as the central one or maybe even the only one we have.

I don’t think that Jesus spent his life after his Baptism trying to figure out what a good person, a good teacher, a good friend, a good leader would say or do and then trying to say or do that. I believe that Jesus sought the living God, claimed his identity as God’s child, and let his life, his words, his relationships, and his love, even to giving of himself on the cross, flow from that identity as God’s beloved.

Perhaps that’s what God is calling you and me to do this Lenten season: to follow Jesus into that desert to listen deeply for what God has to say to me through my Baptism. And if that’s God’s call, those wild beasts won’t destroy anything worth keeping. As Mr. Beaver said of Aslan, in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia ‘he isn’t tame, but he’s good,’ and I believe that’s true of God as well. I want to be alive in the spirit, as Jesus was, and that’s a good enough reason to follow Jesus. If God is there, I won’t be alone.

And besides, you’re coming too, aren’t you?     © Sarah’s Blog;  Sarah Dylan Breuer  Cambridge, MA

 

Readings for Feb 19, 2012: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b- 25   2 Corinthians 1:18-22   Mark 2:1-12   The Message

 

      Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25

Thus says the Lord:

“Forget about what’s happened;

don’t keep going over old history.

Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?

There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,

rivers in the badlands.

Drinking water for the people I chose,

the people I made especially for myself,

a people custom-made to praise me.

 

“But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.

You so quickly tired of me, Israel.

Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins.

You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.

 

“But I, yes I, am the one

who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do.

I don’t keep a list of your sins.

© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

      2 Corinthians 1:18-22

 

Brothers and sisters:

Are you now going to accuse me of being flip with my promises

because it didn’t work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my

mouth—a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you’re wrong. I

try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn’t a

careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? When Silas

and Timothy and I proclaimed the Son of God among you, did you pick up

on any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn’t it a clean,

strong Yes?

 

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In

him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our

Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing

in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us

with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to

complete.                                 © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

Mark 2:1-12

 

          A Paraplegic

After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around

that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one

could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic

to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of

the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on

his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the

paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”

 

Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among

themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God

can forgive sins.”

 

Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are

you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive

your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’?

Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do

either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick

up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his

stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed

their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen

anything like this!”                  © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Homily: Healing Paralysis

      Isaiah 43: 18-25         2 Corinthians 1: 18-22           Mark 2: 1-12 

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus was definitely out to cause trouble, and He can’t have been disappointed!  The healing of the paralytic belongs to the section that begins with the exorcism of the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue at Capernaum, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the cleansing of the leper.  Mark hurries us from incident to incident, showing how, from the very beginning, Jesus’ ministry (significantly in the synagogues) provokes conflict with the scribes.

Mark flags the forthcoming clashes over Sabbath observance in the first healing.  In last week’s gospel text, Jesus usurps the priestly authority to declare lepers clean.  This week, he goes even further: he attacks their sole claim to forgive sin, and is declared a blasphemer.  This is the charge on which he will eventually be executed.  From the very beginning, in other words, the shadow of the cross hangs over all that Jesus is doing.

Taking on the powers

This isn’t an attempt to read something clever or fanciful into the texts.  Jesus’ messianic ministry is a very deliberate taking on of the powers of the day that imprison and exclude – in particular, the purity system.  He is wresting control of the levers of power from the power-holders, and they don’t like it one bit!

Mark goes to extraordinary lengths to tell us that to be the Messiah meant going to the cross.  But whereas Paul locates that necessity in the Father’s eternal plan for salvation, Mark tracks its necessity through Jesus’ ministry.

Given what Jesus was doing and the powers ranged against him, one side or the other had to lose.  And it was to be Jesus.  The awfulness of his death was that the powers of death and destruction appeared to win – indeed, they did win! — and the wonder of the resurrection is that God brings something new and ultimately undefeatable from the ashes of the total failure of Jesus’ mission of liberating grace.            Lawrence Moore

 

                          Gospel Summary

But let’s look more closely at the Gospel story, to see what it means to you and to me. First of all, we shouldn’t be distracted by the ingenious efforts of the paralytic’s friends to lower him through the roof because they couldn’t get through the crowd. After all, this story is about salvation, not about engineering!

Jesus seems to have sought out paralytics, because his miracles are so often for their benefit. You see, the miracles of Jesus were intended to show that He came to liberate; and so, people with “frozen” muscles were prime candidates for illustrating this.

The story also makes it clear that the real liberation brought by Jesus is spiritual and eternal. He reveals this when He declares that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven. Because this is the only liberation that we absolutely must have. Cure of a physical ailment is so very desirable, but it’s only a temporary relief.

The scribes are shocked and scandalized to hear Jesus proclaim forgiveness of sins. And, instead of rejoicing to hear that this wonderful power is now available, they choose to cling to their own narrow interpretation of religion. Human knowledge alone ultimately always seems to make us look for the worst possible outcome..

 

                  Life Implication

In so many ways, we are all victims of paralysis in the sense that we find it very difficult to realize our potential. Low self-esteem, expressed usually in our fear of trying something new or of making a mistake, not only denies others the benefit of our gifts but also contributes to our own unhappiness.

The only solution to this dilemma is our willingness to trust the goodness that God has put in our lives–a goodness that is revealed to us by the gift of faith.

When we talk of faith, we mean far more than merely accepting the words of the Creed. Faith’s real purpose is to enable us to trust the goodness that comes to us from God; but

it also comes from loving persons in our lives, and from the beauty of God’s creation itself. Faith enables us to see the often hidden goodness in life–a goodness that is sometimes hard to discern, but which is always available to those who are looking for

The effect of this experience of goodness is to liberate us and so to enable us to let go of the evil and hurt that are so very much a part of every life.

This power of faith in our lives is not something that we can discover by simply wishing for it. Like the paralyzed man in this story, we too need to count on our friends. They are much more willing that we can imagine to utter those precious words: “Your sins are forgiven,” and, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk.” And when this happens, we will gladly join all those others in declaring, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

 

 

 

Readings for Feb 12, 2012: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  Leviticus 13:1-2        1 Corinthians 10:31, 11:1         Mark 10:40-45        The Message

 Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

 Infections

God spoke to Moses and Aaron: “When someone has a swelling or a blister or a shiny spot on the skin that might signal a serious skin disease on the body, bring him to Aaron the priest or to one of his priest sons. The priest will examine the sore on the skin. If the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears more than skin deep, it is a serious skin disease and infectious. After the priest has examined it, he will pronounce the person unclean.

“Any person with a serious skin disease must wear torn clothes, leave his hair loose and unbrushed, cover his upper lip, and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as anyone has the sores, that one continues to be ritually unclean. That person must live alone; he or she must live outside the camp.                                                © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 1 Corinthians 10:31, 11: 1

Brothers and sisters:

So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.

 To Honor God

It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.

© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus, begging on his knees, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”

Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy. Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: “Say nothing to anyone. Take the offering for cleansing that Moses prescribed and

present yourself to the priest. This will validate your healing to the people.” But as soon as the man was out of earshot, he told everyone he met what had happened, spreading the news all over town. So Jesus kept to out-of-the-way places, no longer able to move freely in and out of

the city. But people found him, and came from all over.

©  2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Homily: Compassionate Community

Today’s Gospel picks up where last Sunday’s left off. Jesus has to leave the crowd at Peter’s house and travel on to the neighboring towns. Tension builds. Plans have to be adjusted along the way. Dramatic healings and exorcisms apparently don’t fit into a nice, quiet ministry of tending the flock.

First, he spends some time alone, in prayer, in a deserted place; he’s just a little thrown by the response to his ministry of preaching and healing. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be seen as a magician, or even to be known as a worker of miracles. You see, miracles can  keep people from hearing the message  he proclaims, of love and understanding nad forgiveness, from coming to understand who he is, from coming to true belief.

And then, right in front of Jesus, there appears a “dead man walking”: a leper who begs to be made clean, if Jesus wills it. The leper’s has been living as a corpse haunting the edges of the community he could no longer enter. He was considered “unclean” because his physical imperfection violated the Holiness Code.

The leper dares to approach Jesus, instead of remaining at a distance and calling out a warning: “Unclean!” You can picture how easily and effectively a leper got through the crowd to within Jesus’ reach, can’t you? They’d have parted like the Red Sea! Yet Jesus stands his ground.  “If you choose, you can make me clean!” If you choose? Or if you dare?

This was a matter for the priests, not the doctors. In their own day, their own way, the priests were key to holding the community together, to making it work and keeping it safe. They established balance in the world, making life as comprehensible as it can be in the middle of ordinary chaos. They were considered the place where God’s finger touches the world and holds it still.

Laws were not cold-hearted, meaningless regulations. With each step toward the mysterious center of the world, Jews drew nearer to that which kept them safe and stable. The priests tended the ritual of reincorporation, of rejoining his cleansed body to the body of the people. That’s why Jesus sends the healed man to the priests

 

                  Safe to touch

Have we somehow progressed beyond treating some people as unclean and untouchable because of disease? We’re tempted to assume that Jesus, being who he is, knew how safe it is to touch the man. But we know people we’d rather not see, let alone touch. Skin disease is difficult enough, but for a long time people with cancer and later those with HIV/AIDS have experienced a distance that surrounds them once they’re diagnosed. Touching a leper was associated with huge personal risk. Jesus touching the leper was akin to the images in the 1980s of Princess Diana hugging the AIDS sufferers.

The same is true about people with mental illness. There are probably no lonelier people, even among our church members, than the families of people who are mentally ill. Our awkward silence

and discomfort in the face of their suffering enable us to avoid letting our lives touch theirs. Are we afraid that we might “catch” their pain and their problems?

In every age there are ‘unclean’ people and things that have been touched by the inexorable, the uncontrollable, the uncanny. Uncleanness pushes them to the edges of the community, like that leper.

But we’re not so far away from that same fate, you know. All it takes is one catastrophic illness, one financial misstep and all our plans go out the window, and with not too much bad luck, any one of us is out of our house and on the outside edge of a community that had been our home. We could so easily find ourselves on the margin, too, where most folks wouldn’t want their lives to touch ours.

No gentle healing

Once we sense how the leper might have felt, we have to deal with Jesus’ reaction to his plea. He was ‘Moved with pity’, we are told. We commonly say that a person’s pain touches our heart, but in Hebrew thought compassion comes from the guts. So Jesus felt something powerful, something physical, when he looked at this man. Perhaps Jesus was angry at the added suffering of the man’s isolation. Or maybe there is something more, something about how the things Jesus was doing were already creating tension between him and the religious authorities of his day.

Jesus is paving a broad, inclusive road leading to a holy Kingdom. Upon it, God is drawing all redeemed people back home. What happens in this story is more a cleansing than a healing, although the man’s restoration to his community is a kind of healing itself.

Trying to keep things quiet

Ironically, as the leper is restored to his community, Jesus himself becomes a kind of leper, banished by his own popularity and power, the overwhelming needs of the people, and perhaps the rumbles of tension between him and the priests. It’s no wonder that he tries to keep things quiet by

telling the now-clean man not to tell anyone what has happened.

Publicity creates audiences, not congregations, and Jesus had to avoid the towns, keeping himself in the countryside.” But it’s no use, because word continues to spread, because it’s the Gospel, the Good News.  Later, Jesus would send His disciples, saying ‘Go, tell all nations.” Some call that the  Great Commission. How ironic, then, that now it is given to us, and we become followers who don’t tell anyone. I guess that might be called ‘the great omission’,

With the man on his way home to his people, bursting with the news, Jesus heads out beyond the edge of town, but the people come after him anyway.  It’s clear, that “the kingdom of God is on the

loose. It is beyond even Jesus’ control.  It is a mission that invites conflict in its challenge to any power that does not intend peace, justice, and love. All the way to the cross, Jesus will be trying to get those who hear Him to accept the Good News of God’s Love.

The transformation that happens when people are touched by Jesus through us is overwhelming. Once we who are the church touch a person who was unclean or ill, that person becomes part of the faith community….he or she once again have a family, and became a functioning part of Christian ministry. We’ve already watched Simon’s mother-in-law become the church’s ‘first deacon,’ and now this former outcast is preaching to the crowds!

 

Even a personal faith isn’t a private one

We have also to ask how we hear this story today, and how it shapes our understanding of ministry, our understanding of ourselves as a compassionate community. We’re tempted to keep our faith personal, a private relationship with Jesus that changes our lives, at least on the inside. But it’s not enough to relate personally to Jesus and then live off that moment of healing or connection.

We have to return again and again to Jesus’ word and to the company of other followers and walk the way together. We need one another, a community of faith, in which we can better understand who Jesus is, and what that means in our lives, that is, what it will mean to follow Jesus faithfully. We’re called to serve and heal and make whole, to restore and rebuild and reach out.

But This call is not always easy. Suffering exacts a toll because it can sap our energy, jeopardize everything we have achieved, and leave us unproductive and feeling worthless. Suffering isolates us from our community and affects our inner well-being, reminding us of  how finite we are, and our vulnerability and our desperate need of one another and of God  But the final challenge on even a deeper level — the way we turn these people into objects with labels like ‘the sick, the lepers, the poor, the downtrodden.’  This only draws a greater line between ‘us’ and ‘them’. It makes ‘them’ almost a something instead of human beings, sisters and brothers.

We should also we think twice about using the word ‘wholeness,’ as if people who are sick are not whole persons. It is as if wholeness was incompatible with impediments, physical or otherwise. In fact, the even greater challenge is for the compassionate community itself to be healed in a very real sense of its own illness, because being ill or handicapped is to understand alienation and brokenness, and sin as well.

And so we hear the story of today’s leper, just as those early Christians told it and heard it, and, like them, we need to let ourselves and our lives be shaped and cleansed and remade, so that we too might be restored and healed as well. Don’t hear the story and still miss its message. But its tidings of inclusiveness and love speaks more …. speaks volumes.                     Kate Huey    Weekly Seeds

 

Readings for Feb 5, 2012: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  Job 7:1-4, 6-7    1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23    Mark 1:29-39    The Message

 Job 7:1-4, 6-7

  There’s Nothing to My Life

Job spoke, saying:

“Human life is a struggle, isn’t it? It’s a life sentence to hard labor.

Like field hands longing for quitting time

and working stiffs with nothing to hope for but payday,

I’m given a life that meanders and goes nowhere—

months of aimlessness, nights of misery!

I go to bed and think, ‘How long till I can get up?’

I toss and turn as the night drags on—and I’m fed up!

My days come and go swifter than the click of knitting needles,

and then the yarn runs out—an unfinished life!

“God, don’t forget that I’m only a puff of air!

These eyes have had their last look at goodness.

© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Brothers and sisters:

If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it

for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was

my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay.

But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why

would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as

a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to

you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of

everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to

reach a wide range of people. I’ve become just about every sort of

servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved

life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk

about it; I wanted to be in on it!             © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Mark 1:29-39

 

Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and

Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was

sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her,

took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she

was up fixing dinner for them.

 

That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and

evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He

cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew

his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

 

          The Leper

 

While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went

out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking

for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

 

Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can

preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting

places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

© ­­­ 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Homily: Those Healings That Restore

   Job 7: 14, 6-7      1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23        Mark 1: 29-39      The Message                                       

Today’s Gospel story is a continuation of last week’s Gospel. It all happens on the first day of Jesus public life. Jesus announces the kingdom in the synagogue and casts a demon out of a man.

Then, without delay, Mark drags us in Jesus’ wake to the house of Peter’s sick mother-in-law.  There isn’t time to draw breath.  He arrives, they tell him immediately that she is ill, he goes into the room, takes her by the hand and, without a word, lifts her to her feet – healed!  Only then do the men sit down to a meal, with the mother-in-law serving.

A Word with power

This is a message with power. The message causes things to happen.  It’s not meant primarily to be heard, but to be experienced.  It’s an event.  It changes things.  The message that God is acting to transform this world into the Kingdom of God is not just an announcement, but God in action!

The day has been eventful – Jesus’ first day out in his ministry – and already, by evening, they’re bringing him the sick and the demon-possessed.  What is going on here?

Mark is telling us about the Good News.  The coming of the Kingdom that Jesus announces means that a new power – the power of the Spirit – is loose.  It is the power of liberation, because it breaks the hold of those things that imprison people: evil spirits and illness.  Mark is telling us that a conquest has begun.

What he does is simply offer a no-strings-attached invitation in his message to ‘Repent!’. “Repentance” is the appropriate response to God from us.  And in the face of the Good News of the Kingdom, we need to respond with joy – to reach out and grasp the gift.

You have to wonder what’s wrong with our preaching today…with mine this morning/evening.  Why we are not being similarly mobbed by needy people who hear and experience the preaching of the Kingdom as the Best Possible News?  Or just, why isn’t it enough to even get people to get their backsides into our pews?

I suspect it has to do with the fact that our Good News isn’t good enough. Or clear enough to get through all the other ‘good newses’ blaring out there today. Or maybe it sounds too otherworldly, doesn’t bring that immediate healing or relief or joy that it did when Jesus preached it with that clarity of healing and restoration.

Healing and restoration

There is an important social significance to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms.  Both possession and illness does more than mess up the lives of those who suffer.  They excluded the sufferers from participation in family, social and religious life.  It’s not that Peter’s mother-in-law is ill and feeling poorly that is at stake, so much as that she is excluded from all that is happening – particularly from this special meal.

Look, and you will see how Jesus’ healings and exorcisms have this constant emphasis — restoration to the community.  In other words, the message of liberation that Jesus preaches and enacts is not focused on making individuals feel better in themselves, but about restoring and creating a genuine community for those excluded by the system.

Where the outcasts are reconnected with genuine community, the kingdom takes on reality. Illness or disability alone don’t hinder people from living a full life. There is no suggestion in the gospels that a sick person can’t be a whole person. It’s not the illness per se from which people need Jesus’ liberation, but the prison of social exclusion.  Individual life has meaning within the wider network of relationships, and it’s this exclusion that Jesus overcomes.

Jesus brings us together, he bridges barriers, exclusions, prejudices Note how Jesus concentrates on the meaning of the illnesses rather than the illnesses themselves.  He pays almost no attention to the symptoms. He focuses on the effects of the illness.  Jesus is a healer – someone who creates wholeness – rather than a curer.

And it’s when we grasp this significance that we will break out of the sterile debates between those on whom the whole significance of Jesus’ miracles is lost, and the others, whose only concern is whether or not we can believe that Jesus can do “magic”.

Small wonder, then, that Paul in our second reading is so motivated, excited and passionate about the gospel!  This is the best news ever!  It is something that he can’t keep to himself.  He is determined to do everything he can to ensure that everyone hears the Good News.  But, you see, ‘hearing’ is not just about words.  Paul is well aware of the factors that can either hinder people or help them to “hear” in such a way that they encounter the Good News as something that converts and changes lives.  He knows that the messenger is often the single greatest barrier to a good message!  And so he sets himself the task of being, as far as possible, “all things to all people”.

This isn’t some sort of cynical sales pitch, or marketing ploy.  It is about completely absorbing the message and, more importantly, genuinely identifying with those who hear it.  Just as Jesus became a human being to identify with the hearers of the message, so Paul seeks to be in solidarity with his hearers.  It means setting aside all the privileges life has given him.  The Good News takes him to places and people he would never have dreamed of going.  More importantly, it changes him.  To identify with those to whom he preached — the Gentiles, the outcasts of his Jewish world — transforms Paul.  That he did this effectively and sincerely is evidenced by the Christian communities that he founded – churches where the most impossibly different people manage to live together in genuine community.

Certainly those communities had problems, sometimes serious ones, in getting along. But

the focus of the reading from Paul today is on Paul’s conviction that Christian communities ought to reflect God’s passionate concern for everyone, starting with the least first.  His churches weren’t the collections of like-minded people from similar social, ethnic and national backgrounds that our churches too sadly, often are today.

The recurring image that Paul falls back on is of a body – different, but equal, with each of us as a vital part in building up the body as a whole.

Church is about genuinely inclusive communities that contain such radical  ifferences that it can only be the result of the Holy Spirit’s activity. It’s the new community that springs out of the announcement of the Good News, news of what God is doing in Jesus – news that we cannot possibly keep to ourselves.     Lawrence Moore

 Disappointment and Acceptance

When we look at today’s Gospel, it is disappointing to see that Jesus is already beginning to disappoint his disciples. They do not hear Good News. They’re anxious for him to raise the flag of rebellion and to use his power to drive the Roman occupiers out of their land.

But he goes off instead to a quiet place to commune with his heavenly Father. He has come to preach the good news of salvation through the power of love and sacrifice, rather than through the military power and domination that they see as the way things get done..

Life Implications

 We don’t need to look far to find the reality of chaos and dissention in our world today. In fact, the forces of chaos seem at times to have the upper hand today, as nations are consumed by ethnic and religious hatred, communities are divided by strife and families are often torn apart by internal rivalries. Sometimes the chaos enters our own psyches as we struggle to see the meaning in our lives.

God is fully aware of these troubles and he has sent Jesus to give us the wisdom of loving concern, which is the only thing that can bring us peace and happiness. Jesus not only taught this wisdom, he lived it fully in how he cared for the sick and the possessed, and ultimately, in how he gave his life for us.

We, like the disciples, are all for destroying our enemies to achieve our purposes, but Jesus goes away to pray. This doesn’t mean that he telling us to ignore working to do good and overcome evil. But it does mean that, ultimately, it is only prayerful attainment of inner peace, trust in the power of the Lord and sincere love of others that will heal and restore the beautiful world that God has entrusted to us. Only a prayerful spirit can bring the peace and harmony that Jesus came to offer us.      Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Readings for Jan 29, 2012: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  Leviticus 13:1-2        1 Corinthians 10:31, 11:1         Mark 10:40-45        The Message

 Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

Infections

God spoke to Moses and Aaron: “When someone has a swelling or a blister or a shiny spot on the skin that might signal a serious skin disease on the body, bring him to Aaron the priest or to one of his priest sons. The priest will examine the sore on the skin. If the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears more than skin deep, it is a serious skin disease and infectious. After the priest has examined it, he will pronounce the person unclean.

“Any person with a serious skin disease must wear torn clothes, leave his hair loose and unbrushed, cover his upper lip, and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as anyone has the sores, that one continues to be ritually unclean. That person must live alone; he or she must live

outside the camp.                                                © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 1 Corinthians 10:31, 11: 1-2

Brothers and sisters:

So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.

 To Honor God

It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.

© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus, begging on his knees, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”

Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy. Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: “Say nothing to anyone. Take the offering for cleansing that Moses prescribed and

present yourself to the priest. This will validate your healing to the people.” But as soon as the man was out of earshot, he told everyone he met what had happened, spreading the news all over town. So Jesus kept to out-of-the-way places, no longer able to move freely in and out of

the city. But people found him, and came from all over.

©  2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Homily: The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant In the Room

                 Deuteronomy 18: 15-20         1 Corinthians 8: 1-13            Mark 1: 21-28

We’re just a week away from Super Bowl 46. We’re certainly disappointed that our Steelers will not be participating this year. But I think that we will all still enjoy the fascinating commercials that have become an integral part of the Super Bowl experience.

Computer technology has worked to make many of those ads fascinating with its ability to create  remarkable special effects, We may go along with the fun when we watch the medicine make the elephant sitting on the man’s chest disappear. But when we read a story like today’s passage from the Gospel of Mark, about Jesus expelling an unclean spirit, we’re not sure what to think. We’re uncomfortable with this brief but powerful story.

Jesus, going to the synagogue on the Sabbath, starts off by teaching those gathered in a way that was so impressive that it conveyed authority. Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus said. He seems to care more about telling us just how powerfully he taught. He shows us the power Jesus has at his fingertips, and how it changes things for good. It shows how He acted with authority.

The word “authority,” of course, has more than one meaning. There are really two kinds of authority, titular authority that comes from having a title. Even a corrupt judge or police officer has ‘authority’, and then there’s ‘real’ authority. The simplest, poorest person in the world can speak with a different kind of authority if they embody a wisdom and integrity that others find compelling. Each of us holds a different kind of power, one from the outside, and one from within.

The scribes sounded authoritative because they could cite chapter and verse of the scriptures; but that, after all, was their job. When Jesus, this carpenter from Nazareth, walked into the synagogue and spoke in a way that “astounded” the people, more than one person must have sensed trouble brewing. Who is this man, where did he go to school, and who gave him the right to speak this way?  And ‘just then’, things got even more extraordinary, when Jesus’ teaching in words became teaching in action.

A man tortured by and in bondage to an ‘unclean spirit emerged in the crowd, in the midst of the commotion over Jesus’ power-filled teaching. While others were full of questions about Jesus, this evil spirit was the only one who recognized who he actually was: “the Holy One of God.” Jesus commanded the spirit to be quiet and then expelled it from the man, freeing him from a terrible bondag

We don’t hear any more about this man, but the whole region soon heard all about what happened to him. Jesus had backed up his words, and his powerful preaching, with an action that showed what he was about.

Today, we try to find scientific explanations for what happened. We’re tempted to dismiss it because, well, who really believes in possession by spirits anymore? Perhaps, way down deep, we do believe in, and fear, “evil spirits” a little bit, or Hollywood wouldn’t employ those technical advances we admire so much to make so many movies and TV shows about the power and danger of evil spirits.

We modern Westerners have much more power over their lives and circumstances than the ancients believed they had. I suppose that’s part of the reason we tend to rationalize about the power of evil spirits in the world. We also know far less than we think we do, and understand even less than that.

We live in the midst of the battle between good and evil, the struggle of human limitation and failure. We may begin with good intentions, but we are so often sidetracked or derailed along the way. Life plunges us into the throes of human suffering and pain, and there seems to be no escape from it. The demonic seduces us in more ways than we can count, and we are often caught in its web before we recognize what has happened.

The world, including the church-going, faithfully believing world, stands in need of Jesus’ liberating touch, and longs for what can really satisfy the desires of the human heart, And Jesus conveys that power, that authority. We’re probably no more able to recognize that gift when we encounter it than the people in the synagogue were all those years ago. Our failure to comprehend Jesus’ true identity probably stems from mistaken expectations. We may be able to admit that we want and need a savior, but we may not always grasp what we need saved from, and the implications of what it means to really be saved.

The scribes explained what God’s word was saying. Jesus allows God’s power to burst onto the scene.. Jesus blazes, explodes, and erupts. We are called to watch and participate in the experience as Jesus reveals, once again, even today, the opposition of evil to the goodness of God creation and what it looks like for real. Like our ancestors in faith, we find ourselves asking who this Jesus is, who calls us to healing and to better things, better ways of living, and what that means in our lives: and, are we truly willing to accept this Way of Jesus and truly live it?

In Luke, Jesus begins his ministry by going into the synagogue and reading about bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free. In Mark’s Gospel, we don’t hear such beautiful words. But we see actions, powerful, dramatic ones that proclaim just as surely that the promises of God are true, the promises of old that are new in the person of Jesus today. Jesus cares for the poor in spirit and consoles those who mourn.

The authority here in Mark’s gospel is not power. It’s a willingness simply to see justice served, to see our world and our lives through His eyes. This is what Jesus’ ministry is about.

Just as an example: we are in the midst of very serious economic crisis. And we may be deceived into believing that, if our present economy gets more active, if we only sell more cars, we’ll solve our problem. But, it fact, the problem is rooted in an economic system that manufactures things only to replace what we already have, or to destroy as do the military weapons and ordnance that we produce and use so prolificly. But until we are willing to replace our present thinking about what makes things thrive economically and begin to manufacture on a large scale those things that meet real human needs and to stop creating a demand for all that junk that comes from China, and begin to respect the planet God created for us, we will continually confront the demons of recession and waste.

Yes, there was conflict when Jesus spoke and acted, and Jesus challenged even the religious authorities on many occasions as he challenges us today.

We are asked to reveal what opposition to the goodness of creation, what demons, look like, but to do so, so we can take the next step. That second step is as important as the first: opening ourselves and our communities to being transformed, shaped, by God’s hand at work in the world. Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”

Words can easily stay just words. Words, however, spoken in the name of God, have power. They can, like the words of Jesus, cause things to happen. The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. ‘

That’s why preaching is so important in the life of the church. All good preachers, want the same thing, come Sunday. We don’t desire simply to provide more information about this text. We don’t desire to add to all the other words ever uttered from pulpits, just because that’s what preachers do on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. No, we hope that our words, infused with the power of the One who speaks through us and on whose behalf we speak, will cause something to happen — in our parish, in the whole church in the nation and in the world — healing, peace, liberation.

Then we will all be amazed, not just by illusions, by what we think we see, but by the reality we encounter. The elephants in the room will disappear, and God’s love will be made known, and evil will begin to be expelled, right before our eyes.

                           Weekly Seeds       Kate Huey    United Church of Christ

 

Readings for Jan 22, 2012: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Jonah 3:1-5, 10       1 Corinthians 7:29-31     Mark 1:14-20      The Message

  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Maybe God Will Change His Mind

God spoke to Jonah: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city

of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any

longer.”  This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter.

 

Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it.

 

Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty

days Nineveh will be smashed.”

 

The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a

citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone

did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.

 

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their

evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do

to them he didn’t do.     © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

I want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence.

There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily.

Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary

things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as

possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see

it is on its way out.     © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

      Mark 1:14-20

After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the

Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and

believe the Message.”

 

Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his

brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said

to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.

I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.”

They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

 

A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James

and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets.

Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father

Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson