Jan 14-19: Weekdays Reflection

Jan 14-19: Jan 14: Monday: Mk 1: 14-20: 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

The context:  Today’s Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry and the call of his Apostles who were to continue that ministry.

Jesus started his public ministry immediately after John the Baptist was arrested. Following John’s pattern, Jesus, too, invited his hearers to repent as a preparation for believing in the Gospel, or the Good News, of the Kingdom of God. Repentance meant an about-face turn to God resulting in a change of mind, heart, behavior and life. It also meant sorrow for having refused God’s love and a resolution to make amends.  Believing in the Gospel demanded from the hearers a resolution to take Jesus’ words seriously, to translate them into action and to put trust in Jesus’ authority. Jesus preached the Gospel, or Good News, that God is a loving, forgiving, caring and merciful Father Who wants to liberate us and save us from our sins through His son Jesus. According to Mark, Jesus selected four fishermen, Andrew and his brother Simon (later named Peter by Jesus), with James and his brother John, right from their fishing boats. Jesus wanted these ordinary, hard-working people as assistants for his ministry because they would be very responsive instruments in the hands of God.

Life messages: 1) In order to be effective instruments in the hands of God and to continue Jesus’ preaching, healing and saving ministry, we, too, need to repent of our sins daily and renew our lives by cooperating with God’s grace and relying on the power of God.

2) Our renewed lives will be our best way to preach the Good News, for we will be radiating God’s love, mercy and forgiveness to everyone around us. (Fr. Tony) L/19

Jan 15 Tuesday: Mk 1:21-28: Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23.In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24. he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” 25. Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26. The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28. His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

The context: Jesus made the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business, his headquarters. There he started his preaching, teaching and healing ministry. The people were impressed by the authority of his teaching. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using his own authority and knowledge as God. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect accomplishment of God’s will, and absolute confidence in God were the sources of Jesus’ authority.

The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, using his authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” In first-century Palestine, most sicknesses, especially mental illness, were considered to be the result of demonic possession, and both Jewish and pagan exorcists used lengthy procedures and physical force in their exorcisms. When Jesus commanded the Evil One to depart, he did so at once, convulsing the man in the process. Thus, Jesus demonstrated that he is the Messiah, the Savior, more powerful than the demon.

Life messages:  1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, which is proved by his miracles; these, in turn, give authority and validity to his teaching and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings even if some of them are mysteries beyond our reach. Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 2) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus, the healer, with trusting Faith and then go to the doctors who serve as the current instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst (Fr. Tony) L/19

Jan 16 Wednesday: Mk 1:29-39: 29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation, and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to enable his listeners to do the will of God and thus to build up the Kingdom of God. We are also told that Jesus recharged his spiritual batteries by talking with and listening to his Heavenly Father.

Healing mission: Jesus was never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the mercy and compassion of his Heavenly Father to every sick person who approached him with trusting Faith. As soon as he had finished the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism. Jesus began the next day very early, spending time in prayer in a lonely place.

Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, as we radiate Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick, by visiting them, and by helping and encouraging the sick and shut-ins. 3) But in order to continue Jesus’ preaching and healing mission, we too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged every day by prayer as Jesus did. (Fr. Tony) L/19

Jan 17 Thursday (St. Anthony the abbot): Mk 1:40-45: 40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread

The context: Today’s Gospel describes Jesus touching a man sick with a severe case of leprosy and healing him instantly. In this miracle we have all the essentials for any miracle, says, Rev. Dr. L. Parker. We have a) a leper; b) a disease, leprosy; c) recognition of the disease by the man who has it; d) the presence of Jesus; e) Faith; f) trust, and g) humility enough to ask for help from Jesus.  Biblical “leprosy” rarely indicated Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper), and mostly the term referred to skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, and vitiligo. The suffering of lepers in Biblical times was chiefly due to the way they were treated by the religious society of the day (Interpreter’s Bible).  They were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6).    In addition, lepers were treated as sinners who were being punished by God with this contagious disease.  The leprosy given by God as punishment to Miriam, the complaining sister of Moses, to Gehazi, the greedy servant of the prophet Elijah and to the proud king Uzziah supported the Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins. Finally, “leprosy” was considered a contagious disease, and, hence, its victims were separated from their families and society. The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus, demanded that the priest declare the leper unclean and that the leper a) keep his garments rent and his head bare, b) muffle his beard, c) cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” and d) dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.  As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest for confirmation that he was now clean and was permitted to mix with the general public.

Life Messages: 1) The strong Faith of the sick man prompted him to violate the Mosaic Law prohibiting him from joining a crowd and approaching Jesus. The sympathy and mercy of Jesus prompted Jesus to violate the Mosaic Law which forbade anyone to touch an untouchable leper. Thus, Jesus teaches the lesson that the essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, and to forgive the unforgivable.

2) We need to be healed of the spiritual leprosy of sin by being reconciled with God every night, asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins of the day and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we are in serious sin. (Fr. Tony) L/19

Jan 18 Friday: Mk 2:1-12: 1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 …..12

The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last in a series of five healing stories.  This one demonstrates the power of Faith, and in this particular case we learn what others can do for us if they are persons of Faith.

As soon as Jesus got back to Capernaum after a preaching tour of Galilee, the crowds gathered in and around the house where he was staying so that there was no room to get in or out.  Four men carrying their paralyzed friend tried in vain to enter through the crowd.  Here is the wonderful picture of a man who was saved by the Faith of his friends.  His friends were men who had trusting Faith in the healing power of Jesus, and they were men with initiative, tenacity and creativity.  So they carried their friend to the roof of the house, made a hole in the roof, and lowered the man on his mat, placing him right in front of Jesus.  Luke tells us that there were in the crowd Pharisees and Doctors of the Law from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem sent to check out Jesus, the new preacher, and to report back to the Sanhedrin.

The sick man’s paralysis was seen by the people around as a punishment for some serious sin in his own life or that of his parents.  It was a common belief that no major sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven.  For that reason, Jesus began the young man’s healing by audibly forgiving his sins, so that he might feel no longer estranged from God. Then the young man was able to receive the physical healing he and his friends desired for him.  But the Pharisees thought that, in forgiving sin, Jesus had insulted God by blasphemy, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God.  Jesus insisted that if he healed the man, then his enemies must recognize his authority to forgive sin, and consequently his Divinity. He then healed the young man, but we do not know whether any of the objectors believed in Jesus.

Life message: We are called to intercede for others and to bring them to Christ.  1) In the Old Testament, it is Moses who constantly begs God’s forgiveness for the Israelites’ sins.  Later, we find the prophets interceding for God’s mercy and forgiveness for the unfaithful Israelites. 2) In the New Testament, the dramatic role played by the friends of the paralyzed man in the healing story reminds us of the continuing need for, and power of, intercession for/by others. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are ill or in special need.  When we pray and invite God into the situation, healing takes place. (Fr. Tony) L/19

Jan 19 Saturday: Mk 2:13-17: 13 He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The context: Today’s Gospel episode, telling of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ Apostle, reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.

The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax collector’s station to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than the area owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people and considered public sinners by the Pharisees.   Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. While everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job because, for him, Christ’s call to follow Him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance and protection.

Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to celebrate his new calling by holding a feast for his friends. Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a traitor scandalized the Pharisees for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  In answer to their question, Jesus stressed his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then, in Matthew’s own account of his conversion, Jesus challenged the Pharisees quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ (Hosea 6:6).”  Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, He calls us daily through the Word and through His Church, to be His disciples, and to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. Just as Jesus did for us and for Matthew, we are to reach out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with God’s own love, mercy and compassion. (Fr. Tony) L/19