Let Him Enter Your Boat

Scripture Reading

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
(Mark 8:11-13)

 

Scripture Study

8:11 The approach of the Pharisees stands in stark contrast to the three previous episodes—the exorcism of the Syrophoenician child, the healing of the deaf-mute, and the feeding of the four thousand—in which people approach Jesus to receive his love and compassion. The Pharisees, instead, come forward to argue and to test him by demanding a sign from heaven, that is, a validating miracle. Since Jesus has up to this point been performing one miracle after another, such a demand can be rooted only in stubborn perversity, the refusal to open their hearts to the testimony of his deeds of mercy.

8:12–13 Jesus sighs from the depth of his spirit, expressing his distress at their hardness of heart (see 3:5). This generation again recalls the “evil generation” of Israelites who refused to trust God even after witnessing all that he had done in Egypt, and who were therefore denied entrance to the promised land (Deut 1:35; see Ps 95:8–10). Like them, Jesus’ opponents are motivated not by a sincere desire for truth but by a refusal to relate to God on God’s own terms. To insist on irrefutable evidence is really a demand for control, as if to say: “Force us to believe, so that we will not have to trust you or change our hearts.” But faith that is compelled is not faith at all. Jesus’ emphatic preface Amen, I say to you (see Mark 3:28) gives a special weight to what he is about to say: No sign will be given to this generation—that is, no sign that will satisfy their criteria for proof. His miracles and deeds of mercy will invite faith, but not coerce it. For those who reject his offer, who choose to be “those outside” (see 4:11), he can only walk away.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Demands for proof of religious claims are as strident today as they were among Jesus’ contemporaries. Today there are a host of books, articles, and programs claiming to refute Christian beliefs simply by showing that they cannot be proven according to empirical scientific criteria. But such attempts reveal only a false and truncated view of reality—as if the only things that are real are those that can be visibly observed and measured. Pope Benedict comments, “There can be a thousand rational objections—not only in Jesus’ generation, but throughout all generations, and today maybe more than ever. For we have developed a concept of reality that excludes reality’s translucence to God. The only thing that counts is what can be experimentally proven. [But] God cannot be constrained into experimentation.” Such demands for proof can be an excuse to avoid what God reveals of himself, because “knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person.”

Bishop Robert Barron notes in closing our reflection that “The true God cannot be manipulated, determined by us, or controlled through our efforts. We can’t act like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, demanding that God behave for us. Rather, he comes, often unbidden and unexpected, into our lives and determines us, controls us. His presence is pure grace. Don’t demand signs from God. Instead, do what the disciples did and let him enter your boat.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 152–153.

The Perfection of Love

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, 
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife –  unless the marriage is unlawful – 
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

(Matthew 15:17-37)

 

Scripture Study

5:17 the law and the prophets: A shorthand expression for the entire OT. to fulfil them: Jesus completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law and OT prophecies (1:23; 2:6, 15; 4:15–16; Lk 24:44–47). The Greek word translated fulfil means “to make complete”. The New Covenant thus includes and concludes the Old Covenant; it both perfects it and transforms it. While sacrificial laws of the OT expired with the sacrifice of Jesus, the moral Law (Ten Commandments, etc.) was retained and refined (5:21, 27, 43; 19:17). In the Christian life, the power of God’s Spirit is necessary if we are to obey the Law and grow in holiness (cf. Rom 8:4; CCC 577–81, 1967).

5:18 an iota: Corresponds to the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet (yod). a dot: Tiny extensions that distinguish similar-looking Hebrew letters from one another.

5:20 your righteousness: Jesus inaugurates a new and climactic phase in salvation history. He introduces a New Covenant standard of righteousness that surpasses the real, but insufficient, righteousness of the Old Covenant (cf. Deut 6:25; Is 48:18). The Old Covenant governed the temporal affairs of the earthly kingdom of Israel. The Mosaic Law (especially Deuteronomy) was designed to establish and maintain Israel as a nation-state in the land of Canaan. Its laws regulated public behavior to maintain civil order; it thus erected an outward standard of righteousness that defined God’s people as a nation. Jesus invites the scribes and Pharisees to recognize the Mosaic Law as God’s temporary arrangement for Israel (cf. Mt 19:8). It was a means of drawing them closer to God by separating them from the sins of the Gentiles (Lev 15:31; 20:26). Eventually, the Israelites expected a day when God would write his Law on their hearts (Jer 31:31–34; cf. Deut 30:6; Ezek 36:25–27). Christ’s New Covenant signals the dawning of this great day when he perfects the moral laws of the Old Covenant and brings that covenant’s temporary and national phase to a close. He implements a new level of covenant righteousness that stretches beyond the boundaries of the Old Law in two directions. (1) Outwardly, the scope of the New Covenant is wider than the one nation of Israel; it encompasses an international kingdom in the Church. All nations can now share in God’s blessing and become his covenant people. (2) Inwardly, the New Covenant penetrates to the heart; it reaches within to govern personal and private life by a maximal standard of holiness. As the Old Covenant formed virtuous citizens in Israel, so the New Covenant generates saints in the Church (CCC 1963–68). See also word study: Righteousness at Mt 3.

5:21–48 Sometimes called the “Six Antitheses”. Jesus acts with divine authority to perfect and deepen the moral codes of the Mosaic Law (cf. 7:29). Each antithesis follows a similar format: Jesus cites the Old Law, saying, you have heard that it was said (5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43), and responds with the refrain, But I say to you (5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). The pattern underscores Jesus’ authority as a new Moses and the lawgiver of the New Covenant. See notes on Mt 2:16 and 17:5.

5:21 You shall not kill: Jesus reaffirms that murder is unlawful (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17) but introduces a new dimension to the civil law. Not only acts of murder but even personal anger (5:22) and private slander (5:22) constitute a violation of the New Law. Degrees of personal guilt are illustrated (5:22) by an escalating movement from a local court verdict (“judgment”), to the Jewish Sanhedrin (“council”), to eternal punishment (“hell”). At each step, the judgment corresponds to the severity of the sin (CCC 2302).

5:22 You fool!: The Greek transliterates an Aramaic term that implies a lack of intelligence. It is an insult that means something like “empty head” or “numskull”. the hell of fire: The Greek expression (also in 5:29–30) denotes the Valley of Gehenna south of Jerusalem. It served as a large dump where garbage was burned continually. Jesus uses the image to illustrate the frightful reality of damnation (CCC 1034–35). See word study: Hell at Mk 9.

5:27 adultery: Like the Mosaic Law, Jesus forbids acts of adultery (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18). Yet he extends the prohibition to forbid even personal lust and interior thoughts of impurity. Looking and thinking “lustfully” (5:28) already violate the New Law, even if the exterior act of adultery is not committed (CCC 2380).

5:29 pluck it out: A figurative overstatement, not a literal command of self-mutilation. Jesus uses alarming images to underscore the severity of sexual sins (cf. 18:7–9); extreme measures are needed to avoid occasions of sin, the sins themselves, and the eternal punishment they lead to.

5:31 a certificate of divorce: Divorce and remarriage were permitted under the Old Covenant only because of Israel’s sinfulness (19:8; cf. Deut 24:1–4). In the New Covenant, remarriage leads to adultery (CCC 2382). except on the ground of unchastity: Matthew alone records this added “exception clause” (cf. 19:9). For the meaning of this clause, see topical essay: Jesus on Marriage and Divorce at Mt 19.

5:33 not swear falsely: Jesus forbids oath swearing for private purposes. Oaths are important, however, in the public sector for the good of society. Judges, doctors, soldiers, politicians, and other professionals swear oaths for public service. Oaths are also sworn to make or renew covenants (cf. Heb 6:13–18). In every context, God’s holy name is invoked to bring divine assistance (blessing) to the upright and divine punishment (curse) to those who violate their oaths. In Jesus’ day, the practice of oath swearing was sometimes mishandled; people would swear private oaths for personal advantage. By invoking something other than God’s name (heaven/earth/Jerusalem; 5:34–35), oaths were taken lightly or even disregarded (23:16–22). Jesus denounces this, teaching that truthfulness and integrity should govern private life. Matthew recounts three episodes where such illicit oaths are sworn for personal purposes (14:7; 26:72, 74; 27:25) (CCC 2153–54).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. If we are to begin to understand Jesus’ staggering teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, we have to keep ever in our minds the little tag line, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus is the Son of God, and his purpose is not primarily to construct a smooth-functioning human society; it is to establish the Kingdom of God, that is to say, a body formed by those who participate in him, who share his relationship to the Father. What is the Father of Jesus Christ like? The Father of Jesus Christ is love, right through. That’s all God is; that’s all he knows how to do. He is not like us: unstable, changing, moving from one attitude to another. No, God simply is love.

Why should you go beyond simply loving those who love you? Because that’s the way God operates: he loves the saints and he also loves the worst sinner in Hell. Now is that easy to do? Of course not. But that’s what Jesus call us to: be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 15–16.

Heartfelt Miracle

Scripture Reading

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.
(Mark 8:1-10)

 

Scripture Study

8:1–10 An episode similar to the miracle in 6:35–44, but dissimilar in several details. Jesus multiplies seven (8:5) loaves instead of five (6:38), collects seven (8:8) leftover baskets instead of twelve (6:43), and feeds four thousand (8:9) people instead of 5,000 (6:44).

8:2 I have compassion: The lack of food in this episode illustrates how Jesus rewards the crowd for their perseverance, despite natural discomforts like hunger (8:2).

8:6 given thanks: A translation of the Greek verb eucharisteō, which is the basis for the English word “Eucharist”. Jesus’ multiplication of bread after giving thanks foreshadows the Last Supper and the institution of the Blessed Sacrament (1 Cor 11:24; CCC 1328, 1335). See note on Mk 6:35–44.

8:10 Dalmanutha: An unknown location in Galilee also called “Magadan” (Mt 15:39).[1]

Scripture Reflection

An awful lot of contemporary theologians and Bible commentators have tried to explain away the miracles of Jesus as spiritual symbols. Perhaps most notoriously, many preachers tried to explain the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as a “miracle” of charity, everyone sharing the little that he had.

But I think it’s hard to deny that the first Christians were intensely interested in the miracles of Jesus and that they didn’t see them as mere literary symbols! They saw them for what they really were: actions of God, breaking into our world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 79.

Glorious Scraps

Scripture Reading

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.
(Mark 7:24-30)

 

Scripture Study

7:24. The region of Tyre and Sidon is nowadays the southern part of Lebanon-Phoenicia in ancient times. The distance from the lake of Gennesaret to the frontier of Tyre and Sidon is not more than 50 kms (30 miles). Jesus withdrew from Palestine to avoid persecution by the Jewish authorities and to give the apostles more intensive training.

7:27. Our Lord actually uses the diminutive—“little dogs” to refer to the Gentiles—thereby softening a scornful expression which Jews used. On the episode of the Canaanite woman see the notes on parallel passages, Mt 15:21–28.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today our Gospel brings the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Syro-Phoenician woman, is one of those famously problematic passages in the New Testament. This poor woman, a Canaanite, a foreigner, comes forward and tells Jesus of her daughter who is troubled by a demon and the Lord just ignores her. When she persists, Jesus says, “I have come only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When she prostrates herself at his feet, Jesus says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Of course, the woman gets off one of the best one-liners in the Scriptures, almost all of which otherwise belong to Jesus himself: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At which point, Jesus praises her for her faith and cures her daughter.

What’s going on here is really interesting and provocative. The Syro-Phoenician woman is being invited into the life of discipleship, into the following of Jesus. She is resisted, not because Jesus is having a bad day, but because he wants the strength of her faith to show itself.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Saint Mark’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 89–90.

The Evil Within

Scripture Reading

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.” 

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
(Mark 7:14-23)

 

Scripture Study

7:19 all foods clean: An editorial comment by Mark. Since Jesus traces true defilement back to the heart (7:21), the outward distinctions between clean and unclean as defined by the Old Covenant are no longer operative or binding in the New. These ceremonial distinctions have been superseded in two ways: (1) Ritual defilement was an external matter under the Old Covenant, whereas the New Covenant penetrates to cleanse and govern the inward life of believers (Mt 5:8; Acts 15:9). (2) Since Mosaic food laws effectively separated Israel from the Gentiles, these dietary restrictions were set aside in the New Covenant once Jews and Gentiles were gathered together into the same covenant family. The early Church grappled much with the issues surrounding Old Covenant dietary laws and table-fellowship in light of the gospel (Acts 10:9–16; Rom 14:13–23; Gal 2:11–16; CCC 582).

7:21 the heart of man: In biblical terminology, the heart is the center of the person and the source of every decision that manifests itself through deeds. Jesus thus links true defilement with the heart, where evil actions and intentions have their hidden beginning (Mt 5:28). His inventory of vices is similar to others in the NT (Rom 1:29–31; Gal 5:19–21; 1 Pet 4:3; CCC 1432, 2517–19).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus explains that sinful behavior flows from within our hearts. How often the Bible speaks of the “heart.” By that it means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. God wants to penetrate that heart, so that he is the center of our souls. But there is something terribly black in the human heart. We are made in the image and likeness of God, but that image can be so distorted by sin as to be barely recognizable.

Our faith clearly teaches the awful truth of the fall, and we see the evidence of it in the mystery of sin, which is not to be ignored, not to be trifled with, not to be rationalized away. We are all capable of dark and evil acts. I’m not OK and neither are you. We see the tangled web which is sin. It grows like a fungus or like a cancer.

Have our hearts become hardened, so that God cannot get in? Is there a deep resistance in us to grace?

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 78.

Pretenders

Scripture Reading

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” 
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”  
(Mark 7:1-13)

 

Scripture Study

7:1–2 As Jesus is going about his ministry of healing, Pharisees team up with scribes from Jerusalem (see 3:22) to pose an accusatory question. Pharisees were members of a renewal movement that sought to restore God’s favor to Israel by advocating strict observance of the law and total separation from all Gentile defilement. Scribes were professional copyists and scholars of the law, some of whom were also Pharisees. Those from the capital, Jerusalem, probably carried an extra weight of authority. Together they are scandalized to observe how some of Jesus’ disciples ate their meals. The phrase is literally “eat breads,” linking this dispute with the miracle of the five thousand who “ate breads” in 6:35–44. Perhaps it was Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread in the desert (where the crowds had no opportunity to wash their hands) that occasioned the religious leaders’ pious disapproval. The controversy also bears on the post resurrection Church for which Mark is writing, where the burning question was: Are Christians obliged to follow the law and traditions of the Jews? The question is especially urgent in regard to the Church’s mission among the Gentiles, a theme to which the Bread Section often alludes.

7:3 Carefully washing their hands: refers to ritual purification.

7:5 Tradition of the elders: the body of detailed, unwritten, human laws regarded by the scribes and Pharisees to have the same binding force as that of the Mosaic law; cf. Gal 1:14.

7:11 Qorban: a formula for a gift to God, dedicating the offering to the temple, so that the giver might continue to use it for himself but not give it to others, even needy parents.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who have imposed their interpretation of the Law on the Israelites. Keep in mind that the first Christians and the writers of the first Christian documents were all Jews, or at least people formed by a Jewish thought world. They made sense of Jesus in terms of what were, to them, the Scriptures.

Jesus himself was an observant Jew, and the themes and images of the Holy Scriptures were elemental for him. He presented himself as the one who would not undermine the Law and the Prophets but fulfill them.

All of those social and religious conventions that had effectively divided Israel, he sought to overcome and expose as fraudulent. He reached out to everyone: rich and poor, healthy and sick, saints and sinners. And he embodied the obedience of Israel: “I have come only to do the will of the one who sent me.” “My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1414.

Glad In His Works

Scripture Reading

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.

You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
With the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.

You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.

How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia. 

(Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,35)

 

Scripture Study

104:1. The greatness of God is to be seen in creation, and in the order that exists in the universe, through God’s act of creation and unceasing divine providence. All these things are evidence of his glory.

104:2–4. The psalmist borrows very freely from the Genesis account of the creation (Gen 1). Light (v. 2) was the first thing that God created; it is conceived of as an element in its own right (cf. Gen 1:3–5)

104:5–9. Glossing the separating of the waters and the appearance of dry land as narrated in Genesis 1:6–10, and the original chaos referred to in Genesis 1:2, the psalmist proclaims God’s power over the seas, here seen as threatening forces.

104:10–18. The central part of the psalm is taken up with a highly poetic description of how God, using springs and rain, relieves the thirst of wild animals, provides food for flocks and for mankind, and causes tall trees to grow (“trees of the Lord”: v. 16). The earth looks like paradise.

104:33–35. The poem ends with the psalmist’s promising to devote his entire life to the praise of the Lord by extolling his works as he has done in the psalm (v. 35). The “Alleluia” (“Praise the Lord”) which appears at the very end of the psalm in the Hebrew text (the Septuagint puts it at the start of Psalm 105) must have been included here for liturgical reasons.[1]

Scripture Reflection

The praise offered God in this psalm for all his work of creation and providence is extended in the New Testament to Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God through whom all things were created (Jn 1:3) and it is through him that all things continue to exist (“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”: Col 1:17). The Church uses this psalm in the liturgy of Pentecost, the feast day that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, marking the climax of the new creation brought about by the Incarnation of Christ and made manifest in the Church.

The psalm is a poetic vision of the world and of what we moderns call “nature” as the work of the LORD. Contemporary people have a variety of ways of viewing and speaking about the world and the forms of life it sustains—scientific, economic, aesthetic, recreational. This psalm offers the view and language that is appropriate for faith. For those who live by faith, its view and language qualify and define the other ways of thinking and speaking.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 344–346.

Radiating Christ

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
(Matthew 5:13-16)

 

Scripture Study

5:13-16 Jesus summons his disciples to be what God’s people were always meant to be: salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt was used to flavor and preserve food. Through living the beatitudes, Jesus’ disciples become salt of the earth, preserving goodness in the world. The disciple who does not embody the beatitudes is like salt that loses its taste: he becomes no longer good for anything. Similarly, the disciples are to be light of the world. In the Jewish tradition Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 60:1–3; Bar 4:2). Jesus calls his disciples to fulfill this role by living the beatitudes in such a way that the world may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus uses the images of salt and light to show how we are to bring salvation to the world. In our rather privatized and individualistic culture, we tend naturally to think of religion as something for ourselves designed to make our lives richer or better. Now there is a sense in which that is true, but on the Biblical reading, religiosity is like salt, light, and an elevated city: it is meant not for oneself, but for others.

Perhaps we can bring these two together by saying that we find salvation for ourselves precisely in the measure that we bring God’s life to others. The point is that we followers of Jesus are meant to be salt, which effectively preserves and enhances what is best in the society around us. We effectively undermine what is dysfunctional in the surrounding culture.

We are also light by which people around us come to see what is worth seeing. By the very quality and integrity of our lives, we shed light, illumining what is beautiful and revealing what is ugly. The clear implication is that, without vibrant Christians, the world is a much worse place.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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“Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee; none of it will be mine; it will be Thou shining on others through me. Let me thus praise Thee in the way Thou dost love best by shining on those around me. Let me preach Thee without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to Thee. Amen.”

– Cardinal John Henry Newman, “Radiating Christ”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 92.

His Compassion

Scripture Reading

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:30-34)

 

Scripture Study

6:30 After the interlude on the death of John the Baptist, Mark picks up where he left off with the mission of the †apostles (6:7–13), who now return to Jesus and report to him all they had done and taught. Although Jesus’ recent instructions (6:7–11) did not mention teaching, it was part of the ministry for which he had appointed them (3:14).

6:31–32 Jesus recognizes that after their period of intense apostolic labors, the Twelve need to be refreshed once again in his presence and in their fellowship with one another. To “be with him” remains a requirement of fruitful apostleship that must be constantly renewed (3:14; see John 15:4). The deserted place recalls the desert of 1:3–13, a place of testing but also a place of solitude and retreat where God’s people withdraw from the world for special intimacy with him. Jesus’ desire to give them rest evokes the rest that God pledges to give his people in the promised land (Exod 33:14; Deut 12:10; see Heb 4:9–11). It also shows his concern for the practical, physical needs of those who spend themselves in his service.

6:33 The moment word gets out that Jesus is taking off by boat the people anticipate where he will go and run there on foot, arriving before them. By the time the boat lands the shore is no longer deserted but lined with a “vast crowd.”

6:34 The hoped-for retreat has been sabotaged. But instead of reacting with exasperation Jesus is moved with pity at the sight of the needy crowds. This is one of the few occasions where Mark gives us a glimpse into the emotions of Jesus, here using a verb that connotes a deeply felt, gut reaction (see 1:41; 8:2). Pity, or compassion, is one of the most distinctive attributes of God (Ps 86:15; Isa 54:7–8; Hosea 11:8). Jesus recognizes that the people are like sheep without a shepherd, a phrase often used to describe the condition of God’s people in the absence of sound leadership. Mark hints that Jesus himself is the divine Shepherd (see John 10:1–18), the fulfillment of God’s promise to care for his people directly and no longer through an intermediary.

In Matthew’s version of this incident, Jesus responds to the people’s need by healing the sick (Matt 14:14). But for Mark, Jesus exercises his saving power first and foremost by teaching. Indeed his teaching is healing, since it liberates people from their captivity to evil (see Mark 1:27). At the same time, his teaching is feeding, since by proclaiming the good news of the kingdom Jesus is satisfying their spiritual hunger.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ compassion for the multitude in the desert. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

There is the motif of the people Israel in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Isolated, alone, afraid, without food, they clamored for something from Moses. Here we see people who are dying to be fed, and a prophet who is under threat of death. This crowd around the threatened Jesus is a metaphor for the Church. We have come to him because we are hungry, and we stay even when things look bleak.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 124–125.

My Light and Salvation

Scripture Reading

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid? 

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.

For he will hide me in his abode
in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.

(Psalm 27:1,3,5,8,9)

 

Scripture Study

27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The inner man, enlightened in this way, does not waver; he follows the right path, and can endure all things. He who contemplates his final homeland from afar can bear all adversity; he is not saddened by worldly things; rather he finds his strength in God; he humbles his heart and is persevering, and his humility makes him patient. The true light, which comes into the world to enlighten all men, is the Son, revealing himself to all; he gives his light to those who fear him; he infuses it into those who desire it, when they desire it.”

27:2–3. These verses suggest a king hard-pressed by his enemies (who “eat up my flesh”: v. 1); he regains his morale by remembering his God.

27:4–6. His first desire is to be with the Lord in his temple, where he can obtain his help and give him thanks. Desiring to dwell in the house of the Lord is the same thing as desiring to be saved and to see God (cf. v. 8).

27:7–9. This prayer spoken aloud (v. 7) stems from the heart of a man who yearns to see the face of God, to obtain his indulgence (v. 8), by having recourse to the temple (cf. v. 4). Commenting on this psalm, St Augustine writes: “In the most hidden place, where only you may hear it, my heart says to you: Lord, I seek your face: and I will continue in this search, without ever taking rest, so that I may love you freely, for I will never find anything more precious than you [your face]” (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 26, 8).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Trust is possible for those who know the LORD as the savior of their life. The psalm articulates that knowledge at the very beginning where it calls the LORD “my light, my salvation, the stronghold of my life” (v. 1). Salvation concerns life; life is in question in some way where salvation is needed. Salvation is intervention that makes life possible in the face of all that threatens, weakens, and corrupts life. The LORD is called “light” because light drives darkness away. It is in the light that life revives and flourishes; it is in the light that one can see the way.

Trust is nurtured and strengthened by the exercise and discipline of religion. In his time of trouble the psalmist asks one thing: to be in the temple, where he can visualize the beauty of the LORD and seek the direction for his life that comes with the instruction given there through oracle and precept (v. 4). To make his prayer, he goes to the place of the presence of God, obeying the exhortation of Israel’s religion, “Seek ye my face” (v. 8). When trust is kept a private matter, unspoken and unshared, it becomes a personal project and may decay into no more than our own resolution and willpower. Trust needs the stimulus and renewal that come from confronting and contemplating religion’s representation of the revelation of God in liturgy, architecture, and proclamation. In its praise and prayer it evokes the reality in whose life faith chooses to live—the salvation of the LORD.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 108–110.