June 29, 2012

13th Sunday - B (July 1, 2012)

Mark 5: 21-43

The Sacrifice that Gives Life

Jesus' touch is the key action in this passage, with both miracles.

Jesus' touch restores the woman to health.  Moreover, it restores her sense of self and reinstates her to the community, since her physical illness has made her ritually unclean [1].  She can now live the full life of a person and a member of God's family.

Jesus touch restores the young woman to life and to her family.  Moreover, at twelve, she is old enough to get married [2].  Not only does Jesus' touch heal her, it enables her to give life.

Significantly, by touching these women, Jesus risks his reputation and ultimately, his own life.  He touches a dead body, which by ritual laws, made him unclean.  Then, in the social and religious climate of his time, it was a taboo for a man who is not a family member, and worse, a religious teacher, to touch a woman of "marriageable age"  [3].

Here, we have two examples of Jesus risking his reputation and even his safety for the well-being of others.
The touch that costs him his life is the touch that makes us whole, gives us life, and enables us to be life-giving.

Citations all taken from  Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord - Year B.  Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul Publications,1993; p. 160-161

June 20, 2012

Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24, 2012)

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

God Has Shown Favor

In the events of the birth of John, most people recognize it as an act of God's "great mercy toward" Zechariah and Elizabeth.  In fact, the name Zechariah that the neighbors and relatives want to give to the child is rather appropriate.  It means, "Yahweh remembers." [1]. They might have thought of the name when they considered the parents' old age and their lifelong faithfulness to God. [2] Their devotion to God's law is also indicated in this passage when Luke points out the fact that they have their son circumcised on the eighth day since his birth as prescribed in the law of Moses. [3]

However, they fail to see the extraordinary hands of God in it all.  They cannot break away from the expected routine.  "There is no one among your relatives who has this name," they argue with Elizabeth.  With this sentiment, the name Zechariah, God remembers, could perhaps express a sense of entitlement.   They live in the past. [4]

God does more for Zechariah and Elizabeth, for their newborn son, and in fact for the whole human race than just simply "remembering."  Zechariah and Elizabeth have been told of God's favor by the angel (earlier in this same chapter, verses 11-17).  Thus, in obedience to the angel, but also an act of faith, they name their son "John," the name means "Yahweh has shown favor" [5] or "God is gracious" [6].  Zechariah and Elizabeth recognize God's favor and grace.  They see the new day of God's salvation.

In Church today, we do not read Zechariah's prayer of praise that comes next in this chapter of Luke.  But there, Zechariah praises, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people" (v. 68).  It is no longer the past or the routine.  It's now the new age of God's favor and redemption.

Zechariah and Elizabeth claim no entitlement with God. Rather, with the eyes of faith, they see God's graciousness in the events that others see as somewhat of routine, take it for granted, or even feel entitled to.    

Do I see God's graciousness and favor in the ordinary events of my life and of the world surrounding me?

[1] Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes at CrossMarks Christian Resources, http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke1x57.htm 
[2] Luke describes Zechariah and Elizabeth in these words, "Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years " (1:6-7)
[3] Genesis 17:7, New American Bible, Footnote
[4]  Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord - Year B.  Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul Publications,1993; p. 210.
[5] New American Bible, footnote.
[6]  New Jerusalem Biblefootnote.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24, 2012)


Image:  Tinoretto, The Birth of St. John the Baptist.http://www.artbible.net

June 16, 2012

11th Sunday - B (June 17, 2012)

Mark 4: 26-34

The Very Small Thing in God's Hands

One of the messages Jesus gives in these two parables seems clear and simple:  the smallest action, with God's grace, can become great.

And this often happens without us knowing how and when.  It even has little to do with our efforts, as seen in the case of a sleeping farmer.

11th Sunday - B (June 17, 2012)


June 9, 2012

Body and Blood of Christ - B (June 10, 2012)

CommentaryMark 14:12-16, 22-26

There Are No Accidents in Jesus’ Sacrifice of Love
The events in this passage from Mark (14:12-16, 22-26) follow Jesus’ anointing at Bethany (14:3-9). There, Jesus explained the action of the unnamed woman as “anointing [his] body for burial.” More significantly, Judas then met with the chief priests to arrange “to hand [Jesus] over.” Now, Judas is looking for the opportunity to do that (14:10-11).

So, Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.

Yet, he has everything arranged for what he is about to do in order to fulfill the Father’s plan for him for the salvation of the world.

It is not by chance that the two disciples Jesus sends will just run into a man carrying a water jar waiting for them to follow. Besides, commentators often point out that in Jesus’ time, it was not common for a man to carry a water jar in public.

Nor is it an accident that there is a “large upper room furnished and ready” by the master of the house for Jesus and his friends to celebrate the Passover.

Then, the request that the disciples are told to ask the master of the house proves that everything has been arranged in advance. “The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Nobody can just show up at another person’s door and ask such a question without some kind of pre-arrangement. And Jesus tells them to ask for “my guestroom” (emphasis in italic added).

Jesus has it all planned out for this special Feast of Unleavened Bread, when he gives himself out of love to be the Passover Lamb being sacrificed.

So, when he gives the bread to his friends, saying, “This is my body;” and the cup, saying, “This is my blood,” it is no accident. It is the sublime gift of love, given thoughtfully and knowingly.

Body and Blodd of Christ - B (June 10, 2012)


Image: Nicolas Poussin, Institution of the Eucharist, 1640

June 1, 2012

Most Holy Trinity - B (June 3, 2012)

Matthew 28: 16-20

Who Has the Power?

This passage is made up of the very last verses of the Gospel According to Matthew.  Even at this point the disciples are still not yet people of perfect faith.  When they saw the Risen Christ, "they worshiped, but they doubted."  There have been different suggestions on how to interpret the sentence (whether all of them worshiped, but with some lingering doubts in everybody; or some worshiped and some doubted). [1].  Either way, it is clear that the disciples as a group is still struggling in their faith.

Yet, to these imperfect disciples, the Risen Lord commissioned them, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations."  It is "to all nations" as the extent of their task.

On their own, how will they fulfill that task?

The keyword here seems to be "therefore."

"All power in heaven and on earth has been given" to Christ.  And it is Christ who sends the disciples.  It is Christ who gives them the power.  Therefore, they are given such a great task.  Therefore, it is not with their power and their weaknesses that they go.  They go with the power of Christ.

They go in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Therefore, with Christ, the whole Trinity will be with the disciples always, "until the end of the age."

[1]  Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord - Year B.  Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul  Publications,1993; p. 134

Most Holy Trinity - B (June 3, 2012)


Image source:  http://www.qumran2.net