Day 52 – February 21

Today’s Readings:

Leviticus 25-27
Mark 3:1-19
Psalm 52

Then Jesus said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.   – Mark 3:4

The man that Jesus called forward was, according to some scholars, possibly a stone mason, and his injury was one caused by accident from his professional trade. In his current state, his livelihood was gone and could have been reduced to beg, if not for Jesus.

The Pharisees are watching Jesus. Others came to the synagogue to listen to Jesus and learn from him. And the Pharisees? What was their motive? They were watching him for a reason to accuse him.

As Jesus entered the synagogue, He noticed the man with the shriveled arm, and the Pharisees looking on. He knew that to heal the man who was not mortally wounded would break the law regarding rest on the Sabbath, as we read in Leviticus today. He makes a decision, calls the man forward where he would be noticed by all, and poses a two-part question:

First – is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil?
The Pharisees would have to affirm that it is lawful to do good to another on the sabbath. To do evil would be unthinkable.

Second – is it lawful to save life rather than to destroy it?
The Pharisees are trapped. They know that, although the man’s wounded hand is not a life-threatening injury that could wait until the next day, it has threatened the man’s livelihood. Knowing Jesus wants to do good would restore life to the man, in a sense. The Pharisees would also be very aware of the thoughts in their own minds; they who sought a way to bring Jesus’ life to an end.

With the restoration of the man’s hand, Jesus not only does good on the sabbath, but he saves the man’s life by restoring his capacity to earn a living. The Pharisees were silenced because they were plotting how to get rid of Jesus, to destroy life.

What else is surprising is, after the healing could not the Pharisees see that Jesus was the real deal? Were their hearts so hardened that could not believe?

Let us ask the Lord to give us open hearts to see his working in our lives, and turn to him and follow his example of charity and mercy.

May God bless you!

cb365

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Day 51 – February 20

Today’s Readings:

Leviticus 23-24
Mark 2
Psalm 51

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”   – Mark 2:5-7

In our first reading today from Leviticus 24:16, we saw what happens when a person blasphemes God; death by stoning. Now, members of the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, were present when Jesus spoke these words forgiving another’s sin. By doing so, he was making himself an equal with God.

The Jews believed that a person with an infirmity was a person who had sinned against God. The story of Job shows this attitude when his friends come to comfort him, and Zophar recommends to Job that it is his sin that has caused his current plight (Job 11:13-15).

Back to today’s gospel, the questioning of the Scribes is answered with Jesus’ action. It also makes us pause and ask, ‘Why did Jesus say his sins were forgiven if he planned to heal the man?’ Wouldn’t it have saved him a lot of trouble just to heal him and skip the dialogue?

Probably. But Jesus came to heal the souls of all men through His redemptive act of love on the Cross. His challenge to the understanding of the Scribes about sin and sickness, he antis up, when challenged about those whose company he keeps.

“Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” – Mark 2:16-17

If he calls sinners and offers forgiveness through his healing them, Jesus demonstrates he is a physician not only of the body but of the soul. His signs and wonders keep pointing to a reality that Jesus was more than a prophet; his words and his works manifested the truth of God among us. If only we have eyes to see and believe.

May God bless you!

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Day 50 – February 19

Today’s Readings:

Leviticus 21-22
Mark 1:1-22
Psalm 50

“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”  – Mark 1:30-31

Today we read the first recorded miracle in the gospel of Mark – Jesus dispels an unclean spirit. After leaving the synagogue, the scene shifts to Simon’s house where his mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. Perhaps Jesus had gone there for a break, a time for prayer and food. But no sooner than entering the home, he is told about the sick woman, and heals her of her fever.

The scene tells us something about the disciples. They haven’t been following Jesus for very long, yet, they have already made a habit of sharing their inmost hearts and concerns with him. They show the makings of trust and relationship with Jesus. And Jesus responds with a readiness, a genuine interest to take care of their needs.

Do we approach Jesus with our needs with such simplicity? Wanting to talk with Him as we would our best friend? There is no special formula of prayer necessary to get Jesus’ attention; He simply tells us to come to Him with the faith of a child (Matthew 18:3).

Let us ask for the gift of such a relationship with Jesus, inviting Him to be part of our daily – hourly lives! He desires to be the friend that responds to our every word and request with genuine love and interest in our daily struggles.

May God bless you!

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Day 49 – February 18

Today’s Readings:

Leviticus 19-20
Mark 1:1-22
Psalm 49

John … proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”  – Mark 1:6-8

Mark’s gospel, while the shortest of the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), is a fast-paced telling of Jesus’s life. We know it is the earliest of the three, and the most detailed in the little things that give life to the words on the page. It gives intimate details that scholars attribute to Peter’s telling and Mark’s attentive listening. Such details, like when Jesus places a child in their midst, he lovingly places his arms around the child; or describing he had a pillow under his head while asleep in the stern of the boat, make us ponder what it might have been like to be Mark, listening to Peter recount his time with Jesus. As we read, keep imagining you are sitting with Mark listening to Peter preaching, and in our reading in the coming days, we are retelling the story we’ve already heard, letting it take hold anew in our hearts.

And so we begin this Gospel quickly, almost setting out at a jogging pace – John the Baptist is quickly introduced, followed by Jesus coming to him to be baptized. Jesus is driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit and is tempted by Satan for forty days. Only after a time of testing in the desert does Jesus begin his public ministry, choosing his disciples and began teaching in the synagogue.

Quite a lot in 22 verses! The cornerstone of it all is Jesus’ baptism. Jesus, being the Son of God, did not need John’s baptism of repentance, but Jesus allowed himself to be baptized. According to Jewish tradition, baptism was for converts to Judaism. The person who converted to the Jewish faith had three things they had to undergo: 1) circumcision; 2) a sacrifice of an animal’s blood for atonement; and 3) he would have a baptism of repentance, a cleansing of his past life. But what John was doing was radical – he was baptizing Jews, who did not need to submit to baptism. He understood that one could belong to God by family line, but that they needed to have a change of heart and choose to live for God. The baptism of repentance he offered was one of preparing the Jewish nation for the acceptance of Christ.

Many Christians today identify themselves as such because they were raised in that tradition. But John the Baptist shows us, we have to come to a point where we choose to belong to God. We may have been baptized as infants, exposing us to many graces through the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit we received; it is up to us as we mature to embrace the faith we inherited and turn to God and affirm what began in our youth.

How do we do this? Our first step is to acknowledge who we are in truth, to call out the parts of us that are not of God. Secondly, we must make right our wrongs in our relationships with others. Thirdly, we must turn to God. Renewing our relationship with God through the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This is our John the Baptist moment, being before the priest and confessing our sins and admitting our need for God’s mercy, restores us to our baptismal innocence.

Jesus wanted to be like us in all ways but sin that he allowed himself to be baptized and subjected to temptation. But he also guides us to see how we are called through our redemption, to glorify him in sharing the message of grace we have received through his blood on the cross.

May God bless you!

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Day 48 – February 17

Today’s Readings:

Leviticus 17-18
Matthew 28
Psalm 48

Jesus said to them, “Fear not! Go tell my brothers to go away into Galilee, and there they will see me.”   – Matthew 28:10

Those that were with Jesus at the Cross are the first to be witnesses of His resurrection. As they approach the tomb, and seeing the angel, they must have sensed they were before a great mystery. Perhaps such a sign (angel) was needed because who could have believed the truth of the Resurrection? It would seem too good to be possible!

As the truth began to sink in, they are in a sense commissioned to be the first evangelizers. To do so they had to come to grips with what they believed.

Their belief, however, was not enough. More was required of them, as they were asked share with others, to “Go tell” others the good news, with joy in their hearts!

Let us too, who have come to believe, imitate the first followers, that we too will believe – share – and rejoice.

May God bless you!

cb365