Saturday, June 1, 2024

Gospel Reflection Mark 11:27-33

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus (again) confounds the religious leaders of the day with a simple question. By asking them about the origin of John’s baptism, Jesus lays their souls bare: they do not care about the truth of God. They are more concerned with legalistic and political exercises under the pretense of piety than anything else. This is the markedly inward turn of sin manifest, huddled together looking at each other - ostensibly a mirror - instead of on their knees looking to God of heaven and earth. 

The chief priests, scribes, and elders are concerned with earthly authority, rank, and order. In this process, hard-baked over many years, they have become numb to ultimate Authority. The ancient Latin root of authority is ‘author’ or ‘originator’. Even more specifically, ‘’master’ or ‘leader’. Jesus spoke in the very person of God. Although shocking to many, there was no doubt He was claiming divine prerogative for Himself. The Lord knew full well that His interlocutors were numb and unable to hear anything outside their echo chamber. Seen in this light, the question Jesus asks is a merciful way of trying once again to show the religious leaders they are missing something profound. 

Friday, May 31, 2024

Gospel Reflection Luke 1:39-56

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After her great ‘yes’ to God, we read that Mary set out in haste to visit her older cousin Elizabeth in the hill country. We can feel the excitement of Our Lady as she travels to share what the Lord has chosen for her to do. As the two co-conspirators in the divine rescue plan meet, Elizabeth bursts forth in praise. The Lord Himself has come into her home! 

Elizabeth then says something very profound and instructive for us, a great summary of the Christian faith. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” This is the very essence of what we believe, the entire basis of the confession we make every Sunday at Mass. We believe what the Lord tells us because it is the Lord who is telling us. This belief is not simply an intellectual assent, but an entire re-orientation of life around divinely revealed truth. The Blessed Virgin and St. Elizabeth show us the way. God speaks and they respond with humility and obedience. May it be so for us this great feast day and each day forward. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us!

St. Elizabeth, Pray for us! 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Gospel Reflection Mark 10:46-52

Today’s Gospel recounts the story of Bartimaeus. The idea of blindness has strong spiritual connotations. If we are blind, we cannot ‘see’ the pain and error of our sinful ways nor can we behold the truth of God. In another setting, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for being blind guides. They do not know where they are going yet confidently lead others. We are meant to see glimpses of ourselves in the Pharisees, and they should serve as an apt warning sign. Spiritual blindness is a grave danger.

We encounter Bartimaeus in a sorry state. Not only is he unable to see, but he is begging. He has put himself at the mercy of others. Lest we look down our noses at the beggar, we must remember ourselves in the same state. We are all beggars. Our sinfulness places us in the worst state imaginable. We cast about futility in many directions for sustenance. Nothing in this world can nourish. Bartimaeus realizes his state. He knows only the grace of the Son of David can help him. Even though people try to fervently deter him, Bartimaeus throws himself at the mercy of God with abandon.

What all of us sinners need, those of us who are ‘blind’, is to ‘see’ Jesus. Thus, it is instructive that at the end of the passage today, Jesus says, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus asks to receive sight, but he gets so much more than being able to see colors, shapes, and movement. My speculation is the first thing he sees with his eyes is the face of Jesus, while at the same time, his faith has brought him before the face of God in friendship. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Daily Gospel Reflection Mark 10:32-45

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Christianity is profoundly paradoxical, and this is just one more example of that. Jesus raises paradox to the highest possible pitch.

Paradoxes have a long history, usually relegated to scholars of logic and mathematics. In the context of our faith, a paradox is a proposition or set of conjunctive propositions that seem contradictory but are simultaneously true. When we think about paradox, we have the notion of holding two competing notions in our minds at once. Returning to the reading today, Jesus’ claim of being the Son of Man, His most frequent self-attribution, is a claim to divinity. Yet, he also claims to be a servant. 

The tempting move here is to try and resolve the tension. The rationalist, Pythagorean instinct within us moves in this direction. I submit that we should refrain from trying to resolve the competing polarities. Instead, we should quiet our minds until they are taken up and deeper into the mystery of God. Throughout salvation history, God shows us in vivid colors what Hamlet tells the ever-pragmatic Horatio: there are more things in heaven and earth than we can dream of in our philosophy. 

Paradoxes make us uncomfortable because they illuminate the boundaries of our finitude. Yet, in approaching these limits we realize more who we are before God, and we are brought to true humility. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Gospel Reflection Mark 10:28-31

In today’s Gospel, St. Peter says to Jesus what every baptized Christian should say “We have given up everything and followed you.” This is a stark juxtaposition from the scene we read about yesterday where the rich man cannot bring himself to part with his many possessions to follow Jesus. 

Life in Christ, participating in the abundance of the life He gives now and in the age to come, necessarily implies a cost. Not just a one-time transaction, but daily installments. To receive, we must give. We must give of ourselves. The choice of whether we will bring the sacrifice of Cain or the sacrifice of Abel stands before us each morning. 

We must give. This might be best understood in the context of divine love, which is itself the infinite gift of being. To receive the love of God, we must give love away. The goodness and blessings God pours into our lives are meant to be shared. But we are hoarders! Trying to hoard the love of God is like hoarding possessions; the one hoarding ends up being possessed. The more we try to dam the flow of divine love in us, the more parched we become. 

From a spiritual standpoint, when things, relationships, or circumstances own us, they come to define us. In turn, they create a barrier between us and God. The more we put our effort, energy, time, and focus into these things, however good they are, the higher the wall becomes until we can no longer see the Lord. Finite, contingent, and passing things are not bad in the strict sense. It is good to love our families and communities, for example. But these things cannot be the highest good. Although we experience love within them and from them, they are not the source of love. Jesus calls us to Himself as the source. When we drink deeply from His well, we can enjoy the abundant goods downstream and simultaneously contribute to their goodness.