In the Gospel for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches his disciples about greatness.  The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.  Jesus points to a child nearby.  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me” (Mark 9: 37).  Children at the time of Jesus had no legal status; they were completely dependent on others.  The disciples would gain no money, prestige, or power from helping a child.  A Bible study friend recounted that hobos often joined her family for dinner.  Her parents fed the hungry men from the nearby railroad tracks.  When her father died, they all came to his funeral.  They recognized true greatness when they saw it.  Service to the most  vulnerable is the way to Christian greatness.  How do you care for those most in need in your family, community, the world?

 

 

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In the Gospel for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus predicts his passion.  “He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’  “(Mark 8: 34).  Jesus tells his disciples that fidelity to God entails suffering.  Christian today accept suffering that comes from loving God, loving oneself and loving one’s neighbor.  Christians are not masochists.   We do not deserve suffering.  Yet suffering comes.   Love risks suffering.   Spouses care for one another when ill.  The chronically ill struggle to care for themselves and those they love.  Relief workers endure harsh conditions to care for hurricane victims.  Blessed Oscar Romero lost his life in defense of the poor.  For whom are you carrying the cross?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures the deaf man with a speech impediment.  “He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’— that is, ‘Be opened!’ —  And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7: 33-35).  The miracles of Jesus are signs of the saving action of God.  God is doing what God promised throught the prophets.  The deaf hear and the mute speak.  In Jesus God’s reign begins.  In us, the baptized, God’s reign continues.  We can be intruments of God’s healing.  A compliment gives confidence to a shy friend.  A phone call comforts a lonely relative.  Advocacy for immigration reform may reunite migrant families separated at the border.  How open are you to the healing power of the Holy Spirit in your life?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus challenges the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law.  “[They] 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’ ” (Mark 7:  5-8).  Their petty concerns angered Jesus.  The details of the law preoccupied them.  They forget the heart of the law: love of God and love of neighbor.  I remember losing my temper with my wife and children getting ready for Sunday morning mass.  Rushing around at the last minute, I forgot the reason for our preparations.  We were getting ready to profess our love for God and neighbor at mass.  Those mornings my heart was far from God.  Do your religious practices change your heart?  How?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus asks his disciples if they believe in him.  “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life …  Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?   You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God’ ” (John 6: 66-69).  Christians make a choice for Christ.  Like the Twelve, we are convinced that Jesus is the “Holy One of God”.  My faith in Jesus gives my life a purpose.  God has a plan for me.  God loves me.  God loves me through and beyond death.  God has prepared a place for me in heaven.  God’s love makes all the difference in the way I live my life.  Confident in God’s love, I can take a risk in loving others.  I can love selflessly.  I can love those who have hurt me.  I can care for those different than me.  I can have compassion for those who are ill.  Whom else but God and God’s family would I want to love?  To whom else would I want to go?  Why have you chosen to serve God in your life?

In the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time B, Jesus continues his preaching on the Bread of Life.  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6: 51).  Christ is alive in the Church.  Through Eucharist Christ is alive in us.  Food keeps our physical bodies alive; Eucharist keeps us alive in the Body of Christ.  St. Theresa of Avila taught that Christ has no body but ours.  Christ heals the sick with our hands.  Christ accompanies the poor with our feet.  Christ looks with compassion through our eyes.  How are you living bread for others?

In the Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus reveals himself as the bread of life.  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven;  whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6: 51).  We are what we eat.   The precious Body of Christ we consume at mass nourishes the life of Christ within us.  We become more like Christ each time we celebrate Eucharist.  We leave church as Christ for others.  Jesus continues to offer himself to us in the Eucharist.  Whoever eats this bread also offers themselves in love for others.   A husband goes to Al Anon meetings in support of his wife recovering from alcoholism.  A father listens compassionately to his son’s sorrow about a girlfriend moving away.  A caring mother calls her legislator to lobby for immigration reform.  How do you nourish others by your love?

In the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus commissions his disciples.  “So they went off and preached repentance.  The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:  12-13).  Jesus empowers the Twelve to proclaim God’s Kingdom in word and deed.  They preach repentance and cure the sick.  Their mission is an extension of the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus empowers all the Baptized to carry on his mission.  Christians participate in the ministry of Jesus by what they say and do.  A father reassures a son disappointed by a rejection letter that good things will happen.  A nurse’s aide cleans a soiled patient who is dying.  How do you go off and carry out the mission of Jesus?

In the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus hometown rejects him. Back in Nazareth, Jesus began to preach. Initially amazed, his hometown neighbors became belligerent.  ” ‘What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!  Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?’  And they took offense at him Mark” (Mark 6: 2b-3).  The townspeople could not believe God was working through this hometown boy.  They resented him preaching to them.  I have resented the advice of others.  I thought I knew better than them.  Sometimes I have even thought I knew better than God what was good for me.  I only succeeded with my plan if it was God’s plan.  Any good I accomplish, God accomplishes through me.  Does God accomplish mighty deeds through you? Why? Why not?

In the Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus heals the hemorrhaging woman.  Reaching out to Jesus in a crowd, she touches him.  Immediately she is cured.  “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched my clothes?’ …  The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.  She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.  He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction’ ” (Mark 5: 30, 33-34).   Jesus cures those who have faith in his power to heal.  I was praying for a parish friend for healing from a bone marrow transplant.  I have faith in Jesus.  Yet I was so troubled when he died.  I wanted him to recover.  I am praying now for his family for healing from their grief.  Do you believe in the healing power of Jesus?  Why? Why not?