In the Gospel for Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed. He compares the Kingdom of God to the seed. “It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mark 4: 30-32). Like the mustard seed, the Kingdom of God begins in a small way and grows into greatness. The Kingdom of God is inevitable. It is here and growing. I believe I live in the reign of God. God’s peace is not always evident amidst the troubles of life. Nonetheless, with God’s help, I can make the world a better place for me and for others. How do you promote God’s peace?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Jesus explains his reasons for teaching with parables. “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given” (Mark 4: 24). Jesus challenges the listeners to pay attention to the parables. He knows those who really hear the message will increase their spiritual insights. My lifetime of listening to the parables of Jesus has increased my understanding of his message. The better I understand his message, the more deeply I grow in friendship with Jesus. The more intimately I experience the love of Jesus, the more I love others as Jesus loves us. The more I receive, the more I am able to give. How does your relationship with Jesus help you grow in love for yourself? For others?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. “But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4: 20). God planted the Word in my heart. I am rich soil. God has given me countless blessings: loving parents, a devoted spouse, kind sons, faithful friends, a supportive parish family, and more. Their love nourishes the love of God in my heart. God’s unconditional love for me bears fruit when I love others as best I can. How do you bear the fruit of God’s love?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Jesus includes all believers in his family. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3: 35). Jesus expands his family beyond his relatives. All who do God’s will belong to God’s family. As an American Italian, I grew up cherishing my family: parents, grandparents, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a baptized Catholic my family also includes the neighbors on my block, the parishioners of my church, the panhandler at the freeway intersection, the children in Flint MI, the victims of war in the Middle East, and even people I do not like. Everyone is my brother and sister in God. God wants me to care for them as much as I care for my immediate family. How do you care for God’s family?
In the Gospel for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Jesus appears to the apostles after his Resurrection. He commissions them. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16: 15). He reassures them that with God they can work wonders. Jesus commissions us today to proclaim the good news of God’s loving mercy. With God’s grace, we can work wonders too. We inspire the faith of other worshippers by attending Sunday mass. We comfort the sick by visiting a friend in the hospital. We feed the hungry by donating to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We engender hope in a better world by lobbying for laws that promote the common good. How do you proclaim God’s love and mercy.
In the Gospel for the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, Jesus appoints the twelve apostles. “He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3: 14-15). The Twelve represent the Tribes of Israel, the people of God. In choosing them, Jesus the Messiah begins the restoration of God’s people. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry, forgives sins, frees the captives, and more. Jesus continues his mission through us, spiritual descendants of the Twelve. How do you carry on the mission of Jesus?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus attracts a crowd. “A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3: 7b-8). Jesus was a popular healer. People came from everywhere for a cure. Jesus healed them physically with miracles and spiritually with forgiveness and mercy. Jesus attracts me too. I often find myself resisting his attraction. I think I am unworthy, afraid, too busy, unprepared, and more. If I pray for help to overcome my resistance, I am often surprised by God’s loving mercy. Jesus wants to draw all of us to God. How do you resist God?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures the man with the withered hand. The Pharisees object to him curing on the Sabbath. “Looking around at them [Pharisees] with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was restored’ ” (Mark 3: 5). Jesus takes a risk curing the man. Afterwards the Pharisees plot to kill him. Loving like God love is risky. Jesus literally put his life on the line to share God’s love and mercy. Disciples of Jesus take risk too. Loving without counting the cost means sacrifice. Parents wake up at night to care for a colicky baby. A married couple move back home to care for an ailing parent. A woman spends all her free time caring for a terminally ill friend. What are you risking to love like Jesus?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus argues with the Pharisees about his disciples picking ears of corn on the sabbath. The Pharisees object to them working on the sabbath. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that David fed his hungry followers with the bread of offering only priests could lawfully eat. “Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath’ ” (Mark 2: 27-28). Jesus understood his messianic mission as loving service to the hungry, poor, captive, and all those in need. He demonstrates in this story his loving concern for his hungry disciples. As Christians, we are Jesus for others. How do you feed those who are physically hungry? Spiritually hungry?
In the Gospel for Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures a paralytic. “Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they [four men] opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying” (Mark 2: 3). The paralytic needed help with his healing. We have help with our healing too. We have parents, spouses, family, friends, doctors, counselors, and more who help us heal physically, emotionally, and psychologically. We are also means of God’s healing grace. How does God heal you through others? How does God heal others through you?