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Monthly Archives: June 2021

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24 + Psalm 30 + 2 Cor. 8: 7, 9, 13-15 + Mark 5: 21-43
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: June 27, 2021

These two miracle stories in Mark’s Gospel are set within
the larger context of four consecutive accounts of Jesus’ power over chaos.
These four accounts of Jesus’ power to save are found at the end of Chapter 4
and in the entirety of Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark.

Last Sunday, at the end of Chapter 4 in Mark, we encountered Jesus’ power
over the chaos that erupts in nature as he calmed the powerful storm on the sea of Galilee.
At the beginning of Chapter 5, before the two accounts found in today’s Gospel,
Jesus reveals his lordship over the power of evil, as he sets the Gerasene demoniac free from the legion of demons possessing him.

Today we see Jesus’ power over a chronic illness which no doctor can cure
and then his power over that which causes the most chaos in human life—
death itself—as he raises the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed.

Sometime in the next few days, pull out your Bible and read these four miracle stories,
because they are intended to be read together as one account of Jesus’ saving power.

Jesus is called “Lord” because we believe he has power over anything
that could cut us off from His love.
We rightly name Jesus as “Lord” because he has power over everything
that tries to snatch us away from Him and the gift of His Life.
Those who turn to Jesus in faith open themselves up to his saving power,
as we see in the faith of the hemorrhaging woman and in the faith of Jairus.

Remember, as we saw in Jesus’ calming of the storm, when Jesus speaks about faith,
he is speaking about a reality that is the opposite of fear.
He is calling forth trust, which is relational, that we trust in Him and his power to save,
a trust that trumps fear, which is always trying to drown us.

The woman who has been bleeding for 12 years is at the end of her rope.
She has spent everything and received nothing in return.
Not only is she penniless, not only are her life savings gone, but she is also
a social outcast because of her constant flow of blood making her impure, unclean.
The Mosaic law is clear—because she bleeds she cannot enter the temple.
Surely she cannot help but feel completely cut off from God.

For 12 years she has sought healing to no avail.
For 12 years she has been unable to enter the temple and offer sacrifice for her sins.
For 12 years she has been tempted to give into fear and give up on God’s care for her.

But she has enough trust in Jesus, enough confidence in his power to heal and to save her, that she reaches out to touch him, confident that will be enough.
There were many in that crowd that jostled against Jesus that day,
who came into contact with him that day, but none with such trust in Jesus’ loving power.

This woman who had no name, this street woman who knew only pain—
not just physical, but emotional and spiritual—is rightly identified by Jesus
as a daughter of God—her faith has made her well.

When Jairus hears the news of his daughter’s death, that Jesus and he are too late
to save her from her sickness, surely he thought his future was lost to him.
Not only his daughter’s future lost to death, but his as well, for all the dreams he had
for her, all the things he had hoped to see her enjoy in life—snatched away in an instant.

But notice the words of Jesus to this faltering father:
“Do not be afraid, just have faith.”
In other words, do not let fear swallow you, but place your trust in me.
Jairus came to Jesus, trusting in his power to save his daughter from sickness,
and now he must make a greater leap of faith, that Jesus also has power over death itself.
As Jesus lifts up his daughter from the sleep of death, Jairus sees his trust is not in vain.

To “have faith” does not mean that we will not be afraid
or that fear will never try to swamp our lifeboat.

Rather, to “have faith” means that in the middle of the most fear-filled times of our life, we surrender ourselves to the Lord of all life and the Lord over death.
Because of our ongoing relationship with him, we trust that there is nothing
that can separate us from his love which always brings us new life. (cf. Romans 8: 38-39)

Because Jesus is Lord, we are imprisoned by our past no more.
Because Jesus is Lord, we are no longer defined by the circumstances of our present.
Because Jesus is Lord, we do not fear the permanent loss of our future.
Today, in this Eucharist, we reach out in faith to touch the Lord of life,
and he comes to save us once again from all that threatens to destroy us.
He says to us: Rise up with me now to new life.

And he gives us something to eat, the very gift of Himself and a share in His life.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Job 38: 1, 8-11 + Psalm 107 23-26 + 2 Corinthians 5: 14-17 + Mark 4: 35-41
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, June 20, 2021

Storms on the Sea of Galilee happen suddenly, swiftly, and destructively.
One minute it is calm and the next a violent squall whips across the water.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John are fishermen—they know how dangerous
storms on the Sea of Galilee can be.
But even though they are veterans of such sudden storms, they are still fearful.

A storm on the firmness of land is one thing—a storm on water is another.
One can sink, one can drown in a storm on the sea.
Plus, one does not know what monsters lurk beneath the murky waters—
those dangers that cannot be seen, that live in the watery depths.

But for Jesus, there is a bigger disaster than the storm at sea, a greater danger.
That is the disciples lack of faith—they have not yet placed their trust in him.
This is the bigger concern for Jesus—that the waters of fear
have swamped the hearts of his followers, so that their trust in him is drowning.

Remember the parables Jesus taught his disciples before this storm
which revealed that trust was one of the qualities of a person who wanted
to be good soil, receptive to the word of God.

Like a storm on the Sea of Galilee, storms can appear out of nowhere in our lives.
or in the lives of loved ones, with no warning at all.
One minute life is calm, and the next minute are lifeboat is being battered
by the waves of fear.
All it takes is a few words. “You have cancer.”
“Your son has been in an accident.”
“Your husband has Parkinson’s.”
Then fear starts to drown any trust we have in the Lord.

We cry out in our despair to the Lord Jesus,
“Do you not care that we are perishing?” “Do you not care?”
The response from the One who wants to teach us about trust, who wants to teach us how to grow in faith: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

The storm of sickness, whether our own illness or that of a loved one,
has a way of testing our faith, of making us feel abandoned by God,
or at the very least as if God is asleep.
The watery waves of fear pour into our boat, and we feel like we are sinking.

However, especially during stormy times of illness,
the Lord Jesus is with us, in the boat with us.
He does care about our bodily sickness, but his greatest concern
is our relationship to him—can we allow our trust in his saving power to grow during the violent squalls that strike our life?
He says: Quiet! Be Still! Listen—I am with you.

When we pour out our heart to him,
when we tell Him about the fear rocking our boat,
then He can pour into our lives the gift of His peace—
a quiet stillness that is so real, so powerful, so life-giving.

From the very beginning of the Church in the first century, the boat was an image of the Church, of the Christian community, tossed about by the challenges of life.
But remember—it is a boat that holds other members
of the Christian community—we are never alone.
That is one of the reasons why the Church exists, so we might know
that Christ is with us through others.

We know this is a most concrete way
in and through the presence of others with us in the storms of life.
We know this in a powerful way through their prayers.

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker on a car which said: “Nature is my Church.”
Now, for me personally, I encounter God’s presence
and the beauty of God’s creation in nature.
But nature cannot replace the great gift of being united to other people of faith,
of being strengthened by the loving presence and prayers of others on this journey.

We find strength in this knowledge that we are not alone
and thus courage to face the storm head-on.
Slowly but surely a transformation takes place,
from the “old” creation of a fear-dominated life
to the “new” creation of a life marked by a deepening trust in the Lord.

Every storm that strikes our lives is an opportunity to grow in faith.
Now that may not be our initial reaction.
In fact, when storms strike, fear may be that which rises in our hearts first.

But as we go through life, we begin to understand that
storms are simply a part of life.
So, we do not pray that these storms will not strike our boat,
but rather that we will have the ability to grow in trust of the Lord when they do.

Then we can sing with the psalmist:
“Let us thank the Lord for his love, for the wonders he does.
For when we cried to the Lord in our distress, he rescued us.”

We cry out to the one who keeps on patiently teaching us
about the power of God’s love in our life,
This power is greater than any storm, even the storm of death itself.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

11th SUNDAY in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Ezekiel 17: 22-24 + Psalm 92: 2-16 + 2 Cor. 5: 6-10 + Mark 4: 26-34
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, June 13, 2021

Today, on this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the Year of Mark’s Gospel,
we return to a consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel at Sunday Mass.
We left off on our consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel way back on Valentine’s Day.
Remember the deep freeze of that time and the snow that followed,
preventing many of you from attending Ash Wednesday services
immediately after Valentine’s Day.

Back in mid-February we began the 40 days of the Lenten Season, then entered the 50 days of the Easter Season, and then these past 2 Sundays celebrated important beliefs about who God is as Trinity and how God draws us into the life of the Trinity
through the great gift of the Eucharist.
After all that passage of time, today we return to a consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel.

The challenge, though, is we are dropped right into the middle of Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel with these 2 parables: The Seed that Grows of Itself and the Mustard Seed.
It’s like going to sleep in one place and waking up in an entirely different place—
we have to get our bearings in order to understand where we are
and what Jesus desires to teach us through his word.

For we cannot understand what Jesus is trying to teach us without understanding
the context in which the evangelist Mark places these 2 parables.

In Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses agricultural images in speaking about
the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
In doing so, he chooses images from material life
to point to the hidden workings of the spiritual life.
This is how Jesus uses parables, speaking about what is visible to point
to the invisible workings of God’s grace, the hidden movements of the Spirit.

The two parables we hear today toward the middle of Chapter 4 of Mark are connected
to the first parable at the beginning of this chapter—The Parable of the Sower.
The parables we ponder today—the “Seed that Grows of Itself” and the “Mustard Seed” illumine this previous parable about the Sower who sows the seed.
The three parables in Chapter 4 can only be understood together.
In the parable that opens Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel, “The Parable of the Sower”,
there are 4 types of soil that the Sower encounters—
three types that do not receive the seed and the fourth soil that is receptive to the seed.
In Jesus’ explanation of that parable to his disciples, away from the noise of the crowd,
he states that the Sower stands for himself, the seed is his word,
and the soil represents the hearts of the listeners.

However, since Jesus did not say much about the characteristics
of the 4th type of soil, he tells 2 more parables shed light on the qualities of good soil.
Since Jesus did not elaborate much at all about the 4th type of person
who is receptive to his word and produces abundant fruit,
he tells 2 more parables to about this type of person of faith.

The Parable of the “Seed that Grows of Itself” (productive soil)
and the parable of the “Mustard Seed” (transformative soil)
both point to qualities needed in order for the word of God to take root
in the heart of the listener and produce abundant fruit.

A very important quality of good soil is to cooperate with God’s grace
even when we do not see the results immediately.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. We demonstrate this most powerfully
when we follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus which are contrary to popular culture.
We do what we are commanded to do, even though others tempt us by saying,
“What good does it do?”
So, we are kind, even when others are rude in return.
We are patient, when having everything right now is the norm.
We forgive, when everyone else is seeking revenge.
We are faithful, while others glibly break their vows.
We are honest, even when others who lie and cheat and steal seem to be getting ahead.
We are grateful, while others are never satisfied with what they have.
We worship God with our brothers and sisters in Christ,
which does not appear to produce anything concrete,
while everyone else is at the lake having fun.

Another one of these very important qualities of good soil revealed by today’s parables
is trust!
We must trust that the Sower knows what he is doing,
that the instructions of Jesus are worth following.
So, in trust, we remain open to Him and to his word.
We do so by turning to him daily in prayer, so the water of our baptism can flow freely
in our lives, nourishing the growth of our spiritual lives.
Receiving the Eucharist, week after week, also enables the water of baptism
to flow freely through our life, watering the seed of faith.
We know not how prayer works, we simply know that prayer works.
We know not how the growth of God’s life and love happens in our lives, but prayer,
this ongoing relationship with the Lord, assures us that it is happening.
Spending time with the Lord every day is essential,
even when nothing on the surface appears to be happening.

A quality which takes trust to a deeper level is surrender.
We surrender ourselves and our lives daily into the hands of the Lord,
recognizing that a lot is not in our control.
For this is how it is with the Kingdom of God. Surrender is a deeper form of trusting,
of placing all that we have and are into God’s hands.
When we surrender in love to God,
we admit that we do not need to have the blueprint of our entire life—
only give us today our daily bread, and that will be enough.
Surrendering to God means we can say,
“You don’t have to show me the whole road ahead. Just the next step will do.”

For we only see the mustard seed of our small lives, the mustard seed of our faith,
but when we surrender the little we are and have into God’s hands,
something remarkable happens.
We grow into something beyond what we dreamed could be possible.

We become bread for others who hunger for God.
We become a welcoming shade for those seeking comfort
from the blazing heat of suffering and despair.

Ultimately, being good soil for God’s word is not about individual achievement.
It’s not about “self-help” or “self-improvement,”
but about being of loving assistance to others, producing fruit for the Kingdom of God.

When we do so, we will not be afraid to stand before the judgment seat of Christ
and give an account for our lives.
Actually, we will not need to say a word.
Others will speak on our behalf.
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi