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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Jesus heals the leper of his disease

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Mark 1:40–45 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

 Figure by trees in sunshineLeprosy was one of the most repugnant and most feared diseases in the ancient world. In the Old Testament the term was used to denote a broad range of skin diseases, some of which were curable, and so the law stipulated conditions to be fulfilled if the disease was to be recognised as cured. In its most virulent form it was considered so serious that the rabbis regarded the healing of leprosy to be as difficult as raising the dead. Perhaps the worst effect of leprosy was that people suffering from any of the diseases covered by the term had to live isolated from society. They were forbidden from entering a dwelling, and if anyone approached they had to cry "Unclean, unclean!" (Lev. 13:45–46).

This understanding helps us to realise that in today's Gospel Jesus was approached by a person who was normally denied any contact with healthy people. Those surrounding Jesus must have shied away from the sick man, fearful of contamination. How did Jesus react to the man's presence? Some ancient manuscripts, rather than saying that he was 'moved with pity' (v. 41), read that he was 'moved with anger. Commentators reflect that this reading may portray Jesus’s anger against the power of evil seen as present in the illness. With a word and a touch Jesus healed the leper.

Despite the laws of Leviticus, the leper came to Jesus with great faith, and his faith was rewarded with his healing Jesus showed that he regarded compassion as more important than the ritual prohibitions against contact with the diseased. Nevertheless, he was obedient to the law in complying with the regulations surrounding the proof of a cure, telling the man to go to the priest and make the stipulated offering

As we try to follow Jesus’s way, we may ask ourselves: Who are the outcasts today? Who are those that we shy away from, in fear, loathing and contempt? Whether consciously or not, it is all too easy for us to retreat from those who are ill or suffering But people, whoever they are and whatever their condition, need compassion and care.

Lord, you cared for the outcasts of society.  Help me to make room in my heart for everyone, including those whom society judges as beyond redemption, for your mercy reaches out to all.

 

 

Leviticus 13:1–2, 44-46 • Psalm 31 (32):1-2, 5, 11 • 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1 • Mark 1:40–45

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Take Courage

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Mark 6:45–52
 
Jesus appears on the water to a boatload of men
 
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us, “Take courange! . . . Don’t be afraid.” (v50, NIV).  The remedy for fear is love, faith and courage.  God’s love for us is so intense, so prolific, so all-forgiving that we should never be burdened by guilt or bound by fear.
 
In God’s love we can become like infants, blissfully and safely asleep in his arms, where nothing else matters.  Do we ever feel like this?  If not, or not frequently enough, we need to remind ourselves of the truth that, however helpless or unworthy or frightened we feel, Jesus felt that we were worth dying for.
 
Lord, help me to experience the love that you have for me, the love which drives away fear and which equips me with faith and courage.  From my place in your arms show me how I can face my fears and how my worries will look so much smaller.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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Marriage in Heaven

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Apocalypse 11:4-12 • Psalm 143(144):1–2, 9–10 • Luke 20:27–40

Jesus incurred the wrath and indignation of two groups in Israel: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Each group was intent on trying to trip Jesus up, catching him out, boxing him into a corner. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They approached Jesus with all the arrogance of an elite professional religious caste and put before him a disingenuous conundrum all wrapped up as a sincere query about the levirate law on marriage. According to this law a dead man’s brother was obliged to marry the widow, who could then bear a child so that the deceased brother’s line and estate would be retained within the family and his lineage would continue into posterity. The Sadducees were trying to back Jesus into a corner, hoping that he would either renounce the resurrection of the body or condone polyandry (where a woman has more than one husband).

True to form Jesus transcended the question but seized the moment to teach about the afterlife. In heaven the institution of marriage will be succeeded by a new kind of relationship with God and with each other, which, despite us having a new body, does not involve procreation. We believe in the salvation of the whole person, body and soul, and although there is no marriage in heaven, we believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones.

For those who have had an unfortunate experience of earthly marriage, perhaps having suffered separation, divorce or other adverse circumstances, this prospect might not be a favourable one.  But in the passage from temporal to eternal on the good will remain – evil falls away – and the love that once united a couple remains.  Defects, misunderstandings or suffering will fall away.  Indeed this very suffering, accepted with faith, will transformed into glory.  Many spouses will experience true love for each other only when they are reunited in God, and with this love there will be joy and fulness of the union that they might not have known on earth.

In God all wıll be understood, all will be forgiven and all will be well.

Lord, you are the resurrection and the life.  Death is not the end, but the beginning of life, life to the full.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

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The meaning of Christ, by St Paul

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Philippians 2: 5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A note from the Life Application Bible:

2:5-11 These verses are probably from a hymn sung by the early Christian church. The passage holds many parallels to the prophecy of the suffering servant in lsaiah 53. As a hymn, it was not meant to be a complete statement about the nature and work of Christ. Several key characteristics of Jesus Christ, however, are" praised in this passage: (1) Christ has always existed with God;


(2) Christ is equal to God because he is God (John 1:1ff; Colos- sians 1:15—19); 


(3) though Christ is God, he became a man in order to fulfil God’s plan of salvation for all people; 


(4) Christ did not just have the appearance of being a man — he actually became human to identify with our sins; 


(5) Christ voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father; 


(6) Christ died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face eternal death; 


(7) God glorified Christ because of his obedience; 


(8) God raised Christ to his original position at the Father’s right hand, where he will reign for ever as our Lord and Judge. 


How can we do anything less than praise Christ as our Lord and dedicate ourselves to his service!

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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Luke 13:10–17


Today’s Scripture packs two strikingly different ideas into one reading: healing and hypocrisy. The healing is of a woman who had been crippled for eighieen years, and the hypocrisy is on the part of a synagogue official who cannot see what is happening right before his eyes – a woman being miraculously freed from her terrible pain and suffering. The synagogue ruler had been too crippled by the letter of the law to recognize the true spirit of the law.


The Pharisees allowed animals to be taken care of on the Sabbath (see Luke 14:5), so why should they begrudge a sick woman this extraordinary and wonderful gift of God? Such harsh, legalistic and quite frankly mean behaviour from so-called religious people is staggering, isn’t it? What had happened to their understanding of God and their understanding of the dignity of the human person to make them think like this?


Yet it is perhaps too easy to be judgemental and harsh towards the Pharisees. We can find ourselves saying to God, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like these Pharisees because I would not let myself become so confused and legalistic that I applied the letter and not the spirit of the law.’ To think like this is, of course, to have fallen into the same trap! Make no mistake, Jesus loved the Pharisees – it is obvious from his eagerness to correct their thinking.


To live in the Spirit we need to be very clear about two things: the first is that God loves everybody, and the second is that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and God wants the best for everybody. The Pharisees made the error of assuming they knew how God thought, but they could not have been more wrong. Jesus came to set us all free because we all need to be set free. The Pharisees’ religion had made them narrow-minded and mean-spirited, whereas the Spirit makes us big-hearted and generous. The Pharisees’ religion had made them hypocrites (a very real tension for all religious people), but the Spirit convicts us of our sin and makes us grateful and forgiven sinners in continual need of God’s healing and mercy.


The all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.  (St Clement of Alexandria)


Chris


From Bible Alive


Ephesians 4:32-56 • Psalm 1:1–6 • Luke 13:10–17


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Love

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1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13 • Psalm 32(33):2–5, 12, 22 • Luke 7:31–35
 
Love is the greatest of all human qualities, and it is an attribute of God himself.  Love entails unselfish service to others; to show love gives evidence that you care.  
 
Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action.  When faith and hope are aligned you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
 
So St Paul says:
 
"And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
 
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 
 
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 
 
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 
 
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 
 
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
 
Chris
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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Romans 8:28–30 • Psalm 12(13) • Matthew 1:1–16, 18–23

Readers of the Bible are tempted to skip the first sixteen verses of Matthew’s Gospel.  After all, it’s just a long list of names!  Although, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in tracing one’s family tree, genealogies are often viewed as superfluous by a generation that prides itself on being future-oriented and forward-looking. To ancient peoples, however, genealogies were of immense importance.  Genealogies were the means by which Bible- time Jews traced their ancestry right back to Abraham, thus reassuring themselves of their position as rightful heirs of God’s covenant promises.

Matthew’s opening phrase ‘An account of the genealogy...’ reads, literally, ‘the book of the genesis. . . ’ , an expression that echoes Genesis 2:4 in' the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and would have been very familiar to Matthew’s original readers.  By employing this phrase in connection with the Messiah, Matthew sets Jesus in the context of what God had been doing from the earliest days.

Matthew’s genealogy is constructed around three key periods in Israel’s history. Abraham and David recall two crucial covenants (Gen. 12:1ff; 2 Sam. 7:12ff) that significantly shaped Jewish identity.  The Babylonian Exile (referred to in yerses 1 1—12) called into serious question these covenant promises – since the land was lost and the House of David no longer ruled.  So, after their return from exile, the Jews eagerly awaited the coming of a Messiah who would fulfil the promises given to Abraham and David. Against this backdrop Matthew announces the ‘genesis’ of the one who would bnn'g to fruition these promises: .‘Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham’.

The genealogy climaxes with the mention of Joseph.  Tradition suggests that Mary, too, was of the House of David.  But since lineage was established by the male line, in order for Jesus to be proclaimed a true ‘son of David’ Joseph had formally to adopt him.  In verse 18, the word translated ‘birth’ is the same as that used in verse 1 (literally, ‘genesis’). The story that follows is not so much a birth story, but an extension of the genealogy which establishes Jesus’s rightful place in the messianic line.

‘At the foot of the cross Mary became our mother.  Just before he died, Jesus gave his mother to St John, and St John to his mother.  And so, all of us become her children.’  (St Theresa of Kolkata)

Chris

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Come and Eat

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Matthew 14:13—21
 
Jesus feeds the 5,000, from https://www.hearthymn.com/jesus-feeding-5000-men.html
This is a familiar story from the gospels, but it is well not to become blasé about it, not to switch off because we have heard it many times before.  There is much to learn from the story.
 
First we see Jesus's very human reaction to the news of his cousin's death, withdrawing to a lonely place to ponder and grieve. However, even before he can reach this lonely place, the crowds have got there first. Of course, he responds at once to their needs and heals the sick.

The main focus is Matthew's version of the feeding miracle — or rather his first version, as another occurs in 15:32-39. A number of key points emerge. As is so often the case, the ever-human disciples do not respond fully to the challenge that confronts them, and therefore Jesus instructs them: ‘you give them something to eat’ (v. 16). In so doing, he trains them to be more confident, to become the leaders they will have to be after he has gone.

Next Jesus blesses, breaks and gives out the bread. lrnplicitly, Matthew evokes for his contemporary readers and listeners the ritual of the Jewish meal.  At the same time, the formula anticipates the Last Supper, and therefore the Eucharist of the New Covenant. We should also pay close attention to the words ‘five thousand men, besides women and children’ (v. 21). This addition raises the total of people fed by Jesus to between 20,000 and 30,000 — a very sizeable portion of the Jewish population of Palestine at that time, estimated to have been about half a million.

We see, then, a precise chain reaction. Jesus, for all his own personal loss, is touched by the needs of the people. He reaches out to touch them, to heal and to feed them. These same actions anticipate the Eucharist. Today, through that very feast we too can join in spirit the tens of thousands of people we have heard about in today’s Gospel: we too Will be fed by the Good Shepherd. So we do well not to drift away!

And from the first reading of today, Isaiah 55: 1–3, we have the lesson that God will provide us with what we need:
 
Thus said the Lord: Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come!  Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk.  Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy?  Listen, listen to me and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.  Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.  With you I will make an everlasting covenant out of the favours promised to David.
 
Chris
 
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(Feast) St Mary Magdalene

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John 20:1-2, 11-18
 
https://www1.cbn.com/why-jesus-chose-mary-magdalene-to-proclaim-his-resurrection

Mary Magdalene kneeling at the open tomb with the gardener

Today we celebrate the feast-day of one of the greatest women in the whole of the Bible. Clearly, Mary, Mother of God, has pride of place because she is our mother in faith. Mary Magdalene, however, can be seen as our sister in faith.

Of course, Mary Magdalene is often identified as being a woman of ill-repute, a prostitute no less, but there is no record of this in the Scriptures. We are simply told that seven demons were cast out of her (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). Quite why the reputation of this magnificent woman and example of the Christian life should have been imputed with this slur is hard to figure out. Was it hearsay? What we do know for sure is that the Lord delivered her from whatever bound her. Some suggest that it could have been a complex illness of some kind or maybe even some mental suffering or anguish. From  that time on she dedicated her life to following Christ.

The Evangelists are especially sensitive to Mary’s closeness to the Lord during his last days on earth. She remained with him at the foot of the cross, staying when all the disciples except John had fled.

She was at his burial and, most striking and significant of all, she was a witness of the Risen Lord. God confounded the wisdom of an age in which women were regarded as second-class citizens and were not considered to be reliable witnesses in court. Ancient societies were misogynist and patriarchal, but God showed that this way of thinking to be a nonsense in the kingdom of God. Consider that God chose Mary to be the first person to witness the greatest event in human history — the resurrection — before Peter and the other disciples. We venerate her for this.

Mary can be seen to represent all women since the beginning of time who have witnessed Christ’s resurrection in their lives. In a way, in the kingdom of God, whether we are male or female is not an issue: we are equal before God, but we have different roles, different charisms and different strengths. Mary’s role was to support the Lord — it was a role of love and service, and this is the legacy she has left us. Today we cherish her memory, celebrate her life and strive to emulate her courageous witness.

Lord God, help as to follow the example of Mary Magdalene and live a life of humble service, sincere repentance and courageous witness for Christ.

 
Chris
 
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The Father Knows the Son

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Matthew 11:25-27.

Jesus says all things have been committed to him by the Father, and at the heart of this is the relationship he has with the Father. He speaks of the Father and the Son being in a relationship of knowing one another exclusively. This word ‘know’ does not indicate just intellectual knowledge or understanding: it means the most intimate experience of another person. 

Really to know someone is to be united with them in a relationship of mutually self-giving love. So Jesus and the Father are one in being. But that’s not all. We are invited into the heart of this relationship, for Jesus says intimate knowledge of the Father can be shared with whomever he chooses to reveal it to. So as we become one with Jesus Christ in baptism and in the life of faith, we are taken into his intimate relationship with God the Father.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we share in the dynamic love that exists between the Father and the Son. We don’t enter into this relationship primarily through intellectual understanding. When we think about the Trinity we soon get confused, but when we adore the Holy Trinity we are caught up in a heart knowledge that is far more simple and profound. As we adore the Holy Trinity in faith and love, we enter into the relationship and learn far more than we can ever understand intellectually. 

Through this sharing we become like ‘little children’, like the ‘babes' Jesus talks about, and we shall begin to experience truths that are far beyond our words or imagination.

Heavenly Father, by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, draw me into the mystery of your everlasting love.

Chris

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