Engaging the Gospel – Mark 4:35-41

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Mark 4:35-41

Jesus notes the lack of faith on the part of the disciples, who were terrified in the storm-tossed boat. We can identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed, without a tangible sense of God’s help and support.

“Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil” (Catechism paragraph 272).

Yet we know that the Lord is in fact sustaining us by His gracious will at every moment. Whatever trials or tragedies we may endure, God is bearing us up in the midst of them. He still carries us through every breath, every beat of our hearts, and desires to bring us into eternal blessedness with Him in heaven. In the perspective of eternity, we will one day see how God has ordered everything to our spiritual good, even overcoming and transforming the evil that others commit against us.

“Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power” (273), and reveal to us that “in everything God works for good for those who love Him. The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth” (313).

As the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich wrote,

Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith…and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord showed in this time – that “all manner (of) thing shall be well.”

— quoted in 313.

Question for reflection: When have I felt that my faith was being tested?

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Prayer Warriors of the Old Testament

Summary drawn from Catechism paragraphs 2568-97.

During this feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we glimpse Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Covenant. As ever, our liturgy furnishes us with food for thought, which becomes food for prayer.

Today’s Gospel recounts the admirable faith of Simeon and Anna, thereby teaching us that we are heirs to their profound tradition of prayer, first revealed in the Old Testament and perfected in Christ. As the Word of God, the Old Testament continues to speak powerfully to us today, and we can learn a great deal from the school of prayer enshrined in its pages.

Abraham illustrates “attentiveness of the heart,” a willingness to listen to the Lord’s call and abide by His will, trusting even in the midst of his darkest test of faith.

When Jacob wrestles with an angel all night, he shows us the value of sticking with prayer, no matter how we struggle, so that we too might reap the rewards of perseverance.

We can easily relate to Moses’ uneasiness about the great mission God has for him: “he balks, makes excuses, above all questions.” But through this intense dialogue with God, “Moses also learns how to pray,” and he would go on to become a great intercessor, pleading with God to have mercy on his rebellious people.

Through Elijah and the other prophets, we realize our need to go beyond “excessively external worship,” to encounter the Lord Himself, and undergo true “conversion of heart.”

David is our model for soul-stirring repentance, as well as for offering prayers of praise. Traditionally attributed to David, the Psalms (literally “Praises”) are “the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament.” Both personal and communal, embracing all dimensions of salvation history to the end of time, the Psalms are an integral part of the Church’s prayer: “The Psalter is the book in which the Word of God becomes [our] prayer,” for “the same Spirit inspires both….”

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter – Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

The Risen Christ converses with the disciples on the road to Emmaus

We can relate to the disciples as we undertake our own journey of faith, as Pope Benedict XVI explains:

Emmaus actually represents every place: the road that leads there is the road every Christian, every person, takes. The Risen Jesus makes Himself our traveling companion as we go on our way, to rekindle the warmth of faith and hope in our hearts and to break the bread of eternal life.

In the disciples’ conversation with the unknown wayfarer, the words the evangelist Luke puts in the mouth of one of them are striking: ‘We had hoped.’ This verb in the past tense tells all: we believed, we followed, we hoped, but now everything is over. Even Jesus of Nazareth, who had shown Himself in His words and actions to be a powerful prophet, has failed, and we are left disappointed.

This drama of the disciples of Emmaus appears like a reflection of the situation of many Christians of our time: it seems that the hope of faith has failed. Faith itself enters a crisis because of negative experiences that make us feel abandoned and betrayed even by the Lord.

But this road to Emmaus on which we walk can become the way of a purification and maturation of our belief in God. Also today we can enter into dialogue with Jesus, listening to His Word. Today too He breaks bread for us and gives Himself as our Bread…

This marvelous Gospel text already contains the structure of Holy Mass: in the first part, listening to the Word through the Sacred Scriptures; in the second part, the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ present in the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood.

Regina Caeli of April 6, 2008.

Question for reflection: How might I become more attuned to the Lord’s presence in my life?