|THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT||
Have you ever wondered whether or not you were truly holy? “‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy’ says God.” (Leviticus19:2). To ask ourselves on whether or not we are holy, we must first understand what is “Holiness”.
Fasting is an ancient spiritual practice wherein people abstain from food and water. It was done mainly to stir up the zeal, renew the dedication, and increase the love for God, by humbling ourselves and realizing our dependence on Him. Among human needs and activities, eating is most fundamental. Thus, when God tested Adam and Eve, it was through abstaining from eating a specific food. Redemption was made appropriately by Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second Adam, by giving us His body as our food and His blood as our drink.
Ash Wednesday is a day of mercy that ushers in the Lenten season. As a holy day proclaiming God’s mercy, we should understand this call to join in His mercy in two senses: first, we ourselves are in need of God’s mercy, and can approach God with hope. Second, we are invited to be people of mercy.
We read in Joel (2:12-28), the proclamation of God’s mercy and the offer of hope that God will relent. Joel tells us that even amidst crises and amidst our infidelity, God invites us to return to Him with our whole heart, to be converted (cf. Jl 2:12-13). We know that God does indeed relent and extend his mercy and forgiveness to all who believe in and receive Jesus. He is true to what the prophets proclaim: He is slow to anger and rich in kindness.
“Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky… of the heavens and the earth at their creation.” (Gen 1:20-2:4a)
The first creation story is a rich narrative. It addresses human dignity, the nuptial mystery (how the creation of man and woman in God’s image and likeness and their fruitful relationship reflects the mystery of God’s relationship with us), and the harmony of creation and our need to “exercise dominion” over it as stewards. But let us focus here on the seventh day of creation as key to the meaning and purpose of creation.
I still remember the day when I stood before the Altar of God and solemnly vowed to love the woman I chose to be my partner for the rest of my life. That was more than 25 years ago, and today we remain as one in the presence of the Church and our community as a striking testimony to what God’s grace, conferred in the Sacrament of Matrimony, can accomplish in a husband and wife. Carefully guarding and using the divine treasure that was poured out upon us during that fateful day, we can only humbly look up to God’s goodness, watchfulness, faithfulness and plan for us. That two unique individuals can live this long together is, in itself, a miracle.
As we approach the challenging time of Lent, (Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18) we who are serious about the spiritual life, enter this period of the Church year with a determination to make these weeks spiritually productive. If we take the liturgical seasons of the Church year as a personal challenge, we will profit in some way through our determination to use the time well. Most of us want to use the time productively, and will often line up a number of programs to begin, such as more prayer, Mass attendance, “giving something up” etc. This is all well and good, but the end result of Lent is not primarily self- mastery, as productive as this may be. The goal of Lent is in some way to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus in my own life. This goal is closely connected with the renewal of our Baptism which is sacramental dying and rising with Jesus.
“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, 'If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.' Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.” (Mk 5:25-29)
On January 30, my husband went for carotid surgery. What would have been a routine two-hour procedure ended up with complications, and I almost lost him. He woke up after surgery, but he became unconscious and unresponsive when his breathing tube was removed. Measures were immediately implemented to prevent the occurrence of a stroke. He was brought back to the OR for a second round of surgery.
How many years do we struggle with affliction before we find that the cure was in faith all along? My sisters and brothers, we are blessed because Jesus saves us and heals us. If only we would press in, seek Him, touch Him and allow the exchange of faith for pain to take place. In this scripture verse, we see a woman who has struggled with the issue of hemorrhage for 12 years. She was an outcast and rejected by society because of her condition. Searching for help from doctors only made her situation worse. Propelled by faith, though sick and weak, she was determined. She pressed into the crowd to find healing from Jesus. Desperately, she managed to touch the edge of His garment, and her healing was instantaneous.
“….On the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1: 21b-22)
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus is described as speaking with authority that amazes those who hear him. It is an authority that was so different from what the synagogue was used to hearing from their usual religious leaders: the scribes who interpreted the law of God for the people of God, and the teachers who taught the Israelites how they should live and what they should believe. Both scribes and teachers spoke with authority too. Both were inspiring, but somehow the reality of the word they taught was not part of them in the way it was with Jesus.
“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” (Mk 3:29)
What a chilling caution by Jesus towards the accusing Scribes and listeners then, and equally unmitigated for us now. In Mark’s narrative, the scene unfolds immediately after Jesus appointed the twelve. The Scribes of Jerusalem appear and lay serious charges against Jesus, who was rapidly gaining attention. To put this in perspective, the Jerusalem Scribes were experts in the Mosaic Law; their authority was of greater weight in comparison to the Galilean Pharisees. Without delay the Scribes brought two charges against Him: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” (Mk 3:22)
To nurture and promote the love of the Gospel of Christ.