|THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT||
This Sunday’s readings touch upon the core of our human condition – sickness, suffering, healing and the role of faith in God’s plan of salvation. As Catholics we believe that “God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us” (Wisdom 2:23). In the gospel, St Mark indicates that by deciding in expectant faith to establish a relationship of trust with God, Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman were rewarded with hope that the healing they sought [Jairus for his ill daughter; the woman for her affliction with blood] would be granted to them through the healing touch of Jesus the Son of the very God whose Hands had formed them in the womb. They were certain that the promised imperishability in their own situation had already started.
When June 28th does not fall on a Sunday, it is celebrated as the feast day of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. The title of our blog is taken from a phrase in his Against the Heresies, an early Christian writing that was a milestone in Christian thought. Irenaeus was working against Gnosticism, a system of erroneous beliefs that was growing in his time. In this long work, Irenaeus gives us a very strong and early explanation of what true Christian faith is all about. He is among the earliest figures to attest to the authority of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the Four canonical Gospels. Irenaeus also laid the foundations for the doctrine we know today as apostolic succession. But above all, Irenaeus offers a beautiful description of faith in the Trinity, namely that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are like “the two hands of God.” His devotion to true faith, and his understanding of the Word and the Spirit as God’s hands so to speak, provide us with a great source of inspiration for our ministry in this blog.
Life is good. Life is beautiful. Life is too short. These are some of the most common figures of speech we hear every day. But what does life means to us? The meaning of life touches on so many interrelated issues from cultural, religious and spiritual influences. But in one word, what can we say that life is? I could say, life is a purpose, or maybe life is existence, or better yet, life is God.
Look left and right and I can guarantee that you will find someone that has been broken by the world that we live in. That broken person may even be you. You may not have skin that stretches over your bones from starvation, or have been a victim of a tragedy, but you have been broken because life decided that it wanted to become a bully and kick you down. Sometimes, it’s so easy to just get back up. But other times, it feels like you are being abused and pushed down further and further, if that was even possible. Getting back up is like dirt being kicked in your face because finding your way back onto the path you were once on is so much more difficult than trying to stay on it ever was. It feels like the more you struggle, the more you lose. I suppose that’s why people lose hope.
“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b)
Have you ever given any thought to how things happen in your lifetime? How have these things brought you to where you are today? I know that God has a plan for each of us; but when He takes me down paths I do not understand, I think, “You must be kidding me, Lord!”
As a back drop of this biblical account, Jesus ordered His disciples to cross to the other side of the sea, the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly, they encountered a violent squall, a windstorm the power of which is almost equivalent to a hurricane. It was so strong that the waves were breaking over and filling up the boat. Filled with great fear, they woke up Jesus, who was asleep at the back of the boat. They admonished Him by saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38) It was an expression of desperation that their Master seemingly had forsaken them.
Countless times, I have said “Lord, thy will be done,” but I felt I was saying it without really meaning it. This perspective changed when our family was invited to be the youth family prayer leader. I was so touched by the gospel reading: “Come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).
The Blessed Virgin Mary was greeted by St. Gabriel the Archangel with the words, “Hail Mary full of Grace.” What is grace? For the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was her innate holiness and God’s indwelling and love. It is slightly different for us because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Grace is the indwelling and love of God bestowed on us through the merits of Jesus Christ. It is the love of God given to us who are undeserving.
As I reflected on the readings for this Sunday, I realized that they could be looked at from two different perspectives.
In the natural sense, they reminded me of the view out my back window this past winter. In my garden I saw nothing but snow and ice on the plot of land where I’ve always planted my tomato plants. And as I looked at our old fig tree, which can be traced back a hundred years to my wife’s Italian grandparents, I wondered if it would survive the bitter winds and the ice building up around its roots despite my careful planning to protect it last fall. Now I recall those thoughts and many more that I had this past winter, as I look out at my garden on this beautiful day in June.
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold,
new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17)
We live in a world in which we are surrounded by rebellious, disinterested people who are bent on living their lives regardless what anyone else says, God included. In surroundings like these, the peace of God is like a compass for our souls, leading us in the direction that the Holy Spirit intends for our lives. God grants us this internal compass, so that we might not lose our way as He works at transforming us.
To nurture and promote the love of the Gospel of Christ.