Reflections from the Shrine ...
JESUS KNEW THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH HE CAME. DO WE?
Why are you here? I know you are here to come to Mass. As a good Catholic, you want to participate at Mass. It is part of your obligation as a Catholic. But I am asking a bigger question. Why are you here in this world? For what reason are you alive and still kicking?
Do not say it is to watch the super bowl with the Patriots this Sunday. Perhaps that will bring some excitement and enjoyment sharing the game with family and friends. Really - what is the purpose of your existence? Why do you have a place in this sometimes confusing but still beautiful world? It is a fundamental question we all need to answer.
Jesus has a clear answer to that question in today's Gospel. When Simon and some of his fellow disciples go out looking for Jesus early in the morning to bring him back to their village, he has a clear response. "He told them, 'Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come." He had success healing and preaching in one village. The people loved him and probably wanted him to stay. But no, it was time to go, to move on to other places that needed his compassion and powerful preaching.
As one commentary says: "His ministry is not to restore bodies to health but to restore spirits to wholeness." Simon's mother-in-law is a good example. He healed her of her fever. However the Scripture continues: "Then the fever left her and she waited on them." Jesus attended to her physical illness but also restored her desire and energy to get up and serve the people in the house of her son-in-law Simon.
We read of the enthusiasm of Saint Paul in his letter to the Corinthians to be busy about preaching to a whole variety of people, both weak and strong: "To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it."
So I return to that important question: Why are you here? Perhaps you are not called to preach as a priest from the pulpit with a microphone. But as Followers as Jesus are we not all called to preach the Good News by the example of our lives? That is true - as parents, teachers, truck drivers, construction workers, students - no matter what is our vocation. Underneath it all, that is our purpose in life.
Perhaps, especially as Lent approaches we too, like Jesus, need to get away to "a deserted place" to think and pray about that question. Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?
As Lent quickly approaches, I plan on offering a Scripture reflection again, on the Mass readings, on Tuesday mornings in the cafeteria from 10 AM to 11:30AM with a coffee and snack included. If you would like to be part of it, mark your calendars and plan to attend. It will begin on the morning of February 27th and end on March 27th.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
OUR LORD JESUS IS THE REAL DEAL AND HE CALLS US TO LIVE IN A SIMILAR MANNER
A few weeks ago, on January 15th, we celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King. When he stood up to speak, whether it was at the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech or a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, people were quiet and listened. That was because he spoke with authority; he practiced what he preached; as Alcoholics Anonymous says: "He did not just talk the talk, but he walked the walk."
In the opening lines of today's Gospel we read: "The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." What was the difference between Jesus and the Scribes? They knew the Scriptures in their minds and they could preach about it with clarity. But often they said one thing and practiced another. There was division between their words and their actions.
But not with Jesus. Even in the synagogue, a place of prayer, there was a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus healed him with his brief but powerful words: "Quiet! Come out of him." In this way Jesus showed the compassion of God, in both Word and deed.
Again on the question of the great authority of Jesus, we read: "All were amazed and asked one another, what is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
That is because Jesus is the real deal. There is nothing false or duplicitous about him. He practices what he preaches and preaches what he practices. That is true where ever he is, whether in the Synagogue in Capernaum or on the hillside multiplying loaves of bread for the people to have their strength with food for the journey home. It is also with all types of people, be it his own disciples or the poor, the lame, and the blind.
Jesus gives us the tremendous challenge to live with the same "authority" in our lives. As Christians we need to ask Jesus to heal the "unclean spirit" in our own lives - the jealousy, the resentments, the pride - that can so easily separate us not only from God but also from the people that are important to us. Then as the healing continues to take place in our own lives by God's grace, we are better able to be messengers of healing to the wounded people that God sends into our lives. The refrain in today's readings from Psalm 95 says it so well: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Just a reminder - the beginning of Lent is just a few weeks away. How are you going to use this special time of penance, prayer and alms giving to grow deeper in your relationship with God and with others?
Father John Sullivan M.S.
THE MORE WE LISTEN TO
THE CALL OF JESUS, THE MORE HE
TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES
We are less than a month away from the beginning of Lent - which is February 14th - Ash Wednesday. It is humorous because Ash Wednesday this year falls on Valentine's Day. The day we begin to fast and pray with a special intensity is also the day we honor the love of our lives, be it our spouse or a special boy friend or girl friend.
However we can find meaning in that if we realize that any loving relationship takes time to grow and mature, be it with a girl friend or with Jesus Himself. True love is a lot more than flowers and a box of chocolates. As we know, love is a decision we need to make over and over again, on the bright sunny days as well as the dark nights of strong winds and pouring rain.
In today's Gospel we see Jesus reaching out in love to call His first disciples: " Jesus said to them, 'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Then they abandoned their nets and followed him."
It is still a surprise to me that Jesus chose hardworking fishermen who were fixing their nets by the Sea of Galilee. He did not call people with a good education or those in powerful political positions but common fishermen. It also seems there must have been something awesome or very compelling about Jesus. It took only one call to leave everything, although perhaps they had some previous contact with Jesus when they were together in the company of John the Baptist who had recently been arrested. Looking down the road, we see how that call of Jesus truly transformed their whole lives. They certainly had their doubts and even later denials, but in the end, to follow Jesus, they gave up their very lives by their own deaths on a cross.
What about us? Where are we in our response to the call of Jesus Our Lord? It is clear that the more we listen to the call of Jesus and obey Him, the more it really transforms our lives. Saint Paul gives us a wakeup call in the second reading when he writes: "I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out……………For the world in its present form is passing away."
We know that living a love filled life is very difficult. But yet with all its struggles, we also are aware that there is no better choice to be made. Like the hearts so common on Valentine's Day, we know deep down in our own hearts, we do not have to do it alone. Jesus has all the grace we need.
In the quiet of winter we continue to ask your prayer for the full recovery of Brother David's health and all family and friends who are dealing with health issues. We also encourage you to find a book perhaps in our gift shop that would make for good spiritual reading as we begin to prepare for another Lenten Season and the new challenges of 2018.
Father John Sullivan M.S.