The fullness of life

Mark-5-two-miraclesLast week (the 12th Sunday in Year B) we heard Mark’s account of Jesus on the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41) during which Jesus calmed the seas with his word. This coming Sunday’s gospel moves into Chapter 5. The chapter begins with Jesus and the disciples returning to Jewish land as they again cross the Sea of Galilee. In Mark, the lake represents literally and figuratively the boundary between Gentiles and Jews.

The lectionary moves into additional miracle accounts while skipping the story of the Gerasene demoniac. Our gospel selection includes a miracle within a miracle. They are the final two miracles of the “miracle section” of Mark (4:35-5:43), which includes four miracles and reactions to the miracles:

  • Calming the storm at sea — the disciples still have no faith (Mk 4:34-41)
  • Casting a demon from a man and the subsequent desire of the locals that  Jesus leave town even as the healed man becomes a witness (Mk 5:1-20)
  • Raising Jairus’ daughter – “don’t be afraid, only believe” (Mk 5:21-24, 35-43)
  • Healing the hemorrhaging woman – her faith saved her (Mk 5:25-34)

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In the boat

Big stormy ocean wave. Blue water backgroundWhat’s as tall as a 10-story office building, snaps large vessels in half and inspires a small tribe of surfers to launch themselves into an unholy maelstrom? Giant waves. The bigger the better — or worse — depending on who’s talking; better for extreme surfers, worse for seafarers. Until very recently giant waves lived only as lore. There was the story of the Tlingit Indian woman who returned from berry picking to find her entire village disappeared. The polar explorer Ernest Shackleton once reported narrowly surviving “a mighty upheaval of the ocean,” the biggest wave he’d seen in 26 years of seafaring. But witnesses of a 100-foot wave at close range rarely lived to tell, and experts dismissed stories about these waves because they seemingly violated basic principles of ocean physics. It was only 15 years ago, when the British research ship Discovery was caught in an endless North Sea storm and struggled to station-keep for more than a week before it could break free. The scientists had been lashed to their bunks while the maelstrom swirled around them – all the while the data recorders were at work.  The data recorded seas 60 feet high, with some wave faces spiking at 90 feet and higher. With such reliable data established, satellites began confirming that these rogues, freaks, and giants of the ocean were far from rare. Continue reading

Francis and the Crusades – Part 2

crusaders2The previous two articles give the background for Francis of Assisi’s mission during the time of the Fifth Crusade.  The previous article introduced two key ideas that seemed to be part of a strong spiritual movement in Francis’ time: peregrination pro Christo (“wandering for the sake of Christ”) which we would now call “pilgrimage,” and the long-established idea of Christian martyrdom.  We have already seen the friars “wandering for Christ” in their trips throughout central Italy. Continue reading

Getting there

he_qi_road_to_emmausLet’s see…where was I? It has been several weeks since I posted about my time in mission in Kenya. In a previous post, The Long Way Round, I was standing in 3.5 feet of snow, shovel in hand, looking down a long driveway to a dirt road that had not yet been plowed and wondering if this was a sign from God about a faulty discernment process to leave the world as I had known it, and serve as a lay missioner in a far away land. Today, if I was looking at the same scene,  I likely would have thought: “this is beautiful and God put it here. Think I’ll enjoy it and let God take care of it in His own good time.” Back then, I dug my way out.

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Indeed, who then is this

LJA130270Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:40-41)

After quieting the violent storm with a word, Jesus turns to his disciples (and Mark’s readers) and asks: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (v. 40). The first disciples’ only response is: “Who then is this?” (v. 41). This passage continues to reveal Mark’s theology of discipleship. These very same disciples who have been chosen in 3:7-12, who have been given the mystery of the kingdom of God (4:10-12), and who are privileged to hear Jesus’ teachings and explanation (4:34) are here chided for their timidity and lack of trust, their lack of a deepening faith. The question of their faith is abrupt at this point in Mark’s gospel. Increasingly as Mark’s gospel continues this question of faith continues to arise.  Continue reading

Be still

LJA130270This coming Sunday is the gospel of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. “Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)  While the storm raged, Jesus lay sleeping in the stern upon the cushion that was customarily kept under the coxswain’s seat for those who were not involved in the actual sailing or fishing. The other’s aboard are having a much different experience. Given that at least four of the disciples were professional fishermen and must have experienced such storms before, their anxiety/terror indicates the severity of the incident. The usual pattern for a deliverance from a storm at sea involved a plea to the deity for help, but Mark’s version lacks such a formula. In Matthew the disciples’ words to Jesus to fit the anticipated pattern, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25). In Mark, however, their cry carries an edge – rebuke? Disbelief? Incredulousness? It is hard to assign a meaning that leaves the disciples other than accusing Jesus of being indifferent to their plight. Continue reading

Reward and Righteousness

The gospel for today is from Matthew 6 and is part of the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29), but too often it is presented in isolation from the Sermon and thus the connection is not obvious to many listeners. Jesus has begun to preach in Galilee, as Scripture foretold (4:12–17), and large crowds are being attracted to his teaching (4:23–25). Matthew presents a lengthy collection of that authoritative teaching.

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Learning to be better

jesus-teaching-mountJesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said,  You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?

I just finished reading Ian Toll’s trilogy on the War in the Pacific 1941-1945. I started around Memorial Day – which seemed quite appropriate and finished last week. I thought I knew a lot about the War. Being one of the children of the Greatest Generation – and the most silent, too, the absence of stories from my father and my uncles left me with a curiosity to know more about what they were ready to forget.

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Storms in life

LJA130270The gospel for this coming Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time ( Year B), is the Markan account of the calming of the storm waters on the Sea of Galilee.

“On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side” (Mark 4:35). As Stoffregen asks: Why do the disciples cross the lake? There are several possible answers: (a) to get to the other side or (b) as recorded in the text, Jesus told them to cross over. Even though (b) is the correct answer, (a) raises the curiosity: what is on the other side? Gentile (unclean) territory indicated by “unclean spirits,” “swine,” and “Decapolis.”  Many scholars hold that this trip across the lake represents the Gentile mission for Mark. The storm at sea represents the storms in the early church as they sought to carry out Jesus’ command “to go to the other side” or “to make disciples of all nations.” It may be noted that the area where the people of God sit while in church is properly called the “nave,” from the Latin “navis” = ship. Continue reading

An eye for an eye

jesus-teaching-mountIn today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus continues his discourse called the Sermon on the Mount. It is from a section of the Sermon which is marked with “you have heard it said… but I say to you…” He is not overturning the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses, but rather he is commenting on their misunderstanding of God’ intent in the gift of the Covenant and the Law. Misunderstanding can be taken as “you have misunderstood all along and each generation just makes it worse” – or – Jesus is telling them to “take the next step in their evolution of understanding the mysteries of God’s intent.”

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