I have no problem with change — if I have initiated it and get to control it. I think most people are that way. Such change can be exciting and energizing. And then… there is most change: we probably have not initiated it, can’t control it, do not prefer the uncertainty of it all, and have a tendency to resist it. It can be uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking as it interrupts our patterns and habits. The expression that humans are “creatures of habit” is a true representation of how our brains work. Our basal ganglia in the primitive brain are responsible for “wiring” our habits. This cluster of nerve cell bodies is involved in functions such as automatic or routine behaviors that we are familiar with or that make us feel good. So, when we need to do something new (or even harder — to do something old in a new way), it takes conscious effort. Continue reading

When the kingdom becomes clear

Last Sunday’s gospel was St. Mark’s version of the sower who scatters seed, a metaphor for the manner in which the Kingdom of God comes to be in this world. This was followed up by the story of the mustard seed. Both are meant to hold up the idea of the Kingdom of God and get us to think about what we hope for. In the first story, a sower scatters seed on the ground, and then goes off to sleep. The seeds fend for themselves and when the grain is ripe, the gardener harvests it. In the second story, someone sows a tiny mustard seed in the ground, and it grows into a gigantic bush, large enough to offer birds shelter in its branches. As is the case with all of Jesus’s parables, these are intended not to keep us comfortable and complacent, but to prod and provoke us into wholly different ways of perceiving and relating to what is sacred. Continue reading

The storms obey: reflections

Jesus-boat-storm2Reflections from Pheme Perkins [581]

  1. The question of Jesus’ identity appears repeatedly in Mark. When the disciples suddenly show a lack of trust in God’s power working through Jesus and even accuse Jesus of not caring, readers are challenged to examine their own faith. Merely repeating the confession that Jesus is Son of God means little if Jesus does not represent God for us. A suspicion that God does not really care what happens to us will corrode our religious life. The results of such sentiments in daily life are familiar. Human relationships die when we sense that others do not care what happens to us.
  2. Doubts about God also emerge in times of crisis. Mark’s readers were familiar with the destructive effects of persecution. The weaknesses exhibited by Jesus’ disciples encourage later believers to persist despite doubts about God’s saving presence. In the end, they will discover the one whom wind and sea obey.
  3. When the disciples say to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” their panic separates them from Jesus. How can he not care? He is in the boat with them! Jesus does not react to their panic. He speaks first to the raging elements, the wind and sea. Then he asks his stunned disciples about their faith. On the human level, we often act like the disciples. We expect others to share our panic or distress. If they seem detached from the situation, we accuse them of not caring about our suffering. Panic reactions can divide us from others who might help just as they can cause us to doubt God’s love for us

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The storms obey: does God care?

Jesus-boat-storm238 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?”

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

The storms obey: as he was

Jesus-boat-storm2Commentary: 35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”

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

Incredible Family Life

I think I have officially become a curmudgeon – at least when it comes to the way families are portrayed on television and in movies. Seems like the poor parents of this world are clueless, morally ambiguous, technically challenged, and more – thanks be to God for the teenagers who “get it.”  (One of my least favorite expressions – see…. I told you I was becoming a curmudgeon!).

Ani Bundel has a nice piece on the portrayal of the family as seen in the newly released “Incredibles 2”  Here is a part of the article: Continue reading

The storms obey: context

Jesus-boat-storm2Jesus’ Power Over the Wind and Waves (Mark 4:35-41)

35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. 38 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?” 39 He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 41 They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Continue reading

Vision of the Kingdom

The year was 1968. It was the year we first orbited the moon, the 747 jet liner made its commercial debut, the average rent for a three-bedroom house was $130/month, milk was $0.34/gallon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Intel corporation was founded, the Beatles released the White Album, zip lock bags were first sold, and the infamous Big Mac debuted at the golden arches for a whopping $0.49.

The year was 1968 – and today on that date in history, the diocese of Saint Petersburg was erected – and so today we celebrate our golden jubilee, our 50th anniversary! How about a round of applause for the Golden Jubilee! Continue reading

Belonging and the Parish

Several years ago, I wrote a series of pastor columns on aspects of what it means to belong to a parish. If you would like to read the whole series, it can be found here:

Where to begin? At the beginning is always a good place – and for Catholics the beginning is Baptism. Each time we enter church it is our tradition to mark ourselves with the Sign of the Cross using water from the holy water fonts. It is a moment to recall the words the priest proclaimed at your Baptism: “I claim you for Christ.” From that moment you belong to Christ and are a member of His people. You belong, not in some abstract way, but in a time and place and with a community of people. Continue reading

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Part of our task as faithful Christians and citizens of the world is to engage the deep and probing questions that the great thinkers, wisdom figures, and commentators raise. Perhaps no question is more penetrating, more challenging, and more important than that offered by the amateur philosopher, Tina Turner: “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second-hand emotion?” It is the question for the ages.

It is the question for today as we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – a feast that offers up in high relief the love of God that has been poured into the world – and continues to the source, the fountain of love that ever pours into the world. (You can read more about the Sacred Heart here.) Today is a feast we celebrate the Love of God. Continue reading