Gospel Reflections

FATHER MICHAEL REFLCTS – 15012021

He (Jesus) said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25)
Elastic comes in different sizes – fat – skinny – short – long. It is used to hold things together, but it doesn’t have much value unless it’s stretched.
I think our faith in God is a lot like that. It’s been said that faith is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Like a muscle needs exercise—it needs to be stretched in order to grow strong, so does faith need to be exercised from time to time otherwise it becomes weak. Perhaps that’s why God permits us to go through so many trials. They can be opportunities for us to exercise our faith – opportunities for us to strengthen our faith.
When all is going well, when we are healthy and prospering, it’s easy for us to say that we have faith – that we believe in God – that we believe God loves us and that He is faithful to His promise that he will protect us. But what happens when our faith is stretched – when we run into a situation that we find threatening – when we run into a problem for which we see no solution? Does our faith stretch far enough to keep us feeling safe in God’s hands?
From time to time, God allows situations to arise in our lives which call us to stretch our faith – where we feel lost and unable to cope on our own – like the hemorrhaging woman we read about in St. Matthew’s Gospel (9:19-21) who spent all she had in order to find a cure, but to no avail. It is in these situations where our Lord is calling us to remember His promise, to remember His faithfulness in the past, and to continue to put our trust in Him, to persevere in confident hope that our Lord has not abandoned us or forgotten us.
There also may be other times when our Lord is calling us to stretch our faith by inviting us to accept His call to “step out of the boat” – to get involved in some good works that you don’t necessarily feel comfortable with, whether as part of a parish ministry or in the community at large, and to trust that He will give us the graces we need to do the job. God often uses other people to challenge our faith in this way. It might be the pastor, a member of your family, a member of some committee, or just a casual word spoken by a friend—someone who recognizes in you a particular gift. It might come from a word of scripture or even just through an idea that pops into your head inspired by the Holy Spirit. It might be a call to teach catechism or to work as a sacristan in the church; it might be a call to join and take leadership in some organization or to work with the youth; it might be a call to visit the sick or to join the choir; it might be a call to a deeper prayer life, to Bible Study or some other educational study. No one is ever too old or too young to get called by God. As long as we have breath in our body, we can be useful instruments in God’s hands, if we are willing. The problem is, that people are so comfortable in their present situation and they don’t want to be disturbed; they don’t want to be stretched; they don’t want to risk getting out of the boat. The apostles were an uneducated collection of men – some older, some younger – with no special training, but look what God was able to accomplish through their willingness to trust in God and step out in faith. Don’t you think He could do the same with you?
I can just about hear someone thinking, “Yes, but if you stretch an elastic too far it will break.” Let’s look at Peter. Did he stretch too far? He didn’t manage to walk on the water like Jesus did, but did he break? Didn’t Jesus entrust the keys of the kingdom to him? Say whatever else you might about Peter, but at least he was willing to step out in faith. We fail most miserably when we are unwilling to try – when we are unwilling to be disturbed out of our comfort zone. There is an expression popular these days that says we have to “think outside the box” – to be willing to try new ways of doing things. Jesus told us we would never be tested beyond our ability to endure; He assures us that He always prepares the way before us, that He prepares those whom He sends, that His grace is sufficient for our every need, and that He will always stand by us. How much confidence do I have in His promise??
Reflections:
1. When has God challenged me to “stretch my faith” recently?
2. When my faith is stretched to the breaking point, how do I respond?Fr. Michael Krochak
 

 

GOSPEL REFLECTION:  Luke 18:35-43

This beautiful story of the healing of this blind man, sets for us a model of how we must come to Jesus in prayer. His encounter with Christ is an icon upon which we must meditate so as to imitate him in his weakness, openness, confidence and perseverance.

To begin, this “blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” We must see this as an ideal image of how to begin our prayer. When we start to pray, we must see our littleness, weakness and extreme poverty in our spiritual life. We come to God with nothing. Unable to see. A beggar. And one who is incapable of meeting our own spiritual needs. . Sometimes we can fall into the illusion that our prayers are so elevated and pious that God must be very impressed. If that’s your struggle, then you are more like the Pharisees. This blind man, however, is the ideal to aim for. So when you begin your prayer, come to our Lord as a spiritually poor and needy beggar.

 

In this state of humility, just as it happened in this Gospel story, you can be certain that “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” So as you sit in your humble and needy state, wait and be attentive to Jesus passing by. Wait upon His gentle voice, His quiet inspiration, His calming and unmistakable presence. 

 

Reflect, today, upon these four aspects of a deep prayer life that are presented to us through the witness of this blind beggar. First, ponder your weakness and poverty as you turn to God in prayer. Second, be attentive to the presence of God as He passes by, waiting for you to call to Him. Third, cry out to Him and beg Him to come closer. And fourth, work to overcome every obstacle to prayer and see those obstacles as opportunities to call out to God all the more.

 

GOSPEL REFLECTION:  Luke 18:18-27

Why did the rich ruler go away from Jesus with sadness rather than with joy?  His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. Selling all that we have could mean many different things–our friends, our job, our “style” of life, what we do with our free time. Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was possessive. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had gained. Those who are generous towards God and others find that they cannot out give God in generosity. God blesses us with spiritual goods that far outweigh the fleeting joys of material goods. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?

 

GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 4: 12-17

In announcing the good news, Jesus made two demands: repent and believe! Repentance requires a life-change and a transformation of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit gives us a repentant heart, a true sorrow and hatred for sin and its consequences, and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future.  The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sin for what it is — rebellion and a rejection of the love of God.  God’s grace helps us to turn away from all that would keep us from his love.  Faith or belief is an entirely  free gift which God makes to us. Believing is only possible by grace and the help of the Holy Spirit who moves the heart and converts it to God.  The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for us to accept and believe the truth. To believe is to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin and death. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to himself. Do you know the love of God that surpasses all else and that impels us to give him our all? God wants to change our way of thinking and transform our lives by the power of His word.

 

GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt. 2: 13-23 For Dec. 26th

Who can explain suffering, especially the suffering of innocent children?  Herod’s massacre of children who gave their lives for a person and a truth they did not know seemed so useless and unjust.  What a scandal and stumbling block for those who can’t recognize God’s redeeming love.  Why couldn’t God prevent this slaughter?  Suffering is indeed a mystery.  No explanation seems to satisfy our human craving to understand.  These innocent children and their parents suffered for Christ.

Suffering, persecution, and martyrdom are the lot of all who chose to follow Jesus Christ.  There is no crown without the cross.  It was through Jesus’ suffering, humiliation, and death on a cross, that our salvation was won.  His death won life — eternal life for us.  And his blood which was shed for our sake obtained pardon and reconciliation with our heavenly Father.  Suffering takes many forms: illness, disease, handicap, physical pain and emotional trauma, slander and abuse, poverty, and injustice.  Jesus exclaimed that those who weep, who are reviled and persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed (Matthew 5:10-12). 

There is a certain paradox for those blessed by the Lord.  Mary was given the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God.  That blessedness also would become a sword which pierced her heart as her Son died upon the cross.  She received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow.  But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises.   The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take way.  Do you know the joy of a life fully surrendered to God with faith and trust?

GOSPEL REFLECTION – Mark 1: 1-8 for Sunday,  Jan. 2

John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of his kingdom. Who is John the Baptist and what is the significance of his message for our lives?  Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit.    John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God.   His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. 

 

Why did Jesus say that John the Baptist was more than a prophet? (Luke 7:26).    What the prophets had carefully searched for and angels longed to see, now came to completion as John made the way ready for the coming of the Messiah, God’s Anointed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  With John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to the human race of the “divine likeness”, prefiguring what would be achieved with and in the Lord Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance — turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s word.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Spirit results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (John 3:5). 

 

 Jesus is ready to give us the fire of his Spirit that we may radiate the joy and truth of the gospel to a world in desperate need of God’s light and truth.  His word has power to change and transform our lives that we may be lights pointing others to Christ. Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt. 2:1– 12

If Jesus truly is who he claims to be, the eternal Son of God and Savior of the world, then why is he not recognized by everyone who hears his word and sees his works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world the world knew him not and his own people received him not (John 1:10-11).  Jesus was born in obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized him at his birth. Some wise men also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn King of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but foreigners.  They likely had read and discussed the Messianic prophecies and were anxious to see when this Messianic King would appear.  God led them by means of an extraordinary star across the desert to the little town where Jesus was born.  In their thirst for the knowledge of God, they willingly left everything, their home and country, in pursuit of that quest. In their diligent search they were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God. When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped him and gave him gifts fitting for a king.

What fueled their search for the Messianic King?  Faith in the promise of God to send a Redeemer, a King who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness.  Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and opens the eyes of the mind, that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the truth which God reveals to us.  In faith, the human will and intellect cooperate with grace. “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the encounter of the wise men with Jesus we see the plan of God to give His only Son as King and Savior, not just for the Jewish people but for all the nations as well.  The Lord Jesus came that both Jew and Gentile might find true and lasting peace with God.  Let us pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the Lord and Savior on their journey of life.  Do you bring the light of Jesus Christ to those you meet through the witness of your life and testimony?

 

SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FORE-FATHERS

Who are the Holy Forefathers?  They are the giants of faith we read about in the Old Testament –  Moses, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Zachariah and many others –  all of whom were ancestors of Christ according to the flesh.  It was through their faith that God worked to keep His promise of the Saviour alive in the hearts of His chosen people.  As we commemorate them today, we recall the hope, the expectation and an eagerness for the coming of Christ our Saviour.