This Sunday, Jesus teaches us about tolerance. Tolerance is often associated with being permissive. Being tolerant or permissive is suspect; it has to be checked if it could lead to abuse of freedom or to violent consequences. A mother, who is not able to correct her children’s bad behavior early in life, is being tolerant in an unhealthy way. Tolerance could also be right in other cases. In fact, it would be a big mistake to view tolerance in its negative value only.
In the gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to be tolerant. If tolerance were not good, why would Jesus require it from his disciples? As narrated, it started after the disciples ‘saw someone driving out demons’ in the name of Jesus, they prevented him from performing exorcism because he did not belong to the followers of Jesus.
We could only assume what was in the minds of the disciples. Were they jealous because the man could also cast demons though he was not one of them? Were they angry because they have assumed that the power to exorcise demons was a privilege given only to the followers of Jesus and not to anyone else? The disciples were confused. Suddenly, what they have thought to be their exclusive right was no longer theirs alone.
Jesus had his reasons: ‘Do not prevent him,’ he said, ‘there is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.’ With these words, Jesus has taught his disciples about tolerance more as an exercise of Christian humility and charity.
This teaching is so relevant for us today. We should not think that salvation is reserved only for us who were baptized and who believe in Christ. Membership to his Church, faith, and the sacraments are still considered the ordinary ways to receive salvation, but this does not exclude the possibility that God could offer other ways of bringing people to encounter the ‘paschal mystery of Christ’ in their lives. Like the outsider who performed exorcism in the name of Jesus, we have to understand that it is really Jesus who is the true source of salvation; the rest is just his medium.
Jesus challenges us to learn individually so that we also learn to discern about the faith we have received: what it truly is to follow Christ, how is it really to belong to him, what does it really mean to be a Catholic? In the answers our salvation is found.
Have a very blessed week!
My Dear Friends in Christ,
In our Gospel reading for this Sunday, we hear Jesus explain to the disciples what is to come in His passion, death and resurrection. We know that Jesus as the son of God could have easily eradicated evil from our world; he could have annihilated his enemies. It is a mystery to us that he chose another way. He endured everything the world threw at him, and responded to it with great love, thereby helping us cope with our misery. Though that is admirable, however, it is not enough. So in warning his disciples about his passion, he always adds in his resurrection. In the gospels, there is no passion without resurrection. Suffering and death are linked solidly to life after death. The two are opposite sides of the coin. Evil plays out its role and is finally encompassed by eternal life and joy. God has the last word: divine love conquers all.
It’s a bit ironic that while Jesus was trying to teach the apostles about the deep act of love he was going to express on the cross, they were thinking completely differently. In all true acts of loving, we should always put the one loved at the center and the reward in so doing is the joy experienced in doing just that. According to Jesus all such acts are seen by God as a self-giving to God himself. What a privilege!
At nighttime when reflecting on our day, can you find such acts of love that you may have done? Also, have you yourself received any kindness from anybody? Isn’t it wonderful to believe that these acts have a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface?
The tenderness of Jesus’ love for children is immense. In every adult, there is an inner child, vulnerable, sensitive, playful, and open. Before the world cast its film of familiarity, boredom and cynicism, the child in us was full of wonder. It is only through wonder that that we can experience the glory and the greatness of God.
Many of the great saints retained that capacity for wonder, a delight in creator and creation, an enduring youthfulness. The great Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhardt, joyfully claimed that “my soul is as young as when I was created, aye, much younger. And I tell you, I should be ashamed were she not younger tomorrow than today.”
This passage marks a milestone. Jesus is taking his first step towards Jerusalem and predicts how he will suffer. Though He instructs His disciples, they fail to understand. They fear to ask Him questions. They who were specially chosen as disciples argue about their status, honor and places of prominence.
Lord, we are not dissimilar to the disciples. We too can ignore, reject or tame your gospel call to loving service. Now that we are together, remind us that true greatness is found in humble service of others. Let us notice what little children can teach us about right attitudes.
The trusting nature of a child may have been an invitation to them to trust in Jesus even though the future was unknown. In prayer we can ask for the gift of this sort of trust for our own future.
God, grant us the gift of being child like as our Lord gives us in example in this gospel passage so that we might always love you and come to you with the purest of intentions.
Please remember in your prayers, Charles G. Wissinger (of Johnstown), May 19th, 1937 - September 12th, 2021, Grandfather of Seminarian John Roy.
Have a very blessed week,
In the Gospel of Mark (8:27-35) we hear the Lord questioning the disciples about who people say that He is. He’s also questioning the disciples about who they believe He is. When Peter is asked directly, he responds to our Lord, “You are the Christ.” A strong statement of faith and belief from Peter. And yet, when our Lord teaches them about what he must endure in the near future, that he will suffer greatly and will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days, Peter’s response may be a bit surprising to us. It certainly wasn’t what our Lord wanted to hear. Our Lord says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”
There are several points here that we must consider. First is a test of faith. Our Lord is questioning the faith of those who have heard him teach. He is seeking a clear vision of the faith of those whom He has come to save. Are they believers? Is their faith strong? Is their belief true? Jesus then turns to his disciples to assess their faith. Is the faith of those closest to him strong? Strong enough to build His Church upon after he has left this earth? His rebuke of Peter is sharp and strong. It sends a clear message to the disciples. The message is to believe! To trust in God! Placing one’s trust in anything else is not of God but from Satan.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we too must have that same faith that our Lord called the disciples too. That strong desire to live our lives in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. To live as he did with all faith and trust in God our Father. When our Lord says to the disciples, “whoever whishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” that is exactly what our Lord is saying to us as well. We must remember that Jesus did not promise us that our life with Him would be easy or that our life in the Church would be a cake walk! But in comparison to His passion, death and resurrection, we might come to the realization, that in fact our life as true and faithful Catholics is not at all that difficult. That to live our lives in His teachings as true and faithful Catholics given the promise of eternal life with Him is in fact a small price to pay. In fact we should see it as a blessing rather than a sacrifice or labor.
In the second reading from St. James (2:14-18) we are challenged by the words, “what good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works.” Our challenge is for our faith to be obvious to others. In other words, faith is more than words. It’s our actions and how we treat others. We must have a transparent faith. A faith that is easily visible to all we know and all we meet. Those we meet should be able to see a reflection of Christ in us!
Further in the reading we hear, “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead”. Indeed, someone might say, “You have faith and I have works. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” Our works/actions must always be an example of our faith. Actions based in other motives such as anger or anything else are not actions from God and should be abandoned. We must always seek to act in sincere charity and in God’s will. Let all we do, all we are, and all we hope to be always be rooted in the Love of God.
I pray our Lord bless each of you this day and always. Have a very blessed week!
My friends in Christ, this week in the second reading from James (2:1-5) we hear about the need to minister to everyone, be they poor or rich. We are all called to care for others regardless of their station in life. Each and everyone of us is a child of God and loved by God beyond our imagination and beyond our worthiness. God loves each of us without prejudice or without considering our place in life or in the world. We too are called to be witness of that same love. We should remember that it was not for the wealthy and righteous that God sent His only son, He sent Him to save those who have fallen from grace, He sent our Lord Jesus Christ to save sinners. Regardless of our station in life or social position, we all sin!
The Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) also bears witness to the compassion and love of God for those who are struggling in life. We hear about Jesus’ healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment. Once again, a miracle performed by our Lord and an example of love for one who is less fortunate, rather than one who is successful, well off and seemingly needing little in life. Now we do not dismiss successful people as not being worthy or in need of God in their lives. All of us are deserving of God’s love.
The key is not related to our place in life, or our social position. It’s not about how much money we have or how successful we are. Rather it’s totally about the need for God in our lives. That need is or should be present in all of us. We should all have a desire, a longing to have Jesus in our hearts. To have Jesus’ present in our lives that we might live the will of God and thereby draw ever closer to Him in love and union. In the gospel this week we see Jesus heal the man with the same compassion and love that is available to each and every one of us.
Let us, each of us stay focused on being present to all those in need regardless of their station in life. Let us remember that each and every person we encounter is in need of God’s love. I pray that each of us will be a vehicle of God’s love – that we will allow God to share his love of others through us.
On a final note, let us remember all those who lost their lives and lost loved ones twenty years ago today in the terror attacks on the United States. Let us also remember the thirteen service members who lost their lives recently in Afghanistan trying to help others to safety. Please join me in praying for their families and for all those who serve this country around the world.
I pray our Lord bless each of you this day and always. Have a very blessed week!
Father Mark Groeger is the Parish Administrator of Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.