21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel presents us with the last part of the discourse of the Bread of Life. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Many of his disciples refuse to understand Jesus’ words. They say, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and they began to leave Jesus.
The book of Exodus contains the story when the Israelites were in the dessert fleeing Egypt. Once the Israelites began to experience hunger and thirst, they started to doubt God’s presence in their midst. They complained against Moses, saying: “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”. And they wanted to get away from Moses and return to Egypt.
In today’s gospel the disciples fall into this same temptation. Jesus confronts them with His words “to eat His flesh and drink His blood” in order to have eternal life. And many of the disciples complain like the Israelites in the desert (Jn 6:60) and make the decision to go away from Jesus.
Mis amigos, sadly many Catholics nowadays do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread. Only 30% of Catholics believe that the presence of Jesus in the consecrated Host is real. 70% believe it is just symbolic. That is why we have many of our Catholics joining non-Catholic parishes. I often hear people say, father we went to a service at a protestant church, and it is very similar to our service. My friends, it could be similar but not the same. Our non-Catholic brothers and sisters celebrate services. We, Catholics, celebrate the Holy Mass which is different. (A service serves – the Mass forms and transforms. We do not come to Mass to be served but to be formed and transformed, transformed into a body)
Let us remember that the real presence of Jesus feeds our spirits. A symbolic presence of Jesus feeds only our imagination and ideologies.
The Gospel says that at the end only the twelve remain with Jesus. In the face of the crisis produced by His words, Jesus turns toward His close friends, the twelve and says: “Do you want to go away also?”
Jesus is leading his apostles to freedom, freedom to follow him or to leave him. Jesus will not change his message to please his followers. He does not put the message in other words to make everyone happy. He does not say, please come back, you misunderstood me, that is not what I meant to say. Mis amigos, the message does not need to be changed, it is the disciple who needs to be changed and transformed through the message.
“Do you also want to leave?” Peter’s response is beautiful: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Even without understanding everything, Peter accepts Jesus as the Bread of Life.
Do we believe that what we receive here is the real presence of Jesus? How is Jesus transforming our lives through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist?
16th Sunday in Ordinary time
Since two weekends’ ago we began with chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel. and Today we are almost at the very end of the chapter. Mark placed today’s gospel between to significant events; the death of John the Baptist. and the feeding of the 5 Thousand people.
Scholars say that Mark, by placing the killing of John the Baptist before and the feeding of the 5 thousand after, probably intended to show a contrast between a banquet of death, held by Herod for the Great of Galilee in his palace and a banquet of life, held by Jesus for the poor of Galilee who were hungry in the desert.
Last weekend’s gospel was the sending of the Apostle on a mission to teach, to preach, to heal, and to cast out daemons in Jesus’ name. In this weekend’s gospel the apostles have come back from the mission. They gathered together with Jesus and reported all that they had done and taught. After their report, Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
My Dear friends, mis amigos, this invitation from Jesus to His disciples to rest, reminds us that Jesus is the good and gentle shepherd who invites us always to refreshment, restoration, and renewal.
At the end of today’s gospel Mark says that “when Jesus saw the crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
My Dear friends, the Jesus that preached His message of peace and love to the crowed 2000 years ago, is the same Jesus who still preaches His message of peace and love to all of us today. The question I believe for all of us is:
- Are we paying attention to His teaching?
- How open are we to the voice of the shepherd? How open are we to instruction and direction?
- Are we attentive and receptive to feedback?
- How flexible are we?
- Are we distracted by the many voices competing for our time, energy, and attention in our lives?
Sheep need a shepherd to protect them, to lead and guide them…. They were like sheep without a shepherd.
There have been times in our lives when we have felt like sheep without a shepherd. At times of distress and trouble, at times of pain and sorrow, at times of confusion and misunderstanding, at times when we have felt disoriented and abandoned. And those times often lead us to be unable to see or hear the shepherd’s voice.
But the shepherd is always there, in the field, in expecting waiting; longing for all of us to show up with a daily ‘YES”….. Yes, I will try it again…..Yes, I will show up…. Yes, I will do what I can…. Yes, I will do the next right thing…. Yes, I will take the next right step.
Mis amigos, we are called to be both, sheep and shepherd: (Sheep that hear God’s voice. Sheep that let Jesus instruct us and form us….. and shepherds that bring Jesus’ Voice and Word to others….. To be leaders, missionary disciples, channels that the Lord uses to continue to form more disciples)
My Dear friend, as we guide others, we will be guided along the right path. We can count on the promises of God from the prophet Jeramiah in today’s first reading to Psalm 23 to the gospel of Mark, that God will gather us all back to his filed. That God will appoint shepherds for all of us along the way, as the first reading states, shepherds who will shepherd us so that we need no longer fear or tremble, and none shall be missing. Amen
13th Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Today’s gospel presents us with two of Jesus’ miracles worked for two women. The first miracle is worked for a woman considered impure because she suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. The second is worked for a twelve-year-old girl who has just died.
At Jesus’ time, any person who touched blood or a dead body was considered impure. These two women were marginalized, excluded from taking part in the community because of their impurity.
The woman with hemorrhages heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. That was a difficult and dangerous moment for the woman. She was impure and by touching others, she was making them impure as well. At that time the law stated that, if an impure person would go to a crowd and contaminate all who touched her, the punishment for this was to be taken aside and be stoned to death. However, knowing how dangerous that could be, the woman had the courage to go and touch Jesus.
And we see that Jesus did not judge the woman but acknowledged her courage and said: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” My Dear friends, Jesus, by calling her “daughter” He welcomed the woman into the community growing around Him. Jesus recognized that without this woman’s faith He could not have worked the miracle.
and the gospel continues: when they arrive at Jairus’ house, Jesus saw people weeping over the death of the girl. He said, “The child is not dead but asleep.” The people in the house laughed. They know when someone is asleep and when someone is dead. This is the same laughter of Abraham and Sara when they were told by God that they were going to have a son at their old age. And that is also the same laughter of those who cannot believe that “nothing is impossible for God!” For the people at Jairus’ house, death seemed to be an obstacle that could not be overcome.
The curing of these two women means that they were restored to life. they were restored to the dignity of being not excluded anymore but welcome and embrace. Today we also have categories of people who are excluded, or who feel excluded, from taking part in the Christian community.
The Evangelist Mark probably shared these two miracles with his community because there was tension among the members of the community, tension that was causing division and was leading the community to fall apart. So they needed to hear about Jesus cared for these two excluded women.
My friends, there is also tension in our communities today. Tension that is divisive. May we all realize that we belong to the same family of God. That we all, local or foreigner, black or white, short or tall, skinny or big, we all have the same God as our Father. A Father that welcomes and not exclude. May we work together to put away feelings of division and hatred. May we work together to achieve unity and peace among all. Amen