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Parable of the Growing Seed

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shoots in soil in cross-section growing 

Mark 4:26–34 • Ordinary Weekday

The parable of the Growing Seed is unique to Mark's Gospel.  Its emphasis, unlike the parable of the Sower, is on the power inherent within the seed, and not the quality of the soil.  The parable invites us to think, pray and ponder on the way the kingdom of God grows in our lives.  In the parable, once sown, the seed sprouts and grows until it is fully grown. Growth occurs regardless of whether the sower is awake or asleep.  This phenomenon is true in nature and is mirrored in the spiritual life because of the gift of grace. The seed is the grace of God sown in our life through the word of God.  Our task, our vocation or call, is to appropriate this grace so that it influences our lives.

The very nature of God's grace is that we have done nothing and could do nothing to deserve or merit it because it is pure favour, utterly free and completely unconditional.  God's grace means that we participate in the life of God.  When we were baptised, we received the life of the Spirit, and this grace is the gratuitous gift that  God makes to us of his own life, which he pours into our soul in order to heal us and sanctity us.  As Paul said, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new  creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God . . ." (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

The power of God's life resides within us, and it is this power at work in our lives, day and night, whether we sleep or rise, which will make us holy.  Spiritual growth and maturity are about becoming more intimate with Christ and living in union with him.  At the end of the day and, indeed, at the end of our lives our holiness and righteousness will be measured less by our actions and more by our love, and this love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit as a free gift.

“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works.  All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” St Thérèse of Lisieux

Chris

from Bible Alive

Hebrews 10:32–39 • Psalm 36(37):3–6, 23–24, 39–40 • Mark 4:26–34

 

 

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The "Sent Ones"

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Mark 3:13–19

Jesus is the Father's Emissary.  At the beginning of his ministry he appointed twelve men to be his emissaries (apostoloi). In the same way that the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sent these apostles, literally translated sent ones', into the world to preach the good news (John 20:21).  Today's Church stands on the shoulders of these great men of God, who were chosen, commissioned and sent on mission by Jesus himself.  The Church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles.  The Church is  herself apostolic because she has been entrusted with the commission of handing on faithfully the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42).  In the words of the apostle Paul she has been commissioned to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – [to] guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us (2 Tim. 1:13-14 NIV).

Although we don't tend to think in these terms when we attend Mass on a Sunday or celebrate the Eucharist during the week, the Church continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the apostles until Christ's return.  In this task she is led and guided by the Pope, the successor of St Peter, and the College of Bishops, assisted by priests, but we too, by virtue of our baptism, are called to be 'ministers of the New Covenant, “servants of God”, “ambassadors for Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God”.  We should rejoice in this calling and be conscious of what a sacred calling it is to be a Christian.

However, there is one aspect of the apostles call that none of us can share in because their ministry was unique.  It is that they were chosen by Christ to be eyewitnesses of the Lord's foundation and so the foundation stones of the Church.  We owe these men, these heroes of faith, these men of courage and faith, a profound debt of gratitude for if the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, so too is the witness of the apostles.  Praise God today for their faithfulness and obedience and stand in awe of their witness because they are truly giants of faith.

Jesus, you are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son.

 

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Hebrews 8:6–13 • Psalm 84(85):8, 10–14 • Mark 3:13–19

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Shunned and rejected, but not by Jesus

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Hebrews 3:7–14 • Psalm 94(95):6–11 • Mark 1:40-45

In the ancient world lepers were outcasts. Feared and loathed in equal measure, despised and dreaded too, they scraped out a meagre existence by beggıng and pleading for mercy. The Levitical law was clear, unambiguous and harsh: The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry: "Unclean, unclean."... [H]e shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp' (Lev. 13:45 – 46). Leprosy was clearly a terrible curse, a truly dreadful disease. In Jesus' day the sufferer was declared ritually unclean, and the condition was perceived as a punishment for sin. Lepers did not receive the compassion and care evoked by other diseases but were ostracized, feared and judged as sinners. It is hard for us to conceive of the suffering and anguish of the poor leper in today's Gospel account, although in the early days of the outbreak of AIDS/HIV sufferers said that they felt like lepers. Had he been forced to leave a wife and family? Did his former friends shun him? Where did he find food and shelter? What hope did the years ahead hold for him? How he must have wept and lamented his awful fate! Mark records that Jesus was profoundly moved with compassion for him, which led him to stretch out his hand to touch and heal him.

There are, of course, many in our society who are shunned and rejected, modern lepers if you will. It doesn't take much imagination to identify them: the poverty-stricken, refugees, migrants, those afflicted with AIDS, child-busers, prisoners, sex workers, drug addicts. If Jesus were alive today, these are the people he would love to associate with. But Jesus is alive today living by his Spirit and through the witness of believers who understand that we are all of us in fact lepers. We are all afficted and wounded by sin and darkness, and like the leper we too have received the pity, compassion, love and mercy of God, revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Having ourselves received God's amazing mercy, we reach out to others with his pity, compassion, love and mercy.

Lord, you have cleansed us from sin and restored to us the dignity of being your sons and daughters. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with joy in our salvation so that we might long to share that joy with others, especialy those who have been rejected.

Chris

from Bible Alive

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Take Courage

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Mark 6:45–52
 
Jesus appears on the water to a boatload of men
 
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us, “Take courange! . . . Don’t be afraid.” (v50, NIV).  The remedy for fear is love, faith and courage.  God’s love for us is so intense, so prolific, so all-forgiving that we should never be burdened by guilt or bound by fear.
 
In God’s love we can become like infants, blissfully and safely asleep in his arms, where nothing else matters.  Do we ever feel like this?  If not, or not frequently enough, we need to remind ourselves of the truth that, however helpless or unworthy or frightened we feel, Jesus felt that we were worth dying for.
 
Lord, help me to experience the love that you have for me, the love which drives away fear and which equips me with faith and courage.  From my place in your arms show me how I can face my fears and how my worries will look so much smaller.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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Epiphany!

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(Solemnity) Epiphany of the Lord Matthew 2:1-12

 

“O wise men from afar, O kings, where are you going in such haste? O wise men from afar, anger persecutes the child."

Jesus came to bring light to our darkened world. Today's feast of the Epiphany celebrates the unveiling of this light to the Gentiles. Our scene is set during the reign of Herod, who had been appointed king by the Roman Senate in 40 BC. He was a tyrannical despot with a penchant for parricide (he murdered his wife, three sons, uncle and mother-in-law), but his taste for bloodshed, as we shall see, extended beyond his family circle. The Magi, who may have been astrologers from Persia or southern Arabia, followed a star (some scholars suggest it was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn). In feigning to be interested in the birth of the Messiah, Herod revealed his duplicity and cunning. In fact, his heart was bent on extinguishing the light of the world. The Magi, on the other hand, were bent on worshipping the light of the world.

St Pope John Paul II saw in the Magi's journey in search of a king a parallel to the human journey: “Whatever the age, culture, civilisation or nation, people are aways searching for God. Like the wise men, they glimpse him through the eyes of faith, then set forth in faith in the desire to draw closer to him in whom they believe and come to him in the eternal Bethlehem. However, if they have not found him through faith, in looking for the truth they seek this faith, and so seek God.”  St Augustine said, I would not have sought you, if I had not already found you. Before starting to seek God, each of us has in fact found him, and rooted in this starting point we enter ever more deeply into the mystery of God- Christ in us the hope of glory.

As we celebrate the beginning of this new year, we unite our hearts to the vision of the Church and proclaim the light of Christ to the world. We play a vital role in making Christ known – his love, mercy and compassion overwhelm the coldness and extinguish the darkness in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, on this most holy feast I proclaim that you are the light of the world. I dedicate my life to being a city on a hilltop and a lamp to radiate your life and light.

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Isaiah 60:1-6 • Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-13 • Ephesians 3:2-6 • Matthew 2:1-12

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Prayer for the New Year

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From the Downside Prayer Book 2009

The New Year

An old custom used to be to give thanks for the old year and pray for blessing on the new. At an early date, the Roman Church kept the day as a feast of Mary and dedicated the new year to the intercession of the Mother of God. It is also observed now as the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

O God of infinite mercy and generosity, we give you thanks for all the good things you have given us over the past year, and ask you in your kindness that, as you have answered the prayers of those who turn to you in faith, so you will never leave us but prepare us for the rewards of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord of creation, in whose power are all times and seasons, bless this year and crown it with your goodness. Keep your Church in peace, grant us every blessing and lead us to our eternal home, where you reign for ever and ever.

Almighty God, in whose hands lies the destiny of mankind and of the world, let not our hopes perish, nor our sacrifices be in vain. Holy Spirit and giver of life, give us grace to root out from our life the bitterness of ancient wrongs and the desire to be avenged for the betrayals of long ago. Save us from the tyranny of history and set us free to serve each other attentively and live the present as a gift of new life.

In the power of our redemption by you we believe that all our sins of yesterday are forgiven by your love; grant us the grace and courage now to give and receive the forgiveness which alone can heal the wounds which remain. Draw us towards your loving kindness and guide us in the way of peace.

Anonymous

 
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Mary, Mother of God

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Galatians 4:4–7 Mary, Mother of God (Solemnity).

Today the dawn broke on another year. We look out on it as it stretches ahead of us, full of hope, and we pray and ask for grace. For sure, the passage of time is relentless, unstoppable and, for all of us, an ever-present

reality. The young urge time to go faster that they may grow up more quickly and do all the things they want to do. As we age, many complain that they simply do not know where the years have gone.

 Time is unquestionably a mystery. However, there is one thing that we know for certain about time and that is that 'when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons' (vv. 4-5). Time itself changed forever when, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born to the young virgin, Mary of Nazareth, in the small town of Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. Time itself became charged with the very presence of God in a new and special way. We owe Mary, our Mother in faith, a debt of gratitude we can never truly repay. For with her embrace of God's plan, witłh her “Yes”, with her co-operation and her docility to God's will, the plan of God's salvation could begin.

Today, lift up your voice in praise and thanksgiving to God the Father for Mary, for through the fruit of her womb we receive full rights as children of God (v. 5) and are privileged to have the Spirit of God living in our hearts (v. 6).  Mary's obedience overthrew Eve's disobedience and opened the way for Jesus’s obedience to overthrow

the disobedience of Adam and therefore Satan's hold over the human race. Cling to this truth today; hold on to it, bring it to mind and pray over it because the whole gospel message hinges on it. We do not know what the New Year holds; we cannot know what it will bring: what we can know is that we face whatever comes as the beloved children of a gracious and merciful heavenly Father, who was willing to sacrifice his own beloved Son so that not one single person would perish.

Everything comes from love, all is ordained for our salvation, God does nothing without this goal in mind.

(St Catherine of Stena)

Chris

from Bible Alive

Numbers 6:22–27 • Psalm 66(67):2–8 • Galatians 4:4–7 • Luke 2:16–21

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