February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, a major feast of our calendar.
February 5 and February 8 we remember two valiant women saints, St. Agatha and St. Josephine Bakhita. Both faced the evils of human trafficking and abuses against women. Timely examples of present evils and God’s grace that works against them.
February 6 we celebrate Saint Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs of the church in Japan. Our calendar reminds us every nation has holy people. That day let’s remember Japan, our church there and its holy people.
Our readings this week continue from chapters 5 and 6 of Mark’s gospel. He begins chapter 5: “They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes.” That’s pagan territory. He begins chapter 6: ”He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.” Two important destinations for us, as well. Our own hometown and the world beyond.
FEBRUARY 1 Mon Weekday. Heb 11:32-40/Mk 5:1-20
2 Tue The Presentation of the Lord Feast
Mal 3:1-4/Heb 2:14-18/Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
3 Wed Weekday
[Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr; Saint Ansgar, Bishop]
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Mark 4:35-41
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
Is faith objective or subjective?
The New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Hebrews 11:1 explains the difficulty of translating the original Greek words that it has rendered “realization” (hupostasis) and “evidence” (elegchos). The difficulty is existential and experiential.
The Son of God united “flesh” (sarx) and divinity in his own person, an objective fact attested by Scripture, Tradition, and the Church, but facts do not produce faith of themselves. Even the devils “believe and tremble,” James writes (2:19).
Hupostasis unites object and subject—that which is believed and the heart that believes. As object, hupostasis means substance, being and reality. As a subjective experience, it means confidence, realization and conviction.
Elegchos also carries objective and subjective meanings. As object, it means proof or evidence, and as subjective experience it means inner conviction. Translation is difficult because the choice of one word seems to exclude others. The NABRE has tried to include both the objective and subjective dimensions of faith in its translation.
From the point of view of spacetime, faith is related to hope in the realm of “not yet.”
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar…
From the point of view of eternity, faith rejoices “now” with the eye of God in the heart.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.
Heroes like Abraham walked with God, trusting in his “unseen” promises. Yet Abraham’s faith was as real and substantial as sight, Jesus attested two millennia after the death of the patriarch.
Genesis records that Enoch “walked” (halak) with God and “he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). The word for “walk” appears in Genesis 3:8 to describe God “walking” in the garden. God and the son of God walked together, an image of the Father and the Son: “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
The seventh member of the genealogy in Genesis did not die, an early sign of the resurrection hope. Seven also indicates perfection and completion in the Hebrew covenant.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him.” Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
The possibility of resurrection kept alive by the memory of Enoch in the human heart enlivened the faith of Abraham many centuries later.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.
Faith is both objective and subjective. Faith is the life of God in the human heart. Faith is the still, quiet divine center in the midst of storms and trials.
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?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Faith is Jesus asleep, yet in command, in the inner boat.
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Hebrews 10:32-39; Mark 4:26-34
The Word through whom the world came to be knew his creation intimately (John 1:3). Earth, air, soil, and water that composed his own body were fashioned in the beginning by the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). That same life-giving Spirit keeps the world continually in being and becoming like a never-ending song.
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
Seeds of the Logos waft through the universe by the Breath of the Sower and grow by the mysterious life-giving energy of the Spirit. In the language of science, organic life emerged from inorganic matter though it knows not how. Spirit has not entered the vocabulary of science, but without it life’s mystery eludes empiricism. Spirit and matter interpenetrate, according to Genesis.
In Adam, organic life becomes conscious of itself as a person in communion with other persons and all living beings. Homo sapiens (“wise human being”) is matter awake.
The Light, which enlightens everyone, scattered seeds of truth throughout the universe in preparation for his coming (John 1:9). All truth in the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament and in pagan philosophy originated from the Logos and dispersed by the Spirit. Knowledge of divinity and the natural law are accessible to all (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15).
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
The mustard seed is the personal cosmos in the image of the Logos. Sown “in the beginning,” it grew inorganically, organically, and spiritually by the Breath of God. Seeds of wisdom (sapientia) prepared homo sapiens to receive the Word made flesh.
Those who received the Word and became one with the Word followed the pattern of his life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering.
The seed of the Logos, growing into the theandric organism of the Blessed Trinity, must break to release the deifying energy of grace.
We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.
In one of his poems, “Putting in the Seed,” Robert Frost describes a farmer’s love affair with the earth. It’s getting dark and someone from the house tries fetching him to come in. Supper’s on the table, yet he’s a
“Slave to a springtime passion for the earth. How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed On through the watching for that early birth When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed, The sturdy seedling with arched body comes Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.”
Can’t you see that farmer zestfully casting seed on the waiting earth, eagerly watching it to grow? Jesus sees the Sower as an image of God, casting saving grace onto the world in season and out, because he loves it so much.
If you have ever been to Galilee and seen the lake and the surrounding lands abundant with crops, you know this is a blessed place. It was in Jesus’ time too. Here, the sower scatters his seed with abandon, hardly caring where it goes: on rocky ground, or amid thorns, or on the soil that gives a good return.
God the Sower sows blessed seed, no matter how badly our human world appears, or how badly it receives. In his parables Jesus acknowledges rejection as well as acceptance, but the sower still sows. Grace is never withheld, and that makes us hope.
And is it just the human world God loves? Doesn’t his love extend to all the earth God calls “good” in the Book of Genesis? We worry about our planet earth, and with reason. How fragile it has become, what damage we careless humans do! We are concerned rightly for its future.
The nature parables we are reading in Mark’s gospel tell us to hope for our earth too. Though it is not immune from the threat of destruction and degradation, God loves it still. He’s a Sower at work. Blessed be the Lord God of all creation, may you sow your blessings on all.
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time(Year I)
Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
In Jesus Christ, “flesh” and “blood” have triumphed over sin, death, and the devil, and live and reign forever and ever.
Flesh (sarx) encompasses all of humanity and the cosmos, from the smallest atom to the farthest star and every living being.
And the Word became flesh (sarx) and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
Unlike the sacrificial blood of animals which did not regenerate spirits dead in sin, the blood of Jesus opened a “new and living way” through the sanctuary veil to the presence of God.
In Christ, the blood of the slain Abel that cried out to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10) was assumed by the Son of God together with the earth and deified.
Every drop of blood of the risen Christ contains the whole Christ. Every particle of his body contains the whole Christ—divinity and humanity, heaven and earth, and communion with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels and saints.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”
Thank you, Father, for your Son. Thank you, Jesus, for your Body and Blood. Thank you, Spirit, for making us one.