Monthly Archives: January 2021

February 1-7


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]

Heb 12:4-7, 11-15/Mk 6:1-6 

4 Thu Weekday

Heb 12:18-19, 21-24/Mk 6:7-13 

5 Fri Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr Memorial

Heb 13:1-8/Mk 6:14-29 

6 Sat Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Memorial Heb 13:15-17, 20-21/Mk 6:30-34

7 SUN FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Jb 7:1-4, 6-7/1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23/Mk 1:29-39 

 

Putting in the Seed

J.Tissot, The Sower, Brooklyn Museum

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.

3rd Sunday: The Hill We Climb

In this Sunday’s reading from Mark’s Gospel Jesus calls some fishermen on the Sea of Galilee to follow him and announce the coming of God’s kingdom. When we hear Jesus calling them, we should hear him calling us. In our first reading God calls Jonah to set out to convert the great city of Nineveh. We should hear God calling us to change the world we live in.  

Last week at the Inauguration in Washington, DC, President Biden and Vice-President Harris were called to serve the people of this country. It was more than a political event, a transfer of power. It was more than a call to two people, or some people, or a political party. It was a call to all the people of the nation to come together to work for its good. A call to us.

That was the message of the speeches, the prayers, the poems, the songs, the symbols of last Wednesday. 

It was the message that Amanda Gorman, the 23year old black woman, spoke that day in her inspired poem  “The Hill We Climb.”

“We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze not to what stands between us,

But what stands before us.

We close the divide, because we know to put our future first,

We must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms

So we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew,

That even as we hurt, we hoped,

That even as we tired, we tried,

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious—

Not because we will never again know defeat

But because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision

That everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,

And no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time,

then victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promised glade,

The hill we climb if only we dare it.

Because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”

That message captured the day, I think. Amanda got it right. We need a president and vice-president, governments, political parties, but “we” climb the hill. All of us. We lift up our eyes, we close the divide, we put our differences aside, we reach out our arms, we grieve and grow, get tired and keep trying, we climb the hill and dare it.

That’s also the message of our scriptures. Jesus called the fishermen along the Sea of Galiee and they followed him. He also calls us to dare to go with him. God called Jonah to go into the great city of Nineveh and change it, and he did, reluctantly. He calls us too.

It’s a steep hill God calls us to climb. We face a pandemic, climate change, racism, a broken economy, fear of the stranger. With God’s grace, we will climb it. 

“For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”  

The World Here and the World Beyond

Two worlds are described in the readings at Mass this week. The Gospel of Mark tells of the world that Jesus lived in over two thousand years ago, the world around Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee, where he called his first disciples, encountered a demon in the synagogue, cured Peter’s mother in law, the paralyzed man and the leper– where he was fiercely opposed. (Mark 1,14-2,12) It’s a world like ours that he came to redeem.

The world described in the Letter to the Hebrews is a world beyond this one, the world of the Risen Lord. Jesus enters that world as Lord of all creation; he sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, our creed says.

The Letter to the Hebrews describes him further as a High Priest entering a heavenly sanctuary to intercede for us. He’s a merciful High Priest, the same Jesus who entered Capernaum and cured Peter’s mother in law, the paralyzed man and the leper. He’s knows our humanity with its yearning, its weakness and hardness; he carries the wounds of suffering and death.

It’s hard to keep these two worlds in mind, but our readings, like our creed, tell us to do it. They’re not sealed off, they’re joined to each other. They have a common goal:  “Our Father, thy will done, thy kingdom come.” The Risen Jesus is present in both of these worlds. He’s Savior and Redeemer. Through him, God’s kingdom will come.

Unfortunately, some today only think of the world they see now. Others are unsure or confused about a world beyond this one.  Some see the world beyond as an escape from this life, an isolated world in the clouds. For some the world beyond is a world we make, a world without Jesus Christ and the mystery of his resurrection.

Some conclude it’s just not important to think about it. But that’s wrong. What we think about life beyond this determines how we live now. It makes a difference.

www.ourchildrenpray.com

As I’ve contributed over the years to this blog, “The Victor’s Place”, I’ve thought about its aim and its readers. The aim of this blog is to provide others with a taste of our Christian prayer tradition found in our liturgy, its readings from scripture, its feasts and seasons and its celebration of saints. It’s “daily bread” for daily life.

This blog is followed by adults from all over. But what about children? They need the “daily bread” that comes from prayer and reflection too.

Here’s “OurChildrenPray”, a website for helping children to pray. Its aim is “offer support for those helping children to pray and thus to begin their relationship with God. It provides short explanations from the Catholic tradition for the ordinary prayers we say and introduces children to the seasons of the year we celebrate.”

If you are a parent, grandparent, godfather, godmother, or someone guiding children take a look at this site. Children thirst for God from birth. Teaching them to pray is one of the greatest things we can do for them.

Jesus in Caphernaum

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  Near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, one can visit the excavations of the ancient town of Capernaum. There the Franciscans have built a lovely hexagonal church over the restored ruins of a circular stone house, with the opening for its front door clearly visible. We pilgrims believe in our hearts of faith that this is the house mentioned in today’s Gospel.

      ” On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left and she waited on them.

     ” When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door.” (Mk 1; 29-33).

     We believe that right at that door Jesus healed dozens, if not hundreds, of people (including the paralytic, who was lowered with ropes through the ceiling). He might also have preached the Good News of the Kingdom in front of that humble threshold.

     I cannot help but imagine my Lord residing in my own private room within my heart. I know that there, through the Eucharist or prayer, planned or unexpectedly, He continuously “grasps my hand and helps me up”. He stands at the door of my heart and encourages me to serve, to invite all those around me, in my family and community, who might need some of the hope and healing that He compels me to share. This is what I live for.

     And He asks for more: ” Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” (Mk 1; 38). With His holy companionship I am asked to reach out to those beyond the locust of my comfort zone: to the stranger, the different, the unpleasant one,the hopeless one, the one whose political ideas or interests are so different from mine.

     May He give me the strength and faith, and courage, to try and “grasp” the hand that might reject mine. He has given me so much undeserved grace and love. He has given me the eyes to “see Him”. For what “purpose” has He come to me, if not so that I may be an instrument of His peace and love?   

                                      Orlando Hernandez

Keeping Heroes in Mind

We’re reading the Letter to the Hebrews at length these days in our liturgy at Mass. Why was this written? When and to whom was it written? Interpreters of the Letter to the Hebrews ask these questions to understand this writing better.

Obviously Hebrews is written to Jewish-Christians, some think in Rome which had a substantial Jewish-Christian population in the 1st century. It was written after a time of persecution, perhaps when the Emperor Claudius banished Jewish Christians from the city in 49 AD because they were causing riots in Rome’s synagogues in disputes over Jesus Christ. Or maybe a later persecution.

Did that  cause the followers of Jesus there to tamper down their efforts and embrace their faith less fully? Perhaps. The writer of Hebrews warns his hearers against “drawing back” and “losing confidence” in the faith they profess. Were they losing their enthusiasm? That sounds like something that happens to us too.

Keep before you the heroes of faith, beginning with Jesus, the author of Hebrews says as he draws up for them a lengthy list of inspiring believers.

“For, after just a brief moment,

he who is to come shall come;

he shall not delay.

But my just one shall live by faith,

and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.”

 To that list of Old Testament heroes we can add the saints of the New Testament and saints of our times. They can inspire us too.