On the Margins: Mark 1:12-15

Fr_Ron_and_KBVM_reading[1]

On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018

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Gospel MK 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

First Sunday of Lent: My cover art and column

Feb. 18, 2018 Bulletin Cover

“Jesus in the desert” Cover painting by: Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC

Dear Followers of Jesus,

Our hearts easily become restless. On some days, our hearts have a mind of their own. We become distant from our true loves, estranged from our commitments, second-guessing our vows and full of blame and anger toward the world that hurts so much. When our hearts become as strangers to us, we call this place an inner desert.

This is the wasteland that Jesus entered into to begin the Lenten journey. His forty-day survival guide suggests to us that we overcome temptations, rely on the Holy Spirit and repent of our past wrongs and sins and more solidly stand on a new ground of faith. This ground is not the shifting sand of complacency, the hot desert of sinful assertions or the rocky road to injustice. This true ground of our redemption lies in the life of Jesus touching our inner lives where our hearts meet daily life.

Lent is a trap. We might think that if we give up something God will enjoy us more. Don’t live in such a blank wilderness. Lent does not flourish because we may give up chocolate. The terrain of Lent is our entry into the deep patterns of our hearts where we know that lust possessions our attentions, where hatred and insecurity becomes a home in us, where prejudice and sin toward our neighbors is the path we have been following. Lent is a time in which we break open old patterns of hate, infidelity and harsh judgments toward people.

Lent means, “springtime.” Lent is a time in which we follow the path of Jesus more intentionally. Lent is a time of self reflection, which is such a stranger to so many people. Lent is a time of deeper prayer and reliance on God. Lent is a time in which we live the Paschal Mystery more completely. This means that we actually live the pattern of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

Lent is a time we face the darkness of our doubt so we can learn to live in the Light of Christ. We face the facts in Lent that we struggle to love our children or the people who migrate to our nation. We let go in Lent our sense of entitlement, thinking that we deserve more than other people who struggle to make ends meet. We learn something in Lent about what unhealthy power is and learn how to lift up powerless people in our world. We feed, love, support and lift up because Jesus broke bread, washed feet and dismissed the devil. Lent is a movement toward profound compassion and hope. Lent, after all, is a journey in and through love.

Here are some questions to consider this week:

What are the inner deserts you face this year in Lent? Grief? Loss? Hopelessness?

What are the ways God may be calling you to trust more or love more wonderfully in Lent?

As you examine your life, how do you see the emerging patterns of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection?

Blessings to you,

Fr. Ron

 

On the Margins: Mark 1:40-45

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio in Portland, OR

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 11, 2018

 

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Gospel  MK 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

 

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and my column

Feb. 11, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in Miracles,

Today’s gospel invites us to see life from the point of view of the leper. We may squirm at such a thought and wonder about the wisdom of such a reflection. The leper is not whole. His body is diseased, but how other people treat him is the real leprosy in the story. Lepers in those days were cast apart from loved ones. They were treated as if their disease came from evil. They did not socialize with family or interact with any aspect of civil life.

Jesus breaks the boundaries of such lies. This is His true healing in the story. The leper reaches deep into his pain and isolation and comes to the conclusion that Jesus is there to heal him. I pray that each of us could have such a conviction. Our task is first to know and understand our pain. Only then can we truly understand how we make lepers out of other people.

There are many forms of leprosy today. Migrants are considered by many to carry such distinction. Gay and lesbian people carry such branding by many. People with drug addiction or people who have never held a job are often treated with such disdain. People from the opposite political party live under this name. Still in this day, people born with skin color different from our own are labeled and given only certain recognitions.

I suffered from severe acne when I was young. A dermatologist treated me for eight years. He told me that I was the worst case he had ever treated. I took antibiotics for all those years. The doctor even gave me x-ray treatments as a last measure to cure me. The treatment didn’t change much. He told me that if the treatments didn’t work, he would call me a leper. I knew he was kidding, but the name hurt more than the treatments.

Acne was very socially condemning for me. In fact, while in college seminary, I was told that if I didn’t do something about it, I would not be ordained. Hard to imagine now, but somehow I managed to walk around such a threat.

Sometimes, we never know how people feel marginalized. Sometimes, leprosy is invisible and secretive. People react in acts of self-mutilation and suicide. People abuse their children who are different. People shun, persecute and ignore others. Some are dismissed from their jobs or never given a chance. Some are homeless or their bodies are damaged from wars. Some are born with disabilities. Not just a result of physical appearance, even gossip creates lepers.

Leprosy becomes an opportunity to love when we finally realize that people are people. Our negative reactions to people who are different from our selves, stem from our fear— simply fear.

Healing happens only when we when finally realize that Jesus desires wholeness, hope and integrity for all people. The reason Jesus became flesh is to heal those whose bodies are shunned, alone and frightened. Leprosy is an opportunity for love for us all.

Peace,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Mark 1: 29-39

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday February 4, 2018

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Gospel MK 1:29-39

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 her 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.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Bulletin cover and my column

Feb. 4, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of the Healing Christ,

Today’s gospel is one of my favorites, Mark 1:25-39. Jesus is brought to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law where she lay sick. Jesus reached out, “grasped her hand,” and helped her up. I can’t image how she felt as her hand rested in his. She may have thought that healing would never come to her. She may have dreamed that her life was over because of her illness. Hope came to her on her sickbed.

Imagine feeling the hand of Jesus reaching out toward your weakness. Hold on to the beauty of your imagination in this gospel to find your hand in the grasp of Jesus who wants you to live and thrive. One important thing to consider is the way you need to be lifted up. Perhaps your bitterness is weighing you down. Perhaps the grief you carry for the death of a spouse or child creates only darkness for you. Loneliness, the threat of a job loss, or the silence you hear within your family, are all places where Jesus needs to enter your life.

Even in this first chapter of Mark’s gospel we hear this reference to his own resurrection. This action of being ill or separated from others, then being cured and physically helped up, is in many ways the real rhythm of change, of dying to self and being restored to new life. This is our mission in the Church to be lifted up from our sin, failure and doubt so to live for others.

Jesus very clearly helps us restore relationships in his mission on earth. The disciples bring to him the ill and marginalized of the village. Mark’s clarity of Jesus’ mission is for us to take seriously as well. Jesus desires wholeness for people. This is the reason he was born into our world in the first place. His ministry is about people. The redemption happens among the fragile because the weary and poor so often teach all of us how to need God and how to live with great humility.

Jesus longs to grasp our hands and to help us up. He wants us to be on our feet and to help others as he does with Simon’s mother-in-law in the gospel. He wants us to live with hope and healing in our world. Jesus wants the best for us. This is the result of being in relationship with Christ Jesus. This is the beginning of eternal life. This is love now that will become love later. This is peace now that will be peace for all eternity. Jesus’ love in this healing story is the same love that will grasp our hearts here on earth and even for all eternity.

Here are some things to consider this week:

What is the message you desire to hear from Jesus at this time in your life?

What areas of your life need to be lifted up with his help and brought to freedom and hope?

Where is Jesus calling you to serve with such new life and integrity?

 

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

 

Question based on Mark 5:21-43, “What if I stretch out my arm?

Version 2

“What if I stretch out my arm and my fingertips

could feel the cloth that covers your body

and in my unworthiness

your

healing

found a home

in the fabric of my sinful past

and now willing heart

and hope

could bind me to you

and I could find shelter

in the swaddling garments of your love

and I could discover

my heart

dazzling white with newness

and what if I learn that I am clothed in such mercy

that I realize how to reach out to the naked and vulnerable

to dress them with justice and forgiveness

and house them in hope

because your healing

extends through every thread of my life

as I learn to wear your garment

that was tossed to the side in your empty tomb

that I now wear since I was washed in your waters of dying and rising

and you toweled me clean and wrapped me warm

and your garments will even cover my casket after my last breath

and I shall be at home in you

fully clad in tenderness and peace?”

A Question based on Mark 1: 21-28 “What if all that was unclean in me cried out?”

Version 5

Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

 

What if all that was unclean in me cried out to you for healing and all the sense of being incomplete or lost was all an illusion and you called me into a deeper relationship with you and I fell under your healing touch and landed on my knees in prayer and a blanket of awe wrapped me up in your presence and other people came to believe in you because I become another person in whose body rests your presence and healing voice and tender heart and then you call me into being what the healing is for not only me but our world torn apart in the illusion that evil wins and that we all must stand alone to find love quite apart from your presence or touch or voice and what if you stood on all of the calamity of the earth and how we have created chasms rather than community and harshness rather than healing and more earthly evil instead of heavenly love and what if you touched me and I touched you and even my spirit was healed and love flowed from us both?”

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover Art and Column

Jan. 28, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

Dear Believers in the Hope of Christ Jesus,

In today’s gospel, Mark 1:21-28, Jesus reaches out to rebuke an unclean spirit. The unclean spirit cries out because he knows who Jesus is, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” This moment in the beginning of Mark’s gospel is important for us to consider for our own lives.

The three-year ministry of Jesus begins with establishing his authority on earth. Jesus reaches out to the sick, the suffering and to heal those possessed by unclean spirits. People are experiencing the healing, comfort and liberation of Jesus’ presence. The Kingdom of Heaven is being manifest on earth in the restoration of relationships; the healing of the body and the hope that God will prevail against all evil.

In these beginning weeks of Ordinary Time, our worship centers on Jesus’ reaching out to us and teaching us about His mission on earth. Not only does He help us heal, but teaches us to reach out to heal others. Not only does He show us the reality of His love, but helps us encounter love in the world. Not only does He help us resist unclean spirits of hopelessness, gossip, backstabbing, and despair, but helps us encounter God’s Kingdom in all of our earthly encounters and relationships.

Through our own baptism, we become a new fire on earth. We spread His ability to heal and forgive within our own commitments. We become what we see in Jesus. We live as He lived and forgive as He forgave and heal as He healed.

We focus on Jesus’ love and His passion, death and resurrection. His life overcomes all evil. Sometimes we forget our faith. We tend to focus on darkness instead. We seem convinced by our world that evil is here to stay. However, if we focus on the love Jesus has for us, His everlasting goodness and forgiveness, we then live in a light that is sheer beauty and we bask in the hope that prevails for all eternity.

I invite you into prayer and reflection on this gospel today. As you face your own relationships and live your own life, what are the obstacles or moments of darkness that you wish Jesus to touch and heal?

Also, how do you experience the true authority of Jesus in your prayer and in your daily life? How can you become hope for others through your actions and accountability to Christ Jesus?

I think one of the most important aspects of this gospel is to stand in awe at the miraculous presence of Jesus Christ as the people around Jesus did in the text. This is an aspect of faith that we all need to ponder and reflect upon. Awe. How can we invite Jesus into our lives and be surprised by His mighty works and deeds?

Awe and wonder become an important aspect of faith for any follower of Jesus. My prayer for you is that you may surrender to the love God has for you and know through the miracles of healing and hope that faith is really real in our world today.

Blessings to you and your loved ones,

Fr. Ron