Last week Mark had Jesus begin his public ministry by inviting people to “repent and believe in the Gospel” and by calling His first disciples. Our Gospel this weekend continues with Jesus preaching in the synagogue and curing a man possessed by a demon.
The Jewish tradition was that, in the synagogue on the Sabbath after an opening prayer, any male could get up and speak about a scripture passage, which is what Jesus did. The people were captivated because He “taught them as one having authority, and not like the scribes.” We hear about his authority twice in this short reading: after his preaching and after his cure of the possessed man.
Since the scribes were the ones who had the “official” authority, people were captivated by a personal authority that came from who Jesus was and how he conducted Himself. The scribes used their authority to lord it over people; Jesus used it to heal and cure, to drive away evil. His authority was a healing authority, not a controlling authority. The scribes would have thrown the MAN with the unclean spirit out of the synagogue; Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, not the man.
The message to us is this: whatever power or authority the Lord has given us, whether it be from a position we hold or our personality and talents, it is given to be used for the good of others, not to exercise control and build ourselves up (which is the way of the world). We need to keep reminding ourselves that all that we are and have came from God and God wants us to use them for the building up of His Kingdom of love, not to enhance ourselves. It is a challenge, especially since our culture can push us to succeed at the expense of others.
I invite us to reflect on how we use the positions, gifts and talents the Lord has given us. Do we use them to lord it over others or to show God’s love and compassion to others? Are we building up His Kingdom with our gifts?
Let our prayer be, Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Help me to use them for others. And let us support each other in prayer.
Catholic Schools Week in the diocese will be held starting January 31st. Parents: please consider joining the virtual tour of Wauwatosa Catholic School this Thursday, January 28th, at 7:00 pm and see what a wonderful school we have.
The 99 Experience is a chance to grow in your faith life. Please consider virtual participation.
Some have suggested that I start up our Friday scripture reflection online. Br. Silas Henderson SDS, who began the discussions here, offers an online version each week. I suggest participating in that and we will begin again at Pius when we are able to meet in person.
I thank those who have supported my Salvatorian community in our Salvatorian Sunday collection. It is greatly appreciated. There is still time to donate, if you would like. You can place your donation marked “Salvatorian Sunday” in the collection basket in the back of church or mail/bring it to the parish office. You can also donate online.
Our readings this weekend continue the theme of “call.” God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to do it because of hostilities between the Jews and the people of Nineveh. He would have been happy if they perished. But his attempt to run away ended up with him in the belly of a whale. So he returned and preached and, despite his very half-hearted efforts, he was incredibly effective. He was angry and disgusted, because he didn’t want the Ninevites to repent and be saved.
In the Gospel we have Mark’s version of the call of four key disciples: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They answered the call, but had many ups and downs in their three years of walking with Jesus, doubting at times and ultimately leaving Him alone at the time of His greatest need. Only John returned to be at the foot of the Cross.
All of us have been called in Baptism to walk with the Lord. These readings assure us that we don’t have to be perfect, that there will be ups and downs, that sometimes God will work through us DESPITE ourselves, as he did with Jonah. That is very comforting. It is God’s work: all we have to do is show up, do our best, and rededicate
ourselves when we find that we have sloughed off.
We pray: Thank you, Jesus, for calling us to bring Your Love to all we meet. While we cannot do it perfectly, we will do our best, pulling ourselves up and moving on when we fail. Thank you, Lord, for always walking with us.
Please note the information in the bulletin for a “virtual open house” for our school, Wauwatosa Catholic, on Thursday evening, January 28th, at 7:00 pm. I ask parents to seriously consider sending your children to our school, which is both Catholic and International Baccalaureate (I.B.). The open house will help you understand what
International Baccalaureate means, but, in short, it helps the students become “world citizens,” opening them up to different cultures and ideas. “Catholic” means “universal,” so Catholic and I.B. curriculums reinforce each other in an awesome way. I highly recommend the school. Check it out on the 28th!
This is our annual “Salvatorian Sunday,” when I ask you to support my religious community that started St. Pius X and has ministered here over its entire history. Information on how to contribute can be found in this bulletin and online. Please be as generous as you can. Thank you.
This is the first opportunity I have had to write since the attack on our capitol building on January 6th. Among the signs I saw as people breeched the security to enter the building was “Jesus 2020.” This, plus all the divisive behavior and rhetoric we have seen over the past months and years by those who say they are “Christian” and fighting for a “Christian” nation, is deeply disturbing to me: what are we saying it means to be a “Christian”?
Our first and Gospel readings this weekend are very relevant to what I want to say. In the first reading, God is calling Samuel, but he needed Eli’s help in order to be able to hear God. In the Gospel, John the Baptist points out Jesus to his followers and some of them, including Andrew, follow Jesus. John the Baptist led them to Christ! Then Andrew goes and brings his brother, Simon Peter, to Christ.
See the pattern? God uses us to bring others to Him and to help others live His values of love of God as shown through love of neighbor, especially the most needy. Our behavior, both in words and action, ARE important. Our obligation is to promote justice, peace, unity, and equality, especially for the most vulnerable. Angry words that denigrate others are NOT acceptable and make it less
likely that we will be able to move forward for the good of all.
As individuals and as “one nation under God,” we need to ask God for forgiveness for anything we do that does not bring peace, unity, and justice. I invite us to spend some time this week reflecting on our words and actions: are we contributing to division or to unity? Let us also pray for our country, that we can better live up to the ideals that have been given to us by God and our founders. Like Eli, John the Baptist, and Andrew, may we lead others to Christ by who we are and what we say and do.
As we did last year, we will be having a second collection (on the weekend of January 16th & 17th) to support the Salvatorian Fathers and Brothers, who started this parish and have ministered here since then. Details can be found in the January newsletter and the bulletin, as well as on the SDS website. Please be as generous as you can. I thank you on behalf of all of my community.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the official end of the liturgical Christmas season. We now enter the first week of Ordinary time, which lasts until Ash Wednesday and picks up again after Pentecost, continuing until the Feast of Christ the King. Ordinary time is when we learn from Jesus’ words and example in the Gospels how we are to live as Christians.
It is important to see the progression of events in Christ’s life, so that we can imitate Him.
It is important for us to note the two actions of Jesus that helped lead Him to clarity about His purpose in life. First, He was part of the Jewish community, following their laws and participating in their rituals. He was with the people being baptized and He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, along with the other faithful Jews. Second, He went off by Himself into the desert to be alone and discern. He prayed to and with His Father. He needed guidance and He allowed the time and space for it to happen.
Participation in the community and quiet, personal time with the Lord. Two things that are very important if we are to discover God’s will and how we can fulfil it.
I invite us this week to reflect on this example of Jesus, asking ourselves how we are doing at using both the community and personal, quiet time with the Lord to guide us in life. If we are weak in one or both of these areas, make a plan on how to do better.
As we struggle to be better disciples, let us support each other in prayer.