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Mark’s Questions

I read the gospel of Mark over the weekend, beginning with the historical prologue. I love this information, as the New Testament did not fall intact from heaven, but was hard-fought by Church leaders for hundreds of years. The earliest manuscripts of this book are titled, “According to Mark” and it has been the Church’s uniform tradition that the author was that disciple of Peter’s whom he called his son (I Peter 5:13). Also referred to as John Mark, a combination of his Jewish and Roman names, he traveled with Paul, too (Acts 12:25). It seems that his gospel was written before AD 70. He relates Christ’s prophesy that the temple would be destroyed, which occurred in AD 70, with no mention of it as a past event. Some ancient writers (Irenaeus and Eusebius) hold that Mark wrote soon after Peter’s martyrdom in AD 67 or even earlier, during the reign of Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). Either idea, it is safe to say it was written by AD 70. He wrote for Gentile believers in Rome, often explaining Jewish customs for his readers and translating Aramaic words into Latin or Greek. The climax of his Gospel is the exclamation by a Roman soldier, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (It’s really hard to read that in anything other than a John Wayne accent!).

 

Mark’s Questions

There are dozens of questions peppered throughout this book, asked by every character. I think that Mark wanted his readers to be questioned and challenged and driven toward a reckoning. Here are many of those questions I found and who asked them, in my reading from beginning to end:

What is this? A new teaching?
People in synagogue

Why does this man speak like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?
Scribes

Why do you question like this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven or rise and walk’?
Jesus

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? 
Scribes  

Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath (plucking grain to eat)?
Pharisees

Have you never read what David and his men did when they were hungry?
Jesus

Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or harm; to save life or kill?
Jesus

Who are my mother and brothers?
Jesus

Do you understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?
Jesus

Teacher, do you not care if we perish?
Disciples

Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?
Jesus

Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?
Disciples

What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God?
Unclean spirit in a man

What is your name?
Jesus

Who touched me?
Jesus

Why do you make a tumult and weep?
Jesus

Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him?
People from home

What shall I ask?
Herod

Shall we buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them? 
Disciples

How many loaves do you have?
Jesus

Why does this generation seek a sign?
Jesus

Do you not remember?
Jesus

Who do you say I am?
Jesus

What are you discussing?
Jesus

Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?
Jesus

Why could we not cast it out?
Disciples

What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Rich man

Who can be saved?
Disciples

Are you able to drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with my baptism?
Jesus

What do you want me to do for you?
Jesus

Is it not written, my house shall be a house of prayer for the nations?
Jesus

Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Pharisees

Which commandment is the first of all?
Scribes

Why was the ointment wasted?
Disciples

Why do you trouble her?
Jesus

Are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?
Jesus

Are you the Christ, the son of the blessed?
Priests and scribes

What evil has he done?
Pilate

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Jesus

Who will roll away the stone for us?
Women

 

Answers

The answers can change a life and begin ripples of goodness. Jesus is God and man. He heals, forgives, eats, gives, speaks, loves. We, His friends and brothers, can listen, believe, give, act, join, and love. Another noteworthy tidbit is that the word “immediately” appears over forty times in the sixteen chapters: the spirit immediately drove him; they immediately left their nets; Jesus immediately left the synagogue. It is a new year; let us consider these questions and our answers immediately.

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Ink Slingers

Our God is Here

our-god-is-here

The Mass three weekend’s ago was perfect. Of course, every Mass is technically perfect, but this one felt like the beginning when the liturgy was new to us and we were breathlessly aware of being part of the worship of the millenia with the cloud of witnesses both on earth and on the other side. Beautiful music not too high to sing, beloved Bible passages from Psalm 145 and Luke 19, and an expressive homily by a visiting Irish priest with a lovely accent. I’m sure it helped that my children were a little tired and droopy in the pews, without their usual boisterous participation. Even the seven year old shook hands sedately and murmured “Peace be with you” for the sign of peace instead of his usual hand-pumping “Howdy.” No one asked to leave to use the restroom, no one got tripped moving about and around for Holy Communion, and no one hung on my back while I was kneeling for prayer. It was a short mountaintop experience for this tired mother that rivaled any retreat from my younger days. Thank you, Lord, for such an oasis!

Sometimes it all comes together: the facts, the faith, and the feelings. Do you know this maxim? “Fact, faith, and feeling went walking on a wall. Feeling took a tumble and faith began to fall. Fact pulled them up again ’til all were walking tall.” It’s good to have the feelings perfectly in place with the facts and faith. But feelings make fickle masters because they are affected by everything. Or nothing. Much of the Christian life involves decisions based on the facts. Our “credo” – Latin for “I believe” – is a solid foundation upon which our faith rests. “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” calls the priest and the congregation sings, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.”

Now that we know who our president and congressmen will be, I’m praying that my faith in the facts of salvation centered on Christ will keep a tight hold on my tenuous feelings. 

The Mass three weeks ago opened with, “Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you spare all things because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls (Wisdom 11:22,26).” And we sang from Psalm 145, “I will extol you, my God and king; I will bless your name forever. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. All your works give you thanks, O Lord, and your faithful bless you. You are near to those who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth.” These inerrant words help me to breathe easier. Our time here is short. There is much we can do as civilized Americans and as Christians to be the hands of Jesus to ease pain and make our world a better place no matter who sits in our state capitols or Washington, D.C. 

Our Gospel reading that weekend was the story of Zaccheus. While the deacon was reading, I was mentally singing “Zaccheus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he…” from my Sunday school days! Whatever is happening; whatever good or bad place I may find myself; whether it’s my fault or not;  Jesus notices me. He notices everyone. When Zaccheus answered Jesus and let the Lord come in, he vowed to return what he’d taken and give away half of what he had. He was changed for the better and his sphere was changed for the better. It happens all the time when people listen to Jesus. Good things come from messes when Our Lord is involved, whether or not our chosen political candidates win.

The song that moved me to tears that weekend and that I’ve been humming ever since is called Our God is Here and it sounds like the song of the angels John saw in his revelation visions. “Here in this time, here in this place, our God is here. Here for the broken, here for the strong, here in this temple we belong. We are his body living as one, our God is here. And we cry holy, holy, holy are you. We cry holy, holy, holy and true. Amen we do believe our God is here.”

That’s my song. Whatever direction my beloved country may take, I will cry with the angels, Holy are you, holy and true; my God is here.

holy-holy-holy

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

thirty-second-sunday-in-ordinary-timeLectio divina is a truly powerful prayer. It’s a prayer with a formula to follow rather than specific words to say and meditate on. In these lectio divina posts I have been using the upcoming Sunday Gospel readings. However, you can use this anytime you are reading your Bible (just stop when a word or phrase catches your attention and go from there). Remember that this is a prayer and thus you want to find a quiet place and set aside some time in which to devote to it.

Definitely read Scripture whenever you can and however you are able. That is most important. In addition to this, a great goal is to set aside 15-20 minutes at least once a week to pray in the manner of lectio divina. Once a day would be great, but start with once a week and see how it goes.

To follow along with me on this lectio divina prayer time, you will want to have the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, November 6, ready. If you need to review the steps of lectio divina you can find a quick outline from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Remember to read the Gospel passage at the start of each of the four sections below (the ones that start with an “R” word).

READ

What caught my attention:

“deny that there is a resurrection”

“can no longer die”

“all are alive”

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

As a child, the thought of death scared me beyond anything I could imagine. I used to lay in bed wondering whether death would be nothing but emptiness where we cease to exist or if there was something beyond this world. As I have grown in my faith I definitely believe in God and heaven and that we will all be resurrected one day.

Reading Sunday’s Gospel passage I noticed something I had never noticed before. At the very beginning Luke tells us that these Sadducees deny there there will be a resurrection. I had always looked at this passage as being about marriage (yea, I know, I’m clueless sometimes!). While marriage is part of it, the main point is that the resurrection is real.

God didn’t intend for humans to die, he wanted us to live with him forever like the angels. With original sin that relationship was broken, but Jesus offers a way to repair it. If we live faithful, worthy lives we will rise again, body and soul, and join God and the angels and saints in heaven.

I can’t imagine how the Sadducees reacted to Jesus response. Did it satisfy them? Did it give them hope? Did it make them reconsider their position? Or did they just walk away mumbling about that crazy Jesus and his far out ideas?

For me, reflecting on this, God is telling me to have hope, to be a good steward of all the blessings I have been given, to take care of my body as well as my soul, and to not fear death for the resurrection will be a reality one day. For as Jesus tells us, “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

My Lord God, help me to never forget your infinite love for me. Because you love me, I know you want me to live with you forever. So often it is hard to imagine that you can care so much for me, just one very insignificant human among billions. But time and again you remind me that I am one of your children and a loving father never forgets his children. For this reason I know you have plans for me to be with you in heaven one day. I pray that I can be worthy of that special gift when my time comes. Unlike the Sadducees, I do believe and, as we say in our Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

REST

Spend some time in silence after your fourth reading of the passage.

YOUR TURN

Share in the comments, what do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? You can also join the conversation on the Catholic Sistas’ Instagram account, but I’d love to hear your thoughts here too.

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Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Liturgical Year Ordinary Time Prayer Sacred Scripture

Lectio Divina: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

Lectio Divina- 23rd SundayLectio divina is a beautiful way of encountering Jesus in Scripture and is an ancient tradition of the Church. To learn more about it, there is a brief description HERE including citations for further resources.

This coming Sunday is the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary time. Before we begin, you will want to have the Gospel passage ready to go. You can find it HERE. A simple prayer before you begin is a nice way to start (I like starting with the prayer to the Holy Spirit, a Glory Be would be good too).

READ

This first very simple step is to simply read the Gospel passage. This is God sending you a letter, so just read it and be with it. Does any one word or phrase particularly speak to you at this time? If so, say it out loud to yourself. Sometimes there may be more than one. If so, say the first one and sit silently with that word or words. Then speak the second one.

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

After you have sat with your word or phrase for a moment read the Gospel passage a second time. Reflect on the passage as a whole. What is God saying to you through this passage?

In my first reading of this Gospel passage from Luke two phrases caught my attention: “carry his own cross” and “renounce all his possessions.” This led me to think mostly just of material possessions and my constant need to divest myself of the clutter I seem to perpetually have around me. Another thought I had was that Jesus may not be talking only of material possessions, after all pretty much every story we have of Jesus has more than one meaning behind his words.

Reading this passage a second time something else struck me instead. The analogy of the builder constructing a tower. A builder should properly calculate everything before starting. If not, things may not turn out as expected and, as Jesus says, “onlookers should laugh at him.” At first glance it’s not obvious why Jesus uses this analogy in the context of renouncing your family and possessions to follow him. But then I remembered one of my first thoughts, that Jesus is not just talking about material possessions, he’s also talking about our souls and how we prepare our souls to be true followers of Jesus.

I don’t think Jesus wants us to literally hate our family members or the things we need in life (“need” being the important word here). But we must prepare our souls to be detached from the things of this world, even the people of this world. Like a builder who properly calculates and prepares for the construction of his tower, we must be continually preparing our souls for the next world. In addition to detachments from the things of this world, we must also be prepared to take up our cross, the cross that makes us different from the world around us precisely because we are focusing on the world to come.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Read the Gospel passage a third time. After this reading focus on how you would respond to God. What do you want to say to God?

My first thought in answering this question: I’m trying. Preparing my soul is hard. Human weakness being what it is, I want to have my cake and eat it too. So, yes, I’m trying, one day at a time. Slowly but surely, I spend time in prayer, spend time in Scripture, and spend time getting to know Jesus and building that personal relationship with him. As I focus more on those things I think detaching from worldly goods becomes easier and easier. One day at a time, Lord, always keeping you in sight.

REST

Read the Gospel passage a fourth time and simply rest with God in his word. To close your time, I recommend an Our Father, or any other prayer of your choosing.

Lord God, help us to prepare our souls to be joined with you one day in our heavenly home. I pray for the strength to carry my cross, to stay true to the Christian way of life and renounce all worldly things. Help us to always have a focus on you, our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Reflect for Ordinary Time- Sept 4Find our Reflect series, a short version of Lectio Divina, on Instagram.

 

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Allison Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer

The Prayer of the People of God

psalms the prayer of the people of God

Read the Psalms. They are pure poetry, but easier to understand than William Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or E.E. Cummings! The Psalms have been called a school of prayer, providing readers with historical information, plus the human connection of people’s emotional and spiritual responses to themselves, their world, and their Lord, making the words timeless and touching.

The Hebrew name for the collection is Praises and the Greek translation of that word is psalmos, referring to the twang of a stringed instrument. These verses were meant to be sung by God’s children, together raising their voices in praise, sorrow, wonder, weeping, repentance, and love. The ancient Israelites prayed and sang the Psalms; the earliest Christians prayed and sang the Psalms; and Catholics today still pray and sing the Psalms at every single Mass, every single day, all over the world. Not only is a responsorial song or chant of a Psalm part of the liturgical order, many hymns and choruses are penned directly from a Psalm.

psalmsAccording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the people of God . . . their prayer is inseparably personal and communal; it concerns both those who are praying and all men (#2586).”

“The Psalter is the book in which the word of God becomes man’s prayer. The same Spirit inspires both God’s work and man’s response. Christ will unite the two. In him, the Psalms continue to teach us how to pray (#2587).”

“Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time (#2597).”

I am an Irish girl who grew up in Southeastern New England, so poets dear to me include Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, William Wordsworth, and Katharine Tynan. Their words about our earth, our families, humanity’s beauty and trouble, and the yearnings of the heart calm and inspire me. But the Psalms do that, too, along with the knowledge that the words passed down are definitely from God.

How many times is Psalm 23 murmured as a prayer for peace? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me rest; to safe waters you lead me . . . I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage . . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

How many times have I recited for strength my favorite Psalm 27? “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid? One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to visit his temple . . . wait for the Lord, take courage, be stouthearted and wait for the Lord!”

We have yelled with King David. “Answer when I call, my saving God. In my troubles, clear a way. Show me favor; hear my prayer.” (4:2) And, “Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me Lord for my bones are trembling.” (6:3)

We have shouted with joy. “O Lord our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens!” (8:1) And, “All you people clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries!” (47:1)

We have wept. “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul?” (13:1-3) And, “Listen to my cry for help for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers for they are too strong for me.” (142:7)

We have taken a deep breath. “I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help so that I may sing of the Lord; how good our God has been to me!” (13:6) And, “I wait for you, O Lord. I lift up my soul to my God. In you I trust; do not let me be disgraced.” (25:1-2)

We have repented. “I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done evil in your sight that you are just when you condemn. Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure; wash me that I may be whiter than snow.” (52:5; 6,9)

We have exulted in the earth- “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes to govern the earth.” (96:11-13)

And we have sung praises. “How good to celebrate our God in song; how sweet to sing fitting praise. We sing to the Lord with thanksgiving and celebrate our God with the lyre!” (147:1,7)

May we read the Psalms again and be closer to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, those here and those in heaven. May we read the Psalms again and be closer to God, our loving creator.