These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
(Heb 11, 32-40, 12:1-4)
Tomorrow’s feast will interrupt the conclusion to this great passage on the saints who have gone before us. So wise celebrants will make sure that the lector includes today the ending as the lectionary intends. This “great cloud of witnesses” that spurs us on to cross the finish line. It’s an image that recalls the Olympic Games and the running of the marathon. The great cloud of witnesses have finished their race and have taken their seats in the stadium. And when we enter the stadium after our cross-country trek, they erupt in cheers for us to complete the course!
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus taught with authority. Of course, we weak human beings crave that kind of authority for ourselves. We want our word to be law. Sometimes we forget that Jesus’ authority comes from love and service. As Jesus prays in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done!” (Lk 22:42)
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
We begin one of the most beautiful sections of the Letter to the Hebrews . . . the heroes and she-roes of faith. Mark’s gospel shows the disciples as being a bit lacking in faith. As our scripture professor in seminary said of this passage: “They don’t know who Jesus is—and he just calmed the wind and the sea—what dummies!”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Sometimes the disciples were really slow to catch on. But no problem. The Lord explained everything to them in private. How convenient!
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
I love this saying of Jesus . . . I call it the “apostolic principle of use lots”—lots of mercy, lots of forgiveness, lots of love—so that God will be even more generous with us. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a bit of a rebel in his own time, used “new-found” knowledge (the writings of Aristotle) to help explain the faith. Traditionalists were horrified. But knowledge won out. Unfortunately, those who followed Saint Thomas weren’t quite up to the task that he left for them, and so they just mimicked what Saint Thomas said. Saint Thomas is the patron saint of seminaries. The photo (1977-1978) is of the Four Musketeers in front of Saint Meinrad Seminary, Indiana.
A sower went out to sow.
The Parable of the Sower (or the Miraculous Harvest) is a real gem. From the very first words . . . “A sower went out to sow,” we are treated to the strangest story about a sower who doesn’t really care about preparing the soil. In fact, when we decide to put in a summer garden we spend lots of time just preparing the soil, weeding, removing the rocks, making sure everything is just right BEFORE we put the seed in the soil. But not the sower in the parable. And even though just a tiny portion of the seed finds its way to good soil . . . look at the miraculous harvest: thirty, sixty, a hundredfold! No wonder the gospel writer tacks on: “Whoever has ears to hear, ought to hear!” But the disciples don’t understand any of it . . . and so the gospel writer has Jesus explain it to them. But please remember, the parable is from Jesus . . . but the explanation of the parable seems to be from the gospel writer.
I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.
(2 Tim 1:1-8)
Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.
The companions of Paul, Titus and Timothy, represent the next generation of church leaders after the time of the apostles. And of course, the reference to the faith of Timothy’s grandmother and mother always reminds me of the faith of my own grandmother and mother!