Daily Bread ~ Scriptural Reflection

 

Monday, January 28, 2019
Heb 9:15, 24-28; Mk 3:22-30
Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the church

But now, once for all, Jesus has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.
We could probably reduce the entire Letter to the Hebrews down to one word: “once,” as in once and for all! Before Jesus, centuries of patching and filling attempted to plaster over our sins with futile animal sacrifices hobbled by priests who were themselves sinners. Then comes Jesus, and the universe changes course. We are no longer on borrowed time; everything is now! Can we go with the flow, sweeping us to salvation? It is a real challenge, to keep up with God’s mercy, on a fast track to the “sanctuary not made by hands,” that is, “heaven itself.” Why do we still ground ourselves in grudges and snits and resentments?
Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done wondrous deeds!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Heb 10:1-10; Mk 3:31-35

It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins.
The Letter to the Hebrews discards the pages of Exodus, Leviticus, you name it, anything that ritualized the mercy of God as a “shadow” of the real thing. But there is one item in Scripture that the author loves and can’t stop quoting, Psalm 40, which the author of Hebrews interprets as a Christmas narrative, when Jesus “came into the world.” Thus, “A body you have prepared for me. ... Then I said, Behold I come to do your will, O God.” God’s “will” transcends “sacrifice and offering,” since it ultimately includes “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” If we could just sense the treasure in the Mass, the Eucharist, even a lame sermon or a faulty choir would not diminish our worship.
Ears open to obedience you gave me, O Lord!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Heb 10:11-18; Mk 4:1-20


For by one offering [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
“Made perfect” sounds like a pretty good deal, but it assumes we know we are sinners. Our modern mind sees no sense in any “offering,” since we have assumed for ourselves God’s judgment and authority. We block and erase and reject on Facebook or Twitter anyone who does not conform to our rule of “law.” Indeed, according to the author of Hebrews, God does not shrink from sharing the divine prerogative with us, says Jeremiah: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.” It is just that God’s law is endless mercy, and God’s intimacy is our consecration. Forgiveness is always “perfect!”
O Lord, you stretch forth your power from Zion, to rule in the midst of your enemies!

Thursday, January 31, 2019
Heb 10:19-25; Mk 4:21-25
Saint John Bosco, priest

We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
The Letter to the Hebrews takes us into the “new” sanctuary, “through the veil,” into the very “flesh” of Jesus. This intimacy compels us to “approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust.” But not alone! “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some.” I wonder who the author has in mind. I would hate to judge anyone for their absence from the “assembly” if I have made no attempt to “rouse” them to celebrate with the community. Here in Honduras, where Mass is rare, even the most remote village gathers to pray and share and reflect on the Scriptures together. The “theology” of the poor is really quite amazing, and above all, practical. The most common prayer is for faith.
Who can ascend your mountain, O Lord? May our hands receive your blessing!

 

 

Friday, February 1, 2019
Heb 10:32-39; Mk 4:26-34

(The Kingdom is as if) a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
This parable of the kingdom is both comforting and humbling. It’s not all up to me! But sometimes, we ignore the person right in front of us who could benefit from the simplest act of kindness. Or we spend all of our energy on an issue that will not be changed one iota by our attentions. My favorite lesson from Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is about efficiently using our energy. Imagine two circles, one inside the other. The larger is our "circle of interest" and the smaller our "circle of influence." Covey suggests we should spend most of our energy in the smaller circle. This might mean, for example, that rather than ranting about national politics, we turn our attention to the local school board. While every part of the kingdom is a subject for our prayers, most of us are influential in only one tiny corner.
Creator God, give me the grace to do what I can and entrust the rest to you and your people.

Saturday, February 2, 2019
Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
The Presentation of the Lord

There was also a prophetess, Anna. ... She was advanced in years.
Today’s feast day references the fulfillment of the law of Moses (Leviticus, Chapter 12). Mary appears for purification, 40 days after the birth of her male child. Something to note — she offers two turtledoves, the sacrifice of a poor woman. Witnessing this moment are two devout old people, Simeon and Anna. Too often only the first half of the Gospel is read, presumably to save time, but please, friends, don’t leave out Anna! Most of our churches have an "Anna" — a widow and a faithful elder. In fact, on a Saturday morning, it is likely that the Annas of our community will be in attendance. In many societies, no one is more invisible than an older woman. Look for the light in the Annas of the world. They have witnessed a lifetime of change and remain centered and faithful. They have much to share and the world would be a better, more peaceful place, if it were not blind to the light these elders can share.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us that we might be women and men of the light.

 

Monday, February 11, 2019
Gn 1:1-19; Mk 6:53-56

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.
Water. Our bodies are made up of water. Our bodies need water, and if we do not or cannot drink, we will die. Drought — a severe lack of water — damages both land and human beings. Water can be dangerous and chaotic. (Who can forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence last fall!) In the Bible, water also brings both life and death. There’s the Great Flood and God’s promise never to flood the earth again. There’s the Exodus, when the Red Sea parted and the Hebrew people were able to leave slavery behind and travel toward the promised land. Jesus was baptized by John, changed water into wine at a wedding, and washed the feet of the disciples. In the beginning, there was water. At the end, there will also be water — and God.
For your steadfast presence in both calm and chaos, O God, we give thanks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Gn 1:20—2:4a; Mk 7:1-13

Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.
Almost every human culture has myths about the Earth and its origins. Many ancient cultures saw the Earth as a mother, the fertile source of life. Creation therefore was holy and sacred; human beings were part of creation and lived in harmony with creation. Most Westerners, however, tend to see creation as raw material to use, manipulate and control for our benefit. After all, as it says in Scripture, God told us to subdue the earth. God gave us dominion. Unfortunately, “dominion” came to be understood as a God-given invitation to use the resources of creation however we wanted. We forgot that human beings were created to live in harmony with each other and with the rest of creation. And human beings were given a special responsibility to care for the Earth. So instead of being caretakers and stewards, we act like owners. We exploit, pollute, consume and waste while foolishly thinking that the Earth will survive.
May our lives reflect our calling to be stewards of your creation, holy Creator.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17; Mk 7:14-23

The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.
One of my joys over the past year and a half has been transforming a very blank, boring front yard into a flower garden. A church member helped till and remove the grass, and last May I planted all kinds of native perennials. By August, I was amazed at how much the plants had grown, even though we had a terribly hot and dry summer. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoyed the butterfly bush, loosestrife and Black eyed Susans. Before long, I will be planning the flowers and plants to add this coming spring. Although it’s a lot of work, cultivating my little garden is also meditation, prayer and what I call “dirt therapy”. There’s something very satisfying about planting, watering and weeding – and then getting out of the way to watch things grow.
Creator God, thank you for the opportunity to cultivate and care for your earth.

Thursday, February 14, 2019
Gn 2:18-25; Mk 7:24-30
Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, bishop


The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
In the garden, God does not want the first human to be alone. So God creates all kinds of animals and birds, and the man names them. But for all their marvelous diversity, not one is a “suitable” partner for the man. So God creates another human being, a woman — different, yet equal. Both are created in God’s image, and both are created to live in relationship with God and with each other. This second creation story makes it clear that we are all God’s children and we were all created equal. And yet, women and girls around the world are still considered second-class human beings. They are denied education, vilified when they speak up about abuse or assault, paid less, and sold into slavery. As disciples of Jesus, who challenged the norms of his day especially in regards to women, we too are called to protect women’s fundamental human rights.
Even as we give thanks for our identity as God’s children, we pray for the day when all people will be treated as equals.

Friday, February 15, 2019
Gn 3:1-8; Mk 7:31-37

So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
After the two different creation stories, we now have an account of the first sin and its punishment. I imagine the Hebrew writer looking around at the world and wondering how to reconcile the selfish, rebellious actions of the human creatures with the goodness and shalom of God. The Hebrew writer created a story, a myth, about how the first humans fell from the grace of paradise because of their disobedience. Then, thanks in large part to Augustine, early Christian theology began teaching that we too are infected with “original sin.” For Augustine, we sin because we are sinners; it’s in our DNA. But “fall” and “original sin” aren’t in the story, are they? In fact, the Bible told us — as we heard just a few verses earlier — that we were created in God’s image, as part of a good creation. We turn away from God by making bad choices — not because we are carriers of sin, but because of ego, fear or insecurity.
For the wisdom and grace to choose your way, we pray.

Saturday, February 16, 2019
Gn 3:9-24; Mk 8:1-10

God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Do you remember the “Family Circus” cartoon? Mom or Dad would ask their children who did this-and-such, and every one of them would say, “Not me.” Running through the cartoon was a little ghost-like figure who was the infamous “Not me.” Those cartoons remind me of this story, where both Adam and Eve say, “Not me!” In the end, they are punished and banished from the garden. There are legends about what happened to Adam and Eve that never made it into the Bible. According to one of them, God gave them a cave to live in just east of Eden. Desperate, they begged God to let them return. God said no, but God compassionately tried to rouse them from their despair. Nothing worked. Finally, as the legend goes, Adam and Eve let God teach them how to make clothes. It was a big step. They picked up the pieces and decided to live.
Forgive our excuses, merciful God. Set us free from a past we cannot change.

 

Monday, February 18, 2019
Gn 4:1-15, 25; Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees … began to argue with Jesus.
The manner of Abel’s death and the conflicts Jesus must constantly battle with the Pharisees bring to mind a passage from the Letter of James: "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice." Cain murders his brother because he is jealous of God’s preference of Abel’s gift over his own. Jealousy of Jesus’ ability to draw crowds leads the Pharisees to plot against him, even for his death. To be envious of another’s good fortune once in a while is human nature but when it leads us to justify attitudes and behaviors that compromise the dignity of others, it becomes a slippery slope. The best antidote for jealousy is to nurture a habit of gratitude every day.
Help us Lord, to appreciate daily what we have and those who enrich our lives.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Gn 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10; Mk 8:14-21

Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened?
It is not hard to picture Jesus shaking his head at the shallow concerns of his disciples.While he is trying to teach them about God’s salvation and to warn them of the perils they will face as disciples, their minds are on their stomachs! How often are my choices based on quick comfort without any concern of the deeper consequences of those choices? I have been guilty of choosing convenience over environmental responsibility when buying products. I have overlooked the ethical labor practices of companies that manufacture products I desire. I have gossiped and indulged in activities that have impacted the dignity of others. Has Jesus ever sighed in exasperation at my thoughtless choices and shallow concerns? I dread to think how often.
Forgive me Lord, when I choose convenience over conscience.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Gn 8:6-13, 20-22; Mk 8:22-26

[Jesus] sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”
Our environmentalist daughter has been telling us for years of the hazards created by our cultures obsession with cheap, plastic packaging. Yet my own environmental conscience was only awakened one summer when I saw many beautiful shorebirds washed ashore because they had suffocated or starved to death after becoming entangled in plastic debris floating in the ocean. My purchasing and disposal habits were forever changed. Like the healed blind man in today’s Gospel, insights are sometimes gained slowly, but once acquired we cannot in good conscience return to old beliefs and habits. Insights into God and our faith can change dramatically our perspective of ourselves and the world around us.
Renew our sight, God of light, that we may always be open to grow in faith and understanding.

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Gn 9:1-13; Mk 8:27-33

Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.
The way Jesus rebukes Peter has always sounded rather harsh to me. The sense behind the rebuke became clearer to me when I read Fr. Roger Karban’s reflection on this reading and who paraphrased these lines; “Stop being an obstacle to my ministry, Peter! Get your unbelieving face out from in front of me and go behind me; be a disciple! Do what I do, not what you would like me to do.” Like Peter, most of us would prefer that our discipleship not involve suffering, but to follow the teachings of Jesus often places us on a path of uncomfortable choices and difficult consequences. The cross that Jesus asks us to bear is the willingness to risk suffering, as he did, for his message and his mission.
You are the Christ! Give me the courage to be your disciple.

Friday, February 22, 2019
1 Pt 5:1-4; Mt 16:13-19
The Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle


Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.
Peter is one of my favorite people in Scripture. He is a man with a generous heart, but is sometimes oblivious to the needs of others. He doesn’t always think before he blurts out his opinion, but he is remorseful when he screws up. He has great courage, but on at least one occasion, he panicked, disowned a friend in need and ran. He is acutely aware of his weaknesses and humbly acknowledges that he needs God to become a better person. He is made of the stuff of our own humanity, and this is probably why Jesus chose him to lead the disciples after his time on earth. He is a role model not only for leaders, but for every person who strives to follow Jesus in their imperfect humanity.
St. Peter, pray for us and for all of God’s beloved humanity.

Saturday, February 23, 2019
Heb 11:1-7; Mk 9:2-13
Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr


Anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
For many, faith is like passing an exam. If you pray hard enough and follow the right formula you can reach the passing grade. God will then be pleased and grant your wish. Yet Jesus describes faith in more relational terms. Like any good relationship, it is dynamic and built on a desire to understand the other more deeply; growing together in new directions. It is never “achieved” but is a constantly evolving transformation. Sometimes, like Peter, we would like to stay in a state of awe and fascination, but life demands that we move from those mountains. We need to stay connected to God through the valleys of struggles and doubts. We are always rewarded when we seek to know God better in all circumstances.
May our love for each other carry us through the joys and sorrows of life, O God.

 

Monday, February 25, 2019
Sir 1:1-10; Mk 9:14-29

Before all else, Wisdom was created.
Sirach is a nice enough book. It’s not Ben Sira’s fault that, by the time he is writing, Job has gotten long in the tooth, and the fire of the prophets has been reduced to embers. It’s the end of an age, Greek in the ascendancy, on the threshold of the New Testament. The best thing is the portrait of Wisdom, the Greek feminine "Sophia," who is waiting for her Christian interpretation. The gender is not a problem! There’s more than one icon of Jesus as womanly Wisdom, including a stunning version by modern iconographer William Hart McNichols. (See Christ All Merciful.) Eternal, all-knowing, all-flowing, "It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit, has seen her and taken note of her. He has poured her forth upon all his works"
Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O Lord!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Sir 2:1-11; Mk 9:30-37

For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
A friend of mine just took up knitting and is already taking orders for sweaters, afghans and scarves on Facebook. The Book of Sirach is not much different, a warm and roomy comforter. “You who fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened.” Don’t worry, be happy. Everything’s gonna be alright. “Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways.” It’s nice to know the Bible can be so user-friendly. Even humiliation does not sound so bad. Lent will begin in about a week, and we will get daily challenges to everything we hold dear. Meanwhile, we get this: “Has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?”
We take delight in you, O Lord, who grant all our heart’s requests!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Sir 4:11-19; Mk 9:38-40

Whoever loves Wisdom loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord.
For Ben Sira, if Wisdom is a woman, so she is a mother! “Wisdom breathes life into her children.” Here in Honduras, where I live, and perhaps where you live as well, the wisdom of women is even physical. At a gathering of, say, the Legion of Mary, a big woman sits down, and her lap becomes a sofa where a kid or even two nestle like newborns. Her words, in prayer or comment, “reveal her secrets” to us. There’s no greater secret than the love God has for us. A mother may “discipline” us for a time, but “then she comes back to bring us happiness.” It is a full measure! “She will heap upon us treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.” Let us bask in the glow!
My lips pour forth your praise, O Lord, because you teach me your ways!

Thursday, February 28, 2019
Sir 5:1-8; Mk 9:41-50

Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day.
Now Ben Sira is hitting close to home! I do not deny my sinfulness, or my sins, but I do seem to put God’s forgiveness in the “plus” column rather quickly. Not so fast, says Ben Sira: “Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin.” Because “God’s name is mercy,” as Pope Francis says, I might forget that my name is mud as long as I treat God like a sugar daddy. Maybe the best way to appreciate forgiveness is to practice it myself, not with conditions like “I forgive, but I don’t forget,” or “I’ll forgive, but they have to be sorry first.” As Ben Sira says, “Say not, ‘I have the power.’” He warns us not to be “deceitful.” Indeed, the one we deceive most often is ourselves.
Blessed are we, O Lord, to meditate on your law, day and night.

 

Daily Bread Authors from Celebration
Paige Byrne Shortal, longtime contributor to Celebration, serves as coordinator and editor for the Daily Bread writers.
Miguel Dulick lives in a mountain village in Honduras, Central America. Originally from St. Louis, he holds degrees from St. Louis University and Weston School of Theology, Boston.
Mary Joshi lives in Moncton, NB, Canada. Raised Catholic and married to a Hindu, Mary helps coordinate the RCIA for her parish unit and is a reflection writer for the parish bulletin. She holds degrees in history, English and deaf education.
Jeanne Lischer grew up in St. Louis and Ghana, West Africa, where her parents were missionaries. She is a graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, was ordained in 1990 in the United Church of Christ, and is currently the pastor for two rural congregations in Missouri.
Patricia Russell graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., with degrees in English and secondary education
 
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