Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of February 6, 2012!
Congratulations to Beverly Davis!
Beverly will receive a copy of The Catholic Youth Bible®, a $26.95 value.
The Catholic Youth Bible®
General Editor: Virginia Halbur, MA
The Catholic Youth Bible® will be a true companion, helping you find the answers you seek and helping you make connections to Catholic beliefs and traditions.
Over 700 lively articles help you….
• Pray It! Use the Bible for personal prayer.
• Study It! Understand and make sense of what the Bible says.
• Live It! Apply the Bible to real-life situations you're facing now.
This New Edition Features:
•New 40 expanded "Catholic Connection" articles that provide a more complete presentation of those Catholic teachings that are scripturally based
• New 28 articles that address the seven principles of Catholic social teaching
• New 40 pages of 4-color inserts that help you pray, study, and live the Bible and Catholic teachings
• New Illustrations throughout to provide a visual context for the biblical stories
• New Over 275 articles updated to reflect contemporary issues and biblical scholarship
• Introductions to the major sections of the Bible and all the books of the Bible
• Biblical connections to many different cultures, illustrating the universality of the Catholic Church
• Insights into how the Church has interpreted key Scripture passages throughout history
• A glossary of Scripture-related terms
• Five special indexes; Sunday readings for cycles A, B, and C; 10 color maps; a four-page color timeline; and three pages of full-color biblical art
The Catholic Youth Bible®
ISBN: 978-0-88489-777-4, paper, 1802 pages
Focus on Faith
God Is Love
With Valentine’s Day being a week away, I thought it would be fitting to share with you again the subject of last year’s Servant Leader article, a Valentine’s Day reflection. I was recently looking for Valentine’s Day cards my daughters could give to their classmates. Amid the images of cute puppies, the countless variations of pink and red hearts, and the assortment of phrases espousing love and friendship, I was reminded of the simplicity and complexity of the word LOVE. Countless books, poems, songs, and movies have been created that address the topic. Searching for love, falling in love, being in love, mourning lost love, and making major decisions in our lives based on love is a significant part of being human. If we are lucky, we have people in our lives that we can daily confess and show our love to. On Valentine’s Day we tend to focus on “romantic love,” but today is a day that can remind us of the source of all love, God. Pope Benedict XVI chose to title his first papal encyclical “God Is Love.” I encourage you to take the time to read this encyclical. It provides amazing insight into the nature of love, our contemporary understanding of love, and the role love plays in our lives as disciples of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI chose to begin this encyclical with the following quote:
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
With these words we are reminded that the source of all love is God. We know love, we can recognize love, because we have first been loved by God. It is a love without limits that finds its fullest incarnation in Jesus Christ. It is a love that not only enables us to love others—it compels us to share love. On this Valentine’s Day, the greatest message we can hear and share with others is that each one of us is deeply loved by the source of all love, God. Whether or not we receive flowers, cards, or candy, we each have received the two greatest gifts of love: our life and our salvation through the redeeming actions of Christ.
The “Make It Happen” resource this week is a prayer service to help young people recognize the ways they are loved in their lives. In addition, we have included below a reflection for the day that you can utilize for yourself and share with your students and youth. As always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
Reflection for February 14: Saint Valentine’s Day
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
We celebrate loving and being loved on this special day. Of course, most of us find it easier to love someone who loves us first, and that’s what this verse is about. God loves us first and always; we only need to respond to that love. Imagine God sending you a valentine today. What would it say inside?
God who is love, on this day of celebrating love, I want to remind you that I love you. Even when I sometimes walk away or seem disinterested, please know that you have a special place in my heart.
For more: Loving God can appear to be an overwhelming task. Read First John, chapter 4, for some ways to start.
(This reflection is from Good News, Day by Day: Bible Reflections for Teens, by Dee Bernhardt, Larry Schatz, and Laurie Ziliak [Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 1999], page 51.)
Make It Happen
From Teaching Manual for Creating a Christian Lifestyle
This service is intended to focus the students on the experience of love in their own life by taking them through a guided meditation in which they converse with Jesus about the people they love.
1. In advance, ask a student to be the reader for the service.
2. Set the tone of the service by recalling that God is present in our relationships. Spend a few moments in silent reflection.
3. Signal the reader to read 1 John 4:16–20 (page 125 of the student text). Allow a few moments of quiet to follow.
4. Lead the students through the following guided meditation. Begin, as usual, by guiding the students in the physical relaxation process described on pages 35–36 of this manual. Remember to play soft background music and dim the lights for a relaxing atmosphere. When the students are relaxed, read these instructions:
- Now let’s go on a journey. . . . See and feel yourself walking slowly through a clearing in the forest. . . . Tall grass and wildflowers wave in the soft breeze. . . . The sun caresses your face. . . . You stop to take in the scene. . . . Birds flit among the wildflowers and fly into the pine trees ahead of you. . . . Butterflies float along among the flowers. . . . One of them stops near you. . . . You hardly breathe so that it won’t wing away. . . . You inhale the fragrances carried on the wind. . . . You breathe in and out deeply several times. . . . Slowly you continue to walk toward the forest. . . .
A person sits on a log in the shade. . . . With a slight wave of the hand, the person invites you to share the log as a seat. . . . When you are close, he says, “Peace be with you.” . . . Your eyes are opened, and you know that he is Jesus. . . . You look deeply into his eyes. . . . Jesus reaches out and takes your hand in his and says, “I love you with an everlasting love.” . . .
Softly he continues: “Now, my friend, tell me of the people you love. Share with me stories of those you love and who love you.” . . . You see before you the faces of several people whom you love. . . .Now you tell Jesus about the loved ones who reside deeply in your heart. . . . He listens carefully. . . . [Allow several minutes of silence for this internal dialog.]
When you have finished talking, Jesus stands to go, saying, “Your sins are forgiven because you have loved much.” . . . He embraces you. . . . Then you watch him as he walks slowly into the forest. . . .When he has disappeared, you gaze at the scene around you once more. . . . When you are ready, return from the scene and open your eyes.
5. If you think your group would feel comfortable sharing reflections from the meditation or offering prayers of petition or thanks, give them this opportunity at the end of the meditation. Or use the thank-you letters they wrote in the previous activity as their offering. Close the service with your own prayer, focusing on the theme of love or summarizing the students’ reflections.
Break Open the Word
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 12, 2012
Jesus, we pray for a deep faith, which makes the mind clear. As we face the many challenging circumstances of our lives, may we always place our trust in you. Let us never forget the faithful leper to whom you reached out in compassion, making him clean through your healing touch. May we rest in knowing that you have the same compassion for us. Amen.
This is the fourth Sunday we have read from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Mark has jam-packed his first chapter with a string of stories in which faith plays a central role. The first of these is the baptism of Jesus followed by his temptation, the calling of his first disciples, his exorcism of the man at the synagogue, and his healing of Peter's mother-in-law and countless others in Capernaum and its surrounding villages. As a way to complete this event-filled chapter, Mark tells us the powerful story of Jesus making the leper clean. The reader can almost sense Jesus's urgency to undertake his mission as well as his undiminished compassion for those in need of healing.
The leper seeks out Jesus: "A leper came to [Jesus] begging him, and kneeling he said to him, 'If you choose, you can make me clean'" (1:40). The leper completely disregarded the rigid boundaries that existed in society. His actions were shocking. According to Mosaic Law, or the Law of Moses, in particular the Book of Leviticus, a leper was considered unclean and had to avoid contact with "the clean" of society. Lepers were to call out, "Unclean, unclean" so all those who were unafflicted could avoid them (Leviticus 13:45). The leper of this Gospel story had the gift of faith, however, and with his clear mind reacted quickly. Boldly confident in Jesus's compassion and power, he knelt before him and asked to be made clean. He requested more than alleviation from a skin disease; he sought re-entry into the mainstream of society. He could then be reunited with his family and live a normal life.
Like the leper, Jesus also set aside boundaries. The next move was Jesus's, and motivated by compassion for the man, he consciously and deliberately reached out and touched him. "Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I do choose. Be made clean!'" (1:41). According to Mosaic Law, Jesus actually made himself unclean by touching the man; even coming into contact with the man would have been enough. The healing of the man's leprosy was immediate and complete. Jesus sent the man away with two directives, "Say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest" (1:44). Once again Jesus tried to hide his identity, which Scripture scholars refer to as the messianic secret.
The second directive, "Go, show yourself to the priest," was practical. The man had to present himself to a local priest, who alone had the power to declare him clean, which would allow him to re-enter society (Leviticus 14:3). This directive also demonstrated both Jesus's knowledge and love for the Law. The leper now healed and made clean was so jubilant that he told everyone what had happened. Word spread! Mark tells us that Jesus "stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter" (1:45). The Master, who was quite literally mobbed by those in search of healing, moved to a more remote location but couldn't get away from the crowd. This passage provides an impressive conclusion to the first chapter of Mark, which introduces us to Jesus's healing power and the role of faith in opening us up to that power.
The leper had faith sufficient to believe that Jesus with his compassionate heart would reach out, touch him, and make him clean. His faith was possible only because of the free gift of grace.
Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to "yield by faith the full submission of . . . intellect and will to God who reveals,"1 and to share in an interior communion with him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 154)
In the miracles Jesus worked in his public life he always wanted those who were asking for healing to initiate the process through their profession of faith in his healing power. In the act of healing Jesus would touch the person, or the sick person would touch him. Healing in most cases was very personal. The reaching out and touching the recipient continues in our sacraments today. The healing power of Jesus is found in this touch.
"Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.2 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,3 mud and washing.4 The sick try to touch him, 'for power came forth from him and healed them all.'5 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to 'touch' us in order to heal us" (Catechism, paragraph 1504).
As believers we are asked to trust God in every situation we may find ourselves. Through the experiences of the sacraments and compassionate encounters with others who believe in Jesus, we learn how to trust in God. With unshakeable trust, we can adopt the words of Saint Teresa of Jesus Jornet Ibars, founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Her prayer wonderfully expresses the power of trust:
Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough.6 (Catechism, paragraph 227)
The faith of the leper makes this story profoundly powerful. He deeply believed in Jesus's ability to heal him, to make him clean, so he could return to society. That faith brought him clarity of mind and confidence. He broke the law and got in Jesus's face. The leper was also honest with himself as well as Jesus. He recognized he needed the help of another person, and in so doing allowed himself to be vulnerable and dependent. In acknowledging our own need for help and accepting the support and care of others, we become more human. It is hoped that this sensitivity will enable us to reach out and touch others who are in need of healing.
Is your faith like the leper's? Do you trust Jesus? How do you continue to grow in faith? Our Tradition teaches us to build up the Kingdom of God in our world, to help make the world a better place. If we do our part, we will meet Jesus in the faces of those around us, and our faith will grow. It is important for us to remember that Jesus's touch comes in a variety of ways and through a variety of persons. In making the leper clean, Jesus ignored the boundaries that the dominant culture of his day drew around people it considered to be unclean. Who in our culture has labels? Who decides which people are clean, that is, normal, and which people are not? As baptized Christians gifted with faith, should we listen to those who label, or should we imitate Jesus and reach out in compassion and healing?
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.
The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.
The Lord's Prayer is taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Dei Filius. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum (1965): 3008.
2. Cf. Mark 5:34, 36; 9:23.
3. Cf. Mark 7:32-36; 8:22-25.
4. Cf. John 9:6-7.
5. Luke 6:19; cf. Mark 1:41; 3:10; 6:56.
6. St. Teresa of Jesus, Poesías 30, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, vol. III, tr. by K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1985), 386 no. 9, tr. by John Wall.
Saint Josephine Bakhita
February 8 is the memorial for Saint Josephine Bakhita.
The patron saint of Sudan, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped at the age of 9 and sold into slavery, eventually ending up in Italy. In Italy she converted to Christianity and later became a Canossian Sister. She worked to serve the poor and the suffering and became a noted speaker, raising funds for missions.
For more information about Saint Josephine Bakhita, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-josephine-bakhita/.