FEBRUARY 6, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – SATURDAY – SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD

(Mark 6:30-34)

Prayer: O Lord, pour out your mercy and draw me close to your heart.

Imagination: (Picture Jesus surrounded by the apostles and the crowds.)

Context:

For a brief moment, Jesus wants to be alone with his disciples. This foreshadows the second half of the gospel where Jesus spends much time teaching the disciples. However, his plans are disrupted and, like a true shepherd, he changes his schedule.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

When the apostles returned to Jesus, they told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away into a quiet place and rest a while.” There had been so much coming and going, that they did not have time to eat. So, they got into the boat and went by themselves to a deserted place.

The people, however, saw this and knew where they were going. So, they went on foot from all the cities and arrived there before them. When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the great crowd and he felt pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began to teach them many things.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. Notice how Jesus always keeps his apostles close to himself, making them return immediately after they complete their tasks.
  2. They must know Jesus’ thoughts and desires. Jesus puts off his teaching of the crowds because the disciples need a deeper relationship.
  3. However, the people have extraordinary desires to be with Jesus and travel on foot to be with him.
  4. He views their situation with great compassion. They are wandering sheep who need their shepherd.
  5. So, instead of teaching the apostles, he gives himself to the crowds.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, keep me close to yourself. Always draw me back to you when I wander away.
  2. You give yourself totally to me. You reveal your thoughts and desires. You offer me all of your time.
  3. Increase my desires for you. I will seek you and find you.
  4. You see me, Jesus. You see that I wander. Be a shepherd to me.
  5. You give yourself to everyone – to saint and to sinner – even to me.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. Today, I will seek Jesus at every moment.
  2. I will let Jesus teach me.

Thought for the day: (To recall your meditation)

Come aside to a quiet place and rest a while.

FEBRUARY 5, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – FRIDAY

(Mark 6:14-29)

(Due to its length, this text is shortened)

Prayer – Lord Jesus, let me not be swerved by the opinions of others.

Imagination (Picture Herod with his party guests)

Context:

This section is an interlude, which Mark inserts between the sending of the Twelve and their return. It is the only story that does not focus on Jesus and his disciples and is written to complete the story of John the Baptist. The text will shorten the lengthy reading.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

Jesus’ reputation grew and people were saying that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. Others said that he is Elijah or a prophet equal to any of the prophets. Herod thought he was John the Baptist, whom he killed, raised from the dead.

Herod had John imprisoned because he said, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife”.   Herodias harbored a grudge and wanted to kill John but was unable to do so.

Herodias had her chance when Herod held a birthday dinner for his court officers, military officers and leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ daughter did a dance which pleased the King so much that he told the girl, “Ask for anything you want, even to half of my kingdom, and I will give it to you.” Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

The King regretted his offer but due to the presence of his guests, he sent an executioner to bring back the Baptist’s head. When John’s disciples heard of his death, they buried his body in a tomb.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. Everything in this story is distorted, and out of kilter. The three opinions about Jesus have no basis in reality.
  2. Herod is filled with fears and believes John has been raised from the dead.
  3. His passions are out of order, both in his marriage and at this birthday party.
  4. He makes terrible blunders, promising a dancing girl whatever she wanted.
  5. His wife is also filled with evil, always trying to kill John the Baptist.
  6. These evils accumulate and result in an unthought-of event.       John is beheaded.
  7. Only his disciples act with thoughtfulness and dignity.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, you alone save me from superstition, absurdity and darkness.
  2. Cast out all my fears. By your power, I can live in light and peace.
  3. Quiet my passions. Cool my evil desires. By your Spirit, I will practice self-control.
  4. O Jesus, how many blunders I have made. No more. I will walk in your light.
  5. Do not let evil grow. Let me repent quickly of all my sinful decisions. You will make me firm again.
  6. I will be your disciple, with a life full of good deeds and kindly acts.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. I will examine the disorders in my life. What actions should I take?
  2. I will quickly repent of every sinful action.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

The king regretted his offer but he was fearful about what his guests would think.

FEBRUARY 4, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – THURSDAY – SENDING OUT THE TWELVE

(Mark 6:7-13)

Prayer – O Jesus, send me forth to bring your gospel to the whole world.

Imagination (Picture the Twelve gathered around, listening to Jesus’ instructions.)

Context:

Jesus does not have enough time to evangelize all of Israel. So, he sends out the Twelve. This is totally his initiative. He summons, instructs, and gives his powers. The apostles must trust God to provide. The villagers must respond to the message.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

Jesus summoned the Twelve. He sent them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He told them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick. They were to bring no food, no traveling bag and no money in their belts. They were to wear sandals but have no second tunic.

He said to them, “Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that place. Whatever town does not receive you or listen to you, shake the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” They went off, preaching the need of repentance. They expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil and worked many cures.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. The urgency is great. The time is short. The gospel must be preached. So, Jesus takes a new initiative.
  2. He sends forth his twelve apostles, two by two. They must love each other and encourage one another in this difficult task.
  3. They enjoy the powers of the Kingdom. They can expel demons and heal.
  4. They must be unselfish, carrying only what is needed and being satisfied with whatever house receives them.
  5. The people have a heavy responsibility. They must respond to the message and repent. Otherwise, the apostles will reject their town.
  6. The apostles begin immediately, doing exactly what Jesus commanded.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, the time is short. I must act today.
  2. Call me to a greater level of responsibility. Give me a task in your Kingdom.
  3. Join me with others. Together, we will be faithful to our mission.
  4. I will preach your gospel and you will give me your powers.       People will be freed from their sins and respond to the Kingdom.
  5. I will sacrifice everything for the Kingdom and be obedient to your instructions.
  6. O Jesus, if some do not listen, I will go to others who will.
  7. O Jesus, help me to persevere in your call.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. I will be aware of opportunities to speak about the Kingdom.
  2. I will seek a friend who will join me in my task.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

They preached the need for repentance. They healed the sick and worked many cures.

FEBRUARY 3, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – WEDNESDAY – REJECTED BY HIS OWN PEOPLE

(Mark 6:1-6)

Prayer – O Jesus, I honor you as the true prophet who has come into the world.

Imagination: (Picture Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth)

Context:

Jesus returns to Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. After his teaching, the crowd asks itself three questions which summarize Mark’s gospel. Jesus has shown authority, wisdom and healing powers. However, the whole atmosphere of the synagogue is disbelief. The result is a foregone conclusion. Jesus can heal only a few who have faith.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

Jesus came to his own town with his disciples. On a sabbath, he entered the synagogue and began to teach. Many listened in admiration, saying, “How did he learn all these things? Where did he get this wisdom? By what power can he do these works? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Jude and Simon? Are not his sisters with us. They found him too much for them.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is without honor only in his native place, in his own house and among his own relatives. He could work no miracle there. He only cured a few people by laying hands on them.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. In his return to Nazareth, Jesus has much greater stature. He enjoys a reputation and has a large group of disciples.
  2. He acts at Nazareth exactly as he did in the other towns.       He teaches about the power of God.
  3. The reaction here is different. There is no awe or wonder or pressing in to touch his garment.
  4. Jesus confronts this response. Hometown people often refuse to believe the greatness of someone they know so well.
  5. Jesus is deeply disappointed. He cannot help the very people he grew up with.
  6. Nazareth loses its blessings. They are deprived of divine miracles. Even more important, they have no faith in Jesus, their native son.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. Jesus, you are known to the whole world. Your believers live in every country. This is a great sign to me.
  2. You offer your powers to everyone. You will bless all who believe.
  3. Jesus, you want to bless me. Your only disappointment is when I do not believe.
  4. Fill me with awe and wonder. Let me press in like the believing woman.
  5. How many blessings will come from you today! Let me gather them up. Every one is important.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. I will see every event this day in the light of faith.
  2. I will ask for blessings all day long.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

He could work no miracle there.

FEBRUARY 2, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – TUESDAY – PART ONE – RAISING A GIRL TO LIFE

(Mark 5:21-24; 35-43)

Prayer – O Jesus, raise me to new life in Your Holy Spirit.

Imagination – (Picture Jesus raising the girl to life.)

Context:

Mark carefully notes that Jesus returns to Jewish territory and the atmosphere is filled with faith. At Jairus’ home, however, people have little faith. So Jesus casts them out. Only those with faith are present. (Because Mark knows Jairus’ name, he probably was a member of Mark’s Church.)

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

When Jesus came to the other side, Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, fell at his feet and said, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please come and lay your hands upon her so she may get well and live. While on their way, some from Jairus’ family came and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the master any more?” Hearing this, Jesus said to him, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.” Jesus allowed only Peter, James and John, (the brother of James), to accompany him. At the house of Jairus, Jesus heard a loud noise and saw people weeping and wailing. Entering the house, he said, “Why do you make such a noise? The child is not dead. She is asleep”. They laughed him to scorn. He put them all out.

Jesus took the father, the mother and his companions, and entered the room where the child was. Taking her by the hand, he said, “Talitha, Koum”, that is “Little girl, get up”. Immediately, she got up and walked. She was twelve years old. Jesus told them strictly that they tell no one and should give her something to eat.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. Jairus is filled with faith. He knows Jesus can heal his daughter. Since we know his name he must have remained a faithful disciple.
  2. However, Jairus’ friends who lack his faith and discourage his mission.
  3. Jesus sets aside their advice. Fear is useless. Trust is needed.
  4. Jesus encounters others with no faith at all. They ridicule the whole mission
  5. Jesus excludes them all. He takes only those who believe and will not interfere with God’s powers.
  6. He orders the girl to get up from the dead, a preview of his own resurrection.
  7. She is twelve, the needed age to be a qualified witness. By eating, she proves that Jesus has given life to her body.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, let this gospel story fill me with faith.
  2. Come to my house. Lay your healing hands upon me.
  3. Cast out my doubts. Remove my fears. Your powers have no bounds.
  4. Take my hand. Raise me up. Give me new life. Take away the death of my sins.
  5. I will tell others. I will be your witness, a sign to others of your goodness to mankind.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own)

  1. I will go to Jesus in full trust that he will help me with every problem.
  2. I will not allow discouraging words to steal my faith.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

Little girl. Get up. Immediately, she got up and walked.

FEBRUARY 2, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – TUESDAY – PART TWO – A TOUCH OF FAITH

(Mark 5:25-34)

Prayer – Lord Jesus, let me touch you in faith so your power goes out to me.

Imagination – (Picture the crowds pressing upon Jesus while the woman touches his garment.) 

Context
            This story has so many details (bleeding, twelve years, many doctors, wasted money and even the woman’s thoughts), that the woman herself was obviously the source of this information. She, also was a member of Mark’s Church.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

A woman had suffered with an issue of blood for twelve years, receiving treatment from many doctors and exhausting her money. Yet, she grew worse. Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him and touched his garment saying, “If I but touch his garment, I will be made whole.”

Immediately, the flow of blood dried up and she felt in her body that she was healed of the sickness. Jesus, knowing that some power had gone forth from him, turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my garments?” His disciples said, “You see the crowd pressing upon you, and you ask, ‘Who has touched me?’”

He looked around to see who it was. Trembling and fearful, the woman fell down before Jesus and told him the whole story. He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. The woman “heard about Jesus.” Her faith came from hearing these gospel stories.
  2. Many press upon Jesus, but physical contact is not enough to receive the blessing.
  3. Many people touch Jesus but this woman touches him with faith.
  4. Her actions violate Jewish law. Her flow of blood made her unclean. However, her faith overcame these legal barriers.
  5. Jesus recognizes the difference between the crowd pressing in and the woman’s touch.
  6. He explains that her faith opened the door to his powers.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, I know your gospel stories. Stir me to lively faith.
  2. Jesus, I will press in. I will come close and draw near.
  3. I will touch you in faith. Your power will go forth and I will be changed.
  4. Dry up my sins, Jesus. Let my sorrows stop flowing. Heal my emotions and my body.
  5. You welcome me. You stir my faith. You invite me to come. Your power goes forth and I am a new person.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.

  1. I will ponder the gospel miracles and allow them to bring me to faith.
  2. I will act on these new beliefs. Jesus does not disappoint those who believe in him.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

Daughter, your faith has made you well.

FEBRUARY 1, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – MONDAY – PART ONE – POWER OVER SATAN

(Mark 5:1-10)

Prayer – Lord Jesus, set me free in the power of your name.

Imagination: (Picture the possessed man coming to Jesus and his disciples.)

Context:

Although this story seems strange, biblical scholars agree that it happened. (Although it probably is two stories joined together). Jesus began his ministry to Israel with an exorcism. Now, as he reaches Gentile territory for the first time, he again performs an exorcism.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

When they came to the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus got out of the ship and was met by a man with an unclean spirit. He had been living among the tombs and could not be constrained even with chains, for he had pulled them apart and smashed them. Day and night he was among the tombs, crying out and cutting himself.

Seeing Jesus afar off, he ran up and adored him. Crying out, he said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God that you do not torment me. He said this because Jesus was saying, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man.”

Jesus asked him “What is your name”. He answered, “My name is Legion because we are many.” And they asked Jesus not to drive them far from this region.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. The devil loves the tombs, where all is death.
  2. The man’s state is horrendous. He is lonely, insane and self-destructive.
  3. When Jesus arrives, however, he senses that he can find freedom and new life.
  4. The devils know that Jesus possesses greater power and that they are about to lose their control.
  5. Since Jesus has authority, they must admit that they are a legion of devils.
  6. They are helpless. Soon, they will surrender their resting place.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, without you I am as good as dead to all that you have created.
  2. My life would have only loneliness, endless torture and anxiety.
  3. But you came into my life. Your light pierced my darkness and I came to you.
  4. Lord, your power is greater than my demons. In your name, I am free.
  5. O Jesus, I run to you. I see in you a light of hope.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. I will not lose hope in facing the darkness of despair.
  2. I will call out to Jesus to use his power.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

Seeing Jesus, afar off, he ran to him.

FEBRUARY 1, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – MONDAY – PART TWO – SENDING JESUS AWAY

(Mark 5:11-20)

Prayer – O Jesus, one word from you and I will be restored.

Imagination – (Picture Jesus with the freed man. He is now clothed and at peace.)

Context:

The gospels contain those stories which were easily remembered by the early Church. The unique feature of pigs running over a cliff makes this event quite unforgettable. This episode shows that devils always seek a resting place in material creation.

The story also contrasts the cured man with the villagers who are upset about their pigs and ask Jesus to leave. The man has a different request.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

A great herd of swine was feeding near the mountain. The spirits asked Jesus, “Send us into the swine.” Jesus gave them permission and they entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand went rushing into the sea and were drowned. The swineherds brought the news to the villagers, who came out to see what happened.

As they came to Jesus, they saw the man possessed by Legion, sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane. They were filled with fear. The swineherds told them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. They begged Jesus to leave their district.

As Jesus got into the ship, the man began to ask Jesus if he could accompany him. Jesus did not allow him but said, “Go home to your friends and tell them the great things the Lord, in his mercy has done for you.” He went off and began to tell all in the Ten Cities what Jesus had done for him. All were amazed.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. The villagers get a complete picture. Also, they see that the possessed man is now perfectly sane. The swineherds tell them what happened.
  2. Although they see that Jesus has completely healed this tormented man, they make a gigantic blunder. They ask Jesus to leave.
  3. They have no interest in his blessings and power. Jesus will not stay where there is no faith.
  4. The freed man is now sane. He sees far more clearly than the villagers and wants to accompany Jesus.
  5. Jesus has a greater plan. This freed man will become an excellent evangelist. He must tell his friends all that Jesus did. What a day for him!

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, do not let me be foolish like these villagers. They loved their pigs more than you.
  2. Jesus, do not leave. Do not walk away. Stay. Stay with me.
  3. O Jesus, I have seen your powers and I know your blessings.       You are all I need.
  4. Let me accompany you. Let me be your disciple. Wherever you go, I will follow.
  5. How great are your plans for me. I will tell all the world about how you have blessed me.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own.)

  1. I will not follow the world which always makes foolish decisions about Jesus Christ.
  2. I will repay Jesus for his favors to me.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

The man went home to his friends and told them all that Jesus had done for him.

JANUARY 31, 2016 – WEEK FOUR – SUNDAY – C – REJECTION AT NAZARETH

(Luke 4:21-30)

Prayer – O Lord, never let me reject you.

Imagination(Picture Jesus confronted by the angry citizens of Nazareth.)

Context:

The mood of the crowd changes suddenly from acceptance to rejection because they want to see miracles. Jesus recounts two stories in which the prophets worked no miracles for Jews, but did help non-Jewish people. The crowd tries to kill Jesus but it is not yet his hour.

Gospel Text: (Read slowly, possibly aloud.)

Jesus said, “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke favorably of him and marveled at the words which came from his mouth. Yet, they said, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” Jesus said, “You will say, ‘Physician, heal yourself. We have heard about the great things you have done in Capernaum. Do them here in your own country.’”

He continued, “I say to you. A prophet is without honor only in his native place. I say in truth. There were many widows in the days of Elijah in Israel, when the heavens were closed for three years and six months and there was great famine on the earth. To none of these was Elijah sent except to the widow at Zarephath near Sidon. There were many lepers in the time of Elisha the prophet, but he cleansed none except Namaan, the Syrian.

When those in the synagogue heard these things they grew angry. They brought Jesus out of the city to the edge of a hill, so they could throw him down. But he passed through their midst and went his way.

Thoughts: (Read all. Ponder the ones that attract you.)

  1. These people of Nazareth have an obstacle to accepting Jesus as a prophet. They knew him as a little boy, as the son of Joseph. These memories close their minds.
  2. The people feel that they have a right to Jesus’ miracles.       After all, he grew up in Nazareth.
  3. Jesus cites Elijah and Elisha who worked miracles for foreigners but none for Israel.
  4. This rebuke stirs them to anger and to an attempt to kill Jesus.
  5. The Father wants Jesus to die in Jerusalem, where all will witness his sacrifice.
  6. Because it rejects Jesus, Nazareth receives no blessing.

Affections: (When one touches your heart, use your own words.)

  1. O Jesus, I have so many obstacles. Remove them all.
  2. I accept you, Jesus. I open my heart wide. I am yours.
  3. I am rich only because you blessed me. All that I have comes from you.
  4. Your favors are for everyone. You push no one aside.       You look with love, even upon me.
  5. Poor Nazareth, deprived of your blessings. Woe is me if I reject you and lose your Kingdom.
  6. Teach me patience. Often I do not understand your ways.

Resolutions: (Possibly you might want to make your own)

  1. I will seek Jesus today with childlike faith.
  2. I will believe that I will receive favors and I will use them well.

Thought for the Day: (To recall your meditation)

Jesus passed through their midst and went his way.