From the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time to Ash Wednesday 2018
2 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 render your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. – Joel 2:2-3 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
Dear brothers and sisters, I truly hope you all are enjoying my new blog postings and the cleaner look and feel of the overall website as we move forward this year in the grand journey we are all on. Again, I welcome all of you back and as many of you may already know the main goal of Listening Faithfully is to impact each of you in a positive way. Guiding you, gently motivating you in the best ways to emulate God the Father while allowing in the Holy Spirit. Mentorship is about teaching specific lessons, leading through clear and purposeful activities, and sometimes being the first to swallow their pride and be the example no one else could be. Truly, I say to you I hope and pray you find the stories of my ou\wn experiences inspiring and uplifting and through this ministry, every corner of your hearts will be filled with the agape love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope this happens in a similar way as described in this past weekend’s message, for we were all asked to believe and have faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, I say to all of you we must pray and show grace to each other so that we ourselves may be shown God’s grace, forgiveness, and undeserved love; granting us the opportunity to change our hearts and turn our faces towards God.
Human Struggles Overcome with God’s Help!
45 The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:45-46 (NRSVA)
I have been through a lot this year, seen unexpected changes that quite honestly I would have never imagined. Some of those changes were positive, others scary, and still there are some lingering which poses a huge challenge in both my professional and personal life. I have questioned my friend’s trust, loyalty, love, etc. Some of them have questioned my resolve, direction, and sincerity. I know that sometimes that could lead us to frustration, anger, hate, resentment, and these sorts of feelings can be harmful to our trusting relationship with others and with God. In turn, these feelings if left unchecked can motivate us to make a truly sad and regrettable decision; that of blaming and even eventually walking away from God. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I tell you that by listening intently to God’s message this past weekend in church my heart was moved in such a way I could not ignore what God was really saying to me through the readings in Leviticus 13:1-3, 44-46 and in the Gospel of Mark 1:40-45. So, like Jesus cleansed the lepers, God’s word cleansed my heart. I pray that after reading my reflection today you all will also find and receive this glorious feeling of hope, love, joy, and experience the grace of God cleansing your heart as well.
Prepare Your Eternal Soul
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ – Mark 1:40-41 (NRSVA)
As you know Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, February 14, 2018. We are asked to pray, fast, and participate in almsgiving. The Gospel also commands us all to come back to the Lord our God with clean hearts, so that we may have the opportunity to be shown His mercy. The connection to last Sunday’s Mass is found in the gospel where we hear about the leper going to Jesus begging him to heal him. The leaper shows humility because of how he speaks to Jesus, saying;
“If you wish, you can make me clean”.
The leper is putting every ounce of his trust in Jesus as he so humbly asks for help all within a contrite heart. This is a good example of how to approach our Lord, putting aside our egos and pride. Sadly, there still are those of us who are filled with anger, jealousy, ambitiousness, hate and have perfected the art of lying. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, we should fall upon our faces before the Lord, filled with remorse for our sins which are punishable by death. We need to deeply reflect on our actions and take responsibility for what we have done wrong. In that way we can truly be sincere when we pray for mercy as we present all our trespasses to the Lord, hoping He forgives us, cleansing our souls, washing us clean, and making us new.
Morality Lessons Found in Modern Day Disease
13 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. – Leviticus 13:1-2 (NRSVA)
Leprosy in our day is not a significant matter as an illness. But, rather the importance of the illness itself is found within the symbology which remains just as meaningful for those who lived during Jesus’s time as it does for us to this very day. For there are similar characteristics of suffering and marginalization with other more deadly diseases we face today. HIV comes to mind, homosexuality, (though it is not a disease), people who identify themselves in that sexual orientation are treated as if they are unclean, drug addiction, the scourge of mental health issues…and again compare many other similar issues of the day back then to now, which force other social issues to be brought to the forefront. It is not fear but love which is the positive force in history, for it is love which invites us to reject no one, and it is love that makes us deeply believe and trust in God; for he knocks at the doors of our hearts asking us to let Him in. Though we are sinners, murders, vile creatures in comparison to His grace, God sees the good in all of us, for it is He who helps us see past the social issues and reach out to our fellow man, lift up our brothers and sister who are being marginalized; and it is God who endlessly offers His divine forgiveness to this undeserving world. Indeed, there is a huge morality tell being told in Sunday’s Gospel that still has deep farreaching significance for all who live in this, so-called modern world.
The Love That Conquerors
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NRSVA)
Even though someone has betrayed me, or not kept his or her promises, or was not the person I thought he or she was, I do not hate them. No! I do not allow my self to hate! Yes… deep inside me, there is a war raging, one that is fighting to keep me from loving those who do not love me. Despite this struggle, I still find room in my soul to discover love in my heart for those people, because I do not want to saturate my heart with hate! I know that people need love in their hearts and require compassion, understanding, and forgiveness just as I crave those same things. For who am I to withhold anything from my enemies, though they may do so against me? I strive to make full my heart with the love and compassion of the Lord, as I struggle daily to emulate Him. For I know there is that love which conquerors hate, despair, rage, jealousy, and the darkest of evil acts. In fact, no one said it would be easy, no one promised me a rose garden, rather I was told about all the thorns I would encounter. I find in my own life it’s better to rise above the narrow-mindedness of others and strive to be that shining star everyone sees from afar. This Wednesday is Lent and Valentine’s Day, therefore brothers and sisters, spread the Good News and the Love of Jesus Christ.
7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. – 2 Timothy 2:7 (NRSVA)
- When have I felt rejected?
- Have I rejected others?
- When have I justified the rejection of others because of my own errors or conditions?
- When have I been tempted to judge and reject others?
- When have I caught myself questioning the loyalties of those I call family or friends?
The Call to Contribute
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. – Romans 12:13 (NRSVA)
Please share, like, and comment on this post. Let everyone you know hear about the good news of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and make a commitment to renewing your lives with Him just as I have made the commitment to renew my love for all of you expressed through Listening Faithfully blog renewed look and feel. I hope the reflections to come will motivate you to renew your mind, heart, body, and soul. I pray that each of you joins me on this journey of mutual learning as we grow together as a community of believers and followers of God. I pray that you all allow the Lord in so that He may remodel your hearts, convert your spirit and make you all ready to run that race through the next chapter of our lives. Keep reading and reflecting on the gospel my dearest brothers and sisters, and let’s be like the leper and together ask God to help us and heal us from all of our sins that are preventing us from leading healthy and happy lives. Reach out for His strength to find His agape love and allow it to well up within you until your cups runneth over! Have a wonderful Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day!
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Saint Joseph, Pray for us. ~ Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’
Now go spread the word!
Reaffirming Our Mission
To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.
“Let’s grow together as children of God”
Listening Faithfully Blog written by Brian K. Stark © 2009-2018