Jesus continues to fulfill his proclamation of Luke 4:18-19 as he eats with tax collectors and others (sinners) at the home of Levi, himself a tax collector. He was preaching the good news to those who thought themselves rich but who in fact were poor. The tax collectors were considered public sinners because they cooperated with the Roman occupiers in collecting taxes and because often they were dishonest and collected more than they had a right to charge.
It was the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, to whom Jesus had already preached the good news, who were criticizing Jesus for eating with Levi and his guests. Obviously they hadn't taken the good news to heart. Jesus explains to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:27-31). This statement leaves the pharisees and professors with two options: either they can consider themselves the righteous ones who are not called or they can consider themselves to be sinners who are called.
For Reflection: Would I rather be inside eating at the banquet with Jesus and the public sinners or outside asking questions?
Let us pray. Jesus, you came to call all people, even me. Help me to overcome my doubts which keep me on the outside, questioning you, so that I may enter through the door and sit down with you.
(This theme began on September 25, 2014. Photo: Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_surasaki'>surasaki / 123RF Stock Photo</a>)
God has now worked two miracles regarding food for Elijah. First, he fed him through ravens in the wilderness. Second, he fed him through the widow of Zarephath. The third miracle related to Elijah, so far, is that God has withheld rain from Israel in order to prove to King Ahab that he is the one, true God.
Elijah is biding his time, waiting for the next call from God, when the son of the widow becomes ill and stops breathing. The woman immediately blames this on Elijah. Why not? By now she knows that not only is he a foreigner but also an enemy of the King of Israel. Surely her housing of this man has brought this evil upon her (1 Kings 17:17-18).
Elijah ignores the accusation and God uses Elijah to raise the boy back to life. This saving act, more than anything else, convinces the woman that Elijah's God is the true God and she has done the right thing by taking him in. "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth" (1 Kings 17:24), is her confession of faith. The multiplication of food had not convinced her, but bringing her son back to life has.
For Reflection: How many miracles does it take to convince me that God is at work?
Let us pray. Lord, I can be so hard-headed and disbelieving sometimes. Help me to recognize you in my life every day.
When the brook dried up from which Elijah had been drinking (because of the drought which Elijah had predicted), God led him to a widow in a town on the coast (1 Kings 17:7-16). The widow and her son were also suffering from the drought. When Elijah asked her for food, she told him of her dire circumstances - she was preparing her last meal. Elijah asks her for bread anyway. Then he makes her a promise from God: "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land."
And so it was. Elijah lived with the woman and her family while God kept his promise. The widow was not an Israelite, but a woman from the area where Jezebel was from. God had sent Elijah to a foreigner, you might say into the enemy's camp, someone who owed an Israeli prophet nothing.
For Reflection: God blessed this woman and her family for sharing their last meal with a visitor, a foreigner. Elijah had traveled a long way and was no doubt dusty and dirty. He'd been living outdoors for a long time without human companionship. A widow, who should have been afraid of him, takes him in. It is surely God at work to lead Elijah to such a woman and for that woman to open her home and hearth to Elijah.
Let us pray. Jesus, if you led someone to my door I hope I would be as welcoming. There may not be anyone knocking on my door, but there are many refugees in the world today. How should I respond? What is my responsibility?
Snowboarding, free skiing and other events have been added to the Olympic games in recent years. These are sports that only developed recently. People invented these sports. They invented the equipment; they invented the moves. Someone did it first and then spread the word.
Usually these innovators are young people who are willing to try anything. They don't have a fear of failure (or many times a fear of death). When they get to a certain age, they retire from the sport to get married, raise families and pursue other dreams. They settle down; live normal lives.
I'm not sure as Christians that we should settle down and live normal lives. We should be the ones trying new things in the Spirit, finding new ways to achieve healing, working miracles to feed the hungry and house the homeless, even raising the dead. We should be the ones soaring above the earth in the Spirit, being transported supernaturally to other places, getting "big air". These are radical things in the Spirit today which for Christians should be the new normal.
For reflection: What is the new normal to which God is calling me? Where have I settled for less than God wants? What new moves does God want me to develop?
Let us pray. Jesus, in you all things are possible. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. I don't want to settle for less than you have planned for me and will enable me to do. I want to keep pressing on toward that to which you have called me. With you I have no fear.(based on Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:10, 13-14 and 1 John 4:18).
Isaiah provides us with many images of the Kingdom of God. He pictures the Lord on a mountain laying out a feast of "rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines". Here the Lord will "destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations" (Isaiah 25:6-8).
To me this is the veil of unbelief, the web of deceit that Satan, the father of lies and accuser of the brethren, weaves to keep people from entering the presence of the Lord. By his death, Jesus destroyed the veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies so that all people could enter in (Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-22). The presence of the Lord is not reserved for the "worthy few" because all have been made worthy by the blood of Jesus.
For reflection: How can I make more time to enjoy the feast, to drink the wine of his presence?
Let us pray. Today I enter into your presence, Lord. I drink you in.
We interrupt our story of Cornelius, the Roman officer, to let you know what is happening with Peter. We skipped over Acts 9:43 about Peter staying in the home of a tanner named Simon. Since a tanner handled dead animals, Simon would be considered "unclean". So Peter was breaking a Jewish tradition, and making himself ritually unclean, by staying with Simon.
About the time Cornelius is sending his men to bring Peter to his house, Peter has a vision wherein a voice tells him to "kill and eat" all the kinds of unclean animals he is seeing. Peter refuses because he has never eaten unclean foods before. The voice says, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Peter carries on this exchange three times (Acts 10:9-16). Peter comes out of the vision, and while he is still thinking about it, the Holy Spirit tells him three men are coming to fetch him (the ones sent by Cornelius) and he should go with them.
The next day Peter and a group of disciples set out for Cornelius's house. Going into the home of Cornelius, a gentile, also breaks another Jewish tradition which would again make Peter ritually unclean just as staying in the home of Simon the tanner did. But now Peter realizes the message God was giving him in the vision - he should not call any person unclean (Acts 10:27-29).
For reflection: Am I judging others as being "unclean", beneath me or not worth my time? (By the way, I saw Woody Allen's movie "Blue Jasmine" over the weekend, and it has this same theme. The truths of the Gospel are always current.)
Let us pray. Father, forgive me for the times when I have looked down on others, turned them away, passed them by. Help me to see all people as persons you have created and whom you love. Help me to see them and love them as you do.
Brave Ananias went to pray with Saul at the Lord's direction (Acts 9:10-19) and Saul was healed of his blindness, both physical and spiritual blindness.
Saul was actually the enemy of Ananias when Ananias went to pray with him. Jesus asked Ananias to go pray for the healing of his enemy. So Ananias was living out Jesus' teaching from Matthew 5:43-45. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
Loving and praying for our enemies is one of the hardest things to do that Jesus taught. I have heard quite a few Christians pray against their enemies, rather than praying for them. But Jesus didn't say pray against them; he said pray for them. Perhaps Paul was remembering what Ananias had done for him when he wrote to the Romans: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Romans 12:14-20).
For reflection: Who are my enemies? How have I been treating them?
Let us pray. Father, I ask your blessing on (my enemy). Help me to speak kind and loving words and to follow your lead in what I should do for them. If I can help lead them closer to you, please show me how to do that. And please forgive me for the way I have treated them in the past.
"Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." So goes the balance of the paragraph about the everyday lives of Jesus' followers (Acts 2:43-47).
There are still Christian communities that hold some, if not all, of their goods in common. There are some who eat together every day. Of those who have tried to live in common (and I am one of them) it seems to work best in small groups. I suppose there are sociological factors at play relating to group size, how well you know each other, and trust, when groups fall apart. It didn't always work for the disciples either, as we see at the end of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5.
But why did the disciples do this? Had they been living from a common purse with Jesus? Had they always eaten together? We don't know. Aside from donations they received, perhaps Peter and the other fishermen sometimes went off to fish, make a little money, and take care of their families before rejoining Jesus in his journey. Maybe Jesus occasionally worked in a carpentry shop as a day laborer.
The Gospel writers did not find those day-to-day details of enough importance to take up precious space on a scroll. Yet they would be interesting to know.
For reflection: Would I be trusting enough, and giving enough, to live in common with others? Would I sell things I own in order to give to people in need? Do I treat day laborers as if they might be Jesus?
Let us pray. Father, Creator, Multiplier, all we have comes from you. All we have we owe to you.
He's not a shape shifter either. When Jesus appears in different guises in his post-Resurrection appearances, he does not appear as a dog or an owl or a newt. He appears as a person. He is able to fix breakfast and walk side-by-side with others. He is not a ghost. Thomas is able to touch Jesus' wounds. Jesus eats fish. He is not a vampire who feeds on other people; he feeds them. He is not a zombie walking around in a psychotic state; he has a will of his own. His body was not stolen by the Jews or the Romans. We don't have a mass hallucination that has continued in belief until today.
What do we have? Infinitely creative God chose to take on human life and exist as we do. He ate and drank, partied and mourned, worked and rested. He was elated then deflated. He was praised then betrayed. Why does it matter? Belief in Jesus Christ depends on his resurrection from the dead. As St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:14-17), "If Christ has not been raised . . . we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile."
Traditionally we say that Christ appeared to people for 40 days after his resurrection. A week from now it will be 40 days. That's why we have spent so long looking at the resurrection appearances - so that we could experience the length of time that he continued to appear in person to people. We are not quite finished yet. We have a few appearances remaining. Stay tuned.
For reflection: Books, TV and movies portray the various powers that superheroes possess. What supernatural powers do I need to be a superhero for God? What villains are after me? How can I overcome them?
Let us pray. Father, All-Powerful, all true power comes from you. Thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for wisdom and understanding, knowledge and faith, healing and miracles. Thank you for being with us always.
As we continue to examine the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection, we see Jesus confirms the story of the two travelers by appearing to the whole group of disciples in Jerusalem while they are still talking about these mysterious happenings. Jesus simply appears among them (Luke 24:36; John 20:19; Mark 16:14) even though they are in a locked room for fear of reprisals by other Jews.
Thinking they are seeing a ghost, they are both startled and frightened. Jesus tells them not to be afraid and shows them the wounds on his hands and his feet. "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). In their amazement they still do not believe, so Jesus eats some broiled fish to prove to them that he is real.
For reflection: When have I locked myself away because of fear? What does/did it take to prove to me that Jesus is really risen from the dead?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to put away my fear of others and my fear of you. I want to believe that you really rose from the dead and not care what others think of me because of that belief.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.