Saturday Spotlight: The Crippled Woman

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Now [Jesus} was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. Luke 13:10-17

 

Can you imagine what life had been like for this woman prior to her healing? I wonder how bent over she was. My back aches just thinking about it. Physical pain aside, what was it like to spend eighteen years facing downward, rather than straight ahead? To never look up to see a sunny sky? To be unable to look people in the eye? No doubt her stooped posture singled her out in a crowd…Her literally downcast body language might have made it easy for people to dismiss her.

 

Jesus told the crowd that the woman had been bound by Satan and was now set free. Her stooped position was the result of bondage. What weighs us down? In the Book of Revelation, Satan is referred to as the “accuser” of believers (12:10). How easily we can be bent down under the burden of guilt over past mistakes. We all have regrets. We’re all sinners. God knows that better than we do. Jesus knew Peter would deny him long before Peter did. That didn’t stop Jesus from loving Peter or from choosing Peter to be the rock on which he built his church. The force that keeps us trapped in unrelenting remorse is not of God.

 

This crippled woman’s experience is a message of hope to us…As he called the woman, Jesus is calling us. He wants us to come to him so he can free us from our burdens, no matter how long we have been carrying them. Once free, we, too, will be better able to praise God and share the good news with others who are burdened by their pasts.

 

Reflection: Once touched by Jesus, the woman was able to straighten up. What in you could be straightened by Jesus’ touch?

 

Prayer:  Loving God, set me free from the shame and fear that cripple me, from the guilt and sorrow that weigh me down. Lift me up so that, strengthened by your touch, I can stand in the truth of your love.

 

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

Wednesday’s Word: Success

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They are like trees that grow beside a stream, that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do. Psalm 1:3

 

What does it mean to succeed in everything we do?

 

Does that mean we need to be constantly doing and achieving things, constantly productive? No. As the Psalm tells us, we only have to bear fruit at the right time, not all the time. In fact, taking time to rest and renew ourselves is what enables us to bear fruit when the right time comes. How effective can we be when we’ve worn ourselves out trying to over-achieve, beat out others in the success department? We can be overly ambitious, not only when it comes to money and power, but in the spiritual and personal lives, too. Volunteering for worthy causes is good, but when we forget to balance serving others and God with taking care of our own needs we set ourselves up to burn out. Running ourselves ragged doesn’t lead to productivity. Instead, we become ineffective and ruin the true peace that comes from following God’s will for us.

 

The first definition for success listed in the Oxford American Dictionary is “a favorable outcome.” A favorable outcome in everything we do is attainable when we remain close to the life-giving water. It will keep our hope and spirits from drying up. Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches…apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5) When we remain close to Jesus and allow His Vine-life to flow through us, we’re successful in whatever we are doing because we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing at any point in time. If God wants us to do something for His purpose, He will certainly give us what we need to do it.

 

We can hope to be successful in everything we do, and that ‘everything’ includes healthy self-care. Taking in the spiritual, emotional, and physical nourishment we need is what empowers us to bear fruit at the right time.

 

Prayer:  Living Water, renew my heart.

 

Reflection: What do you think God wants you to succeed at today?

Saturday Spotlight: Blind Bartimaeus

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They came to Jericho. As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way. Mark 10: 46-52

 

When he heard Jesus’ call, Bartimaeus threw off his coat. It’s possible the sudden flush of excitement overheated him. More likely, he didn’t want any encumbrance to trip him up or slow him down.

 

It’s easy to wrap ourselves in comfortable trappings. But sometimes those things we cling to for comfort are the very things that keep us from getting to the core of our problems. Our security blankets can mask the issues that need addressing or lull us into a faulty sense of well-being. Physical comforts are nice, but they don’t always satisfy the needs we have for a deeper relationship with God, with other people, and with our own selves. Tasty treats are enjoyable, but no quantity of food or alcohol will satisfy our deeper hunger. Recreation is good and necessary, but hours of mindless entertainment and superficial relationships can keep us from seeing matters that God is calling us to address for our own well-being and that of others.

 

Bartimaeus threw down his cloak. It wasn’t pried away from him. He seemed happy to let it go. Why? Because he had the hope of something better. Nobody willingly lets go of crutches such as denial if the only prospect is a painful status quo. But like Bartimaeus, we have the hope of something better–an encounter with God that will restore our clarity and equip us to handle reality at any given moment. Like Bartimaeus, once we see clearly, we may decide that our best course will be to continue to follow where God is leading.

 

Reflection:  When Jesus called him, Bartimaeus threw down his cloak. What encumbrances might keep you from answering Jesus’ call to you?

 

Prayer:  Risen Christ, fill me with hope. Enable me to discard any security blanket–no matter how comfortable–that hinders my response to your call.

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Praise

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About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25

 

Midnight is an unusual time to sing hymns to God. It’s even more unusual considering that Paul and Silas were singing in prison, after having been severely beaten and thrown in an “inner” cell with their feet locked between heavy blocks of wood. There was plenty to complain about, plenty to despair about, but they did neither. In spite of pain, discomfort, and whatever noise and smells might have been assaulting their senses in that dungeon, Paul and Silas continued to pray and sing hymns to God.

 

They continued trusting that God was at work in their situation, dismal as that situation was. Their faith remained firm because their faith wasn’t dependent on pleasant circumstances. Elsewhere Paul says that he learned the secret of being content whether he has too much or not enough. What’s the secret? He says he has the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives him. (Philippians 4:12-13)

 

Conditions can’t shake our relationship with God because the Creator of the Universe is above and beyond all conditions that could possibly exist in the Universe. And that same Creator loves us. We have something that doesn’t change. Granted, it isn’t easy to remember that when life is painful or challenging. I’ve complained over a lot less than being beaten and locked up. And I probably will again. On our own, we can be demoralized. Maybe that’s why God gave Paul and Silas each other. There is strength in numbers and faith is contagious. Even the other prisoners were listening to those two sing, and perhaps being lifted up as they joined their hearts and voices in prayer. What a powerful witness! Who might we lift up if we choose to praise God no matter what? Who might help lift us up when our faith is faltering?

 

Prayer: Father, I trust that you are at work in whatever circumstances I find myself right now.

 

Reflection: What might happen if you choose to praise God even when you don’t feel like it?

Saturday Spotlight: The Blind Man at Bethsaida

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They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to [Jesus] and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8: 22-25

 

“Can you see anything?” Jesus asked. Chances are, Jesus didn’t doubt his own power. Although some healing did occur, perhaps Jesus sensed something blocking this man’s receptivity. The man said he saw people, but that they looked like trees walking around…Jesus was not content to leave a job half-done. He laid his hands on the man’s eyes again. This time the man “looked intently” and could finally see clearly.

 

Perhaps our own vision is limited by self-centeredness. We sometimes view the people in our lives as if they were walking scenery, not individuals with their own needs and wants. They’re there to lean on when we’re tired of standing on our own, or if we want the benefits of their growth and efforts. God isn’t satisfied with that. Once we’re able to see that we are taking people for granted, God will help us develop our vision further. If we are willing to “look intently” at those around us, it will be possible to see them in their humanity. When we consider their needs and triumphs, their joys and sorrows, we’ll see they are just like us. Our vision will enable us to relate more completely to the world around us.

 

Reflection:  How can you practice looking more intently at the world around you? What might you see if you do?

 

Prayer:  Loving God, sometimes I regard the people in my life as nothing more than walking scenery. Help me look intently at others and see them clearly as your beloved children.

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Freedom

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Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2: 16

 

Which is it? Do we live as free people or as God’s slaves? Surprisingly, surrendering ourselves to God’s will frees us from slavery to other people, public opinion, addictions, even our own self-will. The older I get, the more I realize that I’m never in charge, much as I’d like to think I am. My choices are always to do what I think God wants me to do and follow the guidance I get from the wise people he puts in my life, or else to subject myself to the stress that comes with trying to force things to go my way and the fears that go with it.

 

I may think I’m being free when I try to do or get what I think I want, but that’s when I seem to run into the most conflicts: other people get in my way, delays frustrate me, and I become miserable. Why do I want my own way? So I’ll be happy, of course. But trying to get my way doesn’t make me happy at all. On the other hand, letting go of my will (when I remember and am willing to) is so freeing. I can allow life to unfold the way it is going to unfold and be at peace whether I get my way or not. What could be more freeing than a peace that is not determined by circumstances? If I base my happiness on circumstances being a certain way, then I set myself up for frustration and battles with reality. It is so much easier to let go and let God and be free of the burden of self.

 

When I try to do what I believe God wants me to do, I feel at peace with myself. I am free from anxiety because even if I don’t succeed in a particular situation, I believe that God understands. I have peace of mind knowing my conscience is clear, so I am free of anxiety and guilt. I am free of fear because I can trust that God’s will will be done one way or another.  When I try to get my way, I’m never sure.

 

The choice is to surrender to God or to the negative emotions that bully me when I give in to self-will.

 

Prayer:  Lord, free me from myself.

 

Reflecton: How might letting go bring you freedom today?

Saturday Spotlight: A Deaf Man Cured

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They brought to [Jesus] a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and then he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he signed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened , his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  Mark 7: 32-35

 

Who brought the deaf man to Jesus? Whoever “they” were, they obviously loved the man enough to want him healed. Why did Jesus feel the need to take the man away from them and heal him in private?

 

Maybe the man had to be separated from his loved ones–at least for a time–in order for the healing to be effective. Well-meaning loved ones can’t always be part of our healing process. Sometimes they simply don’t have the resources. Sometimes they have issues that prevent them from cooperating with what is needed for our healing…The deaf man’s family loved him enough to bring him to Jesus. They may have grieved that he could never hear them or share his own thoughts clearly. Over the years, a pattern may have evolved whereby he relied on his family, and they became used to being his link to the world. Welcome as his recovery might seem, what if the thought of his independence threatened his family? What if the loss of his family as intermediaries was threatening to the man himself? Maybe he needed to rely directly and exclusively on Jesus.

 

Sometimes the ones we love the most are the ones we have the most trouble communicating with. Over years, unhealthy patterns of selective listening or negativity can lead to misunderstanding. We may hear our loved ones without really listening…Conversely, we may feel like we’re wasting our breath when others seem unable or unwilling to hear us or validated the feelings we’re trying to express. We beat around the bush when it feels too risky to share what is in our hearts.

 

Maybe Jesus separated the deaf-mute from his loved ones until the man could become grounded in his own identity as a child of God. Perhaps then the man could afford to hear what his family had to say and had the courage to speak his mind with honesty and kindness.

 

When we find it challenging to speak our own hearts and minds, or when we notice ourselves turning a deaf ear to the needs of others, maybe we need to take some time to be alone with God.

 

Reflection:  How is being able to hear what others have to say related to being able to speak effectively?

 

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, when I find myself deaf to others or unable to speak my mind and heart, open the lines of communication blocked by ego or fear.

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Words: Love and Responsibility

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They prepared the carnelians and mounted them in gold settings; they were skillfully engraved with the names of the twelve sons of Jacob. They put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

They made the breastpiece of the same materials as the ephod…they mounted four rows of precious stones on it…each of the twelve stones had engraved on it the name of one of the sons of Jacob, in order to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Exodus 39: 4; 6-8; 10; 14

 

The ephod and breastpiece worn by the priests during worship were made following God’s instructions to Moses.  The jewels representing God’s people were worn by the priest both on his shoulders and on the breastpiece that covered his chest. The priest, as mediator between God and His people, literally carried the responsibility for those people on his shoulders and close to his heart, as instructed by God.

 

It’s a good reminder for us as well. When we have responsibility for others—family members, clients, patients, students, subordinates–it makes all the difference in the world whether we bear our responsibility for them with a caring heart or not. Authority without a loving concern for the well-being of others allows power-driven ambition, self-interest, or any number of motives to creep in and cause damage. Even with the best of intentions, attempts to control are bound to create conflict and resentment.

 

On the other hand, caring about those we are responsible for does not mean catering to their wants, whims, or demands. Caring without responsibility can keep us from acting in the best interests of others who may have short-sighted goals. Being our children’s friends rather than parents, letting the people we supervise get by with shoddy performance, giving our patients or students what they want when it’s not in their best interests doesn’t help them or us.

 

Finding the balance between caring and responsibility isn’t always easy, but maybe it starts with bringing those in our charge to God and asking Him to help us shoulder our responsibility while protecting our hearts.

 

Prayer:  Lord, please guide me to act with loving responsibility for those in my care.

 

Reflection:  What can help you act with love as you fulfill your obligations today?

Saturday Spotlight: The Rich Man: A Custom-Made Antidote

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallA s [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery’ You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.  Mark 10: 17-22

 

Jesus looked at the man with love…

 

This man’s desire for wealth had been attained, but not quenched. Jesus invited this man to follow him, but the man didn’t accept the invitation. Instead, he went away sad.   Jesus wasn’t opposed to wealth. He didn’t tell Zacchaeus he was required to give up all his wealth. Wealth isn’t evil in itself, but the obsessive desire and focus on wealth blocks us from following God’s call to love.   Not everyone is called to give up in the same way because not everyone covets in the same way. Some of us treasure our reputations, our good name, or status. Some of us treasure physical pleasure. Some of us may covet the approval of friends and family. Enjoying these things is not bad in itself, but when we covet or become dependent on them, we’re drawn away from God’s kingdom of love.   The one thing we rely on the most may be the very thing that Jesus, in his love for us, invites us to leave behind…The hardest thing to let go of will always be whatever we believe is the source of our security, pleasure, or identity. Anything but that, we think.   We can understand why the rich man was shocked by Jesus’ proposition…As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). As we think about the things we treasure, we can be reassured that Jesus is looking at us with love.

 

Reflection:  When have you felt called by Jesus to do more than you were capable of? What happened?

 

Prayer:  Loving Savior, like the rich man, show me what I need to let go of to continue my spiritual journey. Help me trust that what I gain will be much better than what I surrender.

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Word: Beginnings

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

 

As the New Year begins, what if we take some time to think about the very first beginning? It’s hard to wrap our heads around what was before there was time. What does “When” mean? Without time, there is no before or after. Since we’re in time, it’s hard to step out into eternity, but maybe we don’t have to. The Word was already with God in the beginning; that might be all we need to know about When.

 

Maybe it’s more important to think about Who the Word was that was with God in the beginning. We know Who the Word was because John’s gospel goes on to tell us: the Word became flesh and lived among us; that Word, God’s only Son, came bringing us grace and truth. A word expresses the thoughts and feelings within one person to another. The first communication God shared with us at the beginning of time is Jesus Christ, bearer of grace, truth, love, and salvation. What God wanted to express to us is so vibrant, so dynamic, that the Word itself is alive—a Living Person Who continues to communicate God’s love and grace and truth to us whenever we’re open to receive Him.

 

At the beginning of this New Year, let’s open ourselves to receive the Word of Love that was there at the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Let’s get quiet and listen to what the Word wants to tell our hearts about Love as this old year ends and the new year begins.

 

Reflection:  What can I do today to express the Word within my heart to the world around me?

 

Prayer: Word of Love, guide my heart as I begin this New Year.

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New Release!

Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament explores what happened when Jesus healed, what it might have been like for the people involved, and what it means for us today.

Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes” takes a down to earth look at the diverse assortment of biblical characters called by God.

Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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