Wednesday’s Word: Immanuel

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“…the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and you will name him ‘Immanuel.’  Isaiah 7:14

 

“God is with us.” That’s what “Immanuel” means. It’s a good thing that God himself gave us the sign. “Immanuel” means “God is with us.” On our own, how could we ever have the audacity to claim that God is one of us? But the Creator of the Universe loves us so much that He chose to take on our humanity—with all its frailties. The All-powerful chose to become a helpless infant and to depend on others to feed and clothe him. To be with us, God chose to be born of one of us, the young woman named Mary. He didn’t claim his right to a privileged entry into the planet.

 

God is with us. He chose to experience the joys and the sorrows, the pains and frustrations that are part and parcel of the human condition. He didn’t have to. Out of love for us, He remained in solidarity with our sinfulness on the banks of the Jordan River, and sought baptism. He accepted the warmth and the betrayal of friendship. He willingly endured insults, contempt, torture, and death. Rather than remain aloof from his creation, he chose to participate in what we experience.

 

Who could believe that God would love us so much that he would want to be with us not only in name, but in being, and to become not only the Son of God, but the Son of Man? Who could make us something that far beyond our wildest dreams? It’s too good to be true—except it is. Who could believe it? We can, because hundreds of years before it happened, the Lord himself gave us a sign.

 

Prayer: We praise you and thank you, Son of God and Son of Mary.

 

Reflection: God loves us so much he wanted to be one of us. What difference can that awareness make in your life?

 

 

 

Saturday Spotlight: The Canaanite Woman’s Daughter

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Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.  Matthew 15: 21-28

 

“But he didn’t answer her at all.” We’re told that Jesus didn’t answer the woman, but we’re not told why. Although it’s easy to conclude that he was ignoring her, there are other possibilities. For all we know, he may have been formulating how to respond to her without seeming to neglect God’s chosen people. Taking time before responding–especially under pressure–is effective.

 

…Often, when our loved ones are suffering, we would willingly suffer in their place if we could…As caregivers, we willingly endure sleepless nights, bedside vigils, or weary trips to and from the hospital. We do everything in our power to alleviate their discomfort.

 

…Sometimes we’re like helpless puppies, scrambling around in a knot of directionless love and energy. We need the guidance and support of someone not so vulnerable to excitability. In addition to seeking help on a practical, medical level, and the help and comfort of those around us, let’s remember that the Divine Healer is always available. It’s challenging when our prayers for healing don’t result in the hoped-for outcome, or when God seems not to answer our prayers at all. Even so, let’s not stop trusting that God is in charge and that God loves our loved ones even more than we do.

 

Reflection:  Jesus did not answer the woman’s appeal immediately. Under what circumstances is it helpful to remain silent before responding to another person?

 

Prayer:  God, when my loved ones are hurting, help me remember that you love them even more than I do.

 

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: Willingness

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“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:38

 

Mary accepted God’s call and agreed to become the mother of the Messiah. That doesn’t mean she had no feelings about it. The first chapter of Luke tells us that at first Mary was troubled by the angel’s message and wondered what his words meant. She was concerned about how such a thing could be, since she was a virgin. Mary was well aware of the consequences of being pregnant and unmarried in that culture. No matter what she may have been feeling, Mary accepted and co-operated with God’s plan for her.

 

Our spiritual life depends on our willingness to accept and co-operate with God’s grace, not on how we feel. Feelings come and go. We have choices. We can exercise our free will regardless of how we happen to feel. We don’t have to be bullied by fear, resentment, insecurity, or even feelings of false humility. We can accept God’s grace and choose to do what we believe He would have us do—no matter how we feel about it. Mary did, and it changed the world.

 

Reflection:  What in your life might change if you accept God’s call to you today, no matter what your feelings tell you?

 

Prayer:  Lord, grant me the willingness to trust Your plan for me.

Saturday Spotlight: A Silent Captive Healed

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmall [A] demoniac who was mute was brought to [Jesus]. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”  Matthew 9: 32-34

 

We aren’t told anything about the mute who was healed. Maybe that’s because no one knew much about him. How could they? …This man’s inner life was trapped behind a wall of silence.

 

No, we don’t know anything about this man. What we do know is that once the demon was driven out, the man started speaking–perhaps for the first time in his life. I wonder what he said?

 

We aren’t told how the demon prevented the man from speaking. Physical reasons aside, what hold us back from speaking what’s in our hearts? Fear is one thing that springs to mind–fear of what others will think, fear of rejection, fear of consequences. Fear may not be a “demon” as we think of demons, but it certainly is not of God. The Bible is full of verses telling us not to be afraid. We’re also told God is love and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:16; 18).

 

Reflection:  In what ways are you like the mute? What blocks you from speaking the truth?

 

Prayer:  Spirit of Truth, thank you for the gift of speech. May I use it to speak the truth in 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: Heritage

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This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.  Matthew 1:1

 

If you’re like me, you probably skim through the genealogy of Jesus listed in the very first chapter of the Gospels. It’s easy to gloss over the long list of names that verify the promised Messiah’s lineage—especially since many of them are unfamiliar.

However, reviewing the list of Jesus’ ancestors is a real eye-opener:

  • Abraham, our father in faith, doubted God could keep his promise to give him an heir. Abraham took matters into his own hands by having a son with his wife’s slave girl.
  • Jacob was a conniver who cheated his elder brother out of his rights as the first born son.
  • Rahab, one of the few women listed in Jesus’ genealogy, was a liar, a Gentile, and a prostitute.
  • Ruth was also a Gentile.
  • David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed when she became pregnant with David’s child.

The family tree Jesus chose wasn’t exempt from human failings. He really is one of us.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for accepting the world as it is and for loving us as we are.

 

Reflection: Jesus didn’t demand perfection from his family tree. How can that help you draw nearer to Him right now?

Saturday Spotlight: The Man with the Paralyzed Hand

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallAgain [Jesus] entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.  Mark 3:1-6

 

What was it like for that man at that moment of truth? By stretching out his hand, he would become an accomplice in Sabbath-breaking. But if he failed to act at that time, he might never have had another opportunity to be healed. Sometimes it’s now or never. As much as the man might have preferred to avoid controversy, he wanted something better than his status quo. He stretched out his hand.

 

What happened to the man after he left the synagogue that day? Did he feel welcome to return on other Sabbaths? Did he stay in the town where he was known, or did he move on to another place to get a fresh start? Did he become one of Jesus’ followers, always on the move? Was it challenging to deal with his newly acquired strength? What did he decided to do with it, and how did he make up his mind? We can only wonder.

 

More important, we can wonder what we would do with the strength we acquire when we accept Jesus’ invitation to stretch out beyond our comfort zones. What would enable us to take a stand on some controversy we believe in or to face mindsets that have previously paralyzed us into inaction?

 

Reflection:  The man seized his opportunity for healing, even though it put him right in the middle of controversy. How do you know when reaching for some improvement is worth the risks?

 

Prayer:  Jesus, grant me the willingness to cooperate with your healing action in my life today. Empower me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

 

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: Silence

The Lord is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence.  Habakkuk 2: 20

 

Shhhhhhh.  Listen.

 

 

 

 

Prayer: Lord, may I not be afraid to be silent in Your presence.

 

Reflection: What did you hear in the silence?

Saturday Spotlight: Jairus’ Daughter

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Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw [Jesus], fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

…Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years…She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touches his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped…aware that the power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”…The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”…He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up! And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about… Mark 5: 22-36; 41-42

 

This chapter is about Jairus’s daughter. Why interrupt it with the story of the hemorrhaging woman? If you’re bothered by the interruption, how do you think Jairus felt?

 

Jairus’s daughter was “at the point of death.” Time was of the essence. Jesus set off with him at once…Each step brought healing closer to the dying child—until Jesus stopped dead in his tracks. A woman who’d been suffering for twelve years…reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak. …For whatever reason, Jesus felt it was important enough to stop. …I wonder what went through Jairus’s mind.

 

Meanwhile, messengers short on sensitivity arrived to tell Jairus, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” …But Jesus overheard the messengers. He told Jairus not to be afraid but to believe. Understandable as Jairus’s sense of urgency was, and as much as we identify with it, Jesus didn’t seem bothered by the timing. …Jesus took the little girl by the hand. He instructed her to get up and she did.

 

Jairus placed his needs in Jesus’ hands and left them there, in spite of Jesus’ delay. When we ask for God’s help, change doesn’t always happen on our timetable. Impatient, we often take back the reins and do something—anything—rather than endure the waiting, waiting, waiting. …What would have happened if Jairus had stalked home without waiting for Jesus?

 

A spiritual director once told me, “Don’t get ahead of God’s grace.” …When we trust God’s healing power enough to turn to him in the first place, we’re invited to continue to trust him over the long haul.

 

Reflection for sharing: How do you deal with frustration when others don’t attend to matters that you consider urgent?

 

Prayer: Lord God, You always answer prayer, but the answers don’t always come according to my expectations. Strengthen my fragile faith.

 

“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: Travel Light

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It was faith that made the Israelites able to cross the Red Sea as if on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the water swallowed them up. Hebrews 11:29

 

The destruction of Israel’s oppressors is no less miraculous when we consider that the Egyptian army tried to cross the damp sea basin in chariots weighed down by heavy armor and weapons. It is easy to picture massive metal chariot wheels getting stuck in the mud until God allowed the waters to close back over Israel’s enemies. The Israelites, who probably traveled on foot, had an easier time of it.

 

Sometimes the very things we think will help us reach our goals are disadvantages. They weigh us down and become counter-productive. We think getting people or situations to go “our way” will make us happy. Instead, we get bogged down trying to control things that are beyond our power to control. When we can accept others not doing what we think they should, when we can accept circumstances not unfolding according to the scenarios in our minds, we are freed from slavery to self-will.

 

What enables us to do that? Scripture says it was faith that allowed the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. When we can trust that God is in control, that he is all-wise and that his will for us is good, we can let go of trying to force things to go our way. Then we’re traveling light.

 

Prayer: Lord, increase my faith so that I can let go of what weighs me down.

 

Reflection: What do you need to let go of in order to “lighten up”?

 

Saturday Spotlight: The Woman Healed of Hemorrhaging

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Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years, and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” …When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him; and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8: 43-45a; 47-48 NRSV

 

A nameless woman who had been bleeding for twelve years made her way through the crowd to get to Jesus. She shouldn’t have been in public at all. A woman was considered unclean during her monthly period and for as long as the bleeding continued. (Lev 15: 19-28)

 

Although her desire for wholeness drove her to take and action, the woman apparently tried to be healed on the sly, unnoticed by Jesus or the crowd.

 

Jesus evidently felt it was important to acknowledge the healing. …Once the truth was out in the open, she fell down before him.

 

Jesus was kind and reassuring…The woman had spoken the truth about her experience and had been accepted. She was able to walk through the crowd on her way home with her head held high, instead of slinking away… Jesus was able to tell her to go in peace, reassured that she was well emotionally as well as physically.

 

We are sometimes like this woman in our quest for healing….Maybe we prefer not to have our troubles—whatever they might be—made known to others. …Attempts [at self-help] that keep us in isolation don’t always go so well. I suspect God means for us to be in community. …If God wanted us to remain alone, God would only have created one of us.

 

Prayer: Jesus, grant me the humility to realize that there is nothing I need to hold back from your loving concern.

 

Reflection for sharing: Have you ever denied or minimized your need for God’s help with a problem and tried to take care of it yourself? What happened?

 

 

“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

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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.

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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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