Saturday Spotlight: Amnon


So Amnon pretended he was sick and went to bed. King David went to see him and Amnon said to him, “Please let Tamar come and make a few cakes here where I can see her, and then serve them to me herself.” So David sent word to Tamar in the palace…She took some dough, prepared it, and made some cakes there where he could see her…As she offered them to him, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me!” “No,” she said. “Don’t force me to do such a degrading thing! …How could I ever hold up my head in public again? And you—you would be completely disgraced…Please speak to the king, and I’m sure that he will give me to you.” But he would not listen to her; and since he was stronger than she was, he overpowered her and raped her.

Then Amnon was filled with a deep hatred for her; he hated her now even more than he had loved her before. He said to her, “Get out!” “No,” she answered. “To send me away like this is a greater crime than what you just did!” But Amnon would not listen to her… 2 Samuel 13:6-16


Talk about blaming the victim! Lusting after his half-sister Tamar, Amnon lied to get her alone. When she resisted, he raped her. As soon as his craving was satisfied, he hated Tamar and threw her out. She did nothing wrong. Instead of taking responsibility for his own wrongdoing, he made Tamar his scapegoat. Did he think by sending her away, he would send away his guilt? Instead, he added a second offense. Love has nothing to do with selfishness. Amnon didn’t love Tamar. He didn’t even love himself enough to admit the truth.


We might not hurt others as violently as Amnon, but blaming others so we don’t have to face our own weaknesses is common. That’s why Jesus advised us to take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of someone else’s. Amnon had a whole forest in his eye, and nothing good came of it. If only Amnon had taken time before he acted he might have gotten his need met in an honorable way. If he had taken responsibility for his offense and for Tamar after he acted rashly, there might have been hope. But he didn’t. Read the rest of the story in Samuel 13. It ends badly for Amnon.


When we insist the problem is out there, we have no hope of a solution from within. It’s so easy to blame others. “They made me do it.” “If he didn’t_____, I wouldn’t have had to ______.” Other people can be difficult, provactive, irritating. That doesn’t take away our free will. We don’t have to hand over our choices to others. After all, is it the cupcake’s fault if we go off our diet? Is it the flat tire’s fault for “making” us have a temper tantrum? People and circumstances can set the stage for us to act on our weaknesses, but the weaknesses belong to us, not to anyone or anything outside of us. Not everyone who sees a cupcake eats it. Not everyone who has a flat tire kicks it. Not everyone answers an insult with a snide reply. Our choices are our choices. If we take responsibility for them, we have hope of changing for the better.


Prayer: God of truth, help me face myself honestly.


Reflection: Who have you blamed? What was your part in the situation? Can you forgive the other person? Can you forgive yourself?

Saturday Spotlight: Onesimus


It may be that Onesimus was away from you for a short time so that you might have him back for all time. And now he is not just a slave, but much more than a slave; he is a dear brother in Christ. How much he means to me! And how much more he will mean to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord! Philemon 15-16


When the slave Onesimus ran away from Philemon, he probably financed his getaway with Philemon’s money. In his travels, Onesimus met Paul, became a Christian, and helped Paul in his ministry. Nevertheless, Paul sent Onesimus back to his master. Paul asked Philemon to forgive the runaway slave and welcome him—not only as a returning slave—but as a Christian brother!  That was asking a lot. Perhaps expecting Onesimus to willingly go back was asking even more. There was no guarantee that Philemon would welcome him with open arms. Onesimus returned anyway.


I wonder what Onesimus felt as he headed back. Was he afraid? Reluctant? Hopeful? Eager to make up for the wrongs he had done? When we make amends for wrongs we have done to others, we become truly free. Our integrity doesn’t depend on how others receive our apologies but on our choice to make them.


In his letter to Philemon, Paul told him that if Onesimus owed him anything to charge it to Paul’s account. Then he reminded Philemon of how much he himself owed to Paul, setting the stage for an atmosphere of forgiveness, healing, and the chance to relate on a different footing. When we need to forgive others for wrongs they have done us, it’s easier when we recognize how much we owe God who forgives us for the things we have done.


Prayer:  Lord, may the grace of your forgiveness lead to healing.


Reflection:  Think of someone you have wronged; say a prayer for them. Think of someone who has wronged you; say a prayer for them, too.

Saturday Spotlight: Peter-The Healing of Guilt

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallWhen they had finished breakfast, [the resurrected] Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” he said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate that kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to [Peter], “Follow me.” John 21: 15-19


Peter, the rock on which Jesus built his church, was utterly human. When Jesus first called him, Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinful man. Peter had a gut-level awareness of his human weaknesses. By the time he had followed Jesus for three years, Peter seemed to have forgotten his imperfections…Jesus was well aware of Peter’s weaknesses, but loved him and chose him anyway.


After Jesus was taken prisoner by the Jewish authorities, Peter denied Jesus three times, as predicted. Peter’s failure is well recorded in the Gospels…Peter could have been crippled easily by the burden of his guilt. He not only denied Jesus, but he failed to live up to his own expectations of himself…How did Peter find the courage to face others after abandoning Jesus in spite of his boast of unwavering faithfulness? Perhaps Peter’s healing of guilt began as he remembered that Jesus had not only predicted his denial but also assured Peter he had prayed for him. More than that, Jesus told Peter there was a job for him to do after he turned back. Jesus wanted Peter to ‘strengthen’ his brothers. He could encourage the others–not because Peter had been a tower of strength–but because he had been all too human.


…With each affirmation [of his love for Jesus] Peter was re-commissioned to feed the Lord’s sheep. This made it clear that Peter could best show his love for Jesus, not by changing the past, but by acting in the present with love.


When we face our flaws and share them with God and with another trusted person, such as we do in the sacrament of reconciliation, we grow spiritually. These are graced opportunities.


If we want a gauge of how faithful to Christ we are, Christ’s interaction with Peter gives us a great tool. Are we feeding his sheep? Are we taking care of the ones he loves? What we do to the least of them, we do to him.


Prayer:  Loving Savior, grant me the courage to face my own weaknesses. Help me accept the healing power of your forgiveness. Teach me to forgive myself.


Reflection:  What is the biggest challenge in accepting forgiveness as a free gift, rather than something you deserve or have to earn?


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

Saturday Spotlight: The Cruel Centurion

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallThen the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him…And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Matthew 27:27-31; 35-36


It was now about noon, and darkenss came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the suns’ light fialed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Luke 23:44-47


Although the centurion had witnessed countless beatings, tortures, and executions, no doubt he had never witnessed someone respond in such a way as Jesus…Jesus reflected God’s incredible love, not only with his life, but also with his dying moments. Betrayal, humiliation, physical pain: none of these could take away Jesus’ free will, his choice to remain faithful to his heavenly Father. They couldn’t prevent him from continuing to love and forgive.


The centurion’s heart, calloused by countless examples of “man’s inhumanity to man” as a way of life, was touched, softened, and quite possible healed, by Jesus’ quiet refusal to respond in kind. Even under dire circumstances, grace melted the hardened heart enough to allow love to enter and bring forth praise. One has to wonder what the centurion did with the rest of his life following that moment of grace.


We might find ourselves hardened by what we’ve seen of needless suffering and senseless cruelty in the worlds. We might even find ourselves contributing to it–perhaps not by overt cruelty, but by silently standing by rather than speaking out. If we do, we don’t have to get caught up in remorse and turn our thoughts inward. Like the centurion, we can keep watch over those in our world who are rising above a culture preoccupied with self-centeredness, greed, and the like. We can lift our minds and hearts to praise God who is bigger than all the cruelty in the world. We can take inspiration from those who light candles in the darkness. We can join our lights–however small they seem to be–to the Light that all the darkness in the world can never put out.


Prayer:  When what I’ve seen of suffering and cruelty overwhelms me, Lord, remind me that your love is bigger than all the pain and sorrow in the world.


Reflection: Rather than become immobilized by fear or overwhelmed by guilt when he realized that he had executed the Son of God, the centurion praised God in awe. Why do you think he was able to do that? How can you choose to praise God in the face of your own fear or guilt?


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

Saturday Spotlight: Malchus, the High Priest’s Slave


iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallWhile [Jesus] was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:47-51


Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. John 18:10


Why Malchus? Was he somehow more threatening than armed soldiers? More likely, he just happened to be standing in the wrong place–an arm’s length away from panicky Peter–at the wrong time.


Maybe Malchus secretly sympathized with Jesus. Maybe, like his master, Malchus condemned Jesus. It didn’t seem to matter. Jesus healed him anyway. Once healed, it seems unlikely that a hardened attitude toward Jesus could have remained unchanged. Jesus often told people, “Listen, then, if you have ears to hear.” Jesus had literally given Malchus and ear with which to receive the truth.


Jesus reached out to undo the harm Peter caused to the injured slave. If we have ever been on the receiving end of a sincere apology from someone who has hurt us, we know its healing power. Extending our own sincere apologies and appropriate changes in behavior, we can do the same. Even if our apology is not accepted, reaching out has healing power. Unlike Jesus, who did not need healing of his own heart, we may have yet to experience the peace of extending our hands to heal the hurts our words or actions have caused…May God’s healing touch open the ears of our hearts to a new attitude toward those who disagree with us.


Prayer:  Prince of Peace, it’s easy to lash out when I feel threatened. Teach my heart to treat with patience and respect those who oppose me.


Reflection:  Have you ever been on the receiving end of a heartfelt apology from someone who hurt you? How did it feel? How might that experience make it easier for you to make amends for the hurts you’ve caused others?


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 Words: Barriers to Peace of Mind

iStock_000003550839XSmall[Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it!” Luke 20:41-42


Are we longing for peace in our own lives but can’t see what is needed?


Pain and sorrow may come from sources outside ourselves, but what goes on within us contributes to our unrest. We bury old wounds, hoping they’ll never see the light of day. We think covering up old hurts will bring contentment. Instead they fester within us and impact our lives—sometimes without our even being aware it. We find ourselves repeating negative, self-destructive patterns again and again. We wonder why we always end up in relationships with emotionally unavailable people, working for a boss that’s hard to please, or always being the one people lean on and never having anyone to lean on ourselves.


There’s no need to wallow in self-pity but sometimes we need to let the hurts of the past see the light of day in order to deal with them and move on. How can we let go of the resentments, shame, or anxieties that plague us unless we first admit that they’re there?


As he wept over Jerusalem, Jesus said her enemies would close in on her from every side because she didn’t recognize the time when God came to save her. Are we being blocked in from living a fuller, richer life by enemies of denial, blaming others, self-righteousness, or a need to control? Is Jesus weeping over us?


Prayer: Lord, guide me to see what is needed for peace within my heart and in my relationships.


Reflection: How might your attitudes and behaviors be blocking serenity in your life?

Saturday Spotlight: The Man Born Blind

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallAs Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth…Jesus [said] “…As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he has said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” John 9: 1-12


After identifying himself s “the light of the world,” Jesus blocked the man’s vision even more. He made mud by spitting in the dirt and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. Sometimes it really is darkest before the dawn. One would think that healing would involve removing obstacles from the man’s vision, not adding more. Now, mud covered the man’s eyes, but the process didn’t end there. Jesus sent the man to wash away the mud…The man obeyed and was able to see. In dealing with the additional problem of mud on his eyes, the underlying cause of the man’s blindness was healed.


So often, things have to get worse before they get better. In our times of darkness, we may not be able to see how God can help. We blindly grope for solutions that don’t come. We want to see the answers before we let go of our control. We don’t understand that our own lack of vision can prevent us from finding the solutions we seek. Sometimes only a turn for the worse makes us willing.


We may need outside help but be reluctant to pursue it because we think things aren’t that bad…Then a crisis comes–a heart attack, a serious rift in our marriage, a drunk-driving arrest. We may be more willing to seek help once the situation worsens. We go to the doctor or the marriage counselor, or the support group. They can help, but only to the extent that we follow their instructions. We may need to take actions that will not only help us through the immediate crisis but also address the underlying causes…We can’t do it alone, but we can’t be passive recipients, either. Healing may well be a gift, but we must unwrap the gift and use it.


Prayer:  Jesus, Light of the World, sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn. Help me cooperate with the healing process as I place my trust in you.


Reflection:  Although Jesus healed the man by putting mud on his eyes, the man had to do his part by following instructions and washing. What in you needs healing? What is your part in cooperating with the healing you seek?


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

Saturday Spotlight: The Official’s Son

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallNow there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

     The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household.  John 4:46-53


The official’s clout did him no good in his current need. All this man’s status, influence, and money couldn’t save his son. In this situation, he saw that Jesus’ reputed power was considerably more than his own. Love kept the man from being too proud to ask for help…He came to Jesus with humility, an essential attitude when approaching God. That’s not because God needs or wants kow-towing; it’s just and accurate perception of reality. Our loving God is also the all-powerful and supreme Creator.


The man wanted Jesus to travel from Cana to Capernaum to heal the boy in person. It seems like a reasonable expectation, but when we expect God to do things the way we think God should, we may be in for surprises.


For whatever reason, Jesus had this father return home on his own, after reassuring him that the boy would live…Heading home alone was a practical demonstration of obedient trust in Jesus. That trust was not misplaced.


Just because a situation doesn’t go the way we think it should, doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be good…Our expectations don’t limit God; they only limit our trust in God.


Prayer:  All-knowing God, help me trust that you know better than I do.


Reflection:  When have your expectations limited your ability to find joy?


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



Saturday Spotlight: Ten Lepers Healed

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallOn the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17: 11-19


Why did Jesus ask where the other nine were? They were doing what Jesus had told them to do. He told them to present themselves to the priests, and that’s what they did…The nine were obedient to Jesus’ instructions and to the Jewish law. In contrast, the Samaritan, on his way to performing the ritual, realized that God’s power had already healed him…Through direct contact with Jesus and his own response, he achieved what the Jewish ritual had been designed to do. He experienced healing and gave glory to God.


It may have been easier for a foreigner who grew up without the constraints of Jewish law to respond freely to the miracle. Some of us aren’t used to thinking “outside the box” of orthodox religious practices. We may overlook opportunities for true conversion of our hearts when they happen…Despite our devotion and reverence for God, we may find ourselves reciting prayers by rote, or repeating automatically the responses during church services. We can miss the power that the words and rituals convey. We cheat ourselves out of dynamic spiritual experience.


We can pray to be mindful, to notice when our prayers are answered. We need to be open to the unexpected ways God may answer those prayers. With increased awareness, we may find many more things to be grateful for.


Prayer:  Lord of all Creation, you are not limited by my assumptions. Open my mind and heart to notice your healing power, even when it comes in unexpected ways. Lead me to a deeper sense of well-being based on your presence, not my frailty.


Reflection:  What is the difference between religious observance and allowing the power of God to impact your life?


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

Saturday Spotlight: The Man with Dropsy

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallOn one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. Luke 14:1-6


Dropsy is “a disease in which watery fluid collects in the body,” according to the Oxford American Dictionary. In other words…the man’s legs and arms were swollen. Swelling can be incredibly painful.   Of course his cure meant a great deal to him personally, but the story is not so much about him as about those religious experts who were watching…It’s not that the man was not important or that his suffering didn’t matter, but it suggests that sometimes our own suffering isn’t solely about us. Our pain–and our recovery from it–can be about more than us. God can use our suffering to teach or to help others if we are willing to be used.


What does this man’s story have to do with us? What, within us, might be swollen? Maybe our egos are swollen…Self-centeredness doesn’t always take the form of overblown pride. We can be filled–or even obsessed–with thoughts of our own inadequacies and problems…Our minds might be swollen with worries, distractions, or self-righteous criticism. Jesus will help shrink our overdeveloped preoccupations down to a healthy size, if we let him.   Persistence in spite of his painful journey demonstrated [the man with dropsy’s] faith that Jesus could do for him what he could not do for himself. Our journey to show ourselves as we truly are might be equally as painful, but it can also be equally rewarding.


Prayer: Divine Healer, when my mind is swollen with pride or self-centered worry, restore my overdeveloped ego to its proper size.


Reflection:  What are the things within you that crowd out your ability to relate to the world around you?


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



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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.

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


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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