Monthly Archives: November 2014

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

Wednesday’s Word: Harmony

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Do everything without complaining or arguing. Phillipians 2: 14

 

But there’s so much to complain and argue about! Are we supposed to be doormats and go along with what everybody else says? Are we supposed to deny our feelings? Never express a difference of opinion? On the contrary. If we don’t take a stand, if we are “neither hot nor cold” God says he will spit us out of his mouth. (Rev.3:16)

 

So what does St. Paul mean? Well, for one thing, if we choose to perform a service or accept a responsibility, we should be willing to do it. (Keep in mind that being willing to do something is not the same as wanting to do it.) If we don’t particularly enjoy what we’re doing, it might help to remind ourselves why we agreed to do it in the first place: to help a friend, to challenge ourselves, sense of duty, etc. Those are good things. Even realizing that “people-pleasing” was our only motivation is an opportunity—a reminder to practice saying “no” in the future.

 

We all need to vent at times, but we have choices about when and how and with whom. Physical exercise, sharing with a trusted friend who know how to keep a confidence, writing our feelings out, or pouring them out to God in prayer are some safe ways to get things off our chests. Stuffing or denying our feelings or pretending we agree with something when we don’t isn’t healthy and it does not build integrity. But expressing an honest opinion is not the same as trying to force another person to see it our way.

 

Not long ago, several members of a group I belong to were all in strong agreement about a certain topic. I did not share their opinion. Although I tend to shy away from confrontation I felt I had to go on record and state my view. Knowing it would be unpopular, I carefully worded my comment without attacking anyone else’s viewpoint or insisting they see it my way. I simply stated how I felt and why. I got a barrage of responses, some kind, some very heated, and one got quite personal. I was tempted to take it up a notch and restate my position with more examples, but I could see that would only lead to stronger counter-attacks. I clearly stated my position once and made the choice not to enter into further debate. The record shows where I stand. What would further bickering accomplish?

 

Prayer: Lord, teach me to speak gently but firmly.

 

Reflection for sharing: What is the difference between taking a stand and arguing?

 

Saturday Spotlight: The Woman Who Anointed Jesus

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And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that [Jesus] was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”

 

Then turning toward the woman, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love…” …And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7: 32-39; 44-47a; 50

 

Although well aware of her own unworthiness, [the woman] didn’t let that stop her from following what she felt drawn to do. She stayed at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps she never intended to wash them with her tears. …The cleansing tears may have flowed naturally as her eyes beheld not only her own sin and shame but also Jesus’ loving acceptance.

 

The woman didn’t trust in her own sense of worthiness. Instead, she trusted in Jesus’ love and mercy. …She didn’t buy forgiveness with expensive perfume. She didn’t earn it with her ministrations. She was forgiven and healed because she encountered healing love and responded.

 

Many of us carry the shame of our past with us: short-sighted or selfish choices, embarrassing mistakes, foolish or mean-spirited decisions, and actions that we wouldn’t want to become public knowledge. …Moving beyond our shame comes from laying our secrets at the feet of the God who loves us as we are…

 

Prayer: Merciful Redeemer, encouraged by your love, I lay my shameful secrets at your feet, trusting that the gift of my true self is precious to you.

 

Reflection for sharing: How does shame block you from giving and receiving love?

 

“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: Called

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But [Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is what God sent me to do.”  Luke 4: 43

 

When I was a child, I thought if I surrendered to God He would send me to some foreign country to be a missionary-and I didn’t want to go, so I was afraid to surrender to God’s will. Then I heard a minister say that he had run into would-be missionaries in other countries and the best thing they could have done was bought a ticket back home. It’s okay to grow where we’re planted…as long as we grow.

 

We may not all be missionaries, but we all have a mission to share the gifts God has given us. If God calls us to do something, he will equip us to do it. God would never ask us to do something we’re not able to do, although we might be invited to step outside our comfort zones from time to time.

 

Understanding God’s plan for us might begin with thinking about what we’re interested in or what we like to do. We usually enjoy things we’re good at. On the other hand, we don’t always know we have an ability until we give it a try. Then again, we might be suited to serve in different ways at different life stages. Twenty or thirty years ago, I could help out in the local soup kitchen. I don’t have the physical stamina for that kind of work anymore. Although I’ve always loved to write, until recently, I never had the time or opportunity to share how I see God at work through my writing.

 

There are a no shortage of needs in the world. God may have put us exactly where we are with the abilities we have for a reason. Our answer to God’s call doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.

 

Prayer: Lord, show me what you’ve sent me here to do.

 

Reflection: How is God calling you to serve today? How will you answer?

Saturday Spotlight: The Paralyzed Man

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Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

…But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them… Mark 2: 3-5; 10-12a

 

Here [the paralytic] was, with no possible means of escape—the center of attention, making a circus-type entrance, interrupting whatever wisdom Jesus had been sharing with the crowd…And just when he thought he couldn’t feel any more self-conscious, Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 

The man didn’t ask for forgiveness. It was probably pretty obvious to everyone there what kind of healing he and his friends were looking for. It was evident to Jesus, too, that the man wanted to be healed of his paralysis…Of course, when our sins are forgiven, it implies the sense of guilt is removed, but the image of being made upright, of being in “right standing” with God, suggests more. It suggests the freedom to literally stand upright after being relieved of whatever weight had been holding the man down for who knows how long. Jesus seemed to perceive that the burden of guilt was holding the man down more than his physical infirmity. Jesus also perceived that the man and his friends had faith enough to accept God’s grace.

 

Sometimes guilt, remorse, or shame can paralyze us and keep us from living life more fully…Fear of what others might think could keep us from using our talents in situations outside our comfort zone…We’re afraid that what we have to offer might not be good enough…So we remain paralyzed by our own insecurities. Jesus can heal us, too.

 

Prayer: Loving Father, may the guilt, shame, and fear that paralyze me be dissolved in your unconditional love. Empower me to use the abilities you created me to have.

 

Reflection for sharing: When has guilt “paralyzed” you? How did you become free of the paralysis?

 

“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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