April 25 Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

No matter how speedily our computers compute, or how “Wi” your “fi” is, the image we hear today of God’s Son as “The Good Shepherd” persists in popularity and persuasive power. Chalk that up to our unexpressed longing for a gentler human landscape, free of the hard edges technology prefers to give our interactions with one another. Often those are more blunt than beneficial. At any rate, this perennial power of the Holy Word of Scripture is evident. As a result, we can easily summon to mind that familiar painting or statue of a virile Christ shouldering a helpless lamb. Equally easy to think of ourselves as that needy creature, wordlessly longing for the solace that is our salvation. Admittedly we can be so lost at times that we wonder whether or not we will find our way back to a place of peace.

Mature Christian living will not let us ignore for long the ugly fact that there are many bad shepherds out there who lurk around our pending decisions. They secretly laugh at our weak faith in the Lord if things don’t work out as we had hoped. Interestingly, the Greek word John uses for “good” in this instance means “ideal” or “noble,” and not simply “good at.” That keeps us from falling into the fallacy, which holds that only the person who is productive is worthwhile. That, in turn, foments fear of retirement among many people of a certain age, thinking that their personal value will go down.

This Sunday happens to be “The World Day of Prayer for Vocations” by our Church. Unless you’ve been vacationing on Venus the last few decades, you have noted the diminished number of priests and religious. Easy to ascribe that fact to the tired canard that such a life is against nature or is just plain odd. Odd, I’ll grant you. But it is so good for those so-called. More serious claims for those lesser numbers can be attributed to the awful scandals we have experienced. That last is why I call today’s seminarians and novices “heroes.” Truth to tell, the Holy Spirit obviously wants to wake up the “sleeping giant” of lay participation in Church life to do even more. Yet the fact remains that our Church is built around the Holy Eucharist. Without the priest, there is
no Eucharist. But in this endeavor, we can never neglect or underestimate the power of prayer. That’s what today is all about. We do have to beg the “Harvest master” for an increase in “field laborers.”

Here is a story of one who said “yes” to his calling. Father Vincent Capodanno, a chaplain with the Marine Corps, was killed in battle on September 4, 1967, somewhere in the Quezon Valley in Vietnam. The last section of the official citation of the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously, reads as follows: Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately fifteen yards away, Chaplain Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gunfire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest tradition of
the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.”

April 11 Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
In my retirement I have learned that I am at least a half decent cook. My loving Mom was prescient years ago when she taught me how to cook a decent breakfast and a few dinner menus under her simple rubric: “You might not be able to get a cook at the rectory.” How right she was, as many a priest these days can attest. Over the years I’ve grown more confident at the job. When I read this week’s post Easter appearance of Jesus and how He was handed a piece of “baked fish” to eat, I couldn’t help think of the many pieces of fish I have successfully baked.

Of course St. Luke, with his keen and practiced doctor’s eye for details, adds this fact to underscore the fact that Jesus’ was a true bodily resurrection and not some chimera conjured up by the Apostles. Jesus’ body was real enough to grow hungry, even though it had been glorified. That brings to the fore the whole question of what happens to our own bodies in the next life.
Faith provides the main answer. As the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults asserts: “Faith in the resurrection of our bodies is inseparable from our faith in the resurrection of Christ’s body from the dead. He rose as our head, as the pattern of our rising, and as the life-giving source of our new life.”

Later in the same section the Catechism adds: “In the final resurrection, our bodies will be transformed, though we do not know precisely how. The manner of our resurrection exceeds our understanding and imagination and is accessible only to our faith.”

I find myself asking fanciful questions after reading those serious statements. Are we to enjoy good food like baked fish or grilled steak in heaven? Are all the desserts there to have no caloric effects on our avoirdupois? Will we be cooking our food, or will it just appear at our place on celestial china? What is certain here on earth is that phrase in our Nicene Creed that we profess every Sunday which states our belief in “the resurrection of the body.”

I close with one more citation from the Catechism. “It (our resurrection) is a sobering belief because it reminds us of the judgment yet to come, and at the same time it is a joyful belief that heralds
life everlasting with God.” Good for all of us to bask in that belief this April weekend.

God love you and give you His peace.

Reading I: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
Peter’s use of several honored titles of God in the Old Testament shows that he is a true Israelite speaking to his own in this sermon, and he urges them to repent and be converted to Christ.

Reading II: I John 2: 1-5a
Jesus is our true Advocate should we fall into sin. Paul tells us that “to know God” means keeping His commandments.

The Gospel: Luke 24: 35-48
Several themes of Luke’s gospel come together in this last section. Such are table fellowship, God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus; forgiveness of sins; witnessing; the Holy Spirit; Jesus’ journey to the Father is complete.

Fourth Sunday of Lent Reflection

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson Fourth Sunday of Lent

Allow me to present some facts about an event coming next Saturday, March 20. That will be this year’s date for “the Vernal Equinox. At precisely 5:37 AM that morning, when most of us will probably be enjoying a Saturday sleep-in, the Northern hemisphere of our home will be at the one or two moments in the year when our sun will be exactly above the Equator. As a result, day and night will be of equal length. More importantly, that will be the official arrival of Spring 2021. “Vernal” meaning “fresh or new.” The days will be noticeably longer than the nights. The new season will usher in all the joys of extended light after a long winter’s darkness.

May I ask you now to make a spiritual application? Apply all this to Our Lord’s teaching we hear of today to what He told the significant Jewish leader Nicodemus. The man was obviously attracted to Jesus and His teaching and he wanted more in a private session. Yet he cowardly came at night, such was his fear that others might easily spot him in daytime.

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus speaks of “the light that came into the world,” without telling Nicodemus it is He. But He quickly adds the sad fact that “people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” In all honesty, haven’t we thought of ourselves as being in that group? Preferring the protection of darkness, even that of secrecy, rather than exposure of any kind?

Recall that infamous day a bit over 2 months ago when our Nation’s Capitol became “a crime scene.” On any given day, we agree that a brazen crime is made worse if it is committed “in broad daylight.” The boldness adds to the evil.

Lent is our opportunity to make reparation for all of our dark deeds. We want to straighten out our relationship with the Lord. We have the advantage of knowing from our Bibles and from consistent Church teaching that God indeed loves us, and was willing to die for our reconciliation with Him. The wisdom of our Church’s lived experience is such that she knows we would have had to invent a Lent if she had not already done so. Just like this Lent, now, in the year 2021.

Not to take advantage of this Lent here and now seems like the height of foolishness, does it not? Making a good confession is an essential part of the process, and we know that. Above all “be not afraid,” as our great John Paul urged us at his installation as pope. Lenten reform is really not as complicated as the timing of the Vernal Equinox.” God is simple, holy, and loving of you all the time. Take advantage of it and enjoy the sun- shine. God love you and give you His peace.
Reading I: 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23
The story of a collapsed Judah follows divine judgment. The chief evil of ignoring the prophets brings about a 70 year long exile of the Israelites in Babylon. The unexpected decree of Cyrus king of Persia brings about a happy outcome.

Reading II: Ephesians 2: 4-10
God’s great love for the world is most evident when He sends His only Son into the world as His greatest gift.

The Gospel: John 3: 14-21
The Father’s love for the world is manifest in His Son Jesus. Jesus in turn tells His pupil Nicodemus that when “the Son of Man is lifted up” (on the cross) it will be a similar but much more powerful healing than that of the serpent lifted up in the dese

Second Sunday of Lent Reflection

The exhilaration one feels in the wake of a successful weight loss program or an addiction broken through a program like Alcoholics Anonymous is often enhanced by the compliments of friends and acquaintances. They applaud the transformation, especially if they have clear memories of “the old you.” The accomplishment is also a source of good example for those others trying to do the same.

Change matters.

There is a certain similarity here with the glorious event of Christ’s transfiguration. When the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity humbly hid His divine nature by accepting a human one, He took it on completely with all its limitations. We tend to forget that. He was “like us in all things, except sin.” So Lord in many ways looked ordinary to most observers, although He was at the same time a special Man. For example, He was undeniably approachable. Many men give off an air of cool indifference, especially to strangers. Jesus even attracted children, who are among the best detectors of phoniness.

Our Lord grew tired at the end of the day. He experienced the weariness of living with His mainly ignorant Apostles. He had to guard against using any spectacular devices in attracting followers. Only when He worked one of His miracles out of compassion, or as a teaching lesson, did the source of His power gradually become revealed. His apostles first came to Him because He was different in all the best ways. Gradually they recognized that He was also genuinely holy and close to God. Eventually He did tell them and His closest followers Who He was to end their guesswork.

But on this one special occasion, He pulled back the veil over His divine nature to allow them (and us) to glimpse His glory. One that Moses and Elijah, both long dead by human reckoning, were suddenly quite alive in another dimension. It had to be a spectacular sight for Peter, James and John. It must have included a massive dose of awe, joy and happiness combined. Not to omit a rebirth of trust in their inbred Hebrew hope of a Messiah.

Let us here reflect not on the sound and sights, but on the generated hope. As such, it is one of the three theological virtues, along with Faith and Charity, so-called because they “relate directly to the living God.” “They inform all the moral virtues and give them life” as the Catholic Catechism describes them. St. Paul indirectly refers to hope when we hear him ask today: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Hope, like all virtues, is also a “power” or ability given us by God which ushers forth trust in Him that injects us with dynamism about the present and optimism for the future.

This story of the transfiguration placed here at the start of Lent should be seen as our encouragement and reason to believe that we can overcome our addiction to sin. It energizes us to reach up in our struggle to be God’s friends when all around us is a gravitational pull downward. We can posit our own future transfiguration when we will repeat St. Peter’s words: “Lord, it is good to be here.”

God love you and give you His peace.

Reflection – First Sunday of Lent

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

You may remember the most challenging part of an essay exam from your school days. It began with the words “Compare and Contrast.” You had better know your material to answer smartly. If for any reason you were weak on the subject at hand, you would likely spin a web of conjecture with the vain hope that your lengthy burst of meaningless verbiage could fool your
teacher. I leave to your imagination another more coarse definition of what that’s called!

Readers of Sacred Scripture have no such problem with the Holy Spirit, who is its real Author. He compares and contrasts with a masterful touch as expressed by the human writers. This first weekend of Lent, we read the enchanting recap of the flood story in Genesis, wherein the newly dry land becomes the setting for a new covenant God makes with mankind. Combined with His pledge of never sending a flood comes His choice of the rainbow as a perpetual reminder of the Covenant.

Retaining the watery theme is today’s excerpt of Peter’s First Letter, telling us that the waters of baptism have the innate power under the Final Covenant to save us all from destruction.
Then comes today’s Gospel. In his trademark almost texting style Mark tells us how Jesus was tested in the harshness of a water-less desert. We have to depend on the other more detailed gospel versions of the story to learn the devil’s tactics’ exact nature. But what Mark does add is the comfort Jesus derived afterward from ministering angels.

It is relatively easy to compare and contrast floodwaters and an arid desert as different backgrounds for the birth of covenants. But what might be more difficult for you and me right here at the beginning of Lent 2021 is the comparison and contrast we can make of keeping our baptismal covenant promises since Lent 2020 until now. Back then, the arrival of a certain pandemic
came upon the scene. We have presumably since learned a lot about ourselves and how we have handled all the shutdowns and restrictions. Through it all, have we been true Christians with all around us? I believe that with our answer to that one, we could “have our hands full.”

There is lots of room in the process to list those nasty little sins we have committed against others, like impatience, rash judgment, and mean words. This not to omit the bad choices we may have made in seeking comfort from our pain with unchaste thoughts and actions along with overindulgence in food and drink. Above all, and more importantly, our Lenten resolve this year
and what changes we will implement going forward.

God’s Covenant of loving mercy and salvation still stands as strong as it ever was. Our spiritual posture is the only variable. This kind of comparison and contrast is a demanding but pertinent Lenten exercise, hopefully, targeted at something called “conversion.”

In the “Alice in Wonderland” story, at one point, Alice says to the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.  “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

As with Alice, so with us and the Church. Without objectives, we will have nowhere to go, and we’ll just keep wandering aimlessly. We need to remember that Jesus once declared for all to hear: “I am the Way.”

God love you and give you His peace.

February 14 Reflection

You are in the doctor’s exam room, perched on the side of the examination table, awaiting the doctor’s return. When he does so, the doctor brings another one with him. Their combined verdict is clear: “You have a strong case of cancer.”

Since you’ve been a patient of this man for many years, you know of his special concern for you. You inherently know how much the doctor would instead be saying something else.

That’s how it could be for any of us since cancer’s arrival and its varied forms. You dread the sudden imposition of isolation this may bring. Most family and friends take on this serious air around you. You are grateful for those who can still share a laugh with you, no matter the subject. And when you are alone, you try to remember that in- stead of holding a “pity party” for yourself.

All of that was part of the plight of the unnamed leper who met Jesus on that long-ago day. He knew the pain of his condition, but the social strictures Leviticus demanded in those days that he live apart from family and friends and shout out to everybody, “Unclean! Unclean!” Jesus will thus make all the difference.

Mark’s description that Jesus was “moved with pity,” is a bit tepid rendition of the original Greek word used here, which is “embrimesamenos.” The word means rather “strong emotions that boil over and find expression in groaning.” That was the depth of the healing love in Our Lord’s great heart that day.

This weekend finds us in “the vestibule,” so to speak, of Lent. We can easily acknowledge our need for re- pentance at any time, but Lent is a special season for this. Think of it as a retreat. At least as a time to zero in on the “leprosy” of sin that regularly infects our souls. How supportive, consoling, and hopeful it is to know that God sent us His Son as an emissary who could be so concerned for our healing as to groan over us! I believe that prompted Jesus to say on another occasion, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

Bishop Robert Barron offers this complimentary pre-Lenten observation: “It is a biblical commonplace that we are unable to save ourselves from sin since the very powers that we would muster to do so—the mind, the will, and the passions—are precisely what sin has compromised. Our only hope, therefore, is in the divine salvation of- fered as a gift.”

In Lent, we’re all, figuratively speaking, in “the office “of the Divine Physician, the Healer of souls. Tell him your condition, and then listen attentively. And don’t be like this man who consulted with his doctor. “I have a terrible problem,” he confided. “I’ve been carousing and misbehaving. It’s been happening more and more frequently, and my conscience is beginning to trouble me very deeply. Can you give me something that will help?”

The doctor replied, “Oh, I see; you want me to give you something to strengthen your willpower?” “No” the patient protested. “That’s not it. I don’t want to strengthen my willpower. I want you to give me something to weaken my conscience.”

Have a good Lent. God loves you and gives you His peace.

Why the Sacrament of Confession?

A question was asked recently in conversation by several people in the parish: Why do we need to go to Confession?
First, this is a Sacrament that was given to us directly by Jesus as a means to grow in grace and holiness and as a sign of God’s love for us.  In John’s gospel chapter 20 verses 21-23, Jesus said, “… Peace be with you.  And when He had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  We all are called to holiness by Jesus, and this is a powerful tool to do so.
For by the power Jesus has given to a priest, our sins are forgiven here on earth by God, and our slate is wiped clean.  This act of going to Confession is pleasing to God, for he desires us to be holy as He is holy.

Some have said they were told that they only had to go to Confession if they had committed a mortal sin.  That is wrong.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we must also confess venial sins, for these can lead to more serious sins and even mortal sins.   For mortal sin can lead us down the path to Hell and away from Heaven and everlasting life with Christ.  Church law requires us to go at least once a year, but encourages monthly confession for all its members.

Frequent confession is good, for it allows the Holy Spirit to help us remember our sins and to bring things to mind that others may have done to us or we to them. This is a grace that God wants to give us that will help us on the path of holiness.  He wants to soften our hearts so we can forgive others as He forgives us.   The seal of confession is such, that the priest cannot disclose to anyone what he has heard, for what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional.  The priest, after he has given guidance and absolution, sees you in a state of grace, for having confessed all your sins.   For your soul is clean again in the sight of God, and the burdens of sin have been lifted off your shoulders.  The early Church Fathers saw Confession as a second Baptism that wiped sin away from one’s soul.*   Don’t be afraid of confessing your sins,  for the priest who is representing Christ in the confessional only wants to reunite you to Christ and his Church through this sacrament.  We all have a fallen nature due to original sin, and that was why Christ came to redeem us and to reunite us with God, for He wants us to enter into heaven where every tear will be wiped away, and we will experience the love of God in a way that is unfathomable.

And yes, humility is required to do this.  Nothing that we have done is so bad that God will not forgive us.  He is calling us to come to him to be cleansed and renewed.  It is known that Saint John Paul II went to confession weekly, and J.R.R. Tolkien would not receive communion until he had first gone to confession.  Why? Because they had experienced the grace of the sacrament, and they did not want to receive the Body of Christ in a state of sin.  Along with that, they needed it to grow in holiness and in the love of God and of neighbor.

Finally, Christ wants to heal our brokenness and restore us as his loved ones.  He is the good Shepherd.  The kind of heart he has for us is found in Isaiah 42:1-4.  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.  I have put my spirit upon him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street: a bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.”   This passage from Isaiah speaks of the gentleness of Jesus toward those who are hurting and suffering, and through the Sacrament of Confession, He wants to heal us.  He desires our repentance so He can wipe our sins away and restore us to the life of grace with Him.

February 7, 2021 Reflection

Poor little February! Even in its better leap years, it still has fewer days than its calendar mates. Besides that, at least in the Northern hemisphere, it comes at that time of year when the weather offers a tiresome repeat of its neighbor January. Gone is the charm of that first snowfall when others arrive.

There is no significant holiday to prepare for as the previous three months offered. That is unless one gives an extraordinary rating to Valentine’s Day right in February’s middle. Consequently, nobody rushes around the mall for gifts to liven its days.

Speaking of gifts, it’s now the bills for same arrive. No special decorating for most houses.

There is no list of favorite songs for February. And, unless you or a loved one celebrates a birthday or an anniversary this month, there are no large gatherings for a special meal. Add to all this the somewhat unwelcome news that Lent soon arrives, with all its purple weeks of fasting and other penances.

But wait! Isn’t a convinced Christian an automatic optimist, no matter the season? Theologically, yes. Psychologically, I am not so sure. Whatever problem, Life doles out, it just seems that we’re less likely to handle it well in February.

This Sunday’s First Reading from the Book of Job makes explicit what we might be thinking about in February. We get little comfort.

Along comes the timeless “Good News” in today’s Gospel passage. It can lift us from any “downer” we may experi- ence this month. The Holy Word offers not just a palliative but a pain killer. That’s because it highlights how a certain Jesus, the same we met as a mere babe two short months ago, comes to us with the very reason for our optimism. We re-learn that He is the cure for all our ills.

At this point, the demons have a temporary advantage over the good people around Jesus, who are seeking cures from various maladies. But Jesus orders their silence. He prefers a gradual realization among His newfound followers.

As a result, “little February” is not as forlorn as it may have seemed at first. For here, only seven days in, she presents a Gospel passage that gives us the whole reason for our main Christian claim. Bishop Robert Barron explains it this way:

Christianity is, first and foremost, a religion of the concrete and not the abstract. It takes its power not from a general religious consciousness, not from an ethical conviction, not from a comfortable abstraction, but from the person Jesus Christ. It is Christ…that moves the believer to change of Life and gift of self.”

Of course, pessimists are always to be found. Usually, they have a hard time believing in anything, much less Jesus. When someone is convinced that things can’t be done, he will cling to that conviction in the face of the most obvious contradiction.

The story is told of the time when Robert Fulton gave the first public demonstration of his steamboat. One of those “can’t be done” fellows stood in the crowd along the shore, repeating, “He can’t start it.”

Suddenly, there was a belch of steam, and the big boat began to move. Startled, the man stared for a moment and then began to chant, “He can’t stop it!”

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Job temporarily pauses his dialogue with his three friends and turns to lament about human life in general. He mentions three pro- verbially unhappy states in life and shows it is only with dependence on God that man has lasting happiness.

Reading II: I Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
Preaching is Paul’s acknowledged calling as a Christian, so he does not deserve credit for using the gift. His integrity is based on his love for all persons, no matter their situation.

The Gospel: Mark I: 29-39
Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law so completely that she gets up from bed to serve all in the house. Later, Jesus cures all the peo- ple who crowd Peter’s door. We learn that the demons knew who Jesus was, but they were silenced by Him. The disciples will gradually come to know Jesus’ identity.

January 31 Reflection

Live a while in our very human world and you soon learn that many a promise is broken. So much so that we are amazed when they are kept, especially over a long time. How many hearts have been broken by this very human failure we can only guess. So it is very reassuring and definitely cause for rejoicing to learn from the Bible that God is the exception. He keeps every promise He makes. Admittedly there may be ex-tensive time gaps between promise made and promise kept. But then we also know that God’s ways are not ours. The times described in Deuteronomy, our First Reading today, were long gone when events like those recounted in the Gospels took place.

Deuteronomy captures the day when, speaking through Moses, God guarantees that a prophet very much like Himself will be “raised up for you from among your own kin.” He adds: “And to him you will listen.” This is very much a command added to a promise.

Fast forward to this long ago day at the Capernaum synagogue. At the synagogue service, with its usual ritual begun with prayer, followed by Scripture readings and teaching. Just as Jesus started His teaching, He was rudely interrupted by a foul mouthed demon living in an otherwise innocent man who took on an even more ugly attitude. Jesus hears him out. “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Most likely this group of demons knew the answer to their questions, but they wanted confirmation of their conclusion. It must have frightened the little congregation. Jesus doesn’t answer their impertinent questions. Instead He commands them to be “Quiet! Come out of him!” That’s the kind of thing that Moses had described long before coming from the future prophet.

The stupendous power of Jesus, able to cross over to the invisible world of the supernatural, should be a welcome comfort to us. Especially when we can be quite devilish in our inner lives. Christ has kept His promises. All we have to do is keep our own to Him. Allow me to tell, on a much lower level of example, what just might happen to us if we don’t.
Three men died and went to heaven. Upon their arrival, St. Peter asked the first if he had been faithful to his wife. The man admitted to two affairs during his marriage. St. Peter told him that he could receive only a subcompact car to drive in heaven.

Then St. Peter asked the second man if he had been faithful to his wife, and the man admitted to one affair. St. Peter told him that he could have a mid-size car to drive. The third man was asked about his faithfulness, and he told St. Peter he had been true to his wife until the day he died. St. Peter praised him and gave him a luxury car.
A week later the three men were driving around, and they all stopped at a red light. The men in the subcompact and mid-size cars turned to see the man in the luxury car crying. They asked him what could possibly be the matter. After all, he was driving a luxury car. “I just passed my wife,” he told them, “and she was on a skateboard!”\

God love you and give you His peace.

Reading I: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 The author wants to find a place for prophecy in his country. He describes a true prophet as a native Israelite who is called by Yahweh and continues the prophetic role of Moses.

Reading II: 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35 Paul is addressing newly married couples. We note his view of the equality of men and women. He advises couples but does not impose any solutions.
The Gospel: Mark 1: 21-28 Capernaum is the setting for this last section of Chapter One. Jesus’ “amazing” teaching did not rely on appeals to Scripture or other teachers for verification. The healing He works presages the end of the power of demons.

January 24 Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

St. Mark, in giving us this scene for meditation as the Holy Spirit’s spokesman, hits upon the secret of every good salesperson as well. For it seems to me that such people are actually selling a dream. One they passionately believe in.

My own dear Dad spent the bulk of his working years selling life insurance. In this case, the “dream” is guaranteed security and strong protection against the twin nightmares of uncertainty and fear. But all salespeople offer a product that will not only pre- clude disaster but also bring a strong dose of hope and optimism.

Our Lord Jesus could also be called “the World’s Greatest Salesman.” He has all the good qualities of a person who believes in what they’re selling, so to speak, and none of the dark characteristics often attributed to salespeople. His “product” of course is “the Kingdom of God.” He tells us it is nearer than we think.

In the process He was actually selling Himself as the perfect actualization of that kingdom. He made His hearers un- derstand that this kingdom is such that positivity is the law of the land and undying love is its hallmark. In other words, He was “selling” God back to those who had abandoned Him. How good He was at His work shows in the way even His first listeners were so quickly able to leave behind much of their old life and walk with Him.

Some of the actors who have played Jesus in Hollywood films have managed for me to capture His charm to a satisfy- ing degree. It may be that as a confirmed romantic I fell for their portrayals too easily. But I watched through the lens of a committed believer in Jesus, and one who has his own ideas of how to play Jesus. However, the Bible tells me not just to play the role but live it.

But no matter our nature or temperament, we are all “hard wired” to be attracted by truth and the obvious conviction of an authentic truth teller. We “buy into” their wares with ease. Is it any wonder that Simon and Andrew, James and John dropped their fishing nets to follow the Divine Troubadour? And aren’t you glad that you did too? What we have gained from this magnetism of the Master is the joy of having Someone to believe in. That cannot be taken away from us by anyone, especially the one “evil salesman” who was formerly an archangel.

That’s why it’s best for us to remember:
“You are writing a Gospel, a chapter each day, By deeds that you do, by words that you say. People read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say! What is that gospel, according to YOU?”

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
The prophet, as God’s spokesman, brings about a miraculous turnaround by the people of Nineveh. Prior to that, the city was known only for its sinful cruelty and wickedness.

Reading II: I Corinthians 7: 29-31
St. Paul believed in an imminent end of the world, so he recommends detachment from earthly ways. It would be ridiculous to maintain one’s “status quo” in such circumstances.

The Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20
Jesus calls His first disciples. He was so compelling that they were immediate with their responses. Jesus describes their new life’s work as their becoming “fishers of men.”