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Sea of GalileeI vividly remember my trip to the Holy Land more than twenty-five years ago. As we gathered before the trip we all agreed we would not go to the Holy Land as tourists but instead as pilgrims. On the bus we prayed and sang together, read Scripture, and shared faith, and we celebrated Mass each day at the holy sites we visited. The purpose of a pilgrimage is to enter more deeply into the presence of God and in the end to become a better disciple. At the end of that pilgrimage I was able to finally make the decision to become a Dominican sister with a new freedom and trust. It was the best decision I have ever made. It has enabled me to live my journey from God and to God with purpose and enthusiasm.
 
A few months ago I was visiting one of our Dominican communities and stayed in the room of one of the sisters who had recently moved. All her things were gone except for a small piece of paper taped to the mirror imprinted with The Pilgrim’s Credo by Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM. It was a message left for me—a reminder of my call to be a pilgrim. I desire this Lent to adopt The Pilgrim’s Credo:
 

I am not in control.
 
I am not in a hurry.
 
I walk in faith and hope.
 
I greet everyone with peace.
 
I bring back only what God gives me.


This is my hope for this Lent—that I may enter into this season as a pilgrim on a journey to God. I was not put on earth to be a simple bystander, or a tourist, but to live consciously every moment in the presence of God. My hope is that praying this credo every day during Lent will help me to live with a lighter grasp on life, a deeper trust in God, and a more loving spirit. I am grateful for being God’s pilgrim on this amazing journey called life. Happy Lent!
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak, because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come.’ So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee” (Mark 1:32-39).

In the incidents described in this coming Sunday’s reading, Jesus performed two important types of healing miracles. Not only did he cure “many who were sick with various diseases,” including Simon Peter’s mother-in-law but he also “drove out many demons” (Mark 1:34). In Jesus’ time, mental illness was attributed to demonic possession. All illness was believed to be a punishment from God for sin. Those with any illness were dismissed from the community and sent to live outside of the town on the margins of society.

As a rabbi, Jesus was expected to maintain those boundaries and not approach those who were ill for fear of making himself ritually unclean. Despite this, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. She immediately got up and served him. Jesus had restored not only her health but her place in her family. When Jesus heals someone’s bodily ills, he also restores that person’s overall position in society.

The next day, Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to visit neighboring towns because, “For this purpose have I come (Mark 1:38).” Jesus’ miracles were not separate from his preaching; they were two expressions of the same message of a loving God that Jesus was sent to reveal. Jesus’ teachings on love are affirmed by his healings when he restores peoples’ wholeness.

Our invitation this week to is to be open to where we need healing and to where we need to emulate Jesus the healer. What aspects of your life need healing? How can you make amends with someone whom you have ostracized?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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“The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’ Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’ The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.’ His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:22-28).

The beginning of any story sets the stage. This reading is in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has just called his disciples and they have abandoned their lives and families to follow him. Jesus is so compelling that he prompted these drastic changes in the lives of his followers.

While Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, an unclean spirit recognizes him and says “I know who you are- the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) Jesus responds by expelling the demon from this man. Jesus is a teacher who is not powerful enough only to call people away from their occupations and families but also powerful enough to quell demonic powers.

In this first public act of Jesus’ ministry, the stage for this Gospel is set. Mark presents Jesus as a powerful teacher, one whose witness inspires life changes, one who defeats demons, and one who teaches through his words and his actions.

Words and actions combine to make a powerful statement. Jesus is giving us an example and a challenge. We, too, must try to match our lives (our actions) with what we say we believe.

How do you show that you believe the words you profess? When do your actions not match your beliefs?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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StorytellingEmbracing the reign of God, facing the challenge of conversion, and embarking on our spiritual journeys are frequently made possible through the storytelling that takes place in small communities.
 
When men and women share faith stories, and their parish respects and values these stories, both the individuals and the parish community grow deeper in their faith life. In the large parish, there is often nowhere to tell the stories of our faith journeys; yet, it is clear that telling our stories, and listening to others’ stories, are valuable aids to interpreting the meaning of our lives.
 
As we look at the concept of story in relationship to small Christian communities, we note certain elements:

  • The Gospels are narratives, the stories of Jesus as remembered by members of the early Christian communities. Every time small communities read the Gospel they are reviewing the story of Jesus and reflecting on how it intersects with their lives.
  • When we share our faith stories, we are telling—and perhaps hearing for the first time—how God is acting in our lives. It is often in the telling itself that we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. This helps others believe in the God who is really at work in us.
  • As we hear others talk about their lives we realize how God is present and acting in their lives.
    Not only do we hear the narrative of Jesus’ life but we also start to apply the Word to our lives today.

  • As we listen to one another we have a sense of the Spirit acting in the community.

 
In all of these aspects we are trusting in Jesus’ words: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20).
 
We trust that Jesus is present and that his story is being retold and applied to our lives. We might call this an immanent experience of God. Yet in the sharing of Scripture and of life experiences, there is also a profound search for God—for the answer to the question, “Who is God?” The search that takes place in small Christian communities can lead to an experience of the transcendent God who dwells in mystery.
 
Telling our faith stories, or faith sharing, is recalling a time, a life event, a situation, a word, a moment of grace when God touched our lives, challenged us, or spoke to us. God speaks to us in various ways: through the silence of our hearts; through the Word of God; through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; through the presence, words or actions of another; or through nature.
 
Why do we share faith? We share faith in order to

  • recognize and take ownership of how God is acting in our lives
  • reveal to others how God is at work in our lives, our world
  • welcome and encourage the faith of others
  • witness to divine mystery
  • build up another
  • lead us to conversion of heart

 
Faith sharing helps us to make connections with others and allows us to see and hear how sacred our lives are and how precious all life is. Our spirits are touched by someone else’s story and this builds up our faith, hope, and love.
 
Adapted from Small Christian Communities: A Vision of Hope for the 21st Century, © 1997, RENEW International.

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“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mark 1:14-17).

After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus enters Galilee proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand and all must live according to God’s will. While proclaiming this Good News, Jesus calls his first four disciples, who are all fishermen. While this may sound normal to us, this was not normal behavior in Jesus’ time. A teacher didn’t seek his disciples, he attracted them. In this case, Jesus reached out first and gathered those who would become his closest followers.

Simon and Andrew immediately dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Without hesitation, they gave up everything they had known to follow the one who had chosen them, the one they put their trust in.

After Simon and Andrew, Jesus called out to James and John. They left behind their father, Zebedee, and followed Jesus. This, too, was not typical behavior; this was against the cultural values of Jewish society in first century Palestine. In those times, one never abandoned a father. Yet, these disciples were compelled to follow Jesus above all else, even if it meant forsaking their home and all they had known and loved.

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

We, as disciples, are called to be with Jesus and to do his will. Knowing that Christ is with us is what gives us strength to do the work that we are both privileged and challenged to do. Some may be called to be missionaries and leave home and family; some may be called to follow Jesus by being home with their families. We are all called to be “fishers of men” and spread the Good News to others.

How is Jesus calling you today? How can you be a “fisher of men” in your daily life?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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