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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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MAXMark Twain wrote: “New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.”
Twain’s appraisal of the New Year makes me smile but rings a bit too true. I believe Twain captures the reality of many people’s experience. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The New Year can be a time of self reflection and an opportunity to become transformed into a “new person in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The New Year is an opportunity to look back over the past year and recount both our many blessings and our many struggles—a time to claim the changes we want and need to make to live a fuller life. It can be a time to look to the new year with a renewed hope and promise of being a better you—all that God has created you to be.
Now, I know what you are thinking—the success rate of New Year resolutions is bleak—80 percent of resolutions fail by February and 92 percent percent fail later in the year. Most of us have attempted resolutions and failed. Real change is hard to sustain solely by will power. But I believe that, through the power of God and the support of others, we can be transformed. I find confidence in God’s promise: “I am making all things new” (Revelation 2:15).
I started “THE MAX 10-week Challenge” on the Monday after Thanksgiving. THE MAX Challenge is a fitness program that includes healthy eating, five days each week of intense cardio and strength training, motivational talks, and, most importantly, a community with the same goal and a desire to help each other reach that goal. I have completed five weeks of the challenge. I started on November 26. I thought, “Why wait to gain another five pounds over the holidays? I figured that it is best to start any change as soon as you have the motivation and opportunity. With God, every day is a new day.
I had been trying to lose that extra 10 pounds (which recently became 20) for the past five years with limited success. A few of the women in my parish shared with me their experience of THE MAX Challenge. They looked great, had lost weight and inches, were eating healthfully, and had more energy.
The results were tangible. Their living witness convinced me to commit to the 10-week Challenge. It has been a transformative experience—transforming my mind, body and spirit. I think it is working for me, because of the daily 7 a.m. exercise with my group, a strong sense of community, support from the trainers, and a solid eating plan. As I have reflected on these past five weeks and my success with the program, I have begun to reflect on why it works and how I can apply it to other changes I would like to make.
So I offer you three ways to effect change in your life as we begin this new year:

  1. Trust in God’s transformative power. God loves us unconditionally and wants us to live full and abundant lives. This means taking seriously the call from Jesus to be temples of the Holy Spirit, caring for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

  3. Break through barriers. Self-reflection is key to being a spiritually healthy person. What small change do you want to make this year? Real and lasting change is slow and gradual and is effected by taking up the challenge every day. One of my favorite things we did at THE MAX Challenge was to write three goals on a wooden board. The instructor then held up the board, and we each broke it with our palm. I felt powerful as my board snapped on the first try!

  5. Do it with others. One of the things that surprised me about THE MAX Challenge was the strong sense of community—people helping people and working together for a common purpose. It reinforces for me the importance of the Christian community and how we are part of something greater than ourselves. We can make changes in our lives through the power of God, the sacramental life, and the support of our sisters and brothers in Christ. We are not “lone rangers.” We are made for communion with God, with nature, and with one another.

Take up the challenge to make real change in your life this year for the sake of being fully human, fully alive, and in communion with God and others. Commit to real change, and do it with others. Believe you can break through barriers of old and tired ways, and be transformed into a new creation in Christ!
Start today, and if you stumble, let another pick you up and start again on the path to being a better you for God and others.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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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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“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ — which translated means Teacher — ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:35-39).
Our role is like the role of John the Baptist — to point out Jesus to others. Once we do, we must let go and allow them to follow Jesus in the way they feel called, not in a way that we choose. Once we have shown them Jesus, it is their task to discern what is it they want to do.
Jesus’ question is at the heart of the discernment process of every vocation. He asks those following him, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). He is asking them, “What are the desires of your heart?” and “What do you feel you are being called to do?”
The response of the disciples is, “Where are you staying?” (John 1:38). They seem to ask, “Jesus, what are you all about?”
Christian vocation in life starts with a relationship with Jesus and his people in the Christian community. It is Jesus who will be able to direct us to what we are truly seeking. He offers the invitation to the disciples and to us: “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39).
We are all called to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to model our lives and values after his. Let us enter deeply into this loving relationship.
How do you take on the role of John the Baptist and point out Christ to others? How do you continue to grow and develop in your relationship with Jesus?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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