Peter’s Kiss

Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist

April 25, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Saint Mark the Evangelist.

Pordenone: M‡rk evangelista
Mark the Evangelist by Il Pordenone (c. 1484-1539)

Who exactly that person was hides in the mists of early Church history. Several possible “Marks” are mentioned at various points in the New Testament. Whether they are the same or different persons and which, if any, is the author of Mark’s Gospel are questions scripture detectives have chased for centuries.


What the readings offer us today is a young man whom Peter loved and who absorbed the Good News under Peter’s own tutelage.

In today’s passage from Acts, Peter writes to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor at the time of the persecutions. His teaching is clearly that of the universal leader of the Church helping the scattered flock to hold on to the faith.

Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.

It isn’t hard to read these ancient words and imagine Pope Francis speaking them to all of us across the empty reaches of St. Peter’s Square. The suffering of the pandemic tests our faith and resolve. It too is a crucible which can either deepen or fracture our relationship with God.

Peter’s assurance can strengthen us:
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever.  Amen.

Mark, who sat at the feet of Peter’s strong and loving leadership, himself went on to become a devoted leader of Christ’s flock. How Mark must have cherished Peter’s brave and tender words to the young suffering Church and harkened back to them so often over the course of his life:

The chosen one (early Christian code for “the whole Church”)
sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.

Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

1Peter5_14 kiss

That gracious “kiss” from Peter carried the the love and power of every Christian, just as we carry it today in our constant prayer for and encouragement of one another.

Music: He Will Make You Strong – hymn based on 1 Peter

Facing the Demons

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2020

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(Sorry for the late post.  I had a brief episode of social life this afternoon. 🙂 )

Today, in Mercy, our readings talk about the polar opposites of unity and division.

Our first reading gives us David, embraced by his kinsmen, and anointed King. Strong in his unified reign, David leads his people to victory over all their enemies. His is the idyllic kingdom – the “Camelot” of the Old Testament.

Then Mark gives us Jesus, of whom David was but a pale foreshadowing. Today’s passage follows the incident in which Jesus’s kinsmen, rather than embrace him, try to “seize”him because they think he’s “out of his mind”.

Clearly, the Kingdom of Mercy for sinners and outcasts is not as acceptable as David’s kingdom of prosperity and military might. Jesus had a hard sell on his hands as his listeners have their old definitions and expectations shattered. His family can’t accept his challenge – they think he’s crazy. And now his neighbors say he is possessed by the devil!

Pretty dispiriting for Jesus, right? 

No way! Here, very early in Mark, Jesus – despite challenge – emerges as “the stronger one”:

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.

Jesus’s strength lies in his Oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Divine Community that embraces and inspires his mission. Human rejection, even in the ultimate form of Calvary, will not change or diminish his Truth.

Mk3_29 demons


When Jesus talks about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, it is that kind of rejection he is describing – that place where a human heart is hardened against an abandonment to grace.

Here the sin is unforgivable because those who charge Jesus
with demonic possession see goodness as evil, and therefore
are closed to the action of God’s Spirit. This makes sense for
Mark’s readers only in terms of the preceding narrative
where Jesus, endowed with the Spirit, preaches the good news of God.  The unforgivable sin in biblical thought is similar to “hardness of heart”.

The Gospel of Mark ~ John R. Donahue, SJ, Daniel J. Harrington, SJ


Today’s Gospel reminds us to continually purify that inner heart where God wants to dwell in us. The demons that would petrify us are often more subtle than the ones in our Gospel story. They masquerade under the guise of a false “gospel” that fails to require our inner conversion to mercy, justice and love.

May we pray with today’s Responsorial Psalm that God’s faithfulness and mercy guide us as we seek to deepen in the Mystery of Christ.

Music: Deeper – Hillsong

Mercy says, “Of course…”

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 16, 2020

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( Our Gospel today nearly repeats a passage in Luke about which I wrote last year. Being a little lazy tonight, and wanting to watch Jeopardy- GOAT, I am offering that earlier reflection to you again. Besides, I liked it.  I hope you do, dear Friends.)

Mk1_41-of-course
This is the Greek word for “Of course!”

Today, in Mercy, Jesus shows us how to live a merciful life – through loving, generous, joyfully responsive service.

A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.

But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!”

There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”

What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty

Follow Me

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 13, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we re-enter Ordinary Time. (I’ll be posting a second reflection today on the topic of “ordinary time”.)

Today we begin a journey with Mark the Evangelist which carries us all the way to Lent. This journey will allow us to walk right beside Jesus as he preaches, cures, and calls people to full life in God.

Somewhere on Peter’s missionary journeys after Christ’s Ascension, he encountered Mark and took him as travel companion and interpreter. Mark then wrote down Peter’s sermons, thus composing the Gospel according to Mark (According to the historian Eusebius: Eccl. Hist. 15–16). So, in a very real sense, when we pray with Mark, we are also praying with Peter and with Peter’s memories of life with Jesus.

Today’s Gospel is a great example of that first-hand experience — the call of the first disciples.

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
esus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they left their nets and followed him.


I like to think of Peter talking to young Mark about this moment in his life.  He states it so simply. One can almost hear Peter say, ”It started so ordinarily.  We were just cleaning our nets, when He came out of nowhere and picked us!”

What Peter doesn’t say, but what might be inferred from the story, is that he and his brother Andrew were READY for the call. It didn’t take them a moment to drop those nets and follow. 

And, oh my, what a journey Peter made from that first moment to where he sat telling Mark the story decades later somewhere in Asia Minor.

Maybe other fishermen along that coastline might have scoffed or been bewildered at an invitation to become “Fishers of Men”. But Jesus knew the right ones to call.  He knew the hearts that would respond to the extraordinary clothed in the ordinary.

Mk1_17 follow

As we follow Mark’s Gospel over these next weeks, let’s look for the call it carries to us in our “ordinary time”.  Let’s be ready when Jesus asks us to tag along with him. We might, like Peter, be surprised at the graces waiting for us when we drop the “nets” entwining us and just follow!

Music: Follow Me – Casting Crowns

In this song, we hear Jesus invite several people to follow him: the disciples, the woman caught in adultery, the Good Thief … even us.