God’s Mysterious Mercy

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private” (Mark 4:33-34).

When I read these words from today’s Gospel, I found myself wishing I were one of the disciples, sitting at the feet of Jesus as he explained his parables.  I often wish God would explain his mysterious ways to me!  

For example, do you ever wonder why God chose (and chooses) such flawed instruments through whom to work? In today’s First Reading we learn that the great King David was an adulterer—and worse, a murderer.  He spies on a beautiful married woman and has relations with her. When her pregnancy threatens to expose his actions he ends up sending her husband to his death to cover up what he has done. I was struck by David’s attempts to conceal his guilt, trying two times to get Uriah to go home and have relations with Bathsheba so there would be a plausible explanation for her pregnancy.  

Have you ever desperately tried to hide or fix something you did wrong? This story reminded me of a time when I was a little girl. I overheard a friend’s mother telling mine that their dog had been hit by a car, but that they were going to tell the children the dog was just lost.  The next time I saw my friend, I told her what I had overheard. When she said she was going to go ask her mother I was immediately overcome with fear and remorse and started swearing I made the whole story up.  As she left the room I hid under a table. I was terrified of what would happen if she told our mothers what I had said.

Do you remember Adam and Eve cowering behind their fig leaf coverings and hiding from God when he came to walk in the Garden with them in the cool of the day? Of course, there is no hiding from God, and even if David had succeeded in his plot, God still would have known that he was the father of Bathsheba’s baby, just as he knew that David was responsible for Uriah’s death.

Thankfully, we, like David, are more than the sum of our wrongdoings.  Today’s reading from Psalm 51 is so comforting with its assurance that God in his mercy really can wipe away our guilt. David repented and today we remember him as not only a great king and warrior but as someone who followed God’s laws.  In the story from my childhood, my friend’s mother provided a beautiful example of mirroring the mercy of God. She came and found me where I lay sobbing and held me in her lap and told me it was okay, that she should have told the truth in the first place. 

So today, if you long for God’s mercy, imagine yourself like a child in a parent’s lap, begging for forgiveness and knowing that Scripture promises that it is available to you.

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Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.

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St. Thomas Aquinas: Saint of the Day for Friday, January 28, 2022

Thomas is believed to have been born in the castle of Roccasecca in the old county of the Kingdom of Sicily, which is now known as the Lazio region of Italy, in 1225. His parents were well-off, but as the youngest son Thomas was expected to enter the monastery.

At 5-years-old, Thomas began his education at Monte Cassino, where he remained until the military conflict between Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX reached the abbey. He was then transferred and enrolled at the studium generale …

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I 2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29

After Nathan had spoken to King David, 
the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, 
“Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house, 
that you have brought me to this point?
Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD; 
you have also spoken of the house of your servant 
for a long time to come: 
this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD!

“You have established for yourself your people Israel as yours forever, 
and you, LORD, have become their God.
And now, LORD God, confirm for all time the prophecy you have made 
concerning your servant and his house, 
and do as you have promised.
Your name will be forever great, when men say, 
‘The LORD of hosts is God of Israel,’
and the house of your servant David stands firm before you.
It is you, LORD of hosts, God of Israel, 
who said in a revelation to your servant, 
‘I will build a house for you.’
Therefore your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you.
And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth; 
you have made this generous promise to your servant.
Do, then, bless the house of your servant 
that it may be before you forever; 
for you, Lord GOD, have promised, 
and by your blessing the house of your servant 
shall be blessed forever.”

Responsorial Psalm 132:1-2, 3-5, 11, 12, 13-14

R.        (Lk 1:32b)  The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.
LORD, remember David
            and all his anxious care;
How he swore an oath to the LORD,
            vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob.
R.        The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.
“I will not enter the house where I live,
            nor lie on the couch where I sleep;
I will give my eyes no sleep,
            my eyelids no rest,
Till I find a home for the LORD,
            a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
R.        The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.
The LORD swore an oath to David
            a firm promise from which he will not withdraw:
“Your own offspring 
            I will set upon your throne.”
R.        The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.
“If your sons keep my covenant,
            and the decrees which I shall teach them,
Their sons, too, forever
            shall sit upon your throne.”
R.        The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.
For the LORD has chosen Zion,
            he prefers her for his dwelling:
“Zion is my resting place forever;
            in her I will dwell, for I prefer her.”
R.        The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.

Alleluia Ps 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; 
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, 
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given; 
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

What’s Your Secret?

Today is the memorial of Saint Angela Merici  (and my wife’s birthday.) Perhaps you have heard of Saint Angela or know very little about her. One of our daughters that writes a blog here attended and graduated from Brescia University a few years ago that was run by the Ursuline Sisters. That order was founded by Saint Angela Merici, which is the oldest women’s order on the planet.

Saint Angela seems to be a secret in the church, at least in the USA. She grew up in Italy during a very difficult time. It was also the time of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan. Angela was a friend of the very rich and the very poor.

I used the word secret because Jesus used that word in today’s Gospel. Jesus was rapid fire in his talk today! First, he asks if you put a lamp under a bushel basket or a bed? Then, “nothing is secret except to come to light”. And, “anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” Then, “take care what you hear”. In a way, Jesus is telling us what to do and what not to do.

When I read the word secret, I flashed back to two things. First, many years ago someone told me that I should make a general confession. I wasn’t even sure what that was. I prayed about it and followed through on the Feast of Saint Ambrose. Gulp! It was a very difficult thing to do! It is revisiting one’s past sins and telling them to a priest in confession. Now I know if those sins were confessed before then they are in the past and do not need to be resurrected again. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but so be it.

The second thing is when we belonged to Saint Jude Church, we would have a Men’s Retreat every January. If you have never been on a weekend retreat, then you are in for a surprise! Jesus walks into the retreat whether you are ready or not. (A Cursillo is a good example. Try it, you will like it.) During those retreats, we always had confessions. Our attendees were from very young adults to the elderly. Saturday evening seemed to be the time when the Holy Spirit really did some work. We had one gentleman that hadn’t been to Reconciliation in over 30 years. The joy was overwhelming. His secrets were totally forgiven. He was a new man.

So I ask you, do you have secrets that should have been confessed by now? This is a great time to bite the bullet and to just do it. Saint Angela was a dear friend to many. She had heard their secrets as she counseled them. I’m sure she led them to the nearest priest to be absolved of the darkness that they had carried for so long. I am sure you all have heard of Divine Mercy. It is free,  and it is waiting for you in the confessional.

Serving With Joy!

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Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki have been married for over 50 years. They are the parents of eight children and thirty grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

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St. Angela Merici: Saint of the Day for Thursday, January 27, 2022

St. Angela Merici was an Italian religious educator and founder of the Ursulines whose deep prayer life and relationship with the Lord bore the fruit of mystical encounters with God. She was born on March 21, 1474 in Desenzano, a small town on the shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy.

At just 10-years-old, Angela and her older sister became orphans and went to live with their uncle in Salo. There they led a quiet and devout Catholic Christian life. After the untimely death of her sister, Angela was …

Prayer for a Good Husband or Wife: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, January 27, 2022

O Jesus, lover of the young, the dearest Friend I have, in all confidence I open my heart to You to beg Your light and assistance in the important task of planning my future. Give me the light of Your grace, that I may decide wisely concerning the person who is to be my partner through life. Dearest Jesus, send me such a one whom in Your divine wisdom You judge best suited to be united with me in marriage. May her/his character reflect some of the traits of Your own Sacred Heart. May s/he be …

The Soil of Our Souls

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even count the number of times you’ve heard or read today’s Gospel, Mark’s version of the sower and the seed. That familiarity with the parable puts us in a polar opposite situation with the Twelve Apostles. “We get it, we get it. Good soil — fruit; bad soil — withered,” our minds might be saying, not understanding how or why Jesus’ closest followers had to ask him what the story meant.

Yet, Jesus’ response to us, I think, would be exactly the same as it was to his disciples. To paraphrase: “Don’t you get it? If you don’t get it here, how will you get any of my teaching?” Because responding out of familiarity, “We get it” seems to be just what he’s warning against. We think we know, so we let the teaching get snatched away, or let it wither, or let it get choked by other worldly concerns, including our own arrogance that “We get it.”

Looking at it like that made me realize, while the four types of soil can be seen as four types of people, four types of hearts our Lord is looking to penetrate, they also can be seen as four varying stages in our own hearts and our own faith journeys. Anyone who has ever been to a retreat, Cursillo, spiritual conference or other faith-filled event can’t help but leave it thanking God for how much they have been moved and changed and enlivened. God forbid on the drive home we see a broken-down car on the side of the road or a homeless person panhandling on the corner and we give them no thought at all. Or someone cuts us off and we’re quick to scream loudly. Fertile ground and a rocky path, right there in the same heart.

The key, Jesus tells us, is hearing the word and accepting it. In the context of the parable, the seed is sown in the soil of our souls. Accepting it, then, is the tending of that seed and that soil, becoming our own gardeners to make sure that seed bears fruit that is thirty or sixty or a hundredfold. We have to have an active role in the process, the accepting, the nurturing, the cultivating, developing and sharing of that which has been given to us.

Paul reminds us in his salutations to Timothy and Titus how the seed sown by Jesus is planted in us today, 2,000 years later. “Timothy, my dear child,” he says, and “Titus, my true child in our common faith.” Faith is handed down to us in close, personal relationship. Our parents, priests, teachers, catechists, spiritual directors; the writings of saints baring their souls; the epistles and Gospels and prophets and psalms. With the Holy Spirit’s help, these personal connections transmit the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ down through time and space to our very souls. Now it is up to us to tend the soil of our souls, to accept the seed planted there and make it bear much fruit. And what do you do when you have fruit, abundant and overflowing? You give it to others.

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

Feature Image Credit: Joshua Lanzarini, https://unsplash.com/photos/Vct0oBHNmv4