Grace to you!
Previously, I reflected on the incredible revelation of Christ to us, his children. I emphasized that a humble disposition, such as being like little children, is key to discovering God's life revealed to us in Christ. Today, I look at how the revelation, plus embrace of Christ in our hearts, lifts the yoke of sin and the Law's burden.
One of the biggest worries of many hearts is the burden of sin. The guilt of sin and the pain of missed opportunities can be tormenting. By sin, I do not just mean the evil things we have done. I also include the good things we have failed to do. Many regrets result from the latter.
I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes, I have failed in certain aspects of my holy commitments. I have missed quite a few opportunities. There is some sort of "rebellion" in every heart. We love our ways, which many times do not glorify God. Yet, this weighs heavy in our hearts. Sin is a significant burden on the soul. It needs lifting. The Lord does the lifting: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
You see, though the above message could be applied to other sorts of worries and burdens we carry, the Lord was speaking specifically to the burden of sin. He was also referring to how relying on the Mosaic Law was like laboring under a frustrating yoke. It also relates to the weight of believing in self-help or our power to find peace with God.
If one relied on their power alone, we see how many of the walls and securities we build around us crumble. We are left to our painful vulnerabilities. Pride, they say, comes before a fall because the proud elbow out grace and assume the status of utter self-help or legal procedures that do not do much good to the soul.
The Blessed Lord knows the pains and weariness of every soul. He sees us burdened with the yoke of regulations that neither change the heart nor lift the soul's burden. Hence, he tells us, as he told his audience then: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt 11:29-30).
The new yoke the Lord proposes is the new Law of grace, in which he gives us not simply the way and the rules for life eternal, but also the power through his grace to live them. We die and are born anew to live the life of Christ.
The burden, weariness of sin begins to give way to the powerful grace of Christ, who makes all things new. But, at least one disposition is required to welcome this invitation. It is learning from Christ himself, the meek and humble.
We approach God in faith with humble hearts. I see this grace at its best when a burdened heart comes to Confession. The person goes home, receiving healing grace. The yoke of sin is broken, and the lighter yoke of the Law of Grace invigorates the person. We know the Lord does not cast us out because of our unworthiness. Instead, he cleanses us and shows mercy.
Let us confidently approach God and ask for grace and mercy for our daily life.
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for lifting my burdens of sin and granting me the grace of new life in you. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 15: Is 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; Mt 11:28-30]
Grace to you!
I read the beautiful stories in Mark 5: 21-43, and I'm thrilled by the healing grace, mercy, and compassion of the Lord. I'm also captivated by the faith of the two characters (Jarius and the woman suffering from hemorrhage) who were immediate beneficiaries of God’s healing grace. God’s Word in Scripture is refreshing.
The woman had suffered from profuse bleeding for over 12 years. She spent all her money seeking medical help without any success. She heard about the Lord Jesus. She may have heard he is the messiah or that he has performed signs and wonders from God. What she heard opened her to the gift of faith in the Lord. Her confidence grew as she came closer and closer to where Jesus was. "Faith comes by hearing" (Rm 10:17).
She saw the Lord as the crowd followed him. She wasn't part of the original crowd. Nor was she invited as the disciples were. Yet she knew that with God, everyone is invited. Whether she showed up in front or behind was irrelevant. Showing up from the back would do for what she wanted. Shame or insecurity because of her condition wouldn't stop her from meeting the Healing Lord. The teaming crowd following the Lord wouldn't be in her way or stop her either. She was focused and knew exactly what she wanted. She also knew the key to unlocking the favor she was seeking.
What she wanted was a touch. It was a touch on that cloth worn by the Savior. Precisely, to touch the tassel or fringes (tzitzit) attached to the Jewish prayer shawl (tallit), which Jesus, as a religious Jew, wore. A typical religious Jewish man at the time of the story wore the tassel, as many Jews do today. It’s a reminder of God's commandments and the call to holiness.
The woman saw the connection between a "relic" and a person. In this case, it was the connection between Jesus, the Lord, and what he wore. Whatever the Lord wears is already a source of blessings. This woman's faith is incredible. It's inspiring. Love it. I call it faith in the little things that matter because they come from the Lord.
The woman had a target, a goal. She was a believer, not a fan. Many in the crowd were mere fans, following the crowd of the celebrity. Not for this woman. Her faith paid off because the Lord doesn't refuse genuine faith. She was healed. Power went out of Jesus as she touched him.
The second case in this Biblical story of Mark 5: 21-43, concerns Jarius, a synagogue official. He approaches Jesus, interceding for the healing of his daughter, who was sick. Scripture says Jarius' daughter was twelve years old (Mk 5:42). What a coincidence that the woman is suffering from hemorrhage had been bleeding for twelve years, and Jarius’ sick daughter was also twelve years.
Biblical stories are full of symbols—twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, etc. The number twelve appears at least 187 times in the Bible. It speaks of authority and perfection. In some ways, it could relate to those men and women across the world, who the Lord, the Son of David, offers grace of redemption. We all are spiritually networked to the excellencies of the symbolic number twelve in the apostolic rootedness.
News came that Jarius' daughter was already dead. The messenger suggested he wouldn't need to bother Jesus any longer since the daughter was already dead. The Lord jumped in to reassure Jarius of his providence and confirm his faith. The Lord knows the critical time we need him the most, and he saves the day. "Do not be afraid," the Lord said to him, "just have faith."
The Lord accompanied Jarius to his home and raised his daughter from the dead, asking them to give her food to eat.
There are many lessons from these two stories. One is that faith is the key to unlocking the blessings of God. Have faith. Keep faith and see that your salvation is near.
Also, Jarius and the woman who was suffering from bleeding wouldn’t be stopped by the negative news or obstacle. The crowd could have prevented the woman from touching Jesus. She didn’t allow it to happen. Messengers of the bad news about the death of Jarius’ daughter had already suggested he quit, but the Lord reassured him.
Sometimes, the greatest discouragement you get regarding your faith comes from the voice of the crowd or those who do not see the way the Lord sees. Naysayers are all around us. Please do not listen to them. To the unwise, the audacity of faith is senseless. For the person of faith, there are limitless opportunities.
So, what do you do? How do you keep your faith alive and secure? How do you not miss an opportunity of grace or miracle?
Keep an eye on Christ, the Lord. "Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Focus on God. Such a spiritual attitude keeps you on target to your blessings.
I pray the Lord confirms your faith as he did for Jarius and the woman suffering from hemorrhage. Amen.
God Love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 4 Ordinary Time B:2 Sm 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30; 19:3; Mk 5:21-43]
Grace to you!
I visited one of the prisons on the West Coast of the USA. There, I met a psychologist who was a frequent consultant for the psychological evaluation of the inmates. We met in the reception room. Seeing that I was a priest, he started a conversation with me. Curious, I asked him the nature of his work in the prisons. He explained that he evaluates the inmates to ascertain their psychological wellbeing and offer some clinical help.
"Honestly," he said, "many of the cases in the prisons are demonic, not psychological."
I was surprised to hear the clinical psychologist say these words.
Playing the devil’s advocate, I wanted to know if it was unprofessional for a psychologist to believe in demons. His reply was more revealing. He said that as a professional clinical psychologist, renowned in the State, he has seen many cases and knows that many of them are demonic. He claimed that though he isn’t allowed by his profession to report about demons, it doesn’t take away the reality that they exist.
This clinical psychologist's opinion hits at the core of some of our society's problems today. In my fourteen years as a priest, I have dealt with more cases of demonic oppression, obsession or possession than I would love to see. These are not fairy tales. The devil exists and does harm to people who welcome its deceits.
However, I have a message of hope for you. I draw it from the encounter between Jesus and a man possessed by legions of demons called in the Bible, the Gerasene Demoniac. His case was a full possession by an evil spirit, which tormented him, forcing him to live in the tomb. The Gospel of Mark chapter 5:1-20 records the whole story. I would suggest you review it at your leisure. It can help to enrich your faith and confidence in God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who saves.
The Lord drove out the demons only by a command, for Jesus has both power and authority to do so. Immediately, the demons left the man, and he became sane.
Every day, the Lord Jesus, through his Church and his ministers, saves someone. Do not allow the detracting spirit to isolate you to the margin, where you are alone and lonely. The demons kept the man on the fringe, making him to prefer staying at the graveyard. He suffered, isolated and lonely. It is one of the devil's tactics, to box you in or keep you on the fringe without help. Reach out to the community of faith. Worship in freedom with believers. Grace and healing are waiting for you.
But if you suppose you, or your loved one, are possessed by evil spirits and need more help, reach out to your pastor. In the Church, we have exorcists, who can by the power of Jesus, drive those demons out. Consult with your local parish or the church closest to where you live for help. You may call your diocesan chancery too. They have resources they can recommend for your healing.
I pray for freedom for those tormented by evil spirits. Amen.
God love you. God bless you
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 4 of Ordinary Time: 2 Sam 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13: Mk 5:1-20]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.