Your Daily Tripod
"Your Daily Tripod" reflects the personal Fourth Day journeys of its authors and editors. We are happy to have companions like you share in this project. Our prayer is that these reflections will invite and inspire your Fourth Day journey of Piety, Study and Action as much as writing or editing them inspires our journey and brings us all close moments with Jesus and our neighbors.
“Part of the Family of God” by Colleen O’Sullivan
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God, whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day. I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. (2 Timothy 1:1-5)
“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
Lord, I do so want you to be part of your family. Open my eyes to see whether anything is holding me back and if so, help me to let go of whatever it is.
Can you imagine what your parents would have said if you had told them you were leaving your biological family and joining the family of God? Most of us would probably still be recovering from the fireworks! But that’s what our readings today are about – leaving the old behind and embracing the new in Christ.
I read about a would-be groom who lived in a remote section of Australia, about 300 miles from the nearest town. This must have been pre-Zoom because he said he had to do his premarital counseling by mail. At one point, the counselor asked him and his fiancée to explain how they would deal with their families’ influences. His reply was short and, in effect, stated that his family lived more than 1,000 miles away and would never be a problem. I laughed. Our families and many other influences in our world reside in our heads and hearts and show up right when Jesus calls us sometimes. What about the day when his family’s values conflict with his wife’s? What about when all their marital compromises stand in the way of the call of the Lord?
Jesus warned many times in the Gospels that the day for choosing would present itself, maybe more than once. It’s not that we can’t love our families or enjoy the things of this life, but following Jesus comes first. It requires 100% commitment. The weight of all his wealth held back the rich young man. The love of power over others held back the Pharisees and scribes. Jesus even said his relatives, come in today’s Gospel to take their “crazy” family member back to their village, aren’t his family. Jesus’ brothers and sisters are the ones who do God’s will. The only way to be part of Jesus’ family is to put God and God’s Kingdom above every other thing in our lives. In this past Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus called James and John to follow him. I can picture Zebedee’s mouth hanging open as they jumped out of his boat and followed. He must have wondered, “How am I going to manage this fishing business all alone?” But when Jesus called, his boys left it all behind to follow Jesus.
Being adopted into this family of God is what happens in the sacrament of baptism. When the waters flow over or sprinkle us, we die to sin, and our baptism lifts us to new life with a new, forever family. The church gives us a new, baptismal name, and we become the newest members of the family of God.
It’s not always family or possessions that hold us back from being part of Jesus’ family. Sometimes it’s our fears or our feelings about ourselves. The first reading depicted Timothy as a person of great faith, who had learned about Jesus Christ at his grandmother’s knee. But he may have been lacking in self-confidence because Paul reminded him that he had given him the gift of the Spirit so that he could, with confidence, proclaim the Word. His misgivings were holding him back.
When you have some quiet time today, consider what effect Jesus’ words had on you. It must have been shocking to the people who told him his family was waiting for him outside to hear Jesus say they’re not his real family. The people following him and listening to him speak were his true brothers and sisters.
What keeps you from being fully committed to the Lord? Whatever it is, offer it to the Lord in prayer and ask for help in being freed to follow.
Keep in mind that Jesus often uses extreme images to make his point. If you have a sick family member, of course, Jesus understands your caring for that person. But there are a lot of reasons we give for not being committed that have little validity. Fortunately, we will receive help from God if we ask.
1 According to Wikipedia, this painting was initially believed to have been Rembrandt’s work known either as Timothy with his Grandmother Lois or The Prophetess Anna Teaching a Child. In 1910, the provenance of this work was disputed. Since 1924, it has been accepted as a work of one of Rembrandt’s pupils, Willem Drost. The original belongs to the Hermitage Museum, and a copy hangs in the National Museum in Wroclaw, Poland.
“They Abandoned Their Nets” by Rev. Paul Berghout
announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” When the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. Jonah 3:4,10
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.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18
Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
According to the saying, one type of fishing is through activities, “If you want to catch fish, you don’t use bait you like; you use bait the fish like.”
Youth enjoy water sports, so our parish Scout troop has an annual Virginia Beach day, and we stay on a campground with two outdoor pools with water slides and water basketball. We also celebrate Mass celebrated during the trip.
Going more in-depth would be to have a mission hymn or song used daily and at the campfire and a Bible passage as a theme to inculcate a spirit of evangelism as we do on World Youth Days.
Another type of fishing for people is through personal example regarding a moral conversion. In this example, your bait is the truth that God accepts us before we become acceptable. He loved us even when we were far from him, and he died for us.
Some people realize that following just our appetites does not conform our will to what is truly good. Nor does it lead to real happiness. For such a person to turn around is like what happened to the people of Nineveh in our First Reading: “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
The U.S. Catholic Bishop’s website explains that in 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul turns to the opinion of some Corinthians that sexuality is a morally indifferent area. This leads him to explain the mutual relation between the Lord Jesus and our bodies, saying 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be, but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.
“Getting caught” refers not only to conversion of life but also to the commission, so the one converted try to help others who are where [RPAB1] he or she was. From Christ, we discover a new maturity of one’s humanity that makes one want to share one’s journey with others to help them.
Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1867. He made a fortune in the mining industry, but it was also used in war, which made him very sad even though he was prosperous. Then something interesting happened. One morning he awoke to read the daily newspaper, and get this, his obituary, it read:
“Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before. He died a very rich man.”
The newspaper had made a mistake; Alfred’s older brother was the one who died. But, as you could probably imagine, the obituary had a profound effect on him. He realized he didn’t want to be known primarily as the person who developed the most effective killing machine of his generation and amassed a fortune doing it. So, Alfred Nobel founded the Nobel Prize—an award for scientists and writers who foster peace.
The third type of fishing for people is to use God’s Word in the Bible, and the bait takes time to make, which means studying the Bible and catechism. One must first prepare what to say using the Word of God, which “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:11).
There is ancient iconography portraying the apostles Paul and Peter with a sword and a net, respectively. There is also a medieval German woodcut of Peter, the fisher of men, with a wicker fish trap on his head instead of a tiara! [source: Saints and their attributes, Helen Roeder, Chicago, H. Regnery Co., 1956, pg. 23].
Lastly, to be a fisher of people is to do it-- fish or cut bait. Today, our Gospel says they abandoned their nets, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat along with his hired men. They followed Jesus. We have no backstory on their callings. Had they listened to him preach? Amos heard the imperative calling in his heart and also Jeremiah. Whatever the case, they dropped everything and followed him. We get so bogged down with many essential commitments. However, the most pressing thing is to follow Jesus and pray and work for the salvation of souls.
Jesus does not follow the custom of his time where disciples chose their teacher, reassuring us that he calls us, and we follow. He makes of the fishermen something new, what he will and wants. Amen.
“He Is Out of His Mind” by Melanie Rigney
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the Blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences
from dead works to worship the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)
God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord. (Psalm 47:6)
Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)
Brother Jesus, may I embrace You and all Your family.
What has Jesus been up to before today’s Gospel reading? Well, He cured a man with a withered hand—on the Sabbath, no less—along with a bunch of other people. He named twelve of his followers as apostles. It’s easy to understand why He’d go back to His hometown, back to His people, to rest and recharge, albeit accompanied by the crowd.
Rest and recharge, however, were not what the people provided. They said He was out of His mind.
The misunderstood-by-His-family (nuclear or extended) tugs at our hearts. How could they not appreciate Him, roll out the red carpet and kill the fattened calf for this obviously special person?
How? Perhaps we know better than we realize. The cousin who wins the big scholarship to the prestigious college, we call uppity or snobby. The aunt or uncle who spends significant treasure on overseas missions, we call weird. The sibling who cares for the sick, the dying, or the homeless, even amid the pandemic, we call irresponsible.
Jesus’s majesty was right there in front of His relatives, but they stayed inside their heads and judged or feared, depriving themselves of the blessing that was before them. May we not make the same mistake with our relatives, for a bit of Him is in each of them.
If you haven’t already, visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 9 Days for Life live-stream event site, and make plans to attend at least one.
Image credit: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/horses-play-funny-animal-pony-1396651/
With Him, Sent by Him By Beth DeCristofaro
For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says: Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (Hebrews 8:7-8)
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth(Mark 3:13-14)
Today, Brother Jesus, when I hear your voice, may my heart not be hardened. May I speak your Word in my piety, study and action. May I speak your voice through support of those most vulnerable such as unborn children, the poor, and persons disregarded, disrespected or sidelined by society.
How patient and trusting is our God! Although the Old Testament is full of moments when God punishes the Israelites, God repeatedly returns, renewing, forgiving, and drawing close the fickle people. Jesus sends out his friends to spread the Word even though at times he sounds exasperated “do you not understand?” In this reading, I realize how much like the Apostles I am, speaking as a sister of Christ.
The Apostles were called personally by Jesus. I, too, am called in His sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. They learned as they talked with him. I learn about Christian living in so very many ways. My family provided catechism and a Catholic upbringing. Later piety and study became part of my practice. I also sinned and was reunited to the Church community through the sacrament of Reconciliation. I mindfully tried out my voice as a disciple by speaking the Word in my Word or my actions. I dined with Jesus, as did his friends, today through the celebration of Holy Eucharist. And his friends were sent from him just as I am by being born 2,000+ years after his death and Resurrection. They did not always have him to give him a specific answer as I do not.
But he told them he would be with them even as they went forth. And he tells me the same. This beautiful stained-glass window shows Jesus calling us, the Communion of Saints in training, and it shows martyrs whose sending forth cost them their mortal lives but never their kinship with Him. We are not all called to be martyrs except in dying to those demons within ourselves which keep us from following His Word. Yet we are called to be with him no matter where or when we find ourselves. We stay with Him to the end by bringing Him to each of our interactions, duties, recreations, and emotions, choosing our relationship with Him to be part of each God-given moment. Our conscious desire is also His gift. Taking time for Jesus in prayer attunes us evermore to that “channel” within us that hears his voice, senses and rests in his presence.
What task is in front of me today? In what way can I bring Jesus with me anew to this task? Talk to Him as I start my day? Interrupt myself and welcome him to this particular moment? Let him know what most I would like to give to him in the upcoming hours? He will be with me through mundane, challenge, fear, lethargy, grimness, doubt, confusion, pleasure, worry, through all.
Illustration: From Holy Martyrs Church, Oreland, PA, stained glass by Beyer Studio, https://www.beyerstudio.com/portfoliomodern.php?jawn=HMOP
“Stretch Out Your Hand”
Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name first means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3
He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:3-5
The author of the First Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews presents a reflection on the everlasting priesthood of Christ (Heb 7:1–28). This priesthood fulfills the Old Testament promise and provides the meaning God ultimately intended in the Old Testament sacrifices -- the extraordinary gift of Christ on the cross.
In the Good News, Jesus is already disturbing the Pharisees by curing the disabled man on the Sabbath. Jesus directly challenges the man with two commandments.
“Come up here before us.” “Stretch out your hand.”
These become the obstacles the man must overcome to find healing and comfort. However, those commandments also are aimed at the Pharisees and all who hear. Jesus challenges them (us?) to again come up before him – to get out of the comfort zone of their old laws and customs. He asks them also to “stretch” to be restored and renewed.
Stretching is a loaded word in the Bible. We first encounter it in Genesis 22:10 when Abraham “stretched out his hand and took the knife to kill his son, Isaac. He accepted God’s command to give up everything he held dear in his life to be obedient to God.
In Exodus, Yahweh commands Moses to stretch out his hands over Egypt’s waters to bring on the various plagues that ultimately combined to convince Pharaoh to free the Jews and allow them to make their way to the Promised Land. Along the way, faith in the Lord’s commandments also helped Moses divide the waters to escape the army in pursuit of the people.
The people often stretch out their hands to God in prayer and supplication as God reaches back.
I was ready to respond to those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said: Here I am! Here I am! To a nation that did not invoke my name. I have stretched out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own designs. (Isaiah 65:1-2)
Throughout his ministry, Jesus stretches out his hand to offer blessings and healing to those who “come before him.”
Jesus stretches his arms on the cross. He chooses to take the nails for our sins. His outstretch ed arms embrace the thief to his side. And his arms give a final embrace to behold his mother.
After Easter, in one final challenge to Peter and us, he continues to ask us to stretch ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone to go like Job where we don’t want to go.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18
Before any athlete performs, they stretch their muscles to warm up to the challenge ahead.
Although today is a High Holy Day in American Civil Religion, it is just another ordinary day in Church Time. Yet, we cannot ignore the challenge Jesus presents. Are we willing to come before him and surrender our plan to his? Are we willing like the disabled man, like Abraham, like Moses, and like Peter, to stretch out our hands and do what the Lord asks us to do, even if it forces us to surrender our desires?
Can we solemnly swear on this day to say to the Lord what we hear so often in Mass and Sacred Scripture?
“I do. Here I am. I come to do your will. So, help me, God!”
“Hold Fast to Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan
So, when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:13-20)
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27b-28)
Lord, today we ask you to nourish within us your ancient gift of hope. It is easy to be discouraged in the darkness that seems to surround us on every side, the violence we have seen at our Capitol, the growing numbers of people suffering from Covid-19. Send your Spirit to renew our spirits today, we pray.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? It’s now a little past the middle of January, and I’d be willing to bet many of us are finding it a slog to keep those promises we made to ourselves. Good thing we took advantage of that first-month discounted membership rate at the gym because it’s questionable whether we’ll even still be working out in a couple more weeks. By the end of the month, most of us will have tossed the resolutions out the window and gone back to the same old, same old.
Initial bursts of enthusiasm are often challenging to sustain. The Hebrews addressed in today’s first reading would readily have admitted that. They were gung-ho when they first became Christians. The writer takes care to praise their efforts on behalf of another, suffering church, perhaps the church at Jerusalem. Their initial burst of Christian fervor then waned. But, faith, the author points out, is for the long haul. It’s a way of life to be kept up forever.
The letter writer takes them back to the days of Abraham. God swore an oath to this patriarch of our faith. God promised him descendants as numerous as the sands on the beaches and the stars in the sky. How difficult must that have been to believe, though, the day God led him out into the wilderness, his and Sarah’s only son’s hand in his, and asked him to sacrifice that son? Abraham chose to persevere in faith, and God, in turn, kept that divine promise.
Hope is not always easy to find. But it is sound advice to look back at God’s promises and how the Lord has kept them through the ages. It’s a good exercise to look back over our own lives once in a while, maybe on a retreat, because it’s in looking back and realizing how God has always been there leading us, sometimes down surprising paths, that helps us to walk ahead in hope. If God has been faithful throughout our lives, why would that change now? Why would it change in the future? God is not necessarily going to make life easy for us, but life shouts the truth that God will always be with us.
Hope is what keeps us going amid adversity. Years ago, I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who also happened to be Jewish. He was seized and sent first to Theresienstadt and then on to Auschwitz. After the war, he wrote that it was hope that had kept him going in that gruesome death camp. He concentrated on the love he felt for his wife, and the fervent hope that they would be together again. It turned out at the end of the war that she had died in Bergen-Belsen, but that hope of being together had sustained him where the hopeless quickly gave up and gave out.
God promised us a Savior who would live with us and know firsthand what human beings experience. In the Gospel reading, we see that Jesus always has our welfare at heart. It was a Sabbath, and the disciples were hungry. Jesus let them glean from the wheat in the field. Right away, there was another confrontation, the third one, between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees said the Law prohibited harvesting on the Sabbath. Jesus didn’t argue about their use of the word harvesting, which seemed like overkill in the face of snacking to appease hunger pangs. He brought up an incident from King David’s life where he and his hungry men took the loaves of offering, which only priests were supposed to eat. What could the Pharisees say in the face of this story from their Scriptures? Jesus’ statement that the Sabbath was made for human beings that we weren’t created for the Sabbath is a sign of the Lord’s great loving-kindness toward us, another reason for hope in faith.
When you have some time this week, look back over the twists and turns of your life. I hope you will see the working of God in the pattern. Sometimes we see God leading us to good things, and other times we see God saving us from the messes of our creation. Whatever your story, I hope this prayerful rumination leads you to renewed faith and hope in the Lord’s love for you.
Representative Before God
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. Hebrews 5:1-3
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” Mark 2:19-20
“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a 5-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
“The Negro is Your Brother (The Letter from a Birmingham Jail)” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963
Yesterday, Fr. Paul Keller, CMF, a Catholic priest and Claretian Missionary, posted this question on his social media page:
It was hardly a ripple from a pebble tossed into the Atlantic Ocean in the scheme of viral postings. But think about that question juxtaposed with Christ’s query from two thousand years ago and Martin Luther King’s message about racial attitudes 60 years ago.
Our bridegroom is long gone from being among us physically, yet his Holy Spirit remains – reminding us of his probing questions and how we should consider our response in the context of our times.
If our faith does not challenge us to grow and leave our comfort zones, what's the point?
Today on the National Day of Service, marking what would have been the 92nd birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many people will watch, listen or read from his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. However, some people do not that the essential message of his life. Some might contend his Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo could be counted among his most powerful messages. Others might nominate his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail (quoted above). They all have in common a call to equality confronting racism.
In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was behind bars in Alabama due to his continuing crusade for civil rights. While there, he was the subject of criticism by eight white clergymen, who called his protests and demonstrations “unwise and untimely.” In response, King wrote a letter from Birmingham City Jail, noting, “I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ ”[i]
In 1967, a year before his assassination, Dr. King spoke with NBC News reporter Sander Vanocur at the Ebenezer Baptist Church about the “new phase” of the struggle for “genuine equality.” He said, “There must be a revolution of values in our country.”
Catholic church teaching about the solidarity of all people in the image of God is in explicit agreement. If we are all made in the image and likeness of God, there is no doubt that racism is sinful.
As a reminder, the Dominican Sisters of Peace offer this yard sign. (PeaceOP is the order which merged with our friends Sister Agnes and Sister Mary Lou, who used to run the retreat house in McLean, VA).
In addition to any service you do for your community today, why not head over to their website and pick up a few: one for your front yard, one for your parish, and even offer one to your bishop. While there, drop Sister Agnes a note via the contact us button.