Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Weekday Readings

Fourth Week of the Year

January 30 - February 4, 2023

Mark 5.1-20
When St. Antony of the Desert emerged from the tombs after spending some fifteen years in solitude, prayer and fasting, the people expected to see a weird-looking man, filled with religious rage or the wildness associated with raving fanatics.  Instead, they found one eminently sane, gentle and peaceful, radiating the presence of divine love.  They found one transformed into Christ.  Just as the cured demoniac wished to remain with Christ so did many want to stay with Antony in the desert in the life of solitude and prayer.  Monastic life was born.  The people in today's Gospel "came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there clothed and in his right mind, the man who had had the legion…."  Our contemplative prayer practice is to sit with Jesus in silence so we may surrender to him that he may heal us of the demons of our thoughts that drive us crazy.  It is a long process, not as quick as the cure of this demonic.  But the gentle grace of Jesus, working in us, heals little by little.  Sit there with Christ in his Holy Spirit and you will see.  Gentleness and sanity in Christ are the fruit of prayer.

Mark 5.21-43
Jesus is in the midst of the crowd.  Jesus is present to all the faces that make up the crowd.  Billions of them, in the continuing human history, faces of persons conceived in the image of humanity, form a mass beyond description and the powers of our imagination.  Yet, it is always the individual who is present to Christ and Christ to him or her.  Jesus must be face to face with the woman who touched him anonymously in the crowd pressing upon him.  The disciples cannot see the individuals among the crowds.  Jesus continues to look into the crowd to see the face.  Faith brings me always to the face of God in Christ.  There are no masses of people in God's Presence.  How much Jesus sees the love of a father for his dying daughter!  It is still "my little daughter" to the father of a girl now twelve years old.  That was quite grown up in those days.  And Jesus doesn't lose the personal touch: Little girl, get up.  With all the redactions of the Aramaic sources to the Greek language gospel of Mark, these words are passed on without change (and in a different setting, Christ's cry on the cross--these two expressions alone in Aramaic).  We can still hear the original sound of the divine voice falling upon the little girl and raising her to life.  Our prayer is always within this context of Christ's individual presence to us in all that constitutes our littleness and particularities.

Mark 6. 1-6
The people in Nazareth nit-picked at Jesus.  They talked around in circles about Jesus, moving farther and farther from him, and didn't center into the point of who he is.  Jesus began to “teach in the synagogue in a way that kept his large audience amazed" and, "He spent his time teaching."  The Word was present, but they continued in their noise and did not enter into the silent, adoring attentiveness in order to hear the words that came from the Word among them.  They never gave faith a chance.  This distressed Jesus.  Our contemplative prayer in our silence is to receive the teaching that is Jesus.  The silence of true Catholic mysticism is not a void or emptiness or perpetual night.  The silence is only the opening of the door of the heart to receive the light of the Word.


February 2

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Readings: Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Gospel: Luke 2.22-40

This feast is about the Temple as a place mandated by God as the place of encounter with his Presence; it was the place of God’s Presence.  God’s People longed for the Temple as a place of refuge and of rest in the Divine Presence. 

Jesus’ entrance into the Temple is the fulfillment of all that longing.  Jesus is Himself, the Temple, the Divine Presence Incarnate, the fullness of Israel, of the Law and the Prophets.

And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek (First Reading).

Now, in this time of grace, in the Spirit of Christ, we rest in the Triune Presence in the process of prayer.   We are beyond the physical Temple.  We are members of the Body and we form the spiritual Temple in the reality of the Church. 

Today is the feast of light.  The presence of Christ brings light, the fullness of revelation, the fullness of redemption and holiness.  [T]hat he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people (Second Reading).

The presence of Christ brings a light given in the darkness and unknowing of faith.  Like Simeon and Anna we must wait for and rejoice in the Presence and the Light.  These two devoted sojourners in the temple are the exemplars of prayer.  Mary with Joseph brings us into the light of prayer within the Temple that is the Church and sanctified interior of our souls.

Prayer after Communion for this feast:

By these holy gifts which we have received O Lord, bring your grace to perfection within us, and, as you fulfilled Simeon’s expectation that he would not see death until he had been privileged to welcome the Christ, so may we, going forth to meet the Lord, obtain the gift of eternal life.  Through Christ our Lord.

Well could Simeon and Anna apply to themselves  the opening words of John’s First Epistle: that which we saw and that which we handled, the word of life that you may have communion with the Father and his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that our joy may be full.

Each moment of contemplative prayer practice is the surrender, the full consent of our innermost being and consciousness into the Trinitarian Presence as a gift, a grace, freely given through the Holy Spirit.

“I made known to them thy name, and will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

Mark 6.14-29
Herod thought that John the Baptist was so powerful that he was raised from the dead and was doing the marvelous works attributed to Jesus.  And yet John was in such a weak position that the whims of a young, frivolous girl and the schemes of an adulterous woman could bring John to his horrible death by having his head chopped off.  In the middle of the night, with the roar of the boisterous party still blazing away, soldiers come down and quickly do their deed.  The head that bore all the knowledge of God's Kingdom is borne up on a tray for the gratification of petty revenge.  Our prayer is for an inner vision and a transforming love that is eternal and transcendental, but it is not a guarantee for worldly success or for a happy life according to the common wisdom.  No one can take away this vision of the Kingdom.  It is beyond the intact head on the shoulders.  It is deep within the spirit which is born upon angel wings into Abraham's bosom.

Mark 6.30-34

They had no leisure.  They needed a vacation in its truest sense.  The word, “vacation,” has the same root as “to vacate” and the word “vacant.”  It is to be empty of what is usually coming and going.  So many of the disciples were coming and going.  Jesus knows where his center is.  The center is a Person, the Father.  He is one with the Father in the Spirit in a perfect union of love.  But even Jesus had to bathe his human nature in the intensity of that divine union so as to experience the center.  Each day as we go to our prayer practice of quiet presence, we are following the suggestive command of Christ and his Spirit.  The crowd still had not gotten the message:  The crowd rushed ahead in the turmoil of their need for him.  But Jesus outwited them.  Jesus and his disciples went by boat, leisurely sailing under the breezes--no storm this time--enjoying the presence of Christ, floating along the tranquil sea under the blue skies.  They had gotten their rest in Christ; now they were ready for the crowd awaiting them.  From their prayer came their compassion for the sheep without the shepherd.

William Fredrickson, OBLSB, D.Min.






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William Fredrickson