To serve and not to rule.
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Leaders must serve
1. OPENING PRAYER
God of peace and forgiveness, You have given us Christ as an example of total service, even to giving us His very life; grant
us to find favor in Your sight that we may share the cup of Your will to its dregs and live in the generous and fruitful service of each other.
a) The context:
This episode comes straight after the third prediction of the Passion (Mk 10:32-34). As on the occasions of the other predictions, the disciples’ reaction
is not positive: two of them are worried about who is going to be first in the Kingdom and the others become indignant. This tells us that the disciples had difficulty accepting the painful destiny of their Master and understanding the mystery of the Kingdom.
The two who come with a request – James and John – are brothers and are part of the group of friends of Jesus (Mk 1:19-20). Their nickname is boanerges (“sons of thunder” Mk 3:17). They were a little
b) The text:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher,
we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are
asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers
over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
3. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER
to re-read the text with our heart and to recognize in the words and structure, the presence of the mystery of the living God.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to see the important points in the text and begin to assimilate them.
a) Why were the disciples so anxious to take the first places?
b) Does Jesus’
reply make sense?
c) What does Jesus mean by the cup to drink and the baptism to be baptized?
d) On what does Jesus base service in the community?
5. SOME DEEPENING OF THE READING
”Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory”
Even though they were careful in the way they phrased their question, it is clear that they were quite ambitious. According to tradition, they may have been cousins of Jesus, and therefore – according to Eastern law
– they had a special right, as members of the family. In any case, it is clear that they have understood nothing about what Jesus was about to do. He was on the way to the ignominy of the cross, and they still had not understood Him. Jesus’ true
power did not consist in distributing places of honor, but in asking them to share His tragic destiny: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?”
cup that I drink you will drink”
The dialogue concerning the cup and the baptism (vv. 38-39) is obviously parallel. But it is not easy to understand how the two disciples can drink the cup and be baptized, unless one thinks of the
martyrdom both of them suffered later. By these two images, Jesus seems to evoke His violent death, which He foretells as an absolute obligation of fidelity to the Father. The reply to their request to sit next to Him is evasive: but we can understand
that it means that their way is not the right way to obtain the request.
“The ten began to be indignant”
they too share the same ambition. However, this verse seems to be an editorial addition to connect two episodes, which originally were not placed together. This changes the subject completely. But the fact that their indignation is recorded is probably based
on some other episode where the disciples do not appear in a good light and is therefore authentic.
“Those who are supposed to rule over the
Gentiles lord it over them… But it shall not be so among you”
Jesus is referring to political leaders of His time, and really this is also the style of political leadership
in all times. On the other hand, the community of disciples must be ruled by service. Two terms express this service in a gradual manner. Jesus first speaks of “servant” (diakonos) and then of “slave” (doulos). One
cannot choose whom one will serve: one must be a slave of all, thus overturning the worldly order.
“For the Son of man also…”
Here we find the basis of the constitutional law of the community: to follow the Master’s style, by giving, like Him, one’s life in the spirit of service; thus becoming truly “lords” through the gift of one’s
life, not by just pretending. It is difficult to interpret “ransom” or redemption, as Fr. X. Léon Dufour says, we can understand this well when we reflect on the words that Jesus speaks at the Last Supper. Then Jesus’ whole life appears
in the light of “ransom”, of fidelity to the very end for the freedom of humankind. He deprives Himself of freedom so that He can give freedom, to ransom those who have no freedom.
Thus the statutes
of the community of disciples is characterized by service, by a lack of ambition, by a life given and destined for the ransom of others.
A prayer for justice and peace
Sing to Him a new song,
play skillfully on the strings,
with loud shouts.
For the word of the Lord is upright;
and all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of His mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
He put the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord,
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands for ever,
the thoughts of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!
The Lord looks down from heaven,
He sees all the sons of men;
He sits enthroned
He looks forth on all the inhabitants of the earth,
He who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all
7. CLOSING PRAYER
Lord our God, keep Your Son’s disciples from the easy ways of popularity, of cheap glory, and lead them to the ways
of the poor and scourged of the earth, so that they may recognize in their faces the face of the Master and Redeemer. Give them eyes to see possible ways of peace and solidarity; ears to hear the requests for meaning and salvation of so many people who seek;
enrich their hearts with generous fidelity and a sensitivity and understanding so that they may walk along the way and be true and sincere witnesses to the glory that shines in the crucified resurrected and victorious One. Who lives and reigns gloriously with
You, Father, forever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, September 23, 2018
The greatest in the Kingdom
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In
the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples
from Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text of the Gospel for the liturgy of this Sunday presents us with the second foretelling
of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As in the first foretelling (Mk 8:31-33), the disciples are scared and overcome by fear. They do not understand anything about the cross, because they are not capable of understanding nor of accepting a Messiah
who becomes the servant of His brethren. They still dream of a glorious messiah (Mt 16:21-22). There is a great discrepancy among the disciples. While Jesus proclaims His Passion and Death, they discuss who will be the greatest among them (Mk 9:34). Jesus
wishes to serve, but they only think of ruling! Ambition makes them want to take a place next to Jesus. What is it that stands out in my life: competitiveness and the desire to rule or the desire to serve and encourage others?
Jesus’ reaction to the demands of the disciples helps us understand a little concerning the fraternal pedagogy used by him to form His disciples. It shows us how He helped them to overcome “the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod”
(Mk 8:15). Such leaven has deep roots. It springs up again and again! But Jesus does not give up! He constantly fights against and criticizes the wrong kind of “leaven”. Today, too, we have a leaven of the ideologies: liberalism, commerce,
consumerism, novels, games, all deeply influencing our way of thinking and acting. Like the disciples of Jesus, we too are not always capable of keeping up a critical attitude towards the invasion of this leaven. Jesus’ attitude of formator
continues to help us.
b) A division of the text to help us in our reading:
Mark 9:30-32: the proclamation of the Passion
Mark 9:33-37: a discussion on who is the greatest
Mark 9:38-40: the use of the name of Jesus
Mark 9:41: the reward for a cup of water
c) The text:
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish
anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they
were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever
receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Which words pleased you most or drew your attention?
b) What attitude did the disciples take in each of the passages: vv 30-32; vv 33-37; vv 38-40? Is it the same attitude in the three passages?
c) What is Jesus’ teaching in each episode?
d) What does the phrase “Anyone who is not against us is for us” mean for us today?
5. A KEY TO THE READING
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
9:30-32: The proclamation of the Cross.
Jesus was going across Galilee, but He did not want the people to know this, because He was concerned with the formation of His disciples. He talks to them about “The Son of Man” who must
be handed over. Jesus draws His teaching from the prophecies. In the formation of His disciples He uses the bible. The disciples listen, but they do not understand. Yet they do not ask for explanations. Perhaps they are afraid to show their ignorance!
Mark 9:33-34: A competitive mentality.
When they return home, Jesus asks: What were you arguing about on the road? They do not reply. It is the silence of those who feel guilty, because
they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. The “leaven” of competitiveness and prestige, which characterized the society of the Roman Empire, had infiltrated among the small community still in its beginnings! Here we see the
contrast! While Jesus is thinking of being the Messiah-Servant, they were thinking about which of them was the greatest. Jesus tries to descend while they try to ascend!
Mark 9:35-37: To serve and not to rule.
Jesus’ reply is a resume of the witness He has given from the very beginning: If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all! And
the last gains nothing. He is a useless servant (cf. Lk 17:10). The use of power is not to ascend or rule, but to descend and serve. This is the point that Jesus stresses most and on which He bases His witness (cf. Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28; Jn 13:1-16).
Jesus takes a little child. Someone who only thinks of ascending and ruling has no time for the little ones, for children. But Jesus turns everything upside down! He says: Anyone who welcomes one of these little
children in My name welcomes Me; and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes not Me but the one who sent Me! He identifies Himself with the children. Anyone who welcomes the little ones in the name of Jesus welcomes God Himself!
Mark 9:38-40: A restricted mentality.
Someone who did not belong to the community was using the name of Jesus to cast out devils. John, the disciple, sees him and stops him: Because
he was not one of us we tried to stop him. John stops a good action in the name of the community. He thought he owned Jesus and wanted to stop others from using Jesus’ name to do good. This was the restricted and old mentality of the “Elect”,
“the separate people!” Jesus replies: You must not stop him! Anyone who is not against us is for us! (Mk 9:40). What is important for Jesus is not whether the person is or is not part of the community, but whether the person
does or does not do the good deeds that the community should be doing.
Mark 9:41: A cup of water deserves a reward.
Here we have an inserted
phrase used by Jesus: If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward. Let us consider two thoughts: 1) If anyone gives you a cup
of water: Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem to give His life. The gesture of a grand gift! But He does not despise small gestures of gifts in daily life: a cup of water, a welcome, a word, so many other gestures. Even the smallest gesture is appreciated.
2) Just because you belong to Christ: Jesus identifies Himself with us who wish to belong to Him. This means that for Him we are of great worth.
b) Further explanations in order to better understand
• Jesus, the “Son of Man”
This is Jesus’ favorite name.
It appears quite frequently in the Gospel of Mark (Mk 2:10-28; 8:31-38; 9:9-12.31; 10:33-45; 13:26; 14:21.41.62). This title comes from the Old Testament. In the book of Ezekiel, he presents the human condition of the prophet (Ez 3:1.10.17; 4:1 etc.). In the
book of Daniel, the same title appears in an apocalyptic vision (Dn 7:1-28), where Daniel describes the empires of the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks. In the prophet’s vision, these four empires appear as “monstrous animals”
(cf. Dn 7:3-8). They are beastly empires, brutal, inhuman, that persecute and kill (Dn 7:21-25). In the prophet’s vision, after two inhuman reigns the Kingdom of God appears in the form not of an animal but that of a human figure, the Son of
Man. It is a kingdom with the appearance of people, a human kingdom, that promotes life and that humanizes (Dn 7:13-14).
In Daniel’s prophecy, the figure of the Son of Man represents,
not an individual, but as he says, the “people of the Saints of the Most High” (Dn 7:27; cf Dn 7:18). It is the people of God that will not allow itself to be cheated or manipulated by the dominant ideology of the beastly empires.
The mission of the Son of Man, that is, of the people of God, consists in realizing the Kingdom of God as a human kingdom. A kingdom that does not destroy life, but rather builds it up! It humanizes people.
When Jesus presents Himself to His disciples as the Son of Man, He assumes as His the mission that is the mission of the whole People of God. It is as though He were saying to them and to us: “Come
with Me! This mission is not only Mine, but of all of us! Together, let us accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to us: to build the human and humanizing Kingdom of His dream! Let us do what He did and lived throughout His life, above all, in the last
three years of His life. Pope Leo the Great used to say: “Jesus was so human, so human, as only God can be!” The more human it is, the more divine it becomes. The more we are “son of man” so much more will we be “son of God”.
Everything that makes people less human draws people away from God, even in religious life, even in Carmelite life! This is what Jesus condemned and He placed the good of the human person above the law and the Sabbath (Mk 2:27).
• Jesus, the Formator
“To follow” was a term that was part of the
system of education at that time. It was used to indicate the relationship between disciple and master. The relationship between disciple and master is different from that of teacher and student. Students follow the lessons of the teacher on some particular
subject. Disciples “follow” the master and live with Him all the time.
It is during this period of “living together” for three years that the disciples will receive their formation. A formation
in the “following of Jesus” was not just the passing on of some decorative truths, but the communication of a new experience of God and of the life that shone from Jesus for the disciples. The very community that grew around Jesus was the expression
of this new experience. This formation led people to see things differently, to different attitudes. It created in them a new awareness concerning the mission and respect for self. It made them take the side of the excluded. It produced a “conversion”,
the consequence of having accepted the Good News (Mk 1:15).
Jesus is the axle, the center, the model, the point of reference of the community. He shows the road to follow, He is “the way, the truth and the
life” (Jn 14:6). His attitude is proof and an exposition of the Kingdom: He makes the love of the Father transparent and incarnates and reveals it (Mk 6:31; Mt 10:30; Lk 15:11-32). Jesus is a “meaningful person” for them, who will leave on
them a permanent mark. Many small gestures mirror this witness of life that Jesus gave by His presence in the life of the disciples. It was His way of giving human form to the experience He had of the Father. In this way of being and sharing, of relating to
people, of leading the people and of listening to those who came to Him, Jesus is seen:
* as the person of peace, who inspires and reconciles: “Peace be with you!” (Jn. 20:19; Mt 10:26-33; Mt
18:22; Jn 20:23; Mt 16:19; Mt 18:18);
* as a free person and one who liberates, who awakens freedom and liberation: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27; 2:18-23);
* as a person of prayer, whom we see praying at all important moments of His life and who inspires others to prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Lk 11:1-4; Lk 4:1-13; 6:12-13; Jn 11:41-42; Mt 11:25; Jn 17:1-26;
Lk 23:46; Mk 15:34);
* as a loving person who arouses reactions full of love (Lk 7:37-38; 8:2-3; Jn 21:15-17; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 13:1);
*as a welcoming person who is
always present in the lives of the disciples and who welcomes them when they come back from the mission (Lk 10:7);
* as a realistic and observing person who arouses the attention of the disciples in matters
of life by teaching them in Parables (Lk 8:4-8);
* as a caring person always paying attention to the disciples (Jn 21:9), who looks after their rest and who wishes to stay with them so that the may rest (Mk
* as someone preoccupied with the situation even to forgetting that His tiredness and His rest when He sees people who are looking for Him (Mt 9:36-38);
* as a friend who shares everything, even the secrets of His Father (Jn 15:15);
* as an understanding person who accepts the disciples just as they are, even when they flee from Him, in spite of their
denial and their betrayal of Him, without ever breaking with them (Mk 14:27-28; Jn 6:67);
* as a committed person who defends His friends when they are criticized by their adversaries (Mk 2:18-19; 7:5-13);
* as a wise person who knows the fragility of human beings, knows what happens in the heart of a person, and thus insists on vigilance and teaches them to pray (Lk 11:1-13; Mt 6:5-15).
In a word, Jesus shows Himself to be a human person, very human, so human as only God can know to be human! Son of Man.
6. PSALM 30 (29)
after some mortal danger
I will extol Thee, O Lord,
for thou hast drawn me up,
and hast not let my foes
rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to Thee for help,
and Thou hast healed me.
O Lord, Thou hast brought
up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O You His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never
By thy favor, O Lord, Thou hadst established me as a strong mountain; Thou didst hide thy face, I was dismayed.
To Thee, O Lord,
I cried; and to the Lord I made supplication:
"What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise Thee?
Will it tell of Thy faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be Thou my helper!"
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
that my soul may praise Thee and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee for ever.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank You for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May Your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which Your Word has revealed to us. May
we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
The healing of the deaf and dumb.
Jesus gives back to the people the gift of speech.
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the
Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that
seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in
people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and
peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
This Sunday’s liturgy shows us Jesus healing a deaf and dumb person in the land of Decapolis and praised by the people
thus: «He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!» This praise is inspired by some passages in Isaiah (Is 29:8-19; 35:5-6; 42:7) and shows that the people saw in Jesus the coming of the messianic times. Jesus himself
had used this same expression in reply to the disciples of John: «Go back and tell John what you hear and see: the blind see again, and … the deaf hear” (Mt 11,4-5).
The early Christians
used the Bible to clarify and interpret the actions and attitudes of Jesus. They did this so as to express their faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the One who was to fulfil the promise, and so as to be able to understand better that which Jesus did and said
during those few years that he spent in their midst in Palestine.
b) A division of the text as an aid to the reading:
geographical description: Jesus is somewhere outside Judea.
the man’s condition: deaf and dumb.
Mark 7:33-34: Jesus’ movements in healing the man.
Mark 7:35: the result of the healing action of Jesus.
Mark 7:36: the recommendation of silence is not obeyed.
Mark 7:37: the praise of the people.
c) The text:
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre,
and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude
privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And
he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What is the attitude of Jesus towards the deaf and dumb
person and towards the people? How do you understand the actions of Jesus: he places his finger in the man’s ears and with his saliva touches the man’s tongue, then, looking up to heaven, he sighs and says: «Ephphatha»?
b) How can we understand Jesus’ concern for taking the man away from the crowd?
c) Why does Jesus forbid the spreading of the news? How do we understand the people’s
disobedience of Jesus’ command?
d) What other New Testament and Old Testament texts are connoted or form the basis of this text?
5. Further information on
Mark 7:31: Jesus in the land of Decapolis
The episode of the healing of the deaf and dumb man is
little known. Mark does not state clearly where Jesus is. It is understood that he is somewhere outside Palestine, in the land of the pagans, across a region called Decapolis. Decapolis literally means Ten Cities. This was,
in fact, a region of ten cities, southeast of Galilee, where people were pagan and influenced by Greek culture.
Mark 7:32: They brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech.
Even though he is not in his native land, Jesus is known as someone who heals the sick. Thus, the people bring him a deaf man who has difficulty with his speech. This is someone who cannot communicate with
others. He reflects many who today live as a mass in large cities in complete solitude, without the possibility of any communication.
Mark 7:33-34: A different kind of healing
of healing is different. The people thought that Jesus would simply place his hands on the sick person. But Jesus goes beyond their request and takes the man away from the crowd, places his finger in the man’s ears and with his spittle touches the man’s
tongue, then looking up to heaven sighs deeply and says: «Ephphatha» which means “Be opened!”
The finger in the ear recalls the magicians’
exclamation in Egypt: “This is the finger of God!”(Ex 8:15) and also the expression of the Psalmist: “You…opened my ear!” (Ps 40:7). The touching of the tongue with spittle gives back the faculty of speech. In those days, people
thought that spittle had medicinal value. Looking up to heaven says that the healing is from God. The sigh is an attitude of supplication.
Mark 7:35: The result of the healing
All at once,
the ears of the deaf man were opened, his tongue was loosed and the man began to speak correctly. Jesus desires that people might open their ears and loosen their tongues! Today too! In many places, because of an authoritarian attitude on the part of religious
powers, people have been silenced and do not speak. It is very important that people regain the power of speech within the Church in order to express their experience of God and thus enrich all, including the clergy.
Mark 7:36: Jesus does not want any publicity
Jesus commands that no one tell of that which took place. However, there is an exaggerated importance attached to Mark’s Gospel’s prohibition
to spread the news of the healing, as if Jesus had a secret that had to be kept. In fact, sometimes Jesus tells people not to spread news of a healing (Mk 1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He asks for silence, but gets the opposite effect. The more he forbids, the
more the Good News is spread (Mk 1:28.45; 3:7-8; 7:36-37). On the other hand, many times, in most cases, Jesus did not ask for silence concerning a miracle. Once he even asked for publicity (Mk 5:19).
Mark 7:37: The praise of the people
All were in admiration and said: «He has done all things well!» (Mk 7:37). This statement recalls the creation: “God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good!” (Gen 1:31).
In spite of the prohibition, those who had witnessed the healing began to proclaim that which they had seen, expressing the Good News in the brief form: “He has done all things well!” It is useless to prohibit them talking. The inner power of the
Good News is such that it spreads itself! Whoever has experienced Jesus, has to tell others, whether s/he likes it or not!
ii) Information on the internal
divisions of Mark’s Gospel
1st Key: Mark’s Gospel was written to be read and listened to in community.
When one reads a book alone, one can always stop and go back so as to connect one thing with another. But when one is in community and someone else out in front is reading the Gospel, one cannot shout: “Stop! Read that
again! I did not understand it well!” For a book to be listened to in community celebrations, it must be divided differently from other books meant for personal reading.
2nd Key: Mark’s Gospel is a narrative.
A narrative is like a river. Going down a river in a boat, one is not aware of divisions in the water. The river has no divisions.
It is a single flow, from beginning to end. The divisions are made on the banks not in the river. For instance, one may say: “The beautiful part of the river that goes from that house on the bend up to the palm tree three bends down river”. But
one does not see any division in the water itself. Mark’s narration flows like a river. Listeners come across divisions along its banks, that is, in the places where Jesus goes, in the people he meets, in the streets he walks down. These marginal indications
help listeners not to get lost in the midst of so many words and actions of Jesus and concerning Jesus. The geographical setting helps the reader to walk along with Jesus, step by step, from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the lake to Calvary.
3rd Key: Mark’s Gospel was written in order to be read all in one go.
That is how the Jews read the small books of the Old Testament. For
instance, on the eve of Easter, they read the complete Canticle of Canticles. Some scholars are of the opinion that Mark’s Gospel was written to be read in its entirety on the eve of Easter. Now, so that the listeners might not get tired, the reading
had to have divisions, pauses. For, when a narrative is long, such as is Mark’s Gospel, the reading needs to be interrupted from time to time. There must be some pauses. Otherwise, the listeners get lost. The author of the narrative provided for these
pauses. These were marked by summaries between one long reading and the next. These summaries were like hinges that gathered what was read before and opened the way to what was to come. They allow the narrator to stop and start again without interrupting the
flow of the narrative. They help the listeners to take their bearing within the river of the flowing narrative. Mark’s Gospel has several of these pauses that allow us to discover and follow the course of the Good News of God that Jesus revealed and
that Mark narrates. In all there are six longer blocks of readings, interspersed with summaries or hinges, where it is possible to take a small pause.
Base on these
three keys, we now present a division of Mark’s Gospel. Others divide this Gospel in different ways. Each way has its distinctive character and its value. The value of any division is that it opens several ways of going into the text, of helping us to
discover something about the Good News of God and to discern the how Jesus opens a way for us to God and the neighbour.
Introduction: Mk 1:1-13: Beginning of the Good News
Preparing the proclamation
1st reading: Mk 1:16-3,16: Growth of the Good News
2nd reading: Mk 3:13-6,6: Growth of the conflict
The Mystery appears
3rd reading: Mk 6:14-8,21: Growth of the Mystery
4th reading: Mc 8:27-10:45: Growth of the misunderstanding
The dark light of the Cross appears
5th reading: Mk 11:1-13:32: Growth of the dark light of the Cross
Appearance of rupture and death
6th reading: Mk 14:1-15:39: Growth of the rupture and death
Victory over death appears
Conclusion: Mk 15:42-16:20: Growth of the victory over death
Reappearance of the Good News.
In this division
the headings are important. They point to where the Spirit is blowing, to the inspiration that runs through the whole Gospel. When an artist feels inspired, he tries to express this inspiration in a work of art. The poem or image that is
the result carries within it this inspiration. Inspiration is like the electric power that runs invisibly through the wires and lights the lamps in our houses. So also, inspiration runs invisibly in the words of the poem or in the form of the image to reveal
and light up within us a light equal or almost equal to that which shone in the artist. That is why works of art attract us so much. The same occurs when we read and meditate the Gospel of Mark. The same Spirit or Inspiration that moved
Mark to write his text remains present in the thread of the words of his Gospel. By our attentive and prayerful reading of his Gospel, this Spirit begins to act and operate within us. Thus, gradually, we discover the face of God revealed in Jesus and that
Mark communicates to us in his book.
6. Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too
great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a child quieted at its mother's breast;
like a child that is quieted is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this
time forth and for evermore.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May
your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy
Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
The disciples' heart tested by the
Word of the Lord.
The challenge: to keep faith in
the Father and the Son
to side with the evil one.
John 6: 60-69
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord, Your Word is sweet, it is like a honeycomb, it is not hard nor is it bitter. It may burn like fire, it may be like the hammer that breaks rock, it may be the sharp sword that pierces and separates the soul… but, Lord, Your Word is sweet!
Grant that I may listen to it, that it may be gentle music, a song and an echo in my ears, my memory and my intellect. I offer my whole being to You and ask You to grant that I may listen faithfully, sincerely, strongly. Lord. grant that I may keep my ears
and heart fixed on Your lips, Your voice, so that not one word may be in vain. Pour forth Your Holy Spirit to be like living water watering my field so that it may bear fruit, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. Lord, draw me, grant that I may come to You, because,
You know… where shall I go, to whom on this earth if not to You?
Placing the passage in its proper context:
These are the concluding verses of the great chapter six of John's Gospel, where the evangelist presents his "Eucharistic theology". This conclusion is the climax
of the chapter, because the Word leads us deeper into and towards the center of things; from the crowd at the start of the chapter, to the Jews who discuss with Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum, to the disciples, to the twelve, even to Peter, the only one
who stands for each one of us, alone, face to face with the Lord Jesus. Here we hear the reply to Jesus' teaching, to the Word sown abundantly in the heart of His listeners. Here we verify whether the soil of the heart produces thorns and weeds or green shoots
that produce ears and finally good corn in the ears.
b) An aid to the reading of the passage:
v. 60: Some disciples condemn the Word of the Lord,
and therefore Jesus Himself, who is the Word of God. God is not seen as a good Father who speaks to His children, but as a hard master (Mt 25:24), with whom it is not possible to enter into dialogue.
vv. 61-65: Jesus unveils the incredulity and hardness of heart of His disciples and reveals His mysteries of salvation: His ascension into heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit and our participation in the divine life. But these mysteries can only be understood
and accepted by the wisdom of a docile heart, capable of listening, and not by means of physical intelligence.
v. 66: This verse reveals the first great betrayal by many disciples who have failed to understand
the true teaching of Jesus. Instead of turning their gaze on the Master, they turn their backs on Him and thus break communion and no longer walk with Him.
vv. 67-69: Jesus now addresses Himself to the twelve,
His most intimate friends, and places before them a final and absolute choice, whether to stay with Him or go away. Peter answers on behalf of all and proclaims the faith of the Church in Jesus as Son of God and in His Word, which is the true source of life.
c) The text:
Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept
it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words
I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall
we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
3. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER
I have received the gift, the grace. I have listened to the Word of the Lord, now I do not wish to murmur (v. 61); I do not wish to be scandalized (v. 61);
nor do I wish to yield to incredulity (v. 64). I do not wish to betray my Master (v. 64); I do not wish to withdraw and not walk with Him any longer (v. 66)… I wish to remain with the Lord at all times! In the silence of my heart, I repeat endlessly
to Him: "Lord, to whom shall I go, if not to You??! Behold, Lord, I come…”
4. A FEW QUESTIONS
to open my heart and plow my interior soil with a plow capable of pulling up the roots of hardness and incredulity.
kind of disciple am I? Am I really willing every day to learn at the school of Jesus, to receive His teaching, which is not the doctrine of human beings but the wisdom of the Holy Spirit?
b) "This is a hard
saying, who can listen to it?" Is it really the Word of the Lord that is hard or is it my heart that wants only to close itself and no longer listen?
c) "Jesus knowing in Himself…". He knows
my heart and knows what is in each person (Jn 1:48; 2:25; 4:29; 10:15). How do I react to His gaze, to His voice that calls my name, to His coming into my life, to His constant knocking (Rev 3:20)? What choices do I make?
d) "It is the Spirit that gives life.” However, do I allow myself to be led like Mary (Lk 1:38) and Simeon (Lk 2:27), do I allow the Lord to take me where He wills, where He waits for me, or do
I always want to decide for myself the direction of my life?
e) Do I answer Jesus' personal invitation "Come to Me! Come and follow Me!" every day, every moment, in the most diverse situations of my
life, in various circumstances, in the presence of others? To whom do I go? Where do I turn to? Whose footsteps am I following?
5. A KEY TO THE READING
I ask the Scriptures to be my guide, to enlighten each step, each movement, because I wish to go to Jesus. I use the verbs He uses, the expressions He repeats,
the silence of the unsaid words, to reveal to me the way… to find Him and not someone else.
• The Word of the Lord and the love relationship
In this passage, John presents the Word of the Lord as a meeting point, the holy place for an encounter with Him. I realize that this is the place
of my decision, of ever deeper separations in my heart and in my conscience. I realize also that the Word is a person, it is the Lord Himself, present before me, given to me, open to me. The whole of the bible, page after page, is an invitation, sweet, yet
at the same time strong, to meet the Word, to get to know the Promised One, the Bride who is really the Word that comes from the kiss of love from the mouth of the Lord. The meeting accorded is not superficial, empty, nor is it fleeting or sporadic, but intense,
full, constant, uninterrupted, because it is like the meeting between the bride and groom. Thus does the Lord love me and give Himself to me. It is, therefore, important to listen carefully and lovingly so that not one word may be in vain (1 Sam 3:19); it
is important to listen with the heart, with the soul (Ps 94:8; Bar 2:31); it is important to obey in practice for a lifetime (Mt 7:24-27; Jas 1:22-25); it is important to make a true and final decision that will choose the Word of the Lord even to making it
my sister (Prov 7:1-4) or my bride to be taken into my home (Wis 8:2).
• Murmuring is closing one's heart
The theme of murmuring, of rebelling, shakes me up and creates a crisis in me; when I read the bible, even when I just recall it, I realize that murmuring against the Lord and His
actions in our lives is the most terrible and destructive thing that could possibly live in my heart, because it takes me away from Him, it separates me strongly and makes me blind, deaf and insensitive. It makes me say that He does not exist while all the
time He is very near; that He hates me when He loves me with an eternal and faithful love (Deut 1:27)! It is the greatest and most profound foolishness! In Exodus, Numbers and the Psalms, I come across a people of God that weeps, complains, gets angry, murmurs,
closes itself, rebels, turns away (Ex 16:7ff; Num 14:2; 17:20ff; Ps 105:25); a hopeless, lifeless people. I understand that this kind of situation comes about when there is no longer dialogue with the Lord, when the contract with Him is broken, when, instead
of listening to Him and asking questions of Him, there is only murmuring, a kind of continuous droning in the soul, in the mind, that makes me say, "Can God supply food in the desert?" (Ps 77:19). If I murmur against my Father, if I stop believing in His love
for me, in His tenderness, that He showers me with every good thing, I am lifeless, I am without nourishment for the everyday journey. Or if I get angry, if I become jealous because He is good and gives His love to all, without reserve, and I act like the
Pharisees (Lk 15:2; 19:7), then I am entirely alone and besides no longer being His child I am no longer even brother or sister of anyone. In fact, there is a close relationship between murmuring against God and murmuring against brothers and sisters (Phil
2:14; 1 Pt 4:9). I learn all this when I follow the trail of this word…
• The Gift of the Son of Man: the Holy Spirit
It seems that I see a road full of light, traced by the Lord Jesus and almost hidden in these verses that are so compact and overflowing in spiritual richness. The starting point lies in a true and deep listening to His words
and in welcoming them. From here we pass on to the purification of the heart, which from a heart of stone, hard and closed, becomes, through the tenderness of the Father, a heart of flesh, soft, a heart that He can hurt, mold, take into His hands and hold
tight, as a gift. Yes, all this is accomplished by the words of Jesus when they come to me and enter into me. It is only thus that I can continue on my journey, overcoming murmurings and scandal, until I am able to see Jesus with new eyes, eyes renewed by
the Word, eyes that do not rest on superficial things, on the hardness of the rind, but eyes that learn, every day a little more, to go beyond and to look on high. "Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where He was before?" (v. 62). This is
the welcoming of the Spirit, gift of the Risen One, gift of the One who ascended at the right hand of the Father, gift from on high, perfect gift (Jas 1:17). He had said, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Me" (Jn 12:32) and He draws
me with the Spirit, He makes me His own with the Spirit, He sends me in the Spirit (Jn 20:21), He strengthens me thanks to the Spirit (Acts 1:8). If I take a long look at the pages of the Gospels, I can see how the Spirit of the Lord is the strength that dwells
in each person, each reality, because He is the eternal love of the Father, the very life of God in us. I pay attention and dwell on the verbs and the expressions used, on the words that follow and enlighten each other, enriching each other. I feel that I
am really immersed in living waters that gush and gurgle. I feel that I receive a new baptism and I thank the Lord with my whole heart. "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Mt 3:11), so cries John and, as I read, this Word comes true in me, inside
me, in my whole being. I feel the Spirit speaking in me (Mt 10:20); who, with His power, drives away from me the spirit of evil (Mt 12:28); who fills me, as He did Jesus (Lk 4:1), John the Baptist (Lk 1:15), the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:28,35), Elizabeth (Lk 1:41),
Zachary (Lk 1:67), Simeon (Lk 2:26), the disciples (Acts 2:4), Peter (Acts 4: 8) and so many others. I feel and meet the Spirit who teaches me what to say (Lk 12:10); who really gives new birth to me so that I may never die (Jn 3:5); who teaches me all things
and reminds me of all that Jesus said (Jn 14:26); who guides me towards truth (Jn 16:13); who gives me strength to witness to the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8), to His love for me and for everyone.
The struggle of faith: in the Father or in the evil one?
This passage of John's Gospel challenges us to a great struggle, a hand-to-hand fight between the spirit and the flesh, between the wisdom of God
and human reason, between Jesus and the world. I can see that Job was right when he said that human life on earth is a time of temptation and a struggle (Job 7:1), because I too experience the Evil One who tries to discourage me by creating doubts concerning
the divine promises and urging me to turn away from Jesus. He would like to send me away, tries by every means to harden my heart, to close me, to break my faith, my love. I hear him roaming around like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour (1 Pt 5:8), like
a tempter, a creator of divisions, an accuser, like a scoffer mocking and repeating all the time: "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Pt 3:3f). I know that it is only with the arms of faith that I can win (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 10:3-5), only in the strength
that comes to me from the words of my Father; hence I choose them, love them, study them, scrutinize them, learn them by heart, repeat them and say, "Even if a whole army surrounds me, I will not be afraid; even if enemies attack me, I will still trust in
God!" (Ps 26:3).
• Profession of faith in Jesus, Son of God
The appearance of Simon Peter at the end of this passage is like a pearl
set on a precious jewel, because it is he who proclaims truth, light and salvation through his profession of faith. I gather other passages from the Gospels, other professions of faith that help my incredulity, because I too wish to believe and then know.
I too wish to believe and be firm (Isa 7:9): Mt 16:16; Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20; Jn 11:27).
6. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER: PSALM 18
A hymn of praise to the Word of the Lord,
who gives wisdom and joy to the heart
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life!
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;
the ordinances of
the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
in keeping them there is great
Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life!
But who can discern his errors?
Cleanse me from hidden faults.
Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
my Rock and my Redeemer.
Ref. Lord, You have the words of eternal life!
7. CLOSING PRAYER
Lord, thank You for Your words that have re-awakened in me spirit and life; thank You because You speak and creation
goes on. You overwhelm me. You still print Your image in me, Your unique likeness. Thank You because, lovingly and patiently, You wait for me even when I murmur, when I allow myself to be scandalized, when I fall into incredulity or when I turn my back to
You. Forgive me, Lord, for all these faults and continue to heal me, to make me strong and happy in following You, You alone! Lord, You ascended to where You were before, but You are still with us and do not cease to draw each one of us to You. Draw me, Lord,
and I shall run, because I have truly believed and known that You are the Holy One of God! But, please Lord, when I run to You, let me not run alone, let me be always open to the companionship of my brothers and sisters; and together with them I shall find
You and shall be Your disciple all the days of my life. Amen.
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