To give and not to count the cost
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Jesus, the Scribes and the widow
The different way of accounting in the Kingdom of God
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 on the way to 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 Gospel text of this Sunday presents us with two opposing but connected facts: on the
one hand, we have Jesus criticizing the scribes who used religion to exploit poor widows; and on the other hand, we have the example of the poor widow who gave to the temple even what she had to live on. These facts are relevant even today!
b) A division of the text to help with the reading:
Mark 12:38-40: Jesus criticizes the exploitation of the scribes
Mark 12:41-42: Jesus watches people who place their alms in the treasury of the temple Mark 12:43-44: Jesus reveals the value of the poor widow’s action
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honour in synagogues, and places of honour at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation." He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put
money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors
to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." or Mk 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For
they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
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 pleased or struck you most in this text? Why?
b) What does Jesus criticize and what does He praise in the doctors of the law?
c) What social
and religious imbalances of that period do we find in the text?
d) How is it that the widow’s two coins are of more value than the great amount put in by the rich? Look carefully at the text and see what
follows. Why does Jesus praise the poor widow?
e) What message does this text convey to us today?
5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO GO DEEPER INTO THE THEME
a) Yesterday’s and today’s context:
● The context in Jesus’ time.
Mark’s text 12:38-44 recounts the last part of Jesus’ activities in Jerusalem (Mk 11:1 to 12:44). Those were very intense days, full of conflicts:
the driving out of the sellers in the temple (Mk 11:12-26), many discussions with the authorities: (Mk 11:27 to 12:12), with the Pharisees, with the Herodians and the Sadducees (Mk 12:13-27) and with the doctors of the law (Mk 12:28-37). This Sunday’s
text (Mk 12:38-44) reports a final word of criticism by Jesus concerning the bad behavior of the doctors of the law (Mk 12:38-40) and a word of praise for the good behavior of the widow. Almost at the end of His activities in Jerusalem, Jesus sits in front
of the treasury where people were putting their alms for the temple. Jesus draws the disciples’ attention to the action of a poor widow and teaches them the value of sharing (Mk 12:41-44).
● The context in Mark’s time.
During the first forty years of the Church’s history, from the 30’s to the 70’s, the Christian communities, for the most part, were made up of poor
people (1Cor 1:26). Later some rich people or those who had various problems joined them. The social tensions that existed in the Roman Empire began to be felt in the life of the communities. For instance, divisions came to the fore when the communities came
together to celebrate the Lord’s supper (1Cor 11:20-22), or when they met together (Jas 2:1-4). Thus, the teaching concerning the action of the widow was very real for them. It was like looking into a mirror, because Jesus compares the behaviour of the
rich to that of the poor.
● Today’s context.
Jesus praises the poor widow because she could
share more than the rich people did. Many poor today do the same. People say, “The poor never allow another poor person to die of hunger.” But sometimes even this is not true. Donna Cícera, a poor lady who went from the country to
the periphery of a great city used to say, “In the country, I was very poor, but I always had something to share with another poor person who knocked on my door. Now that I am in the city, when I see a poor person who knocks on my door, I hide for shame
because I have nothing to share!” Thus we see on the one hand rich people who have everything, and on the other poor people who have almost nothing to share, and yet share the little they have.
b) A commentary on the text:
Mark 12:38-40: Jesus criticizes the doctors of the law.
Jesus draws His disciples’ attention to the hypocritical and exploiting behaviour of some doctors of the law. “doctors” or scribes were those who taught people the law of God. But they taught it only by word,
because their lives witnessed to the opposite. They liked going about the squares wearing long tunics, accepting the greetings of people, taking first places in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. In other words, they were people who wished to
appear important. They used their knowledge and their profession as a means of climbing the social ladder and of enriching themselves, and not for serving. They liked to visit widows and recite long prayers in exchange for money! Jesus ends by saying, “The
more severe will be the sentence they receive!”
Mark 12:41-42: The almsgiving of the widow.
Jesus and the disciples were seated in front of the treasury of the temple and watched people placing their alms in the treasury. The poor gave a few cents, the rich put in bills of great value. The treasury became full. All gave something for the upkeep of
the cult, to support the priests and for the maintenance of the temple. Some of the money was used to help the poor, since in those days there was no social security. The poor depended on public charity. The neediest among the poor were the orphans and widows.
They had nothing. They completely depended on the charity of others. But, even though they had nothing, they made an effort to share with others the little they had. Thus, a very poor widow places her alms in the treasury, just a few cents!
Mark 12:43-44: Jesus shows us where to find God’s will.
of greater value: the few cents of the widow or the thousand coins of the rich? For the disciples, the thousand coins of the rich were far more useful to perform acts of charity than the widow’s few cents. They thought that peoples’ problems could
be solved by means of a lot of money. On the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, they said to Jesus, “Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?” (Mk 6:37) Indeed, for those who think this way, the two cents
of the widow are of no use. But Jesus says, “This poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury”. Jesus has different criteria. In calling the attention of the disciples to the action of the widow, He teaches them and
us where we must look for the manifestation of God’s will, that is, in sharing. If today we shared the goods that God has placed in the universe for the whole of humanity, there would be neither poverty nor hunger. There would be enough for all and there
would be some left over for others.
c) Further information: Almsgiving, sharing, wealth
The practice of almsgiving was very important for the Jews. It was considered a “good work” (Mt 6:1-4), because the law of the Old Testament said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the
country, and that is why I am giving you this command: Always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and poor” (Deut 15:11). Alms placed in the treasury, whether for the cult or for the maintenance
of the temple or for those in need, orphans and widows, were considered an act pleasing to God. Almsgiving was a way of sharing with others, a way of recognizing that all goods and gifts belong to God and that we are but administrators of these gifts, so that
there may be abundance in this life for all.
It was from the book of Exodus that the people of Israel learned the importance of almsgiving, of sharing. The forty
years’ journey in the desert was necessary to overcome the desire for accumulation that came from the Pharaoh of Egypt and that was well implanted in the minds of the people. It was easy to leave Pharaoh’s country. It was difficult to free oneself
of Pharaoh’s mentality. The ideology of the great is false and deceiving. It was necessary to experience hunger in the desert so to learn that what is necessary for life is for all. This is what the manna teaches: “No one who had collected more
had too much, no one who had collected less had too little” (Ex 16:18).
But the tendency to accumulate was there all the time and was very strong. And it
constantly reappears in the human heart. It is precisely because of this tendency to accumulate that the great empires in the history of humanity were formed. The desire to possess and to accumulate is at the very heart of the ideology of these human empires
or kingdoms. Jesus points to the conversion required to enter the Kingdom of God. He says to the rich young man, “Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor” (Mk 10:21). This same requirement is echoed in the other Gospels: “Sell
your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it” (Lk 12:33-34; Mt 6:9-20). Then Jesus adds the reason
for this demand: “For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too”.
The practice of sharing, of almsgiving and of solidarity
is one of the marks of the Spirit of Jesus, given to us on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), and that He wishes to make present in the communities. The result of the outpouring of the Spirit is precisely this: “None of the members was ever in want, as
all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from the sale of them, to present it to the apostles” (Acts 4:34-35ª; 2:44-45). These alms received by the apostles were not accumulated but were rather “then
distributed to any who might be in need” (Acts 4:35b; 2:45).
On the one hand, the arrival of rich people into the communities made it possible
to expand Christianity, because these offered better conditions to the missionary movement. However, on the other hand, the accumulation of goods blocked the movement of solidarity and sharing inspired by the force of the Spirit of Pentecost. James wishes
to help such people to understand that they had gone the wrong way: “Well now you rich! Lament, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is rotting, your clothes are all moth-eaten.” (Jas 5:1-3). We all need
to become students of that poor widow who shared what she had to live on, so as to learn the way to the Kingdom (Mk 12:41-44).
6. PRAYING A PSALM 62 (61)
is strength and love
In God alone there is rest for my soul,
from Him comes my safety;
He alone is my rock,
my stronghold so that I stand unshaken.
How much longer will you set on a victim,
all together, intent
like a rampart already leaning over,
a wall already damaged?
Trickery is their only plan,
deception their only pleasure,
with lies on their lips they pronounce a blessing,
with a curse in their hearts.
Rest in God alone, my soul!
He is the source of my hope.
He alone is my rock,
my safety, my stronghold,
so that I stand unwavering.
In God is my safety and my glory,
the rock of my strength.
In God is my refuge;
trust in Him, you people, at all times.
Pour out your hearts to Him,
God is a refuge for us.
Ordinary people are a mere puff of wind,
important people a delusion;
on the scales together,
and they are lighter than a puff of wind.
Put no trust in extortion,
no empty hopes in robbery;
however much wealth may multiply,
do not set your heart on it.
Once God has spoken,
twice have I heard this:
Strength belongs to God,
to You, Lord, faithful love;
and You repay everyone as their deeds
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.
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.
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