Ezechiel 2: 2-52nd Corinthians 12: 7-10Mark 6: 1-6
Last week I mentioned that as we hear brief passages from the Gospel of Saint Mark this year we ought to keep in mind that the approach he takes is to pose the question in the first part of his presentation: who is Jesus? Thus, in the account of various incidents and events, there are also some rather negative views that are expressed about Jesus,.
Some of the leaders of the people, especially the Pharisees, strict observers of the law and various regulations, tend to write Jesus off as rather slip-shod, because he does not insist that his close followers abide by strict rules about the Sabbath observance. Then there were the concern expressed by his own relatives about his mental health. Even some of his close followers, his disciples, were hesitant to place faith and trust in him. Today we hear from persons of his own home town. They certainly had questions. They were convinced that they knew all about him. He was a carpenter. They were acquainted with his close relatives. They expressed skepticism and doubt about him and about the legitimacy of what he was saying and doing.
In the early part of his presentation, Mark is laying out some of the questions or concerns about Jesus that his listeners might have – questions and concerns about who Jesus is. But what it comes down to, as far as the people in his home town and others are concerned, is that Jesus is not what some expect or want. Who he is does not fit their ideas or their purposes. It is easy to look at this in the context of the times back then. But it would serve us well to look at this in terms of our own times and place today.
As we hear it today, what is fundamental to the Gospel message is the revelation of God. God, who is goodness and love for all of us, all persons, all creation. Is this call to us to live up to the potential as reflections and revelations of God acceptable to us; are we comfortable with it? Or do we, rather, choose to reject it because of the demand it makes on us?
When the prophet, Ezekiel, was called to speak to the Chosen People of the Old Covenant, to speak truth to them about their failure to live up to that agreement with God, he was warned that they were a rebellious people, unwilling to listen. He was also reminded that he was not to back down, God was with him and would guide him. Do we understand this about ourselves?
Saint Paul also ran into opposition, but he also recognized his own weaknesses. There were others who may have been more polished, more acceptable in what they said, especially as it fit their own purposes or what their listeners wanted to hear. But Paul knew his role and what he was committed to do, whether or not others were willing to accept him or his work. Do we show that same tenacity about what we believe?
What Jesus Christ calls us to do is to recognize what we are, as creatures of God, as children of God, and how this is to effect and guide us. We are to give clear evidence of this in how we live day after day. How we are to reflect the goodness of God may not be and is not inline with so many of the values of the world in which we live, and even with the values of those who describe themselves as Christians.
Does what we say and what we do today and every day reveal the power of God’s mercy and love? We need to ask ourselves this question. Is what we say and what we do show honor and respect, hope and healing, to ourselves and to anyone and everyone who is a part of our everyday lives? We need to consider this carefully. Is what I say and what I do each and everyday reflect a genuine recognition before all else – even with weaknesses and failings – of what I am to be and what I am to do in making known a firm commitment, trust and confidence in a good and gracious God?
Wisdom 1: 13-15, 2: 23-242 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15Mark 5: 21-24, 35b-43
In composing the Gospel account, the Evangelist Mark developed the first part of his text around a simple question: who is this person, Jesus? What can we know about him? What can we expect of him? Rather than simply hearing the accounts of different events that took place, we are to listen to what is being recalled with the view of what does this event tell us about Jesus.
Perhaps Mark chose to include this report of an encounter between Jesus and a synagogue leader because synagogue leaders were among those who questioned Jesus and were skeptical about him. Perhaps Jairus was approaching him for selfish reasons. “What might Jesus be able to do for me?” In a way, it almost sounds too familiar.
It is easy to see Jairus acting out of a selfish motivation. Here is this wonder-worker, he might say. I have a problem. Maybe he can solve it. There is a major insight into Jairus, however. He does not give up. He hears that his daughter is dead yet persists in his request, despite the ridicule of the crowd that is present.
The whole incident points out an important lesson in the relationship with God. In the dialogue with God that is apart of the relationship with God, in the prayer life in which we speak to God for something, we might think of being on a lesser level in that relationship, a dependent level that somehow seeks to manipulate a response that is favorable to what we want.
Think about this on a human level. When we are in the position of having to ask for a favor we are rather reluctant to do this with some people. It puts us into a position of dependency. There is a certain degree of risk that might be involved. We fear that we might have to do something in return for that favor. But, with other persons, or perhaps only with one person, where there is genuine love, where the relationship is truly deep and abiding, there is no fear. To ask a favor is very much a part of that relationship. There is no cost. There is no need to reciprocate because of the level of the relationship, the love that is present.
We can understand Jesus as making known what level of a relationship with God we are to strive to achieve with God. God is the author of life, of all that is good, as the Book of Wisdom points out. God wants to share with us all that is good. This is how we can understand what Jesus is doing in this incident. He is giving life back to the little girl. It is an illustration of who he is. It reveals that Jesus is: the one who restores the life-giving plan of God.
In showing the need for God we are, in reality, showing our love for God. We are attempting to achieve with God the same thing that is present in the human situation mentioned above. It is a closeness to God, a depth of the relationship with God, that flows naturally from us and from a genuine union with God. It is a relationship with God that reaches a level of total confidence, total trust, total love.
The lesson of the raising of the daughter of Jairus is simple yet profound. The Lord seeks to give himself to us totally as the giver of life. He wishes to share life. He wishes to share love. The Lord wants us to be able to develop a familiarity, a trust, a love to such a degree that we act freely and without fear and, in so doing, reveal truly good and gracious God
Isaiah 49: 1-6 Acts of the Apostles 13: 22-26 Luke 1: 57 -66
As is its practice whenever June 24th falls on a Sunday the Church steps aside from its normal routine of Scripture readings and prayers for the Sundays of the year to recall the birth of John the Baptist. In different stories in the Gospels, John the Baptist is introduced to us. He is a relative of Jesus of Nazareth. Later on, after he grows up, he comes out of his life in the desert to preach repentance. He prepares the way for Jesus. He baptized Jesus. He sends his followers to Jesus to be assured that Jesus was the one who had been expected. When John is certain of this, his work was completed. He had performed his task in life. He was then put to death as a result of speaking the truth to Herodt. These are the accounts that we read of John theBaptist in the Scriptures.
John played an important role in the announcement of the Kingdom of God, the making known of God’s abiding presence in which we are all called to participate. Yet John then passed from the scene. At one point, in fact, Jesus says that those who embrace Jesus’ teaching are more important than John. This declaration ought to make us stop and think. Here is someone completely dedicated to his job, who was not afraid to speak out, even condemning Herod and risking his own life. Yet we are told that the least born into the Kingdom of God is greater than John.
To be born into the Kingdom of God, to be instrumental in making the reality of God both known and experienced by us and through us, must certainly involve a great deal. It must involve more than simply having the name or the title of Christian. It is a life, a way of life, a dedication to revealing the good of God’s love and presence.
What we see in John is his complete commitment to making known that the Lord was coming. He placed himself at the disposal of the Lord. All of his life was given to this task. So that if we who are followers of Jesus, who are said to be greater than John, what is expected of us?
The example of John, and especially the comparison Jesus makes, is a genuine challenge to us. It makes demands of us that we often do not want. It means that our focus is not to be on ourselves. It requires a way of thinking and acting that is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, a constant choice being made in our lives to reveal God’s goodness, to make known the love of God in the world, and in how we live out our daily lives.
This all contradicts so many of the values which our world pits forth with its emphasis on power, on material goods, on self interest. We might say that we are neither powerful or wealthy and have little chance to be so, but the focus on self-interest, on selfishness, can often creep into our thinking. Using others, hurting others, judging others in word or thought, these are indications of a selfishness that is so contrary to one who is to be born into the Kingdom of God. They are contrary to being one who can know of the tremendous gift of God’s love that is evidenced in the redeeming action of Jesus Christ. Selfish choices do not reveal the goodness and love of God.
The reminder of John the Baptist is made today so that his example may challenge us to proclaim, by lives and by actions in our ordinary every day world, that the key to appreciating fully the gift of life that has been given to us is to reveal the loving kindness of our good and gracious God.
Ezekiel 17: 22-24 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10 Mark 4: 26-34
A favorite expression used by Pope Francis when he is addressing and encouraging priests and pastors is to remind them to have “the smell of the sheep.” In other words, he is urging them strongly to be part of the life of the people they serve. The imagery, of course, is based upon the references and parables of Jesus in which he speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd or uses a faithful shepherd as an example of the care that is to be shown for those being served.
While I understand the point that the Pope is making, I have a particular preference for e parables of Jesus such as we heard today. These are the parables that speak of seeds, of planting, of growth and of harvesting. I have often said that rather than the smell of the sheep, I know the smell of the soil.
As many may know, I have come to appreciate these images on planting, growth, and even harvesting -although that is limited to herbs – simply by working around the parish property. The first example Jesus used points out, however, an important distinction that must be understood. On the one hand, planting and harvesting depend on the effort an individual makes. In order for that plant to have life and growth, it must first be put in place. The process that follows, the growth and development that takes place, mysterious as it is, depends upon the inherent nature of the plant, the inherent nature with which the plant was endowed by the Creator.
For there to be success in a garden or on a farm, or simply in a plot of herbs, there must be both the effort made in planting the seed or the plant in the ground, along with tending and nourishing of them, so that the process of growth that the inherent nature of the plant possesses can occur and thereby provide beauty or function.
Jesus uses the very same image, in order to convey an important consideration. If the kingdom of God, the reign of God, that is, the experience of the presence and action of our loving God in our lives and in our world, is to occur and to have an impact, a co-operative effort must be present. It is a two-fold process. We must do our part to accept the message Jesus declares. We must recognize that what gives the greatest meaning and dimension to our lives comes from a life lived in union with God. It comes from a relationship in which God is a significant part of the choices we make. This is the seed, the plant that we insert into the soil of our lives. Then, in ways we may not always realize or appreciate or understand, that presence of God, as being important to us, grows in the soil that we are and is productive in our lives. It is in this manner that the active presence and love of God is harvested in us.
Jesus announces the desire of our God to be united with us, to be actively present in our lives. But we must, as well, invite God’s relationship with us. We must tend and nourish the growth of that relationship within the soil of our lives in order to being about the harvest, the results, of that relationship.
I prefer these parables because of the enjoyment I find in working with the plants in the yard. Doing so, however, also puts me into contact with the nemeses of those plants and flowers: the weeds. They are persistent as they appear and re-appear. The smell of the soil, and the working of the soil of our lives likewise makes us confront the weeds of our poor choices and our selfish concerns. The effort is constant, but the elimination of those weeds allows the plant of a relationship with our Lord to flourish. What then results in our lives is a genuine revelation of our good and gracious God.