Friday, August 31, 2012

Mark Chapter 16

We have come to what is at the same time an end and a beginning. It is an end in that the Resurrection brings to a close the earthly, chronological history of Jesus Christ, Son of Mary and Son of God.
But it is also a beginning. And it is the beginning of two things: Jesus’s heavenly and transcendent history, and the beginning of the Church. Paradoxically, they are the same thing!

Jesus’s resurrection is recounted in vv. 1-8; He appears not to his Apostles but to the women who come to the tomb to fulfill the traditional anointing that is an act of Love for the deceased. He appears to Mary Magdalene in vv. 9-11; followed by two of his disciples in vv. 12-13. He then appears to the 12 (vv. 14-18), and Ascends into Heaven (vv. 19-20).

Keeping in mind what we have said about the constant movement of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, it is no wonder that he ends the Gospel with Jesus commissioning the 12 to carry on his work. He now sets them in motion to carry on the work he had done. The 12 are now ministers of the Lord’s presence and power in the world. The 12 will circle the known world and will share their ministry with others until it passed down to our day, in our place. The Great Commission that brings to a close Mark’s Gospel is a beginning- and it is begun each day, in each one of us. “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (v. 15).

Point for Prayer
How does the Lord commission me to proclaim the Gospel? How deeply do I embrace this call to be His presence and power in my home; my workplace; my world?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mark Chapter 15

Whereas Matthew takes nearly two chapters to recount the trial, Passion and Death of Jesus, Mark does so in 47 brief verses. Keeping in mind what we have said along about Mark’s style in regards to keeping the action moving, keeping Jesus moving to his Destiny on the Cross, it turns out, and this will be revealed tomorrow, that Mark is working his way through the Passion and Death of Jesus so that he can get to the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our Christian Faith and it’s the point that Mark really wants to get to.

But, there is no Easter Sunday without Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  So, in chapter 15 we have Good Friday recounted for us: the sham-trial; the sentencing; the Way of the Cross (only 1 verse); the Crucifixion, Death and Burial of Jesus.

Mark keeps the action moving and this entire chapter is almost strictly the recounting of chronological events without a lot of commentary or explanation from Mark.

A few items of interest:

-In verse 5 Jesus refuses to answer any more questions. This is to fulfill a prophecy of Isaiah that the Accused One would offer no defense, but would willingly, freely, accept his Execution.

-In verse 13 the same crowds that on Palm Sunday welcomed Jesus as their Messiah, are now calling for his death.

-In verse 26 Mark recounts the sign that Pilate hangs over Jesus’s head: INRI- Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  Perhaps inadvertently, Pilate is the first to recognize Jesus as King- not only of the Jews, but of the whole universe. A fact that will soon be verified by his Resurrection.

Point for Prayer
Jesus’s ultimate Gift has been given for us: His very Life.  Pray with this entry from a devotional called God Calling:

“Give abundantly. Feel that you are rich. Have no mean thought in your heart. Of Love, of thought, of all you have, give, give, give. You are followers of the World’s Greatest Giver. Give of time, of personal ease and comfort, of rest, of fame, of healing, of power, of sympathy, of all these and many more. Learn this lesson, and you will become a great power to help others and to do mighty things” (entry for August 30).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mark Chapter 14

This chapter brings us face-to-face with the consequences of Jesus’s Identity and Mission. Remember we talked about Jesus’s constant movement, his progression to this point: His Passion and Death. This is the fulfillment of his Mission and it will be the ultimate revelation of His Identity.

The chapter included symbolic actions that reveal the nature and meaning of his suffering and death. In vv. 3-9, he is anointed by a woman (perhaps St. Mary Magdalen). This anointing prefigures the anointing of his dead body which was a common practice in ancient culture. Secondly, in vv. 22-26, he celebrates the Last Supper with his Apostles. This supper prefigures, and institutions for us, the Eucharist. His body, blessed and broken, beaten and crucified, now present in the Bread that is blessed and broken and given to us to consume as Eucharist. Thirdly, the Agony in the Garden in vv. 32-42, reveals to us Jesus’s intimate communion with his Father in Heaven. A communion that all of us are invited to share in through prayer and Eucharist.

Then the shift: vv. 43-65 present the fulfillment of the prophesies contained in the Old Testament. The prophecies about the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of the Prophet Isaiah, who would suffer at the hand of his people, and yet for his people, and would ultimately reign triumphant.

The arrest and sham trial of Jesus are so pregnant with meaning that it would take forever to discuss them even in general detail. Suffice it here to say that there is much to pray with. 

The chapter closes with Peter’s denial of Jesus (vv. 66-72).  Again, this is the point to which Jesus has been moving since his began.  Ultimately, his journey will end on Calvary, but his Passion begins with his arrest.  And this leads us to our point for prayer.

Point for Prayer
We have journeyed with Jesus from Capernaum where he began his ministry to this point, in the Garden of Gethsemane. It will get worse for Him before it gets better.  What does this speak to your heart? The fact that Jesus purposefully did what he did and said what he said knowing that it would lead to his death.  What does this tell us about Jesus? What does it tell us about ourselves? What does it tell us about a God who wants to love us?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

As we approach the holiday weekend, just a quick note about the Mass schedule:

Saturday evening: 5pm
Sunday morning: 7:30, 9:00, & 11:00am
Sunday evening: 5pm

Monday morning (Labor Day): 8am

Peace to you today.

Mark Chapter 13

Chapter 13 is a prophetic chapter: Jesus prophesizes about the End Times. The language is stark and at times violent. Remember that the Israelites thought the coming of the Messiah would usher in a new era, a new period of time. This new era would be marked by physical markers: Jesus describes these, although not in the same way as the expectation in vv. 3-8. The greatest sign, it appears from Jesus’s teaching, will be the destruction of the temple (vv.1-2). This will occur on many levels and at different times: the veil of the temple will be torn following Jesus’s death; Jesus, who often refers to himself as being the temple, at least the cornerstone (like he did in chapter 12); and finally in 72 AD the Romans will completely destroy the Jewish temple marking the end of Temple Judaism as history has recorded it.

The Great Tribulation that Jesus describes in vv. 14-23 precedes the coming of the Messiah (some times called the “Son of Man”) that Jesus relates in vv. 24-27). This is probably set off the Pharisees something fierce because Jesus is essentially making himself to be God here, and if there is one thing the Pharisees can’t stand, it’s blasphemy.

But at the end of this chapter, Jesus sets down the prayerful and peaceful disposition that he wants all to wait for his coming. This is the essential message of our Liturgical celebration of Advent: Watch! (vv. 32-37) Those who have lived the Gospel, responded to the Lord, and embraced repentance are ready for His Coming, so they’ve nothing to fear. Jesus tells them, “Just watch and wait for my coming.”
That’s where we want to be!

Point for Prayer
A elderly priest friend of mine once told me: “The best thing you can do to prepare for Jesus’s coming is always to know what you’re doing. If you can always know what you’re doing, then chances are, most of the time, you’ll be doing right. And that’s a good thing to be doing.”
How am I doing in the watchfulness department? Anything I need to change right now to put me in a state of grace- into a positive, life-giving, and loving relationship with God?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mark Chapter 12

Continuing from Friday, this first parable (vv. 1-12) follows up the actions of Chapter 11.  There is not a lot that is veiled here- Jesus is calling the Pharisees ad scribes out on the carpet. His patience is exhausted and one could read this with a certain contempt on the part of Jesus. But, remember Jesus passionate plea for repentance: Jesus’s lack of patience is meant to provide these people with one last chance for conversion.

Sadly, there are not too many takers at this point. Not only has Jesus gone this far to his own crucifixion, but the mechanism that would bring him to that crucifixion are also set in motion and there is no turning back. His exchange with the Pharisees that extends through v. 13-44 shows the tension in the air and reveals the fact that Jesus can do no more for them who would preside at his trial and crucifixion.

But there are hidden nuggets here: Jesus setting up the intersection between faith life and public life (vv. 13-17); Jesus reminding us of the Greatest Commandment to Love and Serve (vv. 28-34); and a final emphasis on generosity and authenticity (vv. 41-44).

Point for Prayer
How well do I reflect the Lord’s Greatest Commandment in my own life? In what ways can I live that better in the individual moments and relationships that make up my life?