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Gospel Reflection for February 1, 2015, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

26 Jan

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 18.15-20; 1 Corinthians 7.32-35; Mark 1.21-28

Just then there was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?”

(Mark 1.23-24)

All of us have the work of discerning the spirits that drive us. What possesses us? Maybe ambition, an advanced degree, a higher-paying job. Alcohol or chocolate or drugs can possess us, becoming a comfort in our stress more perfect and pliant than any human friend. The unclean spirits are right to ask Jesus if he has come to destroy them. The answer is yes. Jesus claims us for wholeness.

What clamors for attention in yourself? What erodes your energy? What enlivens you?

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Gospel Reflection for January 25, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Jonah 3.1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7.29-31; Mark 1.14-20

Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

(Mark 1.16-17)

Mark writes the first gospel to call a new generation to faith in Jesus.  Until the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, Jewish Christians prayed with other Jews at the temple, offered sacrifices, and joined pilgrimages for the great feasts. Temple worship ceased as eyewitness disciples were reaching old age or had already died. The Christian community in Jerusalem fled the city during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the temple and city. How will the community hold together?

Like the generation for whom Mark wrote, Catholics today live in a Church in discontinuity with the past. The Church renewed itself and caught up with the modern world at the Second Vatican Council. We recognize the Spirit moves in all the baptized. We recognize we have obligations to the poor in the world. We dialogue with people of other Christian denominations and other religions. We text messages around the globe.

How does living Jesus’ good news make a difference for our time?

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Gospel Reflection for January 11, 2015, Baptism of the Lord

7 Jan

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 55.1-11; 1 John 5.1-9; Mark 1.7-11

“You are my beloved Son.  In you I am well pleased.”

Mark 7.11

Mark’s gospel, the first to be written, begins with Jesus the adult, God’s beloved Son and servant, one with the Father and Spirit. Baptized Christians share Jesus’ identity. We are God’s beloved, whom Jesus calls to join him in the embrace of God. We are God’s servants, who share Jesus’ mission of calling all those we meet into this embrace. We are baptized into one faith, one Spirit–a communion that calls us beyond the limits of any one Christian denomination. We recognize our call to unfold Jesus’ servant story in our lives among the people of our world.

In what ways do your baptism and anointing in the Spirit challenge you to lead?

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Gospel Reflection for December 7, 2014, 2nd Sunday of Advent

1 Dec

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3.8-14; Mark 1.1-8

“One more powerful than I will come after me.”

Mark 1.7

Like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist haunt the wilderness. Like Elijah, who discovered God speaking not in storms and lightning but in silence, the Baptist in the silence of his wilderness life senses God is coming among the people in a new way. His preaching and baptizing bring people into the wilderness and ready them for this breakthrough. His baptism washes away a past of simply keeping and breaking the law and symbolizes openness to the reviving Spirit of God.

John promises one more powerful than he is coming. He envisions that this coming figure will also baptize but with the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit will create people anew more wholly than water cleanses and invigorates.

What do you need to wash away to open yourself to God’s reviving Spirit this Advent season?

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Gospel Reflection for November 30, 2014, 1st Sunday of Advent

26 Nov

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 63.16-17,19; 64.2-7; Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.33-37
 
“Stay awake, for you do not know when the owner of the house will come–in the evening, or at midnight, at cockcrow or dawn.”  

Mark 13.35

Jesus’ tiny parable calls us to stay awake throughout the Church year.  There are doorways all the time where we encounter one another and have opportunities to be present.  Our houses and offices have doors.  These are thresholds where we meet and can be awake to one another.

In dark midnight moments our fears can take us over.  The urge is strong to avoid the hard.  Who has not heard the cock crow and recognized I profoundly regret something I never thought I was even capable of doing?  At the heart of our faith is the dawn moments, the hour of resurrection.  In our faith that God raised up Jesus to new life is a spirituality that believes new life can come where relationships are dead or where leaders are asleep to people’s needs.

At what doorways are you watching for God’s coming?

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Divine Spit

19 Feb

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” –Mark 8:22-26

I love this little passage. I come back to it all the time. It’s visual and tactile, it’s relational, and it seems to be a moment to pay attention to in the sometimes overwhelming call to “Follow Jesus.” Earlier in the gospel Mark, Jesus heals people by showing his very “God on earth” power. He snaps his fingers, says it will be so, and it happens. For example, he rebukes the unclean spirit at the temple in 1:23-28 and he tells the paralyzed man he is forgiven in 2:5. These healings that only require Jesus’ words draw a crowd, indeed. But instead of love and faith, people react to him with fear and awe.

via flickr user timparkinson

via flickr user timparkinson

By Ch 8, Jesus has shifted his approach. His tactics have changed immensely. With this blind man, Jesus touches him- he takes him by the hand and leads him away from the crowds. This is not about the spectacle or showing off. This is about the man being able to see. Instead of just words, and even more intimate than a touch, Jesus uses his own spit to heal the man. This always makes me think of a loving mother using her own spit to wipe some spaghetti sauce of the chin of her child. It’s very intimate.

But Jesus’ divine spit doesn’t work the first time. And the man is brave enough to admit it to Jesus. Can you imagine this man, being taken by the hand of the one who is whispered about as the Messiah, and saying to him that he didn’t fully restore his sight? Seeing people look like trees is not enough. What works? Jesus looking at the man intently. It takes relationship. Time. Intention. It takes Jesus fully seeing the man for the man to be able to fully see.

This is a gem of a passage. It is so accessible to me that if I were to read it every morning, I know I would become a better person. In a society that values independence and anonymity, intimacy feels counter-cultural. Friends take the time to see each other clearly. We grow to love each other deeply. Jesus shows us that we have to put some skin in the game if we want to come out transformed. We can form life-long relationships with people human-made boundaries are separating us from. Maybe most importantly, if Jesus didn’t get it right the first time, it’s okay for us to keep working every day to look intently and really see people clearly.

Part of the work of the gospel, I think, in our paid and unpaid life, to follow Jesus by taking unexpected and vulnerable friends by the hand away from the crowds, looking at them intently, and seeking mutual healing. By searching for the humanity of another, may we more clearly see the world and find our own humanity as well.

Gospel Reflection for November 18, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

12 Nov

Jesus was talking to his disciples about the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus said, “About the day or hour when these things will happen, no one knows.  Neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, only the Father.”

Mark 13.32

Why is the gospel ambiguous about when the world will end?  To answer that question we have to understand what a gospel is and is not.  A gospel is not a news report of Jesus’ words and activities such as we expect today.  No one videoed Jesus teaching in the temple courtyard.  People passed on Jesus’ teaching orally for 40 years before Mark wrote it down.

Mark is writing in the wake of a cataclysmic event that demands interpretation—the destruction of the temple (AD 70), which ends Israel’s ancient temple-centered religion. This event coincides with Jesus’ eyewitness disciples reaching old age and with the deaths of Peter and Paul, martyred in the mid 60s.  Do these endings signal the end of the world?  Some thought they did at the time.  We know they didn’t.

The gospel records a second Christian voice that insists that only God knows when the end will come.  We live in God’s embrace from beginning to end.

What losses have you experienced in your life that seemed like the end of the world as you knew it?

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Gospel Reflection for November 11, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

5 Nov

Jesus was teaching in the temple and spoke out against the scribes being showy in their faith, looking for status.

Jesus said, “I want you to observe that this poor widow gave more to the treasury than all the others.  They gave from their loose change what they could spare.  But she in her poverty gave the pennies she had to live on.”

Mark 12.43-44

The scribes in this Sunday’s gospel seem unable to penetrate the heart of the law.  They like to benefit from their positions as respected teachers, even at the expense of powerless people like widows.  Jesus warns people to beware of such self-centered, greedy teachers.

Jesus values authentic faith and piety.  He values the widow’s simple gift more than long, public prayers for show.  The widow is like Jesus himself, who gives his entire life for love of God and neighbor.

In what measure are you a Christian in appearance?  In what measure an authentic Christian?

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Gospel Reflection for November 4, 2012, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

30 Oct

One of the scribes asked Jesus which was the greatest of all the commandments.

Jesus answered, “The greatest of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord your God is Lord alone. Therefore, love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandments are greater than these.”

Mark 12.29-31

For Jesus, as for all good Jews, no religious obligation is more sacred than keeping the Law of Moses, the commands of the Torah, all 613 of them. The Pharisees saw this as an easy way to entrap Jesus—get him to pick one commandment as the greatest, then he accuse him of being soft on all the others.

But Jesus chooses wisely. He gives them, and gives us in a couple sentences his epitaph. It is his summation of what it’s all about, what the meaning of his whole life boils down to. Love God and your neighbor as yourself.

What might your epitaph be?

Gospel Reflection for October 28, 2012, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

23 Oct

Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Teacher, I want to see again,” Bartimaeus answered.
“Go,” said Jesus.  “Your faith has made you well.”  At once Bartimaeus was able to see and followed Jesus up the road.

Mark 10.51-52

Sunday’s gospel portrays the blind beggar Bartimaeus as an ideal disciple.   He hears about Jesus, believes in him, and follows unhesitatingly.  Even before Jesus heals his blindness, Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, in which he probably collected the money passersby threw his way.  He accepts the call to discipleship before Jesus gives it.  He throws off the trappings of a life of begging and signals his readiness to follow Jesus.

What keeps you from throwing off your cloak? Whose lives challenge you to live gospel values rather than work for social status?



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