Tag Archives: Mark’s Gospel The Whole Story
Image 18 Oct

The Cost of Discipleship: Mark 6.7-33

11 Jul

an excerpt from Mark’s Gospel: The Whole Story by Joan Mitchell, CSJMark's Gospel: The Whole Story

At this point in the story strand the narrative introduces another literary sandwich, another story within a story. The narrative delays the second sea crossing story and adds a literary sandwich focused on mission.  In the first slice of story Jesus sends his disciples out to do what he has been doing – preach, heal, cast out ungodly spirits. While the new missionaries are out, the narrative ominously tells the story of the beheading of John the Baptist.

The Baptist’s beheading supplies time for the twelve to be out on mission. More importantly, John’s senseless death at the whimsy of a drunken king foreshadows the cost of prophetic ministry. What happens to John may happen to Jesus and those who follow him. Jesus’ disciples and those Mark’s gospel calls to faith have reason to fear for their lives. The disciples return and report to Jesus all they have done but cannot find rest even when they go away with Jesus in a boat to a deserted place. The Jesus movement keeps growing.

Seeing Possibility

16 Jun

A guest post from Claire Bischoff

After the fasting, prayer, and almsgiving of Lent and the joyous celebration of the Easter season, we return this Sunday to Ordinary Time. While our “regular” calendar is divided into twelve months beginning in January, the liturgical year is divided into liturgical seasons beginning with Advent. Each season has a distinctive liturgical color that is seen on the vestments worn by clergy and possibly in church decorations. Each season also has a distinctive feel and theological focus and may incorporate specific practices, like the abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent.

Ordinary Time, marked by the color green, is the part of the church calendar that falls between the distinctive church seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The stretch of Ordinary Time we begin this Sunday continues until Advent—which feels like a long time from now! Ordinary Time surely is at a disadvantage in the liturgical calendar—it is long; it is not tied to central and specific events, as Christmas is tied to the birth of Jesus and Easter is tied to his resurrection; and there are not special practices or celebrations tied to it since it is just plain ordinary. Put slightly differently, it is more challenging to get excited about celebrating Ordinary Time!

Last week I suggested that we celebrate Ordinary Time by focusing on how we can live as Christ’s body in the world. Ellie Roscher’s blog post this week talks about an important aspect of living as Christ’s body in the world—taking care of our own bodies. Taking care of our bodies even includes pampering them at times, as we have been told that our bodies are the “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Taking care of our own bodies includes such various activities as eating nourishing food, exercising our body and brain, and resting and sleeping. If we do not take care of our own bodies, then we will not be in a position to act on our calling to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

This week’s Gospel (Mark 4:26-34) suggests one way that we can live as Christ’s eyes in the world—to see possibility. In this passage, Jesus tells the crowd a parable about a farmer planting seeds. The farmer plants seeds, and then the farmer trusts that seeds will sprout, even if the farmer cannot explain how this happens. Jesus goes on to compare the reign of God to a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds that when planted grows into a large shrub that can house and shade countless birds.

The images Jesus uses in his parables are drawn from the lives of his followers. Images of farmers and seeds, harvest and birds would have been familiar to those who sat on the beach to hear Jesus speak from a boat rocking gently on the waves. Yet Jesus challenges his followers to see these images in new ways—in this case, to identify the lowly mustard seed with the reign of God. Jesus challenges us in this parable to see the potential—the harvest that eventually comes from the seed, the reign of God as it will be in all its fullness. As Sister Joan has written, “When we no longer think that everything is exactly as it seems or that our way of seeing is all there is, then we can experience the mystery of God’s presence within, around, between, beside, among, and beyond us.”*

To be Christ’s eyes in the world means to see the world as Christ saw it—to see potential in that which may seem to have little potential; to identify the capacity for life in a world where doom and death may seem to reign; and to trust in a future in which God’s kingdom will be at hand. In a word, seeing with Christ’s eyes involves seeing with hope, a hope born from our belief in God.

Here are some simple ideas for the practice of seeing potential:

• Before you throw something away, think about whether it could be reused or recycled.

• If you are tempted to write off a movie, book, song, restaurant, political idea, way of praying, etc., give it a chance first.

• When you become frustrated by a person, place, idea, situation, or yourself, take the time to recognize the good in that person, place, idea, situation, or yourself.

What other ideas do you have to practice seeing potential in the world?

What other ideas do you have about how to act as Christ’s eyes in the world?

 

*Joan Mitchell, Sunday by Sunday, June 17, 2012.
Photo courtesy of arichards63 via Creative Commons License

“Unholy Spirits” and the Power of Prayer

27 Jan

January 27, 2012 by Claire Bischoff

This week’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) describes Jesus commanding “an unholy spirit” to come out of a man. The people who observe this act wonder at the authority Jesus possesses, exclaiming that even the unholy spirits obey his word. Many people in the technological and scientific world of today might dismiss this reading, thinking it demonstrates the superstitious beliefs of people from long ago. We never have to deal with “unholy spirits,” do we?

*****

On an afternoon that was like many others, my friend Anna glanced up from her chemistry notes and told me she wanted to ask me something. Her mother, Kathy, had not been herself lately. Kathy got angry very easily, yelling at Anna and her siblings for seemingly inconsequential actions. Kathy seemed sad, distanced, and tired almost all the time, and she had stopped playing tennis and knitting, two of her favorite hobbies. Anna wanted to do something to help her mother, but also to help herself. Living with Kathy was making Anna miserable. Anna scheduled a meeting with someone at her church who did spiritual counseling, hoping to get some advice on what she could do to help her mom change. She asked me if I would go with her to that meeting for support.

At the meeting, Anna explained the situation to the counselor. She even offered to try to get her mother to go to counseling. What the counselor told Anna that day is similar to what Alateen members learn (see this week’s Spirit): Anna could not change her mother, no matter how much she wanted to. Anna was discouraged at this news; she desperately wanted to do something to help her mother. I have never forgotten what the counselor said next: “You cannot change your mother, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. You can pray for her.”

That afternoon, Anna and I prayed for Kathy together. Anna asked me if I would keep praying for Kathy, and I did, every night before I went to bed. Although I never asked, I am sure that Anna prayed for Kathy all the time, too. I am sure of this because a few years later when I visited Anna’s house over a break from college, the mood was entirely different than it had been when Anna and I were in high school. Kathy seemed happier, more like her old self. When I asked Anna if she, too, noticed a change her mom, she smiled. She showed me a scarf and hat set her mom had knitted for her and confided in me that Kathy had been seeing a counselor for a few years and had been honest with Anna about how hard she was working to make changes in herself. “I think our prayers worked,” Anna concluded.

*****

Just because we live in a technological and scientific age, I still believe people have to deal with “unholy spirits.” When we think broadly, so many things could be included in this category: alcoholism and other forms of addiction; depression and other forms of mental illness; rampant consumerism and other consequences of living in a mass media culture… And while it is true that we cannot change or control other people, there is one curative option open to all of us, as Anna discovered: we can pray. And while the healing may not be as quick as that experienced by the man with the unholy spirit in Mark’s Gospel (or may not even happen in our lifetime), we can trust that Jesus continues to speak with authority, working in people’s hearts to help them expel that which keeps them from living fully into their identity as children of God and followers of Christ.

What “unholy spirits” do you think affect people in our society?

For whom can you pray?

via “Unholy Spirits” and the Power of Prayer.

%d bloggers like this: