3rd Sunday of Lent – Year B
Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; I Cor 1:22-25; John 2:13-25
We are celebrating the 3rd Sunday of Lent. During this weekend we reflect on Jesus’ zeal for his Father’s house, which should be a house of prayer and worship and not a place of business or market. This opens a wide door to reflections on our day to day sense of worship and prayer. If our worship and prayer is directed towards worldly matters and affairs then we have a moment to reflect that God wants true worshippers in spirit and truth. Let us now reflect on the readings of this Sunday.
The Ten Commandments set out in the First Reading, Exod 20:1-17, in no way represent a moral code imposed as if it simply dropped down from heaven. Behind the commandments and the values they enshrine lies Israel’s covenant relationship with the God who set her free from slavery in Egypt and made her a people with a unique vocation: holy, beloved and set apart. It is by way of response to the gift of freedom and life that Israel lives according to the values and prescriptions set out in the commandments, modelling in this way before the nations of the world what it means to live out the Creator’s true intent for human beings.
Hence the stress in the opening commandments upon the relationship with the Lord, as sole and unique God. Then comes the Sabbath, the day set apart each week for leisure to reflect and foster relationships, including, first of all, the foundational relationship with God. The remaining commandments, beginning with the family and extending to marriage and all social relationships, should not be seen simply as prohibitions but as enshrining the values essential to peaceful life in human society. We could perhaps linger a little on the final ones having to do with “coveting”: that human desire to possess more and more which insecurity and fear can make all-consuming. St. Paul, in Romans 7:7-8, will see in it the very essence of sin. While in themselves the Ten Commandments presuppose a social set-up vastly different from our own, the values they enshrine have an abiding and far more widespread application.
The Second Reading, 1 Cor 1:22-25, contains perhaps the most radical sentences Paul ever wrote. Centuries of Christian tradition have dulled us to the horror and shock the thought of crucifixion evoked in the Greco-Roman world. It was simply not a subject to be mentioned—let alone depicted. Yet the early Christian missionaries, such as Paul, had to proclaim a crucified One as the Lord of salvation—the very antithesis of what the two categories of audience, Jews and Greeks, were looking for. Jews wanted their Messiah to prove his credentials by performing the kind of miraculous acts and stunts suggested to Jesus by Satan at the Temptation—suggestions Jesus swiftly dismissed. The Greeks—educated citizens of the wider Mediterranean world—were looking for salvation in the form of instruction that they could consider and adopt if it seemed reasonable. Salvation in such a form would have neatly met human desires. But God had in mind a solution vastly more radical, incomprehensible to merely human understanding: an act of divine unselfishness sufficient to match and overcome the entire accumulated mass of human selfishness and sin. The very capacity to see the Cross in these terms is something itself requiring the gift of God. Hence Paul’s insistence that only “those who are called”, those, that is, who have been grasped by God’s grace, can see the Cross as the power and the wisdom of God.
We may think that we have come to terms with this mystery. Then suffering or loss in some new form forces us to confront it anew. Every Lent is an invitation to journey once again to the heart of the Paschal Mystery and expose ourselves to a fresh appreciation of the Cross as the saving power and wisdom of God.
The Gospel, John 2:13-25, presents us with the Johannine version of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Though the Fourth Gospel, unlike the Synoptics, places this episode at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, it has essential reference to the events of his death and resurrection. In driving out from the Temple the animals brought there for sacrifice Jesus is in effect shutting it down as a place of worship. His own body is now to become the “place” or sanctuary where God is present and is to be worshipped. “Zeal for his father’s house” will “destroy” him in the sense that his attempt to break the confinement of worship to the physical Temple will provoke the hostility that will ultimately lead to the destruction of his own physical body. But in resurrection Jesus will “raise up” the new sanctuary of his risen body where his disciples and all subsequent believers will truly “dwell” with God and God with them. The disciples will grasp the full significance of what he is now saying when they “remember” it in the light of these later events.
Jesus whole mission, centring upon his death and resurrection, is driven by a consuming zeal to bring about between human beings and their God the “at-homeness” with God that he, as beloved Son, enjoys eternally with the Father (John 1:1-2, 18; 17:5)
Ultimately as we are approaching the celebration of the Pascal mysteries, we need to focus our attention of cleansing the temple of our hearts. This is an occasion also to understand that Jesus’ kingdom does not flourish in business terms rather in terms of compassions, love, forgiveness and joy of the Gospel. Hence, dear friends, let us gear up to understanding the real meaning of God’s kingdom in our lives and let the physical Church and spiritual Church become the true witness to Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
2nd Sunday of Lent - Year B - Mark 9:2-10
2nd Sunday of Lent Year: B
Gen 22.1-2, 9-18; Ps115 (116); Rom 8.31-37; Mk 9.2-10
From Peak to Peak
The seniors among us certainly recall that amazing story over half a century ago. May 29, 1953. A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest's summit. Here was a mountain - unreachable, tantalizing, fearsome, deadly - that had defeated 15 previous expeditions. Some of the planet's strongest climbers had perished on its slopes. For many, Everest represented the last of the earth's great challenges. The North Pole had been reached in 1909; the South Pole in 1911. But Everest, often called the Third Pole, had defied all human efforts - reaching its summit seemed beyond mere mortals. Now success! And heightening the impact even further was the delicious coincidence of their arrival just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the dramatic announcement of their triumph on the morning of the coronation. It was literally a "mountaintop experience." The mountaintop experience of which we read in today’s gospel a moment ago has Jesus and his three closest apostles - Peter, James, and John - going up on a high mountain and the miraculous transformation undergone by Jesus showing his heavenly glory to his disciples.
The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s gospel), to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Fr. Anthony De Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man. “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ’Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”
"He took with him Peter, James and John"
From the group of disciples Jesus chose 3, whom according to Mark's Gospel were present at the resurrection of Jairus' daughter (Mk 5.37) and will be close to Jesus in Gethsemane (Mk 14.33). These are 2 significant moments because in the first episode the 3 disciples become witnesses to the divine power which Jesus revealed by resurrecting a dead person, a sign of eschatological power which will be realized in the resurrection of all believers. In the second event the 3 disciples are witnesses to the supreme hour in which Jesus, the Son of God (Mk 14.36) and "Son of Man was given over to the hands of sinners" (Mk 14.41). Analogically it may be considered that the restriction of the immediate witnesses to these 3 disciples underline that the Transfiguration is a culminating event of Jesus' revelation and the mystery of his death and Resurrection.
"He Brought them up a high Mountain…"
The topographical data is important for its message. Besides the symbolic resonance of the adjective "high", Mark records elsewhere the motif of mountains which help interpret this verse. In 3.13 the mountain is the place where Jesus reveals himself as the founder and leader of the community by choosing some disciples, "making them" the Twelve and giving them the eschatological power to announce the Gospel and to cast out demons. In 6.46 the mountain is the place where Jesus after having multiplied the bread and before walking on the Sea of Galilee, went to pray; two revelatory events in the presence of the disciples. In 13.3 the mountain is the place where Jesus, alone with his disciples, reveals the signs of the eschatological coming of the Son of Man. The mountain of the Transfiguration thus appears to be an element which accentuates the aspect of messianic revelation with reference to the community in which the 3 disciples represent.
Mountain of Revelations
The place of the Transfiguration away from the public, found near to places where some significantly messianic miracles were worked (1.40-45; 5.21-43; 7.31-37; 8.22-26) and the prohibitions to divulge these miracles (5.37.40 cf. 5.43; 7.33 cf. 7.36; 8.23 cf. 8.26; the Transfiguration 9.2 cf. 9.9), becomes clear in the light of Mark's characteristic theme by which "that which he kept hidden from the masses came to be revealed to his disciples, the nucleus of the future messianic community."
"He was transfigured ..."
The verb used by the evangelist is also found in Romans 12.2 and in II Cor 3.18. It indicates a spiritual change. Here in this context however it treats of a visible transformation. The context shows that it is not a metamorphosis of the Hellenistic type whereby Jesus acquired a nature of another living thing or of another person or had taken on a disguise. Jesus does not appear to be a divine being who took over a human body, nor was found to be in an unrecognizable form (cf. Mk 16.12 and Lk 24.16). On Mt Tabor the disciples had no trouble in recognizing him; his personal and physical reality did not undergo mutation. The evangelist does not speak of the type of transfiguration undergone by Jesus. He speaks only of a unique and heavenly candour of the clothes. From this one may consider that "it treats of a transformation to a heavenly condition which matched the resplendent whiteness of the clothes." Moreover according to the connection between 9.1 and 9.9, to see the Kingdom of God come in glorious power is to see Jesus transfigured. It speaks of a transfiguration in which Jesus assumes the splendour of the eschatological Glory in the might of the divine power of the Kingdom.
"Elijah appeared to them with Moses…"
The meaning of the presence of these two renowned heavenly figures who represent the Prophets and the Law next to Jesus, most probably is that the times are fulfilled in Jesus and that Jesus is the Messiah. It is unique that Mark names Elijah first, but it is difficult to give an explanation for this. It appears that Mark stressed the function of these 2 persons with regard to the disciples. Jesus in himself blends the spirit of the Law and the Prophets and shows to his disciples concretely through the action of LOVE.
"Master, it is good for us to be here..."
Peter, having experienced this heavenly event, expressed his joy and proposed to keep Jesus and the 2 heavenly figures as long as possible. Various authors see in these words of Peter an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Ex 23.16; Lev 23.27-34; Dt 16.13). But if this were to be true, then Peter ought to have had proposed the building of tents also for the disciples. This feast in the time of Jesus was linked to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
"He did not know what to say…
There was fear, awe among the disciples. In this way, the evangelist appears to allude to the incapacity of the disciples to understand both the tragic and glorious events; of the mystery; and indirectly that the glory of Jesus transfigured is intimately linked to the glory which Jesus will obtain through the power of his Death and Resurrection. "It is the Glory which corresponds to the Passion and Death and that death brings with it the glorious Resurrection. The Transfiguration of Jesus was not meant to make a paradise out of the mountain; it was to stimulate, to fortify each step in the journey towards the Passion. The Christological revelation is oriented towards an ecclesiological understanding for a community placed in the journey which leads the Passion."
"And a Cloud came, Covering them in Shadow"
The way this is expressed indicates that the action of the cloud is meant to protect and guide the frightened disciples from the event. This meaning seems to be reinforced by the fact that the cloud elsewhere in the Old Testament indicates the coming of God in his manifestation to his people in the Exodus (Ex 40.35; Num 9.18,22; 10.34). The function of the cloud was to guide and protect the people in their journey in the desert (Ex 33.9-10; Num 11.25; 12.5). Perhaps it can allude also to the eschatological cloud which covers the elected people as found in Is 4.5. The cloud can therefore indicate the benevolent action of God on the disciples called to follow Jesus in the journey towards the Cross.
"There came a Voice from the Cloud..”
The association between the cloud and the voice is found in biblical literature (Ex 16.10; 19.19; 24.16; Num 17.7) as well as ancient Jewish literature (Num 21.6; Gen 22.10). It treats of a voice within a theophanic or revelatory framework which proclaims a divine oracle. Peter had practically equated Jesus with Elijah and Moses. The voice instead made the distinction very clear.
The statement of the divine sonship recalls without doubt the declaration which the evangelist had referred to at the moment of Jesus' baptism in Mk 1.11. There the divine oracle was addressed to Jesus, here however it is addressed to the disciples and through them, to the community and the crowds. Indeed with the command to listen to Jesus, the voice indirectly presents Jesus as the prophet whom all the people must listen to (cf. Acts 3.22 & Dt 18.15). It is a unique command valid for all time.
The "Messianic Secret"
It is written "As they came down from the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what "rising from the dead" could mean." In the descent from the mountain, Jesus spoke to his 3 disciples about what happened on the mountain and gave them an order. This is the well-known "messianic secret" (cf. 1.34; 3.12 and especially 8.30) followed immediately by the incomprehension of the disciples regarding the announcement of the Son of Man's Passion and Resurrection (cf. 8.32-33; 9.31).
The Dazzling Mystery
I have cited at the beginning a liturgical text summarizing the mystical theology and the existential spirituality which the event of the Transfiguration had inspired the Church. I now conclude with a liturgical text which seems to have as its basis the same fundamental text. It is found in the Preface of the Feast of the Transfiguration according to the Ambrosian Missal; "Christ revealed his glory before the witnesses pre-chosen by Him and in the poverty of our common nature He shone an incomparable light. Thus He prepared his disciples to bear the scandal of the Cross, anticipating in the Transfiguration the marvelous destiny of the entire Church, His Spouse and His Body; called to share in the fate of its Head and Lord".
Transfiguration in our daily life is accomplished through our sufferings, pain and sorrows. This also refers to all our daily joys and moments of triumphs. We need to take our daily challenges in our hand as coming from God and face them with a resolution of Christ who said to his disciples that he should suffer and die in Jerusalem. Ultimately we are all transfigured in our body, in our mind and in our heart before we meet our Lord on the last judgment day.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
1st Sunday of Lent - Year B - Mark 1:12-15
1st Sunday of Lent Year: B
Gen 9.8-15; Ps 24(25); 1 Pet 3.18-22; Mk 1.12-15
Listen Carefully – Try Reaching Back
There is a true story told by Stephen Covey about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull.
He went to this physician who found nothing wrong with him physically. The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal. He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else. The doctor then handed him four prescriptions - one to be read at 9 AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3 PM, and the final one at 6 PM. The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.
At nine AM he opened the first prescription, which read. “Listen carefully.” For three hours do nothing but listen??? Our friend was annoyed, but decided to obey. At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf—predictable beach sounds. But then he found himself listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as n child—patience, respect, the interdependence of the different parts of nature. Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.
At noon he opened the second prescription, and it said, “Try reaching back.” His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.
Examine your Motives
At three he opened the third prescription. This one was harder. It read, “Examine your motives.” Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life - success, recognition, security - and found satisfactory explanations for them all. But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment, that those motives were not enough, that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life.
“In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney. It is only when you are serving others, that you do the job well and feel good. This is a law as irrefutable as gravity.”
At six PM he read the final prescription. It said, “Write your worries on the sand.” He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away, never turning back. He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his anxieties would be washed away.”
Wilderness is an Opportunity
My friends, The Wilderness - the aloneness - the solitude that the wilderness affords - the hardship - is an opportunity - a blessing - from the Spirit of God. It is a place where we can be tested - a place where we can grow into the maturity that we require so that we can indeed face the world, in both good times and in bad, and do there those things there that God would have us do.
Meaning of Lent
Lent is a short season of six weeks intended to prepare us for the great celebrations of Easter. The word Lent comes from the old Anglo-Saxon and Old German words for spring marked by days that lengthen. The idea of penitence and fasting during Lent may have begun in earlier, hungrier times as a means of spiritualizing real shortages of food at this time of year. This refers to early European famine and drought.
The Gospel of today narrates how Jesus triumphed over Satan. While in the wilderness for forty days (this being a symbolic number), Satan tempted Him. Jesus did not allow himself to be seduced by Satan. He came on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came on earth to reclaim God's Kingdom that was rightfully his, but stolen by Satan through sin.
Jesus concludes in this passage the announcing in Galilee, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'
As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.
Doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the salvation that we shall inherit as children of God.
The Word of God
Jesus - had the Word of God - and he had prayer as his tools for surviving in the wilderness. He had used these tools before - in fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness. So Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence - or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in today’s scripture.
With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him - to help him in the wilderness. With it Jesus was able to resist giving in to the Devil.
When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are good to eat and which are poisonous.
Jesus’ Prayer Life
Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself. He knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the things that God wanted him to find.
Wilderness experience is a way of purifying ourselves from the toxins of the modern environment. This type of experience tames us from our pride and egoism. We begin to rely on God and not on ourselves. Wilderness experience is good physically, morally, spiritually and psychologically to uphold the values we stand for.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
6th Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B - Mark 1:40-45
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B
Lev 13.1-2, 45-46; 1 Cor 10.23-11.1; Mk 1.40-45
I am Crying for Myself
Once when Emperor Yu, the founding Emperor of the Xia Dynasty, went out to inspect his kingdom, he saw a criminal being escorted to be punished. He ordered his carriage to stop and asked, "What crime did he commit?"
The guards said, "He was caught stealing wheat and rice. We are taking him to the site for punishment."
Yu stepped out of his carriage. He came to the criminal and asked, "Why did you steal?"
The criminal faced a very important official and was so scared that he lowered his head and said nothing. Yu did not get angry but continued to advise him while shedding tears. The officials around Emperor Yu could not understand and one of them asked, "This person stole from others and should be punished. Why is Your Majesty suffering so much as to be shedding tears?"
Yu said, "I am not crying for him but for myself. When Yao and Shun were Emperors, all the citizens followed their hearts and moral standards. Now I am the Emperor, but my people are not following my moral standards, committing crimes such as this and hurting others. Seeing such a state of affairs in my own kingdom greatly upsets me!"
Emperor Yu asked someone to bring a plate and wrote "When citizens commit a crime, it is my fault." He then ordered the guards to release the criminal.
Sharing the Blame
It is written in the Old Testament that "the person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean'. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Leviticus 13.45-46). This was to share their shame and sin without in any way interfering in the so called sinless society. Indifference towards those lepers was normal and accepted behaviour.
Attain Small thing at a Time
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, and continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
Light a Candle
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
Jesus fearlessly engaged himself in liberating people. He acted and lived a life of service. That is what we have to learn from Jesus.
Whatever You Do
St. Paul tells us something very similar. Helping our neighbour, and glorifying God. Corinthians 10.31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.
I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context.
From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10.28).
Discernment in Life
Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.
Do Not Scandalize the Weak
Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble.
Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to the theme. What glorifies God the most? the salvation of the lost people.
Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B - Mark 1:29-39
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B
Job 7.1-4, 6-7; Ps 146 (147);1 Cor 9.16-19, 22-23; Mk 1.29-39
Novelist Russell Banks once wrote a short story called "The Fish." In this fanciful tale we are told about a giant fish that lived in a good-sized lake not far from a small Chinese village. For reasons no one was ever clear about, the authorities, led by a Colonel Tung, decided that this giant fish was a menace that had to be removed from the lake. But every time the colonel tried to kill the fish, the creature somehow survived unscathed. They fired automatic weapons at the fish, but no bullet struck it. They placed mines throughout the waters of the lake, and although the fish detonated the mines, it swam on. They hid floatable grenades amidst chunks of bread that were scattered on the water's surface. And although the fish ate the grenades along with the bread, it lived on.
Needless to say, each time Colonel Tung failed to slay the beast, the reputation of the fish grew. People delighted in astonishment that such a creature existed. Tourists began to come to the lake's shores to catch a glimpse of the fish, and soon people in boats trolled the waters to see it, cameras at the ready. But then one day someone began to circulate the idea that it must be the waters of the lake itself that contained the magic. Surely such special water had healing properties, could be an elixir for long life.
They Carried away Water
Soon, everyone who came to see the fish brought a mason jar, a bucket, or some other vessel with which to cart home some of this magic water. This went on for months. The authorities tried to control it, but under the cover of darkness some were now siphoning water out of the lake into tanker trucks. Before anyone could do much about it, the lake level dropped precipitously. A dry stretch of weather over the next summer depleted the lake still more until finally the terrible day came when there was no longer enough water for the great fish to swim in. One morning, people found the fish lying on its side, flapping its fins on a muddy flat that had once been the lake. They began to bring water back to the lake, dousing the fish as quickly as they could. But by sunset that night, they buried the fish.
We Ruin Things around Us
I am by no means certain what all Mr. Banks meant to convey via this story. Probably it means lots of things, but among them is surely this idea: there is nothing so wonderful in this life that we humans cannot find a way to ruin as soon as we make our own selves our sole reference point. As soon as something becomes all about me, the moment I spy something that I think I can turn to my private advantage, my perspective becomes narrowed, my horizons contract, and suddenly I discover that by trying to horde something for my own private benefit, I have killed that very thing.
Jesus Cared for all
Indeed, we human beings will go to extraordinary efforts to free ourselves of chaos, yet however the harder we try to destroy chaos, the worse things become. In some ways we have some success. Throughout the past two thousand years, Christians have done much good for those who have suffered. It is said that Christians learned the Muslim invention of the hospital, later of course we brought healing across the globe. We also created schools so that the poor could rise out of their poverty. We created social programs, did you know that it was Christians who brought about Universal medical care in Canada. Jesus cared for the sick, so we should too.
Getting Rid of Evil
However, we need to tell the truth about our Christian history too. There have been times when clearly we have tried to destroy what we thought was evil and in doing so unleashed hell on countless numbers of people. During the crusades, we killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims who would not convert. And of course we engaged in many wars in order to "rid the world of evil". And yet, the vain promise of "a war to end all wars" has brought instead a century of the worst violence in human history. Wounds are still alive, and hearts are restless.
Prayer was his Strength
More than ever we need to listen and follow Jesus. Did you notice what he did in the text after healing people and casting out the demons? After Jesus, in his compassion, heals those with disease and demons for a full day, he gets up in the early morning to pray. While it was still dark and goes to a place alone and prayed.
He Listened to His Father
The text doesn't say what he prayed; I wonder if he says nothing but just listens. An older Christian once said that praying was more about listening than asking from God. He said, "Most times just sit in silence and listen for what God wants you to know and do."
Everyone is Searching for You
And so his companions find him praying and begin to tell him what he must do. "Everyone is searching for you." OK, Jesus, they are saying, it is time for you to really show them your power and to expand your popularity. That is what we want you to do, be successful.
And yet, Jesus will not let the disciples set the agenda. Did you notice that? He says, "Let's go on to neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do." And he went through Galilee proclaiming the message in the places of worship and casting out demons.
The Time is Fulfilled
It is interesting that Jesus message itself casts out the demons. You remember what Jesus was preaching? "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news." It is a simple message however as we shall see; all the forces of Hell will set themselves against this one from Nazareth. And still he will not respond to their chaotic fury with a punch, or kick or slash of the sword or dropping of a bomb, but rather he will speak the truth to them and to us even to the point of death on a cross. Where we expect him to crush evil and chaos with a divine army, instead he speaks the truth, even to the point of a death on the cross.
What an Absurdity!
And to many, responding to evil in his way is folly; to respond to power with truth is insanity; and of course to die for one's enemies rather than fighting them to the last breath seems nothing less than absurd.
And yet, still we gather under the sign of the cross; the throne of God's power. We who have been called to proclaim the message of Christ's reign are entrusted to proclaim to those around us that there is a way which can cast out the demons that deceive us and create chaos in the lives of humanity.
Jesus Brings the Kingdom
Proclaiming the Gospel starts in a simple way. Do you know that you are beloved? That God has welcomed you, just as you are, into a new way of life. Do you know that Jesus, the Holy One has called us friends, broken people like us, troubled people like us, sinners like us; friends we who could not make it to God by being rich enough, or smart enough, or popular enough or good enough. The kingdom of God has come near, come to us in Jesus Christ. If anyone, even yourself tells you that you are unworthy of life, tell them, "Shut up!” If someone says to another that they are unlovable tell them, "Shut up!" And of course, there is more to the story, and more to the Gospel, but at the core is God's love for a chaotic and broken world.
His kind of power may not be what the world expected but it is enough to claim us and make us sons and daughters of the Most High God to call us to share in God's mission as the very body of Christ. For when all is said, we are called to proclaim with our lives that the power and truth of God is at work setting us free and the whole world free of death and destruction.
The Mission of Love
To follow this Holy One who does not destroy enemies, but rather gives his life for them, is the most important mission of all. While the world may not realize it and we may not yet realize it, but the church is the most important thing that is happening in the world. I sincerely believe that we have been called to follow Jesus and witness to God's loving power at work in the world. To be asked to share in the divine power and mission of Jesus is the greatest news of all and that is what we understand as LOVE mission.!
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you’
When we do good works people come in search of us because we become another Christ in our deeds and intentions. When we do bad things, people run away from us. We are called to be like Christ who always went around doing good works and helping people in need. He liberated them from their sufferings and pain.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada