Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In Jesus Name We...


Go figure? In  Mark 9:38-50, the apostles are all bent out of shape because someone outside of their “elite” group dares to do their job and has been caught casting out demons. Ironically, none of the twelve were able to exorcise an unclean spirit from a boy earlier in Mark. Now, they want to forbid someone who is doing the same thing, but successfully.

Jesus’ response is unequivocal: Cut out all your elitist nonsense and get over yourselves; he was acting in my name.  

What does acting in my name mean? Jesus tries to teach us that acting in the Name of Jesus is not merely a knee jerk response to a liturgical prayer.

It's living a life under the reign of God in Jesus, as Jesus.

Jesus was also unequivocal when he tells us that anything that gets in the way of living in His name, should be eliminated. So should stumbling blocks disguised as precious body parts, be severed? Again, the violence of Jesus' hyperbole here is palpable and unequivocal. It serves to remind us that preventing another from being “of Christ” and acting in his name is far worse than self-mutilation.
We ask:

What stumbling do we put in the way of others?
What does it mean to be “of Christ?”
What criteria should we use to determine if someone is "of Christ" or not?
What about active church membership?
What if, rather than "active church membership," we call it "being a part of the body of Christ"?
Can one be "of Christ" and not be an integral part of the "body of Christ?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Whoever welcomes me...welcomes the One who sent me

In Mark9:30-37 the disciples continue to be confused with Jesus’ message partly because their burning question was not “How can I live my life as Jesus?”, but rather, “How can I be seen as the greatest?”

Their self-centered thoughts were barriers to their understanding of what Jesus was telling them. In addition, their “arrogance,” reminiscent of Adam and Eve, breached the lines of communication with Jesus and their relationship with Him. They were unsuccessful in their attempt to heal the child because they were more intent on impressing the crowd; competing with each other and vying for Jesus approval rather than serving as instruments of God’s Peace.

In citing the child, Jesus is telling us that we have to welcome those “non-persons” who occupy the lowest rung of society’s ladder: "whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

Once again Jesus is challenging us to reverse long-standing, ingrained, human habits and to set aside our common human understanding of how to win fame and glory, and instead learn from Jesus, God's way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When is it God's Will?

Do I really want to follow the will of God? Am I deluded first by wanting to make my own plans and then by insisting that God support and realize them? Or, do I seek to find my place in God’s plans, in God’s “master plan” for me?  

Most theologians believe that the Holy Spirit works not only in our conscious thoughts but also in our subconscious. Many times the Holy Spirit does not share with our conscious minds the reasons and motives for a given inclination, but moves us anyway, by forces we cannot recognize or name, to fulfill his highest purposes and to attain our own ultimate destinies. We achieve peace when we harmonize ourselves with this movement of the Spirit.

The head may be left with a thousand questions, but the heart’s intuition will sense that “This is right” and will know a peace of its own.

(The Christian Vision, The Truth that Sets Us Free; p 149, John Powell, SJ.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Satan??? What did I say that was so wrong?

Suppose this was the first time you were reading Mark’s words in his Gospel 8:27-38 Mark 8:27-38. You might wonder if these people really knew each other or if they had an identity crisis. On the one hand Jesus asks "Who do people say that I am?" On the other, his close “friends” who are all over the lot, respond "John the Baptist,” and others, “Elijah,” and still others, “one of the prophets." Now, this is after they have seen him feed thousands; cure the sick; raise the dead, and cast out demons. This is also after he’s provided enough clues as to who he really is.

Then, after Peter, comes up with the right answer, so we think, and proclaims “You are the Messiah.” Jesus turns to his disciples and rebukes Peter…and calls him, “Satan” and tells him that he is setting is mind on human things, not divine things.   

Now here’s a loaded question, which of the two is confused? I did say it was a loaded question but, in fairness to Peter why did he get it wrong or does even get partial credit?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Caught With His Compassion Down

Thank God for this tenacious lowly “theologian” who comes to us in the form of a mother seeking help for her daughter in Mark 7:24-37. Her “theology” doesn't originate in books and study; it's an expression of painfully experienced need and fierce motherly love.

Jesus commends the woman's reasoning but says nothing about faith -- strange, perhaps, in light of other passages in Mark that connect faith to receiving blessings. For some interpreters, this makes the mother mostly a model of determination or verbal dexterity rather than faith.

But doesn’t her determination make us understand what "faith" really means? Notice her persistent efforts: (refusing to go away until she gets what she came for), her hopeful insight (refusing to believe even a tiny speck of grace isn't out of reach and knowing just a scrap can make the difference for her), and -- in the end -- her trusting acceptance (her willingness to take Jesus at his word and journey home alone to confirm her daughter's healing).

Who says things like desperation and tenacity aren't the same thing as faith, when that desperation and tenacity are brought to Jesus? In Mark, "faith" is hardly about getting Jesus' name or titles right, or articulating proper doctrine. It's about clinging to Jesus and expecting him to heal, to restore, to save. It's about demanding he do what he says he came to do. It’s about KNOWING.

Look for this woman in the back row of church this Sunday. Maybe she's the one whose reputation discourages her from getting involved or the one who slips out during the last hymn to avoid having to mix with the churchy "insiders." But she keeps coming back, fiercely convinced that if anything we say week-in and week-out is true, then it's got to be true for her, too. (
adapted from Commentary on Gospel by Matt Skinner)