Made Clean

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
(Mark 1:40-45)

Scripture Study

1:41–42 At the sight of this wretched man, Jesus is moved with pity, a verb denoting a strong emotional reaction. As the bystanders look on with astonishment, Jesus stretches out his hand and touches him. But Jesus is not defiled by the leprosy; instead, his touch and word instantly make the man clean. The power of Jesus’ cleanness—his holiness—is invincible. Because no defilement can contaminate him, he is able to remove defilement from all those who approach him in faith.

1:43 Verse 43 could be interpreted to mean that Jesus sternly charged and dismissed (literally, “cast out”) not the leper but a demon, presumably one that caused the leprosy. His command, See that you tell no one anything, seems surprising. Why would he not want this healing to be publicized, since he himself is traveling around proclaiming the good news of the kingdom? It is the first clear instance of what biblical scholars have called the “messianic secret” in Mark: Jesus’ insistence on concealing his identity and mighty works during the time of his public ministry.

1:44–45 Jesus tells the cleansed man to show himself to a priest and offer the sacrifice prescribed for cleansing from leprosy (see Lev 14), showing his respect for the law of Moses (Mark 7:10; 10:3; see Matt 23:2–3). A priest’s pronouncement of a clean bill of health will allow the man to reenter society and participate once again in temple worship. The prescribed rite was to take two clean birds, one to be sacrificed and the other, dipped in the blood of the first, to fly away free (Lev 14:3–7). If the man complied with Jesus’ word, he might have discovered a symbolic image foreshadowing Jesus’ own sacrifice and helping him understand more deeply what Jesus had done for him. But for now, he is unable to contain his delight. Ignoring Jesus’ injunction, he begins to publicize the whole matter and spread the report. Mark uses Christian terminology, literally “preach a lot” and “spread the word,” drawing an unmistakable parallel with the joyful evangelistic preaching of Christians who have been cleansed by Christ in baptism.

As a result, it becomes impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. Ironically, Jesus has now taken on himself the leper’s previous status: the healed man is free to return to human society, but Jesus must remain outside in deserted places to avoid being mobbed by people seeking to benefit from his miraculous powers. He has healed the man with leprosy at a cost to himself—just as later in the Gospel he will take on Barabbas’s status as a condemned criminal, while Barabbas goes free (15:15). 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today has to do with Jesus’ healing a leper. There aren’t that many lepers around today, but there are plenty of people that we treat as outsiders or pariahs. Like Jesus, we should be welcoming to them. Now I have nothing particularly against that way of reading the situation, but I suspect that we’ve all heard it a thousand times.

Let me propose a symbolic reading a little different from the customary one. I propose that the leper here stands, not so much for the socially ostracized, but for the one who has wandered away from right worship, the one who is no longer able or willing to worship the true God. That’s why Jesus tells the man to “go show yourself to the priest.” In other words, go back to the Temple from which you’ve been away for so long.

What is so important about worship? To worship is to order the whole of one’s life toward the living God, and, in doing so, to become interiorly and exteriorly rightly ordered. To worship is to signal to oneself what one’s life is finally about. It’s nothing that God needs, but it is very much something that we need.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.     

Loaves and Fishes

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.
(Mark 8:1-10)

Scripture Study

8:1–2 In contrast to the earlier miracle of the loaves, this time Jesus takes the initiative. He has continued his ministry of mercy in the Decapolis area, and so great is the people’s attraction to him that they have remained with him for three days and have nothing to eat. Jesus is evidently satisfying a need deeper than physical hunger. Yet he also cares about the people’s bodily needs. In the previous incident his compassion was occasioned by their being like sheep without a shepherd (6:34), a biblical image for God’s people lacking sound leadership. Here it is their hunger that causes him to be moved with pity. As in 1:41 and 6:34 the verb denotes strong, gut-wrenching emotion.

8:3 As if to test his disciples (see John 6:6), he presents the problem to them: If I send them away hungry, they will collapse on the way. The word for collapse (RSV “faint”) is used elsewhere in the New Testament for losing heart or getting discouraged in the face of the struggles of the Christian life (Gal 6:9; Heb 12:3, 5). Jesus is challenging his disciples to stretch their faith, as a lesson for their future pastoral ministry: How will they respond when God’s people faint for lack of spiritual nourishment, and they do not have the resources to feed them? Will their solution be to send the people away (as in Mark 6:36), or will they trust Jesus to provide, using whatever small amount they can give him?

8:4 The disciples’ skeptical response (echoing Moses’ complaint in Num 11:13), seems strange in light of the miraculous feeding they have already witnessed. But many modern disciples of Jesus could attest how easy it is to forget the lessons of discipleship. Throughout the Bread Section Mark highlights the disciples’ slowness to grasp the revelation of Jesus (Mark 6:52; 8:21)—not to disparage them, but to remind us, his readers, of the poverty of our own faith. Do we not yet understand that Jesus is the Bread, and that he is able to multiply whatever we put into his hands?

8:5–7 Since the disciples do not yet grasp the point, Jesus gives them a hint to remind them of the earlier bread miracle: How many loaves do you have? This time the answer is seven, barely enough for a lean meal for the Twelve. Again Jesus orders the crowd to sit down, as if reclining for a banquet. Mark records nearly the same sequence of actions as in 6:41, again with eucharistic overtones. Instead of saying that Jesus “blessed” the loaves, Mark uses a synonym, gave thanks (eucharisteō), the same word used for the blessing of the cup at the Last Supper (14:23; see also Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). Once again the pattern is that Jesus takes what little his disciples have to offer, blesses it, and gives it back to them; in that very process the paltry amount mysteriously becomes more than enough to satisfy the needs of all. Rather than handing out the loaves himself, Jesus insists on the involvement of his disciples: he gave them to his disciples to distribute. Because of its eucharistic significance, the primary focus is on the bread; only afterward does Mark also mention the blessing and distribution of the few fish.

8:8–10 The people who were famished only moments before ate and were satisfied, as proven by the abundant leftover fragments. Mark carefully records the numbers involved, hinting at their symbolic significance. In the first feast in the desert Jesus had fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, ending up with twelve baskets of leftovers; this time, in Gentile territory, he feeds four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish, ending up with seven baskets of leftovers. The word for baskets is different; whereas in 6:43 Mark used a term denoting wicker baskets typically used by Jews, here he uses the ordinary Greek word for a (large) basket (see Acts 9:25). The numbers suggest a similar Jew-Gentile contrast. Twelve signifies the twelve tribes of Israel; seven may be intended to evoke the seven pagan nations that inhabited Canaan before Israel entered the land (Deut 7:1; Acts 13:19). The number four alludes to the four directions of the compass (see Rev 7:1); thus the four thousand fed by Jesus represent the whole world, to whom the mission of the Church would be directed.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish.

An awful lot of contemporary theologians and Bible commentators have tried to explain away the miracles of Jesus as spiritual symbols. Perhaps most notoriously, many preachers tried to explain the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as a “miracle” of charity, with everyone sharing the little that he had.

But I think it’s hard to deny that the first Christians were intensely interested in the miracles of Jesus, and that they didn’t see them as mere literary symbols! They saw them for what they really were: actions of God, breaking into our world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.     

Man Fully Alive

Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

Scripture Study

7:31 Sidon A Phoenician port on the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles north of Tyre. Decapolis A region of ten cities; the same region where the demon-possessed man had proclaimed what Jesus did for him (5:20).

7:34 Ephphatha A transliteration of the Aramaic term eppathah, meaning “be opened.” The recordings of Jesus speaking in Aramaic (His native language) in the Gospel of Mark suggest its very early date.

7:36 he ordered them Jesus probably gives this instruction to the man and the people who brought him, in order to conceal His identity until the proper time (v. 32). Jesus continues to veil His true identity (compare note on v. 24). Jesus’ true identity so challenged the religious leaders of the time that it led to His execution. Mark’s Gospel notes that Jesus is aware that the unveiling of His true identity, as God’s Son and the Messiah, will lead to His death (2:20; 8:31).

Scripture Reflection

Like all healings in the Gospels, the physical cure of the deaf and mute man is real, but also has a deeper spiritual significance. God designed human beings not only with the physical senses but also with marvelous spiritual capacities to see, hear, and relate to him. These interior faculties were disabled by original sin, causing a severe communication block between God and humanity. Jesus’ healings of people who are deaf, blind, and lame is a sign of his restoration of humanity to the fullness of life and of communion with our Creator. Now by the grace of Christ we are able to hear God’s voice in our hearts, sing his praises, and proclaim his mighty deeds (see Acts 2:11). “The glory of God is man fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).

– Mary Healy

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Refuse To Take No For An Answer

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.
(Mark 7:24-30)

Scripture Study

7:24 Tyre A Phoenician port on the Mediterranean Sea, northwest of Galilee.

7:26 a Syrophoenician The Greek phrase used here is used by Roman authors to distinguish the Phoenicians of Syria from those of North Africa.

7:27 Let the children be fed first Jesus is noting that Israel was first chosen to benefit from God’s rule, before people from the rest of the world. Jesus is also affirming that His mission is first to the Jewish people, although He foreshadows the inclusion of non-Jewish people (see vv. 14–23). Paul makes similar remarks (e.g., Rom 1:16; compare Isa 49:6). Throw it to the dogs Jesus is trying to evoke a response about Jewish-Gentile relations—He is likely using a common adage among Jewish people to do so.

7:28 Lord The Greek term used here, kyrios, means either “lord” or “sir”; it was a typical title for formally addressing a social superior and it seems that the woman is using the phrase in this way.

7:29 For saying this, you may go This turning point inaugurates Jesus’ mission to non-Jewish people (Mark 7:31–37).

Scripture Reflection

In this striking incident, the Syrophoenician woman turns out to be a model of Christian faith. She is not the last person who has come to Jesus with an urgent petition, only to encounter what seems to be a brick wall! But she is neither discouraged nor disheartened by the apparent setback. She simply perseveres in intrepid confidence. Somehow what she has heard about Jesus has given her a profound intuition that he cannot be indifferent to her plea. So, she refuses to take no for an answer—and her boldness is rewarded.

The clear lesson in this story is that the Lord does hear our prayers, and even his apparent refusals are meant to awaken in us a yet deeper faith, which opens us to receive the gift that he has for us. Few sayings of Jesus are recorded more often than his reassurance that what we ask in prayer with faith we will receive.

– Mary Healy

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

The Heart of the Matter

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
(Mark 7:14-23)

Scripture Study

7:16 Mk 7:16, “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear,” is omitted because it is lacking in some of the best Greek manuscripts and was probably transferred here by scribes from Mk 4:9, 23.

7:17 Away from the crowd … the parable: in this context of privacy the term parable refers to something hidden, about to be revealed to the disciples; cf. Mk 4:10–11, 34. Jesus sets the Mosaic food laws in the context of the kingdom of God where they are abrogated, and he declares moral defilement the only cause of uncleanness.

7:19 (Thus he declared all foods clean): if this bold declaration goes back to Jesus, its force was not realized among Jewish Christians in the early church; cf. Acts 10:1–11:18.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus explains that sinful behavior flows from within our hearts. How often the Bible speaks of the “heart.” By that it means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. God wants to penetrate that heart, so that he is the center of our souls.

But there is something terribly black in the human heart. We are made in the image and likeness of God, but that image can be so distorted by sin as to be barely recognizable. Our faith clearly teaches the awful truth of the fall, and we see the evidence of it in the mystery of sin, which is not to be ignored, not to be trifled with, not to be rationalized away. We are all capable of dark and evil acts. I’m not okay and neither are you.

Have our hearts become hardened, so that God cannot get in? Is there a deep resistance in us to grace?

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Hypocrisy

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”
(Mark 7:1-13)

Scripture Study

7:3 the traditions of the elders Possibly refers to a coherent body of practices and norms handed down from earlier generations.

7:4 purifying themselves Probably to guard against defilement by unintentional contact with ritually unclean objects or people.

7:6 it is written Jesus quotes Isa 29:13, which is part of an oracle condemning the people of Jerusalem, and by extension God’s people in general, for failing to follow God’s commandments.

7:9 How well you set aside Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of favoring their own traditions over the law of Moses—which is ironic, since they claimed to be leading interpreters and practitioners of Mosaic law.

7:10 for Moses said For Moses said Jesus quotes Exod 20:12 and Exod 21:17 respectively, applying these laws to situations when the parents of an adult are in need.

7:11 qorban The Greek text here uses the Hebrew term qorban, which commonly refers to sacrificial offerings.

7:12 to do nothing more for his father or his mother The tradition probably held that if a person dedicated resources to God, they could no longer be used for another purpose. Thus, the promise in Mark 7:11 would mean that no resources could be used to support one’s parents, because those resources had been dedicated to God.

7:13 your tradition In ancient Near Eastern culture, the expectation would have been that children help care for their older parents.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who have imposed their interpretation of the Law on the Israelites. Keep in mind that the first Christians and the writers of the first Christian documents were all Jews, or at least people formed by a Jewish thought world. They made sense of Jesus in terms of what were, to them, the Scriptures.

Jesus himself was an observant Jew, and the themes and images of the Holy Scriptures were elemental for him. He presented himself as the one who would not undermine the Law and the Prophets but fulfill them.

All of those social and religious conventions that had effectively divided Israel, he sought to overcome and expose as fraudulent. He reached out to everyone: rich and poor, healthy and sick, saints and sinners. And he embodied the obedience of Israel: “I have come only to do the will of the one who sent me.” “My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

A Touch of Faith

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.
(Mark 6:53-56)

Scripture Study

6:53 This summary of Jesus’ healing activity illustrates once again his compassion for the sick and the people’s profound attraction to him. Mark earlier noted that the disciples were to cross toward Bethsaida at the northeast corner of the lake (6:45), but now they come to land at Gennesaret, a region of fertile plains along the western shore. They may have wondered why Jesus sent them toward Bethsaida only to end up on the opposite side of the lake. Perhaps it is meant to serve as a reminder that Jesus knows what he is about: even when he seems to lead his followers in one direction only to have them change course, there may be a purpose in the journey itself that is even more important than the destination.

6:54–56 Upon arrival Jesus is immediately recognized by the people, who seize the opportunity by running to bring the sick on mats (just as the friends of the paralytic had done, 2:4). The mention of hearing suggests that all who come into contact with Jesus become heralds of his presence, telling others about him. He enters into every sphere of Galilean society—villages, towns, and countryside—and everywhere the people beg him for healing. The marketplaces, the open areas that were the center of commercial and political activity, now become places of encounter with Jesus. As in the story of the woman with a hemorrhage (5:28), all that is needed is a touch, since even his garments can mediate his healing power.

The tassel on his cloak is no mere decoration. It is the long fringe (Hebrew tzitzit) that Jewish men wore on the corners of their prayer shawl, in accord with the law of Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that they and their descendants must put tassels on the corners of their garments.… When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind you to keep all the commandments of the Lord” (Num 15:38–39; see Deut 22:12; Matt 23:5). Jesus is the model of faithfulness to the covenant, who perfectly fulfills the Father’s commands. All who touched it were healed—not because of any magical power in the tassel itself, but because of their faith in him who wore it. Here, as often in Mark’s healing narratives (Mark 5:23, 34; 10:52), physical healing is an anticipatory sign of salvation in the full sense, since the same verb, sōzō, can be translated “heal” or “save.”

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel reports Jesus healing many people at Gennesaret. We hear that people brought the sick from all over the region and all of them were cured. “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

It’s hard to deny that Jesus was known as a healer and a miracle worker. And there is also abundant evidence that the performance of miracles was a major reason why the first preachers were taken seriously.

In addition to miracles, we also have the witness of martyrs. Today marks the memorial of St. Agatha, who died in fidelity to Christ. But her death wasn’t in vain. Her witness continues to shine throughout Sicily and across the world.

Miracles and martyrs: two beacons of light that illuminate the truth of Jesus Christ..

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Preach it Again!

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.
(1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23)

Scripture Study

9:16 an obligation has been imposed on me God set apart Paul to proclaim the gospel message (Gal 1:15; Acts 9:15). Therefore, he is compelled to preach it even in the face of opposition (see 2 Cor 11:23–28). woe is to me Implies that if Paul does not preach the gospel, he will face an undesirable consequence. Paul draws on language from the prophet Jeremiah to express the serious nature of his calling (Jer 10:19; 20:9; 45:3).

9:18 my right Refers to material and financial support from the church communities.

9:19 I have made myself to slave Paul put himself at the service of others in order that God may use him to bring people to Jesus (compare Phil 2:5–8; Gal 4:4–5). He does not regard himself as a “savior,” but as an instrument through which someone might hear the gospel and be saved (compare 1 Cor 7:16). He adapts to his audience (but not by compromising the gospel or his message) to remove any obstacles to their acceptance of the gospel message.

9:22 to the weak Refers to Christians who felt tempted to regress to idolatrous practices. (see 1 Cor 8:7; Rom 14:1). to win over the weak Paul demonstrated sensitivity to such believers, but he also desired that they mature in their faith (see 1 Cor 8:7–13). all things to all Paul is not advocating syncretism or compromise of the gospel message. Rather, he is promoting a considerate evangelistic approach—one that accounts for different social circumstances, ethnicities, and religious convictions. to save at least some The believing spouse may have the opportunity to participate in the conversion of the unbelieving spouse. In this way, the believer becomes an instrument that helps the unbeliever turn toward God (9:20–22).

Scripture Reflection

Our family had a retriever named Jeb, a maroon-spotted dog that loved nothing more than fetching whatever one would toss. Whenever I would visit my family on the ranch, Jeb would come running to meet me, knowing that I would give him another chance to show his skill. I would take a stick or rock, throw it, and Jeb would take off like a jet at full speed, sometimes catching the stick or rock as it bounced. Then he would proudly return it and drop it at my feet. Did he want a pat on the head in appreciation for what he did? Or a bone to chew on or a morsel of meat? Not at all. He wanted me to throw it again. And if perchance I was distracted in conversation with a family member, he would eventually paw at my foot until I would reach down and toss the object again. His reward for fetching it? Fetching it again. He would do this over and over, not until he got tired but until I did. I think of Jeb when I think of Paul’s preaching the gospel. He looks for no further reward than preaching it again—free of charge.

– George T. Montague

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Rhythm of Christian Activity

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:30-34)

Scripture Study

6:30 After the interlude on the death of John the Baptist, Mark picks up where he left off with the mission of the apostles (6:7–13), who now return to Jesus and report to him all they had done and taught. Although Jesus’ recent instructions (6:7–11) did not mention teaching, it was part of the ministry for which he had appointed them (3:14). This brief passage serves as a hinge, concluding the mission of the Twelve and preparing for the theme of nourishment and bread on which the next major section will focus.

6:31–32 Jesus recognizes that after their period of intense apostolic labors, the Twelve need to be refreshed once again in his presence and in their fellowship with one another. To “be with him” remains a requirement of fruitful apostleship that must be constantly renewed (3:14; see John 15:4). The deserted place recalls the desert of 1:3–13, a place of testing but also a place of solitude and retreat where God’s people withdraw from the world for special intimacy with him. Jesus’ desire to give them rest evokes the rest that God pledges to give his people in the promised land (Exod 33:14; Deut 12:10; see Heb 4:9–11). It also shows his concern for the practical, physical needs of those who spend themselves in his service.

From the fact that people were coming and going in great numbers it may be inferred that the apostles’ preaching of repentance (6:12) had hit the mark. More people than ever were being drawn to Jesus and prepared to receive his teaching and his healing power. Once again Mark notes that the apostles’ ministry was so demanding that they had no opportunity even to eat (see 3:20). They are taking on the character of Jesus, who subordinates his personal needs to his ministry to his people. This remark prepares for the miracle of the loaves that is about to occur. Jesus and the apostles go off to a deserted place that, as we will soon see, turns out to be not so deserted after all.

6:34. Our Lord had planned a period of rest, for himself and his disciples, from the pressures of the apostolate (Mk 6:31–32). And he has to change his plans because so many people come, eager to hear him speak. Not only is he not annoyed with them: he feels compassion on seeing their spiritual need. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). They need instruction and our Lord wants to meet this need by preaching to them.

Scripture Reflection

This brief passage illustrates the rhythm of Christian apostolic activity, which ought to alternate between periods of intense labor and periods of simply “being with” Jesus (see 3:14). Here we can imagine him taking time with each disciple to listen to the reports of their successes and failures, to encourage, counsel, and redirect them where necessary. What spiritual refreshment they must have found in this “debriefing” conversation.

It is true that the demands of apostolic activity, both then and now, will occasionally preempt the need for physical and mental rest (see 6:33–34). But the temptation for those of us who work in Christ’s vineyard is to get so caught up in the busyness of ministry that we repeatedly ignore the need for prayer, rest, and stillness in God’s presence. When that happens, it is all too easy to begin imperceptibly substituting our own agenda for the Lord’s.

Authentic Christian ministry is rooted in prayer since apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:1–8). How can we carry out the Lord’s work except in the Lord’s strength (see 1 Pet 4:11)? And how can we be renewed in that strength except by waiting in his presence (see Isa 40:31)?

– Mary Healy

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.     

Presentation of the Lord

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
Band you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
(Luke 2:22-40)

Scripture Study

2:22 purification: The birth of a male child disqualifies an Israelite woman from touching any holy object or approaching the Temple for 40 days, after which time she must offer sacrifice in Jerusalem (Lev 12:1–8). Strictly speaking, these offerings cleanse women of legal impurity and have no connection with moral failures or guilt. Mary here gives the sacrifice of the poor: two “turtledoves”, or two “pigeons” (2:24; Lev 12:8).

2:23 Every male … to the Lord: A paraphrase of Ex 13:2. It implies either that Jesus is consecrated as a priest or that he was purchased from the Levites by a redemption price of five shekels (Num 18:15–16). Either way, Mary and Joseph fulfill the Law faithfully (2:22, 24, 27) and completely (2:39).

2:25 consolation of Israel: i.e., the time when many believed that Yahweh would rescue his people from Gentile rule (Romans) and reestablish the glorious kingdom of David in Jerusalem (1:71; 2:38). These hopes were linked with the coming Messiah (Mk 11:10; Acts 1:6).

2:34 fall and rise: Simeon’s second oracle casts a shadow over the Child’s future. He is the Messiah who will draw a line in the sand of Israel, causing the nation to divide itself by taking a stand for or against him (20:17–18; 1 Pet 2:6–8). Those who reject him stand self-condemned, while those who embrace him will be blessed (6:20–23, 46–49).

2:35 a sword will pierce: An advance glimpse of Calvary, when the rejection of Jesus by sinners will bear heavily on his Mother. Attached to her vocation is a grim expectation of maternal suffering.

2:36 a prophetess: Like Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Judg 4:4), and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) in the OT, Anna is a recognized interpreter of God’s will for Israel. Other NT prophetesses appear in Acts 21:9.

2:38 redemption of Jerusalem: Anna awaits God’s deliverance for Israel and the Holy City. Her expectations mirror that of Simeon.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The Temple was, in practically a literal sense, the dwelling place of the Lord. In the Temple, divinity and humanity embraced, and the human race was brought back online with God.

But the sins of the nation had, according to the prophet Ezekiel, caused the glory of the Lord to depart from the Temple. Therefore, one of the deepest aspirations of Israel’s people was to reestablish the Temple as the place of right praise so that the glory of the Lord might return. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into the Temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.

The old seer is a symbol of ancient Israel, watching and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Simeon knew all of the old prophecies; he embodied the expectation of the nation; and the Holy Spirit had given him the revelation that he would not die until he had laid eyes on his Savior.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.