Human Thinking

Scripture Reading

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” 

(Mark 8:27-33)

 

Scripture Study

8:29. Peter’s profession of faith is reported here in a shorter form than in Matthew 16:18–19. Peter seems to go no further than say that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Eusebius of Caesarea, in the fourth century, explains the Evangelist’s reserve by the fact that he was the interpreter of St Peter, who omitted from his preaching anything which might appear to be self-praise. The Holy Spirit, when inspiring St Mark, wanted the Gospel to reflect the preaching of the prince of the apostles, leaving it to other evangelists to fill out certain important details to do with the episode of the confession of Peter.

The sketchiness of the narrative still shows Peter’s role quite clearly: he is the first to come forward affirming the messiahship of Jesus. Our Lord’s question, “But who do you say that I am?”, shows what Jesus is asking the apostles for—not an opinion, more or less favorable, but firm faith. It is St Peter who expresses this faith.

8:31–33. This is the first occasion when Jesus tells his disciples about the sufferings and death he must undergo. He does it twice more, later on (cf. Mk 9:31 and 10:32). The apostles are surprised, because they cannot and do not want to understand why the Master should have to suffer and die, much less that he should be so treated “by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes”. But Peter, with his usual spontaneity, immediately begins to protest. And Jesus replies to him using the same words as he addressed to the devil when he tempted him (cf. Mt 4:10); he wants to affirm, once again, that his mission is spiritual, not earthly, and that therefore it cannot be understood by using mere human criteria: it is governed by God’s designs, which were that Jesus should redeem us through his passion and death. So too, for a Christian, suffering, united with Christ, is also a means of salvation.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Does Peter, unlike the other disciples, know who Jesus is because he spent the most time with the Lord? There is a truth in this understanding that we can apply to our own faith journey. The more time we spend with the Lord developing an intimate and personal relationship with him, the more we see him as Peter did.

But like Peter, we are also susceptible to human ways of thinking. For after acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, Peter falls into a human pattern of understanding when Jesus tries to explains his mission. When we learn to empty ourselves of our will and self-focused ways of thinking, we can know and do God’s will. This is how we walk the path of holiness to become the love of Christ to the world.   

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

 

[1] Saint Mark’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 94.

Abundant Life

Scripture Reading

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

(Mark 8:22-26)

 

Scripture Study

8:22–25 Jesus and the disciples arrive at Bethsaida, a small fishing town just east of the mouth of the Jordan River—the destination they had earlier aimed at but did not reach (6:45). As often happens, the healing is initiated by friends or relatives who bring the afflicted person to Jesus (see 1:32; 2:3; 6:55; 7:32). Jesus first establishes a personal contact with the blind man by taking him by the hand, recalling the Old Testament theme that God himself leads his people by the hand (Isa 41:13; Jer 31:32). Like the healing of the deaf man, this cure involves a degree of physical contact that modern readers may find disconcerting. Putting spittle on his eyes (literally, “spitting into his eyes”), Jesus laid his hands on him. At times the mere word of Jesus is sufficient to heal; in other cases his body is the instrument, reminding us that God is not embarrassed by the earthiness of the human body, and even delights to use it as a vehicle of his grace.

Jesus’ question, Do you see anything? involves the man in the dynamics of his own recovery of sight. His reply bespeaks a partial recovery: he sees people looking like trees. The fact that he knows what trees look like indicates that he was not born blind but lost his sight due to illness or injury. Now his vision is beginning to be restored, but he still cannot distinguish objects clearly. The gradualness of his recovery symbolizes the slow and difficult process of opening the disciples’ eyes to an understanding of Jesus and his mission. But Jesus will not leave the man with only a partial restoration. He lays on his hands again, and now the healing is complete. The verb for see (emblepō) could be translated “look intently” or “fix one’s gaze upon,” and suggests the penetrating gaze of faith into spiritual realities, which Jesus desires for his disciples.

8:26 Jesus sends the man home, now that he able is to walk on his own without guidance. The command not to go into the village seems to be an instance of Jesus’ avoidance of the wrong kind of publicity. Although there will be further healings, his priorities now lie decisively with his journey toward Jerusalem and the training of the disciples. At the end of the journey there will be another healing of a blind man (10:46–52), this time instantaneous and complete. The two miracles of recovery of sight form a frame around the journey narrative, symbolizing the disciples’ gradual growth in understanding. Their eyes are partly opened to see that Jesus is the Messiah (8:29), but their vision of him is still shadowy and obscure. They will need a further divine enlightenment to recognize that his messiahship is inextricably linked with the mystery of the cross.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel records Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida. That Jesus was a wonderworker is taken for granted in the Gospels. Along with his preaching and his death on the cross, his working of miracles is one of the surest and most basic things we know about him. He preached in order to share the truth of God’s Kingdom; he went to the cross in order to demonstrate the range of the divine love; he worked miracles because he was the embodiment of Yahweh’s desire to save his people.

Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf cleared. Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.”

These are tremendous words, expressive of Israel’s hope in the saving God. God intends life and abundant life for his people, and he is impatient with a world gone wrong. He longs to set it right, to re-create what sin and fear and death have uncreated.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 156–157.

The True Bread of Heaven

Scripture Reading

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.” 
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
(Mark 8:14-21)

 

Scripture Study 

8:14 Mark begins by noting the seemingly irrelevant detail that the disciples had forgotten to bring bread and had only one loaf with them. On one level, this simply means that they have failed to replenish their food supplies. But the two miraculous feedings and ensuing discussions have prepared us to understand: What is the real “one loaf” (literally, “one bread”) with them in the boat? It is Jesus! Mark clarifies in verse 16 that actually they have “no bread”—no earthly bread, that is.

8:15 But the disciples do not yet understand, so Jesus takes the opportunity for a teaching moment. He admonishes them with a mini parable: guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. Leaven, or yeast, is used to make dough rise; a tiny amount is all that is needed to permeate the whole batch. Jesus is referring to a spiritual leaven—the hypocrisy, insincerity, and ill will that the Pharisees (3:6; 7:5–13; 8:11–13) and Herod and his supporters (3:6; 6:14–29) have shown toward him. This admonition shows that even his disciples are not immune to such faults. As Jews knew well, all leaven had to be cleared out of their homes during Passover, commemorating their flight from Egypt in haste, with no time to let dough rise (Exod 12:14–20). Mark’s first readers might have noticed an allusion to Jesus, the true Passover Lamb (see 1 Cor 5:7).

8:16–18 But all this goes over the heads of the disciples, who remain on an earthly level. With remarkable cluelessness, they conclude that Jesus is scolding them for having forgotten to bring bread. After twice seeing him bring overflowing abundance out of a few loaves and fish, they are still worried about where they will get their next meal. In a series of seven questions, Jesus reproves them for their spiritual blindness. The emphasis on understand, comprehend, see, hear, and remember accents the mental effort required to grasp the hidden meaning of what they have witnessed. The most stinging question is in verse 17: Are your hearts hardened? Only in Mark (here and in 6:52) is hardness of heart attributed even to the disciples. Jesus echoes the prophetic indictment of Israel: Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? (Jer 5:21; see Isa 6:9–10; 43:8; Ezek 12:2). Having seen so many wondrous acts of God on their behalf, Israel had failed to recognize what those deeds revealed about God himself. But although human beings are at fault for this spiritual blindness, ultimately only God can provide the solution. The breakthrough in understanding will come by a gift of God (see Deut 29:3), as will happen finally at Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

8:19–21 The emphasis on the number of wicker baskets full of fragments left after the feeding miracles seems curious. What is the significance of these numbers? On one level they remind the disciples of Jesus’ superabundant provision of nourishment for multitudes of people, a provision that will continue through the whole history of the Church. But symbolically they seem to refer to the nations who hear the gospel and are gathered into the Church: the twelve tribes of Israel and the seven nations representing the Gentiles, who once were excluded from God’s people but now share in the “children’s bread” (7:28; see Eph 2:11–13; 1 Pet 2:10). Together, both Jews and Gentiles will partake of the “one loaf” that is Jesus. This is the mystery that Jesus is urging his disciples to understand.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, a few days ago, we read about Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Then in today’s Gospel, which takes place just a few verses later, the disciples ask again about bread. But Jesus turns their attention elsewhere.

He warns them about “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” What does he mean by this? He’s referring to the contagious and dangerous “food” offered by these leaders. For example, the Pharisees knew the law of God but used it to oppress people rather than liberate them. They could point out, with great accuracy and articulation, the wicked things that people were doing, in order to bring those people down, to humiliate them.

Beware that sort of food, Jesus suggests. Instead, seek the true bread of heaven which multiplies grace upon grace.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 154–155.

Let Him Enter Your Boat

Scripture Reading

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
(Mark 8:11-13)

 

Scripture Study

8:11 The approach of the Pharisees stands in stark contrast to the three previous episodes—the exorcism of the Syrophoenician child, the healing of the deaf-mute, and the feeding of the four thousand—in which people approach Jesus to receive his love and compassion. The Pharisees, instead, come forward to argue and to test him by demanding a sign from heaven, that is, a validating miracle. Since Jesus has up to this point been performing one miracle after another, such a demand can be rooted only in stubborn perversity, the refusal to open their hearts to the testimony of his deeds of mercy.

8:12–13 Jesus sighs from the depth of his spirit, expressing his distress at their hardness of heart (see 3:5). This generation again recalls the “evil generation” of Israelites who refused to trust God even after witnessing all that he had done in Egypt, and who were therefore denied entrance to the promised land (Deut 1:35; see Ps 95:8–10). Like them, Jesus’ opponents are motivated not by a sincere desire for truth but by a refusal to relate to God on God’s own terms. To insist on irrefutable evidence is really a demand for control, as if to say: “Force us to believe, so that we will not have to trust you or change our hearts.” But faith that is compelled is not faith at all. Jesus’ emphatic preface Amen, I say to you (see Mark 3:28) gives a special weight to what he is about to say: No sign will be given to this generation—that is, no sign that will satisfy their criteria for proof. His miracles and deeds of mercy will invite faith, but not coerce it. For those who reject his offer, who choose to be “those outside” (see 4:11), he can only walk away.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Demands for proof of religious claims are as strident today as they were among Jesus’ contemporaries. Today there are a host of books, articles, and programs claiming to refute Christian beliefs simply by showing that they cannot be proven according to empirical scientific criteria. But such attempts reveal only a false and truncated view of reality—as if the only things that are real are those that can be visibly observed and measured. Pope Benedict comments, “There can be a thousand rational objections—not only in Jesus’ generation, but throughout all generations, and today maybe more than ever. For we have developed a concept of reality that excludes reality’s translucence to God. The only thing that counts is what can be experimentally proven. [But] God cannot be constrained into experimentation.” Such demands for proof can be an excuse to avoid what God reveals of himself, because “knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person.”

Bishop Robert Barron notes in closing our reflection that “The true God cannot be manipulated, determined by us, or controlled through our efforts. We can’t act like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, demanding that God behave for us. Rather, he comes, often unbidden and unexpected, into our lives and determines us, controls us. His presence is pure grace. Don’t demand signs from God. Instead, do what the disciples did and let him enter your boat.”

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

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 152–153.

The Perfection of Love

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, 
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife –  unless the marriage is unlawful – 
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

(Matthew 15:17-37)

 

Scripture Study

5:17 the law and the prophets: A shorthand expression for the entire OT. to fulfil them: Jesus completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law and OT prophecies (1:23; 2:6, 15; 4:15–16; Lk 24:44–47). The Greek word translated fulfil means “to make complete”. The New Covenant thus includes and concludes the Old Covenant; it both perfects it and transforms it. While sacrificial laws of the OT expired with the sacrifice of Jesus, the moral Law (Ten Commandments, etc.) was retained and refined (5:21, 27, 43; 19:17). In the Christian life, the power of God’s Spirit is necessary if we are to obey the Law and grow in holiness (cf. Rom 8:4; CCC 577–81, 1967).

5:18 an iota: Corresponds to the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet (yod). a dot: Tiny extensions that distinguish similar-looking Hebrew letters from one another.

5:20 your righteousness: Jesus inaugurates a new and climactic phase in salvation history. He introduces a New Covenant standard of righteousness that surpasses the real, but insufficient, righteousness of the Old Covenant (cf. Deut 6:25; Is 48:18). The Old Covenant governed the temporal affairs of the earthly kingdom of Israel. The Mosaic Law (especially Deuteronomy) was designed to establish and maintain Israel as a nation-state in the land of Canaan. Its laws regulated public behavior to maintain civil order; it thus erected an outward standard of righteousness that defined God’s people as a nation. Jesus invites the scribes and Pharisees to recognize the Mosaic Law as God’s temporary arrangement for Israel (cf. Mt 19:8). It was a means of drawing them closer to God by separating them from the sins of the Gentiles (Lev 15:31; 20:26). Eventually, the Israelites expected a day when God would write his Law on their hearts (Jer 31:31–34; cf. Deut 30:6; Ezek 36:25–27). Christ’s New Covenant signals the dawning of this great day when he perfects the moral laws of the Old Covenant and brings that covenant’s temporary and national phase to a close. He implements a new level of covenant righteousness that stretches beyond the boundaries of the Old Law in two directions. (1) Outwardly, the scope of the New Covenant is wider than the one nation of Israel; it encompasses an international kingdom in the Church. All nations can now share in God’s blessing and become his covenant people. (2) Inwardly, the New Covenant penetrates to the heart; it reaches within to govern personal and private life by a maximal standard of holiness. As the Old Covenant formed virtuous citizens in Israel, so the New Covenant generates saints in the Church (CCC 1963–68). See also word study: Righteousness at Mt 3.

5:21–48 Sometimes called the “Six Antitheses”. Jesus acts with divine authority to perfect and deepen the moral codes of the Mosaic Law (cf. 7:29). Each antithesis follows a similar format: Jesus cites the Old Law, saying, you have heard that it was said (5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43), and responds with the refrain, But I say to you (5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). The pattern underscores Jesus’ authority as a new Moses and the lawgiver of the New Covenant. See notes on Mt 2:16 and 17:5.

5:21 You shall not kill: Jesus reaffirms that murder is unlawful (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17) but introduces a new dimension to the civil law. Not only acts of murder but even personal anger (5:22) and private slander (5:22) constitute a violation of the New Law. Degrees of personal guilt are illustrated (5:22) by an escalating movement from a local court verdict (“judgment”), to the Jewish Sanhedrin (“council”), to eternal punishment (“hell”). At each step, the judgment corresponds to the severity of the sin (CCC 2302).

5:22 You fool!: The Greek transliterates an Aramaic term that implies a lack of intelligence. It is an insult that means something like “empty head” or “numskull”. the hell of fire: The Greek expression (also in 5:29–30) denotes the Valley of Gehenna south of Jerusalem. It served as a large dump where garbage was burned continually. Jesus uses the image to illustrate the frightful reality of damnation (CCC 1034–35). See word study: Hell at Mk 9.

5:27 adultery: Like the Mosaic Law, Jesus forbids acts of adultery (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18). Yet he extends the prohibition to forbid even personal lust and interior thoughts of impurity. Looking and thinking “lustfully” (5:28) already violate the New Law, even if the exterior act of adultery is not committed (CCC 2380).

5:29 pluck it out: A figurative overstatement, not a literal command of self-mutilation. Jesus uses alarming images to underscore the severity of sexual sins (cf. 18:7–9); extreme measures are needed to avoid occasions of sin, the sins themselves, and the eternal punishment they lead to.

5:31 a certificate of divorce: Divorce and remarriage were permitted under the Old Covenant only because of Israel’s sinfulness (19:8; cf. Deut 24:1–4). In the New Covenant, remarriage leads to adultery (CCC 2382). except on the ground of unchastity: Matthew alone records this added “exception clause” (cf. 19:9). For the meaning of this clause, see topical essay: Jesus on Marriage and Divorce at Mt 19.

5:33 not swear falsely: Jesus forbids oath swearing for private purposes. Oaths are important, however, in the public sector for the good of society. Judges, doctors, soldiers, politicians, and other professionals swear oaths for public service. Oaths are also sworn to make or renew covenants (cf. Heb 6:13–18). In every context, God’s holy name is invoked to bring divine assistance (blessing) to the upright and divine punishment (curse) to those who violate their oaths. In Jesus’ day, the practice of oath swearing was sometimes mishandled; people would swear private oaths for personal advantage. By invoking something other than God’s name (heaven/earth/Jerusalem; 5:34–35), oaths were taken lightly or even disregarded (23:16–22). Jesus denounces this, teaching that truthfulness and integrity should govern private life. Matthew recounts three episodes where such illicit oaths are sworn for personal purposes (14:7; 26:72, 74; 27:25) (CCC 2153–54).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. If we are to begin to understand Jesus’ staggering teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, we have to keep ever in our minds the little tag line, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus is the Son of God, and his purpose is not primarily to construct a smooth-functioning human society; it is to establish the Kingdom of God, that is to say, a body formed by those who participate in him, who share his relationship to the Father. What is the Father of Jesus Christ like? The Father of Jesus Christ is love, right through. That’s all God is; that’s all he knows how to do. He is not like us: unstable, changing, moving from one attitude to another. No, God simply is love.

Why should you go beyond simply loving those who love you? Because that’s the way God operates: he loves the saints and he also loves the worst sinner in Hell. Now is that easy to do? Of course not. But that’s what Jesus call us to: be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 15–16.

Heartfelt Miracle

Scripture Reading

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

8:1–10 An episode similar to the miracle in 6:35–44, but dissimilar in several details. Jesus multiplies seven (8:5) loaves instead of five (6:38), collects seven (8:8) leftover baskets instead of twelve (6:43), and feeds four thousand (8:9) people instead of 5,000 (6:44).

8:2 I have compassion: The lack of food in this episode illustrates how Jesus rewards the crowd for their perseverance, despite natural discomforts like hunger (8:2).

8:6 given thanks: A translation of the Greek verb eucharisteō, which is the basis for the English word “Eucharist”. Jesus’ multiplication of bread after giving thanks foreshadows the Last Supper and the institution of the Blessed Sacrament (1 Cor 11:24; CCC 1328, 1335). See note on Mk 6:35–44.

8:10 Dalmanutha: An unknown location in Galilee also called “Magadan” (Mt 15:39).[1]

Scripture Reflection

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, 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. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 79.

Glorious Scraps

Scripture Reading

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. The region of Tyre and Sidon is nowadays the southern part of Lebanon-Phoenicia in ancient times. The distance from the lake of Gennesaret to the frontier of Tyre and Sidon is not more than 50 kms (30 miles). Jesus withdrew from Palestine to avoid persecution by the Jewish authorities and to give the apostles more intensive training.

7:27. Our Lord actually uses the diminutive—“little dogs” to refer to the Gentiles—thereby softening a scornful expression which Jews used. On the episode of the Canaanite woman see the notes on parallel passages, Mt 15:21–28.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today our Gospel brings the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Syro-Phoenician woman, is one of those famously problematic passages in the New Testament. This poor woman, a Canaanite, a foreigner, comes forward and tells Jesus of her daughter who is troubled by a demon and the Lord just ignores her. When she persists, Jesus says, “I have come only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When she prostrates herself at his feet, Jesus says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Of course, the woman gets off one of the best one-liners in the Scriptures, almost all of which otherwise belong to Jesus himself: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At which point, Jesus praises her for her faith and cures her daughter.

What’s going on here is really interesting and provocative. The Syro-Phoenician woman is being invited into the life of discipleship, into the following of Jesus. She is resisted, not because Jesus is having a bad day, but because he wants the strength of her faith to show itself.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Saint Mark’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 89–90.

The Evil Within

Scripture Reading

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

7:19 all foods clean: An editorial comment by Mark. Since Jesus traces true defilement back to the heart (7:21), the outward distinctions between clean and unclean as defined by the Old Covenant are no longer operative or binding in the New. These ceremonial distinctions have been superseded in two ways: (1) Ritual defilement was an external matter under the Old Covenant, whereas the New Covenant penetrates to cleanse and govern the inward life of believers (Mt 5:8; Acts 15:9). (2) Since Mosaic food laws effectively separated Israel from the Gentiles, these dietary restrictions were set aside in the New Covenant once Jews and Gentiles were gathered together into the same covenant family. The early Church grappled much with the issues surrounding Old Covenant dietary laws and table-fellowship in light of the gospel (Acts 10:9–16; Rom 14:13–23; Gal 2:11–16; CCC 582).

7:21 the heart of man: In biblical terminology, the heart is the center of the person and the source of every decision that manifests itself through deeds. Jesus thus links true defilement with the heart, where evil actions and intentions have their hidden beginning (Mt 5:28). His inventory of vices is similar to others in the NT (Rom 1:29–31; Gal 5:19–21; 1 Pet 4:3; CCC 1432, 2517–19).[1]

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 OK and neither are you. We see the tangled web which is sin. It grows like a fungus or like a cancer.

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. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 78.

Pretenders

Scripture Reading

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

7:1–2 As Jesus is going about his ministry of healing, Pharisees team up with scribes from Jerusalem (see 3:22) to pose an accusatory question. Pharisees were members of a renewal movement that sought to restore God’s favor to Israel by advocating strict observance of the law and total separation from all Gentile defilement. Scribes were professional copyists and scholars of the law, some of whom were also Pharisees. Those from the capital, Jerusalem, probably carried an extra weight of authority. Together they are scandalized to observe how some of Jesus’ disciples ate their meals. The phrase is literally “eat breads,” linking this dispute with the miracle of the five thousand who “ate breads” in 6:35–44. Perhaps it was Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread in the desert (where the crowds had no opportunity to wash their hands) that occasioned the religious leaders’ pious disapproval. The controversy also bears on the post resurrection Church for which Mark is writing, where the burning question was: Are Christians obliged to follow the law and traditions of the Jews? The question is especially urgent in regard to the Church’s mission among the Gentiles, a theme to which the Bread Section often alludes.

7:3 Carefully washing their hands: refers to ritual purification.

7:5 Tradition of the elders: the body of detailed, unwritten, human laws regarded by the scribes and Pharisees to have the same binding force as that of the Mosaic law; cf. Gal 1:14.

7:11 Qorban: a formula for a gift to God, dedicating the offering to the temple, so that the giver might continue to use it for himself but not give it to others, even needy parents.[1]

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. 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1414.

Glad In His Works

Scripture Reading

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.

You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
With the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.

You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.

How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia. 

(Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,35)

 

Scripture Study

104:1. The greatness of God is to be seen in creation, and in the order that exists in the universe, through God’s act of creation and unceasing divine providence. All these things are evidence of his glory.

104:2–4. The psalmist borrows very freely from the Genesis account of the creation (Gen 1). Light (v. 2) was the first thing that God created; it is conceived of as an element in its own right (cf. Gen 1:3–5)

104:5–9. Glossing the separating of the waters and the appearance of dry land as narrated in Genesis 1:6–10, and the original chaos referred to in Genesis 1:2, the psalmist proclaims God’s power over the seas, here seen as threatening forces.

104:10–18. The central part of the psalm is taken up with a highly poetic description of how God, using springs and rain, relieves the thirst of wild animals, provides food for flocks and for mankind, and causes tall trees to grow (“trees of the Lord”: v. 16). The earth looks like paradise.

104:33–35. The poem ends with the psalmist’s promising to devote his entire life to the praise of the Lord by extolling his works as he has done in the psalm (v. 35). The “Alleluia” (“Praise the Lord”) which appears at the very end of the psalm in the Hebrew text (the Septuagint puts it at the start of Psalm 105) must have been included here for liturgical reasons.[1]

Scripture Reflection

The praise offered God in this psalm for all his work of creation and providence is extended in the New Testament to Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God through whom all things were created (Jn 1:3) and it is through him that all things continue to exist (“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”: Col 1:17). The Church uses this psalm in the liturgy of Pentecost, the feast day that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, marking the climax of the new creation brought about by the Incarnation of Christ and made manifest in the Church.

The psalm is a poetic vision of the world and of what we moderns call “nature” as the work of the LORD. Contemporary people have a variety of ways of viewing and speaking about the world and the forms of life it sustains—scientific, economic, aesthetic, recreational. This psalm offers the view and language that is appropriate for faith. For those who live by faith, its view and language qualify and define the other ways of thinking and speaking.

– James Mays

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

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 344–346.