Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:22-30 - World English Bible

22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul," and, "By the prince of the demons he casts out the demons."

23 Jesus summoned them, and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 If Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he can't stand, but has an end. 27 But no one can enter into the house of the strong man to plunder, unless he first binds the strong man; and then he will plunder his house. 28 Most certainly I tell you, all sins of the descendants of man will be forgiven, including their blasphemies with which they may blaspheme; 29 but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation."* 30 —because they said, "He has an unclean spirit."

If you won't take responsibility, blame someone else.

The ministry of Jesus challenged the leadership of the Pharisees and scribes. They studied the Torah to the extent that they believed they were the sole arbitrators of God's will. When the Nazorene entered the scene, preaching and healing, they were faced with a competitor. Many people thought the divine did work through this Jesus; his words and activity revealed God, not the legal pronouncements of the scribes. So the experts in the Law had to act fast. Instead of self-reflection and renewal, they lashed out at the Lord with accusations of evil. If the Pharisees and scribes spoke for God, then Jesus spoke for Beelzebul, the prince of darkness. (The word "Beelzebul" was a corruption of Ba'al Zabub, the deity of a Philistine town; the corruption originally meant to belittle pagan worship by Israel's neighbor, but soon became another name for Satan.)

Jesus answered their charge with an absurdity. Why would Satan try to win through losing? A kingdom can't stand divided; neither can a clan (a "house"). Splintered loyalties were no way to achieve conquest. No, winning comes not only through physical strength, but through strength of purpose (for plundering). In order to bring about results, a leader must heal divisions through forgiveness, then he will have the numbers necessary to reach his ends. God was no different; he would forgive even blasphemy, so all could enjoy life in the Kingdom. If, however, someone rejected that offer of reconciliation, the work of the Spirit, they rejected life with God himself and would suffer eternal punishment. So, Jesus used the offer of forgiveness to flip the charge of demonic activity back onto the scribes. Those who reject God's activity deny the source of that activity and, so, condemn themselves.

If you blame someone for your problems, you're usually responsible for them.

Take a moment to review the people you blame in your life. Are they really the source of your problems, or is that source a little closer to home?

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Tuesday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:31-35 - World English Bible

31 His mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent to him, calling him. 32 A multitude was sitting around him, and they told him, "Behold, your mother, your brothers, and your sisters† are outside looking for you."

33 He answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 Looking around at those who sat around him, he said, "Behold, my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother."

This passage hearkened back to Mark 3:20-21, when his friends wanted to perform an "intervention." Now his clan wanted to see him. Why? We can only assume the bridge between 3:20-21 and this passage, Mark 3:22-30, provided the context: the Beelzubul controversy. The family might have been concerned about its reputation in light of the rumors that Jesus aligned himself with dark forces. In response to that concern and the actions of his relatives, he disowned his family and pointed to a new clan, his followers who did the will of God and realize his Kingdom.

Jesus was willing to let go of the past, for the hope of God's future. Are we willing to do the same?

How are you challenged to turn your focus away from the past? What do you see God offering you in the future?

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Wednesday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 4:1-20 - World English Bible

1 Again he began to teach by the seaside. A great multitude was gathered to him, so that he entered into a boat in the sea, and sat down. All the multitude were on the land by the sea. 2 He taught them many things in parables, and told them in his teaching, 3 "Listen! Behold, the farmer went out to sow, 4 and as he sowed, some seed fell by the road, and the birds* came and devoured it. 5 Others fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil. 6 When the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 Others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing. Some produced thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times as much." 9 He said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

10 When he was alone, those who were around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 He said to them, "To you is given the mystery of God's Kingdom, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables, 12 that 'seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest perhaps they should turn again, and their sins should be forgiven them.'"

13 He said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How will you understand all of the parables? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 The ones by the road are the ones where the word is sown; and when they have heard, immediately Satan comes, and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 These in the same way are those who are sown on the rocky places, who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 They have no root in themselves, but are short-lived. When oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they stumble. 18 Others are those who are sown among the thorns. These are those who have heard the word, 19 and the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 Those which were sown on the good ground are those who hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, some thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times."

In Mark 4, Jesus taught the people on shore, a parable from a boat slightly off shore. This passage captures our attention because it contains the parable, a reason for using parables and an interpretation of the parable.

The story itself could be call the parable of the Wasteful Farmer. In the time of Jesus, crop yields were low and landlords kept tenant farmers in a below-subsistence lifestyle. These farmers divided the little seed they had for the baking of bread and future planting. When planting season arrived, they placed each seed carefully into the soil and tended the field lovingly, for their future and that of their family was at stake. When Jesus told the story, the image of the sower caught the attention of the audience, for the man threw seed around without care, some on the road, some on the hard soil, some among the thorns, some on good ground. Of course, the fate of the seed had a predictable result, except for the last planting, where the crops produced an astounding yield. The people considered a double or triple yield good, but thirty, sixty or hundred fold? That was unheard of! But, if the people could really hear what the Lord told them, they'd understand.

Why did Jesus speak in this way? He quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain his reasons. People do not open their eyes to see the big picture, or their ears to hear the great story. If they did, they would turn back to God.

The interpretation of the parable saw the seed as God's word and the surface as the hearts of those who were evangelized. Some had hearts as hard as a road surface, so the word had no effect. Some were shallow, with hearts like rocky soil, so after brief enthusiasm, they faded away from the faith. Some had hearts filled with worldly concerns which, like thorns, choked out faith and denied growth. But, those who had good hearts accepted the word of God and allowed it to grow within; these people would go on the evangelize many others, though word and deed.

The parable should open our eyes and our ears, our minds and our hearts. And, it should give us a chance for self reflection.

What sort of heart do you possess?

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Thursday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 4:21-25 - World English Bible

21 Jesus said to them, "Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn't it put on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light. 23 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."

24 He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear. 25 For whoever has, to him will more be given, and he who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away from him."

In this short passage from Mark's gospel, Jesus presented two parables: the lamp and the measure. The meaning of the lamp was that of example. One's actions revealed character and commitment and neither could be hidden for long. In the end, everyone would know the quality of faith one has.

The meaning of the measure required explanation. A measure was a ration of grain poured out into the fold of a tunic. Designated people would created this fold to receive an allotment for their families from grain silos. Jesus pointed to the person giving and receiving the grain; the more one gave, the more they would receive.

Jesus insisted on one quality to put both parables into action: the virtue of hearing (4:23 and 4:24c). Only those who really heard and understood him could become a true light to others, one who could pour out a generous measure.

Have you truly heard the Good News today?

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Friday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 4:26-34 - World English Bible

26 Jesus said, "God's Kingdom is as if a man should cast seed on the earth, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he doesn't know how. 28 For the earth bears fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

30 He said, "How will we liken God's Kingdom? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? 31 It's like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, 32 yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow."

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 Without a parable he didn't speak to them; but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

In these verses from Mark, Jesus used two agricultural analogies to address the importance of evangelization viz a viz the Kingdom. The first parable likened the evangelist to a farmer sowing seed. Just as the farmer spread grain on the soil, so did the preacher God 's word. Neither could take credit for growth; that miracle belonged to God alone. In the end, they could only gather in the crop, the farmer into the silo, the evangelist in the assembly of God's chosen.

If the first parable focused on the activity of the one spreading the word, the second told of the miracle itself. The Kingdom would begin, not with an explosion, but with a whisper. Like the growth of a tiny mustard seed, God's realm would expand until it gave comfort to believers (like birds lodging under its shadow). Notice two items about this analogy that could have surprised Jesus' audience. First, the origin of the Kingdom was almost imperceptible; the silent way it would begin flew in the face of many who expected the Kingdom to start after a great battle in which Jewish forces would defeat their enemies (i.e., the Romans) and, so, establish a new empire with Jerusalem as its capitol. Secondly, the growth of the Kingdom would reach beyond any parochial interests and would implicitly become universal; the size of the Kingdom could not be limited by a particular person or nation.

In the end, Jesus left the meaning of these parables to the imagination of his audience, but explained their import to his followers.

How do you envision the Kingdom?

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Saturday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 4:35-41 - World English Bible

35 On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side." 36 Leaving the multitude, they took him with them, even as he was, in the boat. Other small boats were also with him. 37 A big wind storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so much that the boat was already filled. 38 He himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up, and told him, "Teacher, don't you care that we are dying?"

39 He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?"

41 They were greatly afraid, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

These verses from Mark portrayed the calming of the storm. Jesus gave the order; he and his disciples sailed in boats (a small fleet) at night, then faced a sudden storm that sometimes flares up on a desert lake as the Sea of Galilee (as heat rises from the lake surface at night, cold air rushes in to meet the warmed air, causing high winds and high waves). But, the Master was asleep until the panicking disciples wake him with their concern. He calmed the waters and chided his followers for their lack of faith.

This scene was full of symbolism. The order to travel for he sake of evangelization came from Jesus. The boat that contained the his disciples represented the Church. The storm symbolized persecution. The image of the sleeping Jesus implied his distance from the panicking followers. Yet, in the nick of time, the Lord was present and the threat receded. But, the question remained: why couldn't they persevere in faith?

I think all of us can place ourselves in that storm-tossed boat. At some time in our lives, we've felt alone, under fire and crying out to God for relief. Then, the Lord stepped in, gave us peace and asked the same question he posed to his fellow travelers.

When have you been afraid? When have you lost faith? How has the Lord strengthened you in your time of panic?

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