Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 5:1-20 - World English Bible

1 Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2 When he had come out of the boat, immediately a man with an unclean spirit met him out of the tombs. 3 He lived in the tombs. Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains, 4 because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. Nobody had the strength to tame him. 5 Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him, 7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, don't torment me." 8 For he said to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"

9 He asked him, "What is your name?"

He said to him, "My name is Legion, for we are many." 10 He begged him much that he would not send them away out of the country. 11 Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding. 12 All the demons begged him, saying, "Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them."

13 At once Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they were drowned in the sea. 14 Those who fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the country.

The people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus, and saw him who had been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, even him who had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who saw it declared to them what happened to him who was possessed by demons, and about the pigs. 17 They began to beg him to depart from their region.

18 As he was entering into the boat, he who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 He didn't allow him, but said to him, "Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you."

20 He went his way, and began to proclaim in Decapolis how Jesus had done great things for him, and everyone marveled.

The exorcism of the demonic from Garderenes placed the Jewish sense of kosher in the background of a Gentile neighborhood. Gadarenes sat on the eastern shore of the Jordan river, at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. The town of Gadara itself lies on a ridge that slopes gently to the east, but falls steeply on the other three sides (the west side faced water, see 5:13). This area was part of the Decapolis, or "Ten Cities" in Greek; Romans and Greeks settled the region, so this was Gentile territory.

Jesus and his disciples arrived to evangelize among the Gentiles, but an uncontrollable demonic greeted them. The phrase "man with an unclean spirit" set the tone form the rest of the passage. The man clearly had a severe mental illness, with self destructive tendencies (which violated the Torah; see Leviticus 19:28). The fact that the man could not be contained symbolized evil run amok; Mark's gospel heighten the sense of chaos with two details: he lived among the dead (forbidden in Numbers 19:13) and he broke any type of restrain, even ones that seemed impossible to destroy. This man, then, exemplified the terms "possessed" and "unclean."

Notice the reaction of the man to the sight of Jesus; the demonic came to worship him and beg for mercy (5:6). While Jesus did exorcise the demons out of the man (they were "legion" in 6:9), the evil spirits wanted to go from one unclean vessel into others; hence, they possessed a herd of pigs (the definition of non-kosher animals) who continued the same self destructive behavior the man had. After the suicide of the pigs, the news spread about the miracle; the man was now sane, but the pigs were dead. The crowd reacted strangely in the same way the demonic did; they begged Jesus to leave because they feared the change (the torment?) he might bring. In the end, the man wanted to travel with Jesus (and leave an area he feared might not accept him), but Jesus turned him down. Instead, the former demonic was to return home and evangelize his family and friends.

Everyone has their "demons." How has God helped you with yours?

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Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 5:21-43 - World English Bible

21 When Jesus had crossed back over in the boat to the other side, a great multitude was gathered to him; and he was by the sea. 22 Behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, came; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, 23 and begged him much, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Please come and lay your hands on her, that she may be made healthy, and live."

24 He went with him, and a great multitude followed him, and they pressed upon him on all sides. 25 A certain woman, who had an issue of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things by many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better, but rather grew worse, 27 having heard the things concerning Jesus, came up behind him in the crowd, and touched his clothes. 28 For she said, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in himself that the power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd, and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

31 His disciples said to him, "You see the multitude pressing against you, and you say, 'Who touched me?'"

32 He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done to her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be cured of your disease."

35 While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler's house saying, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?"

36 But Jesus, when he heard the message spoken, immediately said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Don't be afraid, only believe." 37 He allowed no one to follow him, except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 He came to the synagogue ruler's house, and he saw an uproar, weeping, and great wailing. 39 When he had entered in, he said to them, "Why do you make an uproar and weep? The child is not dead, but is asleep."

40 They ridiculed him. But he, having put them all out, took the father of the child, her mother, and those who were with him, and went in where the child was lying. 41 Taking the child by the hand, he said to her, "Talitha cumi!" which means, being interpreted, "Girl, I tell you, get up!" 42 Immediately the girl rose up and walked, for she was twelve years old. They were amazed with great amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and commanded that something should be given to her to eat.

These verses from Mark wove together a healing and a resurrection. The scene opened with the request of Jairus, a synagogue leader. An ancient synagogue was primarily a civic and learning center, and secondarily a worship center (there was even a synagogue in Jerusalem!). In the time of Jesus, ordained rabbis did not exist, so lay men led the synagogue as event organizers, janitors and building maintainers. Such was Jairus, who approached Jesus about the dire condition of his daughter.

As Jesus, amidst a large, jostling crowd, made his way to the house of Jairus, a woman who had an "issue of blood for twelve years" (possibly a fibroid tumor of the uterus?) touched his clothes. Two points need to be made here. First, the constant issue of blood made her continually unclean (see Leviticus 15:19-30), so family and friends would have kept her at a distance. Second, she exhausted her financial resources on medical visits; at the time of Jesus, "doctors" were nothing more than homeopathic experts, giving drugs to relieve the pain, and philosophers handing out sage advice to face the pain. She touched the clothes of Jesus in hopes his power would cure her, which it did. At that moment, Jesus felt power leave him; if we see the power of the Lord as the Spirit and his mission to give that Spirit to others, then the transfer of power (the Spirit) made perfect sense. After her confession of faith, the Lord bid the woman to go in peace; now she could return to her place in her family and in society.

Jesus continued to the house of Jairus, despite the new of his daughter's death. There, he encountered mourners (some professional mourners, used to heighten and, so, shorten the grieving process). Dismissing the crowd, he took the parents and a select number of disciples up to the room where the body lay. He touched the dead body (thus making himself unclean) and commanded her to rise. Her resurrection foreshadowed his and it also implicitly testified to the power of the Spirit (who else can raise the dead?).

A healing and a resurrection, both made Jesus ritually unclean, both revealed the power of the Spirit.

If Jesus was willing to do this for the woman and the girl, what is he willing to do for us?

Reflect on that question in your life. What has Jesus done for you that reveal the extent of his love and the power of his Spirit?

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Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 6:1-6 - World English Bible

1 Jesus went out from there. He came into his own country, and his disciples followed him. 2 When the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many hearing him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things?" and, "What is the wisdom that is given to this man, that such mighty works come about by his hands? 3 Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judah, and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" They were offended at him.

4 Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house." 5 He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people, and healed them. 6 He marveled because of their unbelief.

Jesus went home, but could not go home.

Like Luke 4, Mark 6 presented Jesus surrounded by his followers in his hometown (Nazareth?). Immediately, a controversy arose. He scandalized his family with the audacity of his rise up the social ladder. He dared to transcend his humble roots and become a religious celebrity. In modern culture, we expect social mobility upward, but, in the static society at the time of Jesus, people reacted to such mobility at best with suspicion, at worst with derision. The implicit question his contemporaries asked was: How dare he?

Yet, there was a more fundamental question found in 6:2: What is the wisdom that is given to this man, that such mighty works come about by his hands? Notice the wisdom led to the power of healing and exorcism. The believer would answer the wisdom came from God. To ask the question, however, implied a denial of faith. The skeptic would not know the origin of his teaching and healing power. And, his own extended family contained many skeptics.

Jesus answered with a phrase that used a double negative for emphasis. The phrase translated poorly into English as: a prophet is not without honor. In other words, a prophet has honor, except with those who were familiar with the local boy who made good. And, as the old saying goes, "familiarity breed contempt."

Yes, Jesus went home, but could not go home.

Have you faced a lack of faith from loved ones? How have you reacted?

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Thursday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 6:7-13 - World English Bible

7 Jesus called to himself the twelve, and began to send them out two by two; and he gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a staff only: no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse, 9 but to wear sandals, and not put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, "Wherever you enter into a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 Whoever will not receive you nor hear you, as you depart from there, shake off the dust that is under your feet for a testimony against them. Assuredly, I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed many with oil who were sick, and healed them.

In these verses from Mark, Jesus sent out the Twelve to extend his ministry into the surrounding areas. Based upon the instructions Jesus gave them, the apostles traveled fast, but not far (they could not go for an extended trip without extra clothing, food and clothing). They would visit a clan (a "house"), proclaiming the Good News and healing, just as Jesus did. But the twelve would reject those who rejected them; they judged in the name and power of God (6:11b). So they went out in the name of Jesus to continue his message and ministry

How do you proclaim the Gospel to your family and friends?

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Friday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 6:14-29 - World English Bible

14 King Herod heard this, for Jesus' name had become known, and he said, "John the Baptizer has risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him." 15 But others said, "He is Elijah." Others said, "He is a prophet, or like one of the prophets." 16 But Herod, when he heard this, said, "This is John, whom I beheaded. He has risen from the dead." 17 For Herod himself had sent out and arrested John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for he had married her. 18 For John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him, but she couldn't, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly.

21 Then a convenient day came, that Herod on his birthday made a supper for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and those sitting with him. The king said to the young lady, "Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you." 23 He swore to her, "Whatever you shall ask of me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom."

24 She went out, and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?"

She said, "The head of John the Baptizer."

25 She came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptizer on a platter."

26 The king was exceedingly sorry, but for the sake of his oaths, and of his dinner guests, he didn't wish to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent out a soldier of his guard, and commanded to bring John's head, and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the young lady; and the young lady gave it to her mother.

29 When his disciples heard this, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

In Mark 6, John found his demise at the hands of Herod Antipas. The reputation of Jesus had spread, for many compared him to the Baptist in message, possibly amplified with the Lord's healing ministry. Notice the comments others made about him would be echoed in response to the question "Who do you say I am?" (Mark 8:27-30) Also notice Herod's reaction to the ministry of Jesus foreshadowed the Master's own fate, implicitly in his death, explicitly in his Resurrection.

The story of John's death was familiar but that fact masked the utter shame and depravity of the Antipas, Herodias and Salome. Antipas divorced his first wife, Phasaelis for Herodias; she climbed the social ladder by divorcing one brother (Herod II) to marry another. The Baptist objected to the remarriage not because it directly broke the Law, but because the adulterous affair the king and queen had before the marriage was so public, it scandalized the populace.

To silence John, the king arrested him. At the birthday party of Antipas, Salome danced implicitly in a lewd manner, so as to become an object of desire. The craven Antipas promised anything to girl, even before those in his court! With that promise in hand, the girl consulted with her mother who insisted on the execution of John, a prospect he feared due to the threat of revolt. The incident proved the king was so weak, he was not even master of his own family, much less the court and the kingdom. Lust, not status, drove him.

The story of John's death only heightened his honor, compared with the shame of Antipas, his wife and his stepdaughter.

What does the message of the Baptist mean to you? How does Jesus help you to live out that message?

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Saturday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 6:30-34 - World English Bible

30 The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and they told him all things, whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught. 31 He said to them, "You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile." For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 The multitude saw them going, and many recognized him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to him. 34 Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.

In Mark 6:14-29, the execution of the Baptist acted as an interlude in the apostles' ministry. Here, the twelve returned and sought solitude, but there was none to be found. Both Jesus and his chosen not only fulfilled a need among the people, but touched a nerve, a real need to hear the word of God. The crowds flocked to them; so the Lord took pity on them and taught them about God's realm.

How does the word of God create a hunger in you to hear more?

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