Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 8:11-13 - World English Bible

11 The Pharisees came out and began to question Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven, and testing him. 12 He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation."

The Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus, because his message and his miracles challenged their leadership. They could not accept this charismatic leader from outside their ranks. Whether jealousy or a need for control motivated them, we do not know. We do know their demand was rhetorical; no sign could convince them to believe.

Jesus responded in the negative. He wouldn't provide a sign, for his ministry demonstrated his message and its power. If his critics could not see God acting in their lives through his efforts, they would never see it.

Skepticism can be a good thing, but it requires wisdom to separate it from stubbornness. Have you prayed for wisdom today?

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Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 8:14-21 - World English Bible

13 Jesus left the Pharisees, and again entering into the boat, departed to the other side. 14 They forgot to take bread; and they didn't have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 He warned them, saying, "Take heed: beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod."

16 They reasoned with one another, saying, "It's because we have no bread."

17 Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, "Why do you reason that it's because you have no bread? Don't you perceive yet, neither understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, don't you see? Having ears, don't you hear? Don't you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"

They told him, "Twelve."

20 "When the seven loaves fed the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"

They told him, "Seven."

21 He asked them, "Don't you understand, yet?"

The misunderstanding the disciples had was a classic case of mistaking the literal for the symbolic. When Jesus warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees, he did not mean his opponents carried bags of the rising agent ready to bake bread a moment's notice; he referred to the words and practices of these leaders that caused sin. Like the yeast that could make the unleavened Passover bread not kosher, the duplicity of the Pharisees and their attention to the minuet details of the Law choked off spiritual growth and even caused scandal.

Jesus turned the question of yeast to its positive qualities when he asked his followers about the significance of the multiplication of the loaves. In other words, what caused spiritual growth among the people, represented by the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000? The answer was simple, the message and works of the Christ.

While the disciples' minds were stuck in the literal, they could not see the negative and positive qualities of faith and its results. If minutia sweeps us up and calcifies our relationship with God and others, what good is it? But, if our practices brings us closer to God and his people, then it makes us better people.

How has your faith brought you closer to God and others today?

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Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 8:22-26 - World English Bible

22 Jesus came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. 23 He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village. When he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands on him, he asked him if he saw anything.

24 He looked up, and said, "I see men; for I see them like trees walking."

25 Then again he laid his hands on his eyes. He looked intently, and was restored, and saw everyone clearly. 26 He sent him away to his house, saying, "Don't enter into the village, nor tell anyone in the village."

In Mark 8, Jesus healed a blind man at the behest of the village. He took the man outside the hamlet, as a means of quarantine. Then he spit on the man's eyes, as a warning against demonic powers to stay away. After laying hands on the man twice, Jesus restored sight to him, but warned him not to pass along the news of the cure to anyone, for the Lord had not revealed himself as the Messiah yet. That would come in the next passage from Mark, 8:27-33.

Have circumstances ever stopped you from sharing the Good News? How did that experience affect you?

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Thursday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 8:27-33 - World English Bible

27 Jesus went out, with his disciples, into the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?"

28 They told him, "John the Baptizer, and others say Elijah, but others: one of the prophets."

29 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Christ."

30 He commanded them that they should tell no one about him. 31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke to them openly. Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But he, turning around, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men."

These passages marked a turning point in the life of Jesus. No longer did he silence demons who pronounced him the "Holy One of God." Now he revealed himself as the Messiah, but notice he prodded that title by the question "Who do you say I am?" Some saw him as a prophet in the spirit of the Baptist or the great Galilean prophet, Elijah, who would precede the Christ. Simon Peter, however, made THE faith declaration.

Once his followers saw him for who he was, Jesus could unpack the meaning of that title: suffering. The Son of Man would go to his Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem. The concept was so foreign to the disciples that Peter himself began to rebuke the Master, only to be silenced by the threat of excommunication. (In English, the phrase "Get behind me, Satan" also has the meaning of "turning one's back" on a friend.)

With the answer to the question of his identity, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem to fulfill his destiny.

What does the title "Christ" mean to you? What does it mean to follow Jesus?

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Friday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 8:34-9:1 - World English Bible

34 Jesus called the multitude to himself with his disciples, and said to them, "Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the sake of the Good News will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when he comes in his Father's glory, with the holy angels."

9:1 Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see God's Kingdom come with power."

Jesus turned his attention to Jerusalem and the destiny that awaited him there. And he defined discipleship in those terms. Those who would follow him needed to do what he would do, pick up their crosses and journey with him, even to death. Discipleship involved risk, the willingness to lose one's life for the greater good, the Kingdom. Those who focused only on this life would lose it in the next. But, he had harsher words for those who hesitated; those who expressed shame for their faith would receive shame when Daniel 7:9 would be fulfilled. He ended his discourse with a warning about the immanence of coming Kingdom.

How do we that those words to heart? While we might live safely as Christians in a culture that values religious freedom, many in the world suffer for their faith. How can we stand in solidarity with them?

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Saturday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 9:2-13 - World English Bible

2 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up onto a high mountain privately by themselves, and he was changed into another form in front of them. 3 His clothing became glistening, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared to them, and they were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter answered Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let's make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 For he didn't know what to say, for they were very afraid.

7 A cloud came, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

8 Suddenly looking around, they saw no one with them any more, except Jesus only.

9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he commanded them that they should tell no one what things they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this saying to themselves, questioning what the "rising from the dead" meant.

11 They asked him, saying, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

12 He said to them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and restores all things. How is it written about the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they have also done to him whatever they wanted to, even as it is written about him."

Peter professed Jesus as the Christ, then the Lord responded by defining discipleship as following him to death. Immediately afterward, he took Peter, James and John up to a mountain top and was transfigured, appearing with Moses, the Law Giver, and Elijah, the great prophet of Israel. These two men represented "the Law and the prophets," the designation for the Hebrew Scriptures in first century AD, so they symbolized the living word of God. In this moment, Jesus revealed his glory and his place in salvation history, for he stood in the line of Moses and Elijah.

Peter responded with a request to built three tents or "booths," a reference to the festival of Sukkoth. On this holiday, pilgrims would come to Jerusalem and live in temporary structures, celebrating life of their ancestors in the desert during the Exodus. But, Peter didn't understand the import of the event. That point was made clear when the cloud (a symbol of God's presence in the Exodus) enveloped them on the mountain top (the place where Moses received the Law) and, from the cloud, a voice spoke, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (the revelation of Jesus' Sonship and his place as divine spokesperson).

Descending the mountain, Jesus reiterated his teaching about his approaching Passion and Resurrection, but they didn't understand. Didn't Elijah need to come first before the Messiah revealed himself (see Malachi 4:5)? He declared the prophecy of the great Elijah fulfilled, presumably in the figure of the Baptist.

We have the Scriptures and the living Christ present to us, especially in the Eucharist. How do you respond to his glory in your life?

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