Wishing to be great: Lord

serve-one-anotherAn Eager Response. They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

In response to their eager “We can” of v.39, Jesus divides the issue: You shall share in my cup, in my baptism, in my death. But it is up to someone else, my Father, to give out the seats of glory! (v. 40). The disciples have just been described as a fearful band following Jesus to Jerusalem, the confident assertion that they can share Jesus’ suffering must strike the reader as naive. However, Jesus predicts that they will share his suffering (v. 39), and, indeed, Acts 12:2 informs us that James was martyred in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa (44 ce; Gal 2:9 suggests that John survived his brother). Jesus’ prophetic word was fulfilled. Continue reading

Wishing to be great: cup and baptism

serve-one-anotherJesus Responds. It would be good to know Jesus’ tone of voice when he responds. Is it exasperation caused by their continuing blindness? Is it said as a tired sigh but with a willingness to again engage them and lead them to a deeper understanding and awareness? Does it have an edge? It might well be the simple inquiry to uncover what they understand: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

There are several lines of interpretation regarding Jesus’ reply. Some scholars hold that the images offered (“drink” and “baptism”) do not hold the same significance for the disciples as they do for Jesus. In this line of thought, the cup and baptism point to Jesus’ voluntary obedience unto death for the sins of humanity; whereas, the images suggest the disciples moral participation in Jesus’ passion. [Lane, 379]. But the construct of the sentence is in the present tense. In other words, right at his moment, Jesus is drinking and being baptized. This seems to point to something other than a future moral participation in the Passion. Continue reading

Wishing to be great: questioning

james-john-sons-of-zebedee35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?” 37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

Asking Boldly. Even before the request is revealed, the very sound of the question seems brash: “whatever we ask.” It is as though they want a “blank check” from Jesus. Is it enthusiasm? Is it brazenness? Is it coming from a sense of “I deserve a reward for having followed you these many, many months?” Is it arising from a sense of “I have looked at the other 10 and we are the ones you should pick?” Hard to know, but in any event, Jesus simply asks them what they desire. Continue reading

The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

In a 13th century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century which continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, led ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading

Accepting the Kingdom: gift

Kingdom_of_GodIn Private. 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

In the privacy of a house, the disciples question Jesus about “this” – presumably, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus has taken the question back to the divine intent. One way to understand the unstated question is that the disciples are not asking about divorce per se, but the broader question of all the things that cause the separation of what God has joined. Jesus declared without qualification that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. The use of the word “adultery” directs the disciples back to the absolute command of God (Ex. 20:14) and clarifies the seriousness of the issue. But to be clear, Jesus is not saying that divorce and remarriage is the only circumstance that lead to adultery, but it is of the same gravitas. Continue reading

Accepting the Kingdom: intentions

Kingdom_of_GodGod’s Creative Intent. Thus, Jesus moves the dialogue to deeper question and asks about what God intended in the creation: But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Jesus has posed a question to the Pharisees that puts before them a choice between preserving the Law as they understood it or discerning and doing God’s will. The former is a legislation that is based upon fallen human history. But is there something that precedes that history that will reveal God’s intent? Jesus is also appealing to the Torah in his reference to the creation account in Genesis. Many scholars have offered that the Law given to Moses was part of a covenant with the people of Israel for a specific time in history. That covenant was broken and “subsumed” into the larger Davidic covenant. But the covenant in Genesis is timeless and is revealed in Creation. Paul seems to make the similar argument that the Mosaic law was but an ‘inset’ into God’s earlier purpose and covenant of grace, which is eternal (Gal. 3:17). Continue reading

Accepting the Kingdom: answers

Kingdom_of_GodCommentary. 2 The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”

The Question. As noted in the preceding section, the question is none too genuine. Both Jesus and the Pharisees – and anyone listening in on the dialogue – know that Dt 24:1, part of the Torah (Law), is the basis for the practice of divorce: “When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house.” As ever, the Pharisees’ question has little to do with marriage or divorce, but concerns teaching authority (and their desire to trap Jesus so that they will be able to bring charges against him). We have already seen this pattern in 2:1-3:6 and 7:1-23. Then, Jesus responded with Scripture and challenge traditional understanding of the Pharisees’ teaching. Later we will see a question from the Sadducees about the resurrection (12:23) and the Herodian question about the tribute (12:15); they are also questions designed to make Jesus incriminate himself. Continue reading

Accepting the Kingdom: context

Kingdom_of_God2 The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” 5 But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. (Mark 10:2–16) Continue reading

The Feast of St. Francis

Happy Feast Day to all Franciscans and those of a Franciscan heart. I thought I would point out the resources available on this blog that are all about St. Francis. The first is a series of post about the life of St. Francis, available on the menu above:

There are also a series on the Admonitions of St. Francis that you can find using the “Categories” search function.  Enjoy!