Discerning Family

Today’s gospel is, in its own way, part of a thread in Mark’s gospel in which the nature of the family of God is slowly revealed.

  • In Mark 3:7-12, Jesus is calling and appointing 12 as apostles, the foundation of the family of the Church
  • In v.21, Jesus’ biological family arrives on the scene: “When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 
  • In v.35, we hear Jesus proclaim: “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
  • And in between all this we have today’s gospel (vv.23-30) in which the opposition charges: “‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘By the prince of demons he drives out demons.’” – assigning Jesus to a family of the damned.

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Girls Scout Cookies

Did you know the cookie sales by an individual Girl Scout unit were by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in December 1917 at their local high school. Five years later, the Girl Scout magazine The American Girl suggested cookie sales as a fundraiser and provided a simple sugar cookie recipe.. Another eleven year passed and then 1933, Girl Scouts in Philadelphia organized the first commercial sale, selling homemade cookies at the windows of the Philadelphia Gas and Electric Company. In 1936, Girl Scouts of the USA began licensing commercial bakers to produce cookies, in order to increase availability and reduce lead time. The first contracted baker was Keebler-Weyl Bakery, soon joined by Southern Biscuit Company and Burry Biscuit. both later acquired by Interbake Foods in 1937. One hundred twenty five troops launched cookie sales that first year. Continue reading

Being Named

Up to this point in his gospel narrative, Mark has shown his skills as a storyteller. He has already achieved a mounting tension in the narrative. Chapter 1 ends with Jesus’ fame and reputation as a healer spreading and the crowds seeking out Jesus (1:45). Then come five stories of controversy (2:1-3:6) that do not end on such a positive note: “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (3:6) It does not appear they are on “Team Jesus.” Continue reading

On the team?

Earlier this morning I posted a short commentary on today’s gospel. Within the gospel we again hear Jesus commanding silence about his ministry and his identity. In tomorrow’s gospel Jesus will appoint the Twelve, that core cadre of people whom he will form as apostles and disciples whose mission will not be silence, but rather communications, messaging, and promotion. He wants the right team, rightly formed, carrying the right message to the world.

In a way the formation and preparation of the “team” is in the backdrop of almost every story in the gospel. At the end of the gospels the “team” will be sent with the Good News to the ends of the earth as his spokesperson. It is a role for which you were anointed in your baptism. And so the mission asked of us is – in our own place and time – to be the person rightly formed and willing to speak when called upon. To be “on message” and pass on the saving Word.

So… are you on the team? Starting lineup? Practice squad? Taxi squad? Getting ready? Or just a spectator in the stands? Maybe not even at the game? The nice thing about “Team Jesus” is that the starting lineup is not limited to the Twelve. It’s a big playing field and we can use the whole team in action. So… are you on the team?

What has withered?

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus healing on the Sabbath: “There was a man there who had a withered hand” (Mark 3:1). The primary thread of this gospel account is Jesus’ controversy with the Pharisees about what good may be done on the Sabbath. The man with a withered hand is a silent witness to the miracle in his life. He doesn’t call upon Jesus to heal him; Jesus reaches out to him. He simply follows Jesus’ command, approaches and healing follows. Continue reading

Eating with sinners

The gospel reading for today comes from Mark 2 and immediately follows the calling of Levi (Matthew) as a disciples. Later that same day Jesus is seen and criticized for eating with sinners and tax collectors. These incidents still deal with the question about whom God forgives and under what circumstances.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins? (Mark 2:5-7)

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Rights of the King

I suspect if I asked most people, “Who is the King?” the answer might well come back “Elvis.” There is just part of us that lives in a pop-culture world. Besides, we Americans aren’t too keen on kings. After all, we fought a Revolutionary War to rid ourselves of English monarchs. Of course, we remain fascinated by them. Just look at the television ratings for royal weddings. But kings are a prominent feature of the Old Testament, e.g. 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles. But hen we look back into the pages of salvation history the great names are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the 12 sons of Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Judith – none of them are kings.  Today’s first reading answers the question: how did Israel get a king?   Here is how it all came about. Continue reading

The Ark of the Covenant

In today’s first reading, the Ark of the Covenant is prominently featured and a locus of the story. While the Ark is an icon of the people of the Exodus up to the Babylonian exile, I fear most folks know little about the Ark apart from “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” the 1981 blockbuster movie – now 40 years old. Of course the very title of the movie begs the question: when did it get “lost.” The Ark is perhaps the most sacred relic of the Israelites. It consisted of a pure gold-covered wooden chest with an elaborate lid called the Mercy seat. The Ark is described in the Book of Exodus as containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, it also contained Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna. Continue reading

Restored

Today’s gospel is one that always needs 1st century context. Jesus has just been at synagogue where he cast out an unclean spirit from a man. Then we read, “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He [Jesus] approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1:30-31)

Over the years, in more than one Bible Study, a participant has commented, “Really, healing the woman so that she can get up and serve a bunch of men.” Pheme Perkins (Mark, New Interpreters Bible) writes:

Peter’s mother-in-law lies wracked with fever. She cannot fulfill the role of preparing and serving a meal to the guests, which would have fallen to her as the senior woman in the household. Jesus’ healing restores her to her social position within the household. Many women today react negatively to the picture of a woman getting up after a severe illness to serve male guests. That sentiment hardly seems appropriate to the complex gender and social roles involved in the household. Certainly, Peter’s wife or a female servant may have prepared food. The privilege of showing hospitality to important guests falls to Peter’s mother-in-law as a matter of honor, not servitude. We even exhibit similar behavior. When special guests are expected for dinner, no one gets near the kitchen without clearance from the person who has the privilege of preparing the food. (p. 546)

Think about how often the healings of Jesus return people to society from their place “outside the camp.” It is clear and obvious in the healing of lepers, the man born blind, and so many other stories. They are returned to “inside the camp” where there are places of honor, duty and commitment. Mark is also writing about a larger “inside the camp.” In the healing that is described just before our gospel, consider the contrast:

  • man – woman
  • synagogue (holy place) – house (common place)
  • (supernatural) unclean spirit – (natural) fever

Jesus works to bring all creation “inside the camp” – and asks us to do the same – to reach out and heal a relation, to restore honor and place, to extend hospitality.

Astounded and Amazed

In today’s gospel, the Evangelist concentrates upon a single Sabbath when Jesus’ synagogue teaching provoked a reaction from the people present. The two words that describe the people’s reactions are: ekplessomai (v. 22) and thambeo (v. 27) – “astounded” and “amazed.” The first term, more literally means “be beside oneself” – or in the slang, “to be blown away”  It comes from something that is so incomprehensible that one’s mind can’t fathom what has been experienced. Continue reading