In Mark’s gospel, Jesus responds to the Syrophoenician woman who has asked for her daughter to be healed, that the family children come before the family dogs. He is really saying, “ you, a Syrophoenician, are not of our Jewish family. I am here to tend to my family, not yours.” The woman’s response, “ah yes sir but the house dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps” evokes Jesus’ compassion. Jesus heals her daughter.
The heart of being Christian is proclaiming and following the message of Jesus. Jesus’ dialogue with his disciples in today’s gospel cuts to the heart of the Christian message asserting that internal disposition of heart, not punctilious external obligation, is central to following Jesus.
Doubtless Jesus was engaged in a discussion about the Jewish food laws as contained in the Jewish law. Does observation of these make one holy and lack of observation defile one? Jesus is forthright: “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from the outside cannot defile. . . .But what comes out of a man, that is what defiles him.”
Genesis 1: 20-2:|4a; Psalm 8: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Mark 7: 1-13
As we continue our journey through Genesis and the other readings, we are reminded of the special role of humans. They are the climax of creation, they are made in the image and likeness of GOD. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds the religious leaders that the relationship between GOD and humans is more important than the human laws and regulations, particularly those which separate humans from increasing their relationship with GOD.
What struck me in this gospel reading was the last sentence of the reading. St. Mark says: "and as many as touched it were healed." The fame of Jesus in Galilee, even early in his public life, was such that when people heard he was coming they hurried to gather together their sick in hopes for a cure. On this day Jesus was recognized as soon as he came ashore at Gennesaret. And the townspeople rushed in a great frenzy to gather together their sick. They placed them on mats in the marketplace where they hoped to touch the cloak of Jesus as he passed by. When Jesus arrived he was not in a great hurry. He probably moved slowly through the town so as to give as many as possible the opportunity to reach up and touch him. There must have been great crowds in each town that Jesus passed through. And so there were probably a great many healings that day.
Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
Job, in our First Reading, has had a hard time of it. He is downer and outer than anybody else in Scriptures. He is experiencing the crucible of fidelity. The Devil kind of makes a bet with God that if Job is squeezed enough he will cry out in some way of disbelief. The devil says that Job is a man of faith, because he has everything in hand and within his control. What we hear is a most natural response to the questions which suffering can create. Job asks the usual questions about the meaning of life. We hear two such questions and then his tormentful musings about the meaning of his personal life and that of all humankind.
Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21; Mark 6:30-34
My apologies if you visited this day before and found a differently reflection here, I accidentally wrote it based on the readings for February 7, 2014. The new reflection is for the readings for this year.
The readings for today focus on two main images or themes, one with the sheep and the loving shepherd and the other about rest. While the notion of sheep is not always embraced as a positive one, in these readings the key is the relationship between the sheep and the great shepherd. The first reading encourages us to obey and defer to leaders. This may be met with resistance by many, particularly those of my generation who were “programmed” to reject the Establishment. But before we react I think it is important to understand this context – I do not believe it is about blind following of authority. Rather, it is about following a right and justice leader – one who truly watches over us and has responsibility for our well-being. This leader will be held accountable for leading us in the way of the righteous. The reading also urges us to share our blessings, doing good and sacrificing at times. The great shepherd is there to support us and provide us with “all that is good” that we become the face of Jesus to others. There is the expectation that we are the hands and feet of the Lord, that our actions/our lives will glorify Him.
Herod was a weak man, one whose interaction with John was a disaster for the king and whose interaction with Jesus was not much better, and so we tend not to look very closely at this dissolute pagan.
The story in Mark has more messages in it than you can shake a stick at. First, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two. Why? Wouldn’t it be more efficient and cover more ground if you sent them out individually? I think there are two reasons for this. Jesus has given the disciples a daunting task. It would be easy to get discouraged. Having an encourager along is important. Second, if I were out healing people by myself, it would be easy to start taking all the credit myself. Having someone to hold me accountable is important. Part of the reason we worship together is to encourage each other and hold each other accountable.
Today the Church honors St. Blaise with an optional memorial. An early Fourth Century Bishop of Armenia, Blaise was martyred even after the Edict of Toleration. He was little known or appreciated in the Latin Church until a hagiographical account of his life, The Acts of Blaise, was written and fairly widely circulated in the early medieval period four hundred years later. Replete with stories of compassion for the poor and suffering, respectful attention from wild animals (wolves, bears and lions), the curing of ailments, including a child suffering from a bone caught in his throat, and horrifying accounts of final suffering and death when he did not abandon his faith and worship pagan gods, the Acts were guaranteed to evoke reverence and widespread devotion among Christians longing to know that men and women were genuinely free through God’s grace to live the Gospel message faithfully. Popular devotion canonized Blaise and on his feast (today) numerous practices of devotion have been carried out in different parts of the world, including the blessing of throats so popular in the United States. This evocation of God’s care through the intercession of one of his champions makes particular human sense in the midst of the cold and flu season filled with sore throats.
Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
At first glance, today’s celebration (The Presentation of the Lord; Luke 2:22-40) may seem rather strange and out of sequence. The Christmas decorations came down a few weeks ago and three Sundays of Ordinary Time have passed during which the adult Jesus has been baptized, begun his public ministry, and called his first disciples. But the Law of Moses called for a 40-day period of purification after the birth of a male child – and today is 40 days, inclusive, after Christmas.
In the Gospel we encounter a man who is mentally deranged, howling and throwing stones. But he is trying to destroy himself. He and the evil voices within him recognize in Jesus the power of life over death and order in chaos – the power of the Creator. As voices of chaos and destroyers of human peace and goodness, these demons beg Jesus not to drive them out to wander aimlessly (this would be exceedingly dangerous to everyone in that neighborhood) - but rather ask him to send them into a nearby herd of pigs. There is much going on in this text that we could spend days pondering, but those who know Jewish law and custom know that pigs are abhorrent to the Jews and their meat is utterly unclean. Only unbelievers would make a profit from trading in pigs. Apparently these pigs are an important element of the local economy, however, and so when Jesus sends the demons into the pigs, causing the animals to self-destruct (they stampede off a cliff) the whole population comes out of town and begs Jesus to leave – lest he do more “damage”. They don’t ask him to save them but to go away – to leave them to their darkness. Only the formerly crazed man, who is healed of his self-destroying demons, recognizes Jesus for who he is, and begs to follow him. Jesus sends him back to his own family and friends to proclaim the good news of his salvation.
Deuteronomy 18:15-20|1 Corinthians 7:32-35|Mark 1:21-28
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
God spoke directly to Moses. In the first reading God has promised the people that he will speak directly to someone from their own kin like he speaks to Moses so those people can hear and understand. They will be able to hear the word of God in their own language and within their own culture. What an amazing opportunity. I know I would love to hear directly from God. Today it seems hard to know exactly what to do and what really is God’s will. Back then God spoke directly to Moses, and he said exactly what to do. The people in the first reading have a prophet in their midst. But this opportunity comes with responsibility also. They have to listen and obey. And false prophets will not be tolerated. Actually, this helps them out too, because anyone who pretends to prophesy, but isn’t the prophet God speaks to directly will die, so the people actually know that their prophet is real. That makes it easier to trust in and follow his words.