Weekday Gospel Reflection


Monday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 2:18-22 - World English Bible

18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and they came and asked him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?”

19 Jesus said to them, “Can the groomsmen fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they can’t fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then will they fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, or else the patch shrinks and the new tears away from the old, and a worse hole is made. 22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine pours out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins.”

Why fast?

In Mark's gospel, Jesus answered a controversy about spiritual discipline. John's followers and the Pharisees fasted in anticipation of the Messiah. The lack of this popular practice on the part of Jesus' inner circle scandalized both groups.

Jesus answered with three images: the joy of the wedding feast, the repair of a worn cloth and the proper storage of wine in wineskins. In the time of Jesus, the presence of the groom marked the beginning of the wedding feast, a rich Scriptural sign of the Kingdom. The last two images contrasted the old with the new. Old cloth required stretched cloth for proper mending. New wine requires new wineskins to allow for proper fermenting of the wine and expansion of the skins. Notice Jesus used the controversy to highlight himself (bridegroom) and his message (new cloth and new wine). He was unique on the scene; his preaching differed from that of John and the Pharisees. Both groups anticipated the Kingdom; he embodied that reality.

So, if he is who he claims to be, why fast?

We all have certain spiritual practices we cling to. Review yours and seek a good reason to do them. Maybe it's time for a change.

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Tuesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 2:23-28 - World English Bible

23 Jesus was going on the Sabbath day through the grain fields, and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the Sabbath day?”

25 He said to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry—he, and those who were with him? 26 How he entered into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and gave also to those who were with him?” 27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

In these passages from Mark, Jesus discussed Sabbath duty with the Pharisees. As rural inhabitants, Jesus ans his followers from Galilee had a looser interpretation of that duty than the stricter Pharisees who lived in the cities. But, there was a deeper controversy than simply rural vs. urban ways; this controversy was a struggle over the nature and application of the Law, specifically what it meant to be "kosher."

The followers of Jesus plucked grain in a field to eat, but the Pharisees objected, since, as the Torah forbade the kindling of fire on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3) and, by extension, cooking; so, any activity involved in the production of food was unlawful. Jesus answered the complaint with a story from 1 Samuel 21:1-7; David asked for food from Ahimelech the priest, so his hungry warriors could eat. (Mark 2:26 mentioned the son of Ahimelech, Abiathar, but this character would not be named until 1 Samuel 22:20) The priest replied the only food he could give them was the show bread offered to YHWH alone. David said his men purified themselves by abstaining from sexual relations for three days, so they were implicitly clean and, hence, worthy to eat the bread (1 Samuel 21:5). Notice the rabbinical point of the story in 1 Samuel 21 and Mark 2 was the kosher status of the David's men, and the followers of Nazorene. Jesus and the Pharisees did not argue over hunger or the convenient availability of food, but over two questions: 1) Who was kosher? and 2) Who determined the status of the kosher? Jesus implied his followers were "clean" because they followed the Son of Man, who, in turn, judged what was acceptable to God ("The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.") In doing so, Jesus rejected the authority of the Pharisees as experts in the Law and established a new principle for applying the Law in regards to Sabbath ("The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath").

As Christians, we are acceptable to the Father because we follow his Son. We reject our status, not when we break a law only, but when we sever our relationship with Christ.

Do you worry about breaking a rule or do you primarily look out for the good of others?

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Wednesday in the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:1-6 - World English Bible

1 Jesus entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man there who had his hand withered. 2 They watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day, that they might accuse him. 3 He said to the man who had his hand withered, “Stand up.” 4 He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? To save a life, or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 When he had looked around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored as healthy as the other. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

In this passage from Mark, Jesus seemed to goad the Pharisees into a rabbinical debate, but they did not respond, and for good reason. In the controversy from Mark 2:23-28, he laid out a principle ("the Sabbath was made for man") and a new authority ("the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath"). In the question to do good on the Sabbath, he asserted both, for the question was rhetorical. There was no restriction on doing good in the Torah and, specifically, none against healing on the seventh day. So, why did he ask the question beyond proof of his power and the stature of humanity on the Lord's day? The question challenged his opponents to look beyond their egos as experts in the Law and see something greater was present. But, it grieved him to see their lack of faith. They interpreted his question and his healing as insults to their positions. They felt shamed and, so, left to conspire against him.

Have you felt your faith challenged by the words and actions of others? Could you set your prejudice aside to see the good they might be trying to do?

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Thursday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:7-12 - World English Bible

7 Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples, and a great multitude followed him from Galilee, from Judea, 8 from Jerusalem, from Idumaea, beyond the Jordan, and those from around Tyre and Sidon. A great multitude, hearing what great things he did, came to him. 9 He spoke to his disciples that a little boat should stay near him because of the crowd, so that they wouldn’t press on him. 10 For he had healed many, so that as many as had diseases pressed on him that they might touch him. 11 The unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, “You are the Son of God!” 12 He sternly warned them that they should not make him known.

This passage from Mark summarized many of the themes the evangelist developed about Jesus; he had power in word and act. The Lord's fame grew with the mixed audience that came to see him, from as far south as the Jews from the Idumean desert and as far west as Gentile coast cities of Tyre and Sidon. So many sought to hear his teaching, he had to speak from a boat just offshore. He healed the sick and performed exorcisms, even driving demons to silence. Mark heightened the aura of power Jesus had through his gospel; the Savior revealed God on earth.

How have the Word and activity of God caught your attention this week?

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Friday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:13-19 - World English Bible

13 Jesus went up into the mountain, and called to himself those whom he wanted, and they went to him. 14 He appointed twelve, that they might be with him, and that he might send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: 16 Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee; John, the brother of James, and he called them Boanerges, which means, Sons of Thunder; 18 Andrew; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, theson of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Mark's gospel portrayed Jesus like Moses, going up the mountain. Instead of praying or receiving a revelation, he called men to become apostles, the founding structure of the Church. The apostles continued the mobile ministry of the Lord, both in word and power.

We can assume Mark named the apostles in order of prominence, and not in an sense of symmetry. Simon Peter was first, then James and John, then Peter's brother Andrew, and finally the rest. Notice the emphasis on James and John as the sons of Thunder, given their nickname in Greek (Zebedee) and Hebrew (Boanerges). Also, notice Judas was mentioned last as a place of shame.

As Jesus called his disciples to evangelize, he calls us by name to do the same. What have you done this week to spread the Good News?

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Saturday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 3:20-21 - World English Bible

19b Jesus came into a house. 20 The multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 When his friends heard it, they went out to seize him: for they said, “He is insane.”

What is insanity? When we hear the word, our modern ears assume people speak of a medical condition, a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes inappropriate behavior. But, sometimes, the word refers to a social judgment on a person in his right mind who acts out in ways unexpected and unappreciated. Mark 3:21 obviously indicated not the organic sense of insanity, but the social meaning. Jesus behaved in a way that stepped outside of acceptable cultural norms. His so-called "friends" (actually relatives) came to take hold of him (in the modern parlance, perform an intervention).

Why did they seek to seize Jesus? Simply put, the carpenter from Nazareth had dared to rise above his place in the pecking order and become a traveling holy man, one who spoke and acted with God's power. The crowds responded to his presence to the extent that the Lord and his disciples couldn't even share a meal together. Certainly, his old friends thought, there must be something wrong; the boy we knew was garnering way too much attention; his ambitions were way too great.

But, there was another reason they came to take hold of Jesus. They didn't believe; their familiarity with him blinded them to the truth; their parochial vision could not and would not take in the bigger picture.

Does your familiarity with the faith blind you to the presence and power of God in your life?

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