November 14, 2015

33rd Sunday - B


My Words Will Not Pass Away

Each Gospel passage has at least three audiences.

The first audience was made up of the people who listen to Jesus or witnessed first hand his life events. The second audience was the people the Evangelist had in mind when he wrote the Gospel (often referred to as his community, eg. the Markan community in the case of today's passage). And we, listeners and readers of all future generation are the third audience.

The experiences and the reflections of the previous two audiences can help us listen to and reflect on God's words spoken to us today.

For both first and second audiences, the words of Jesus were fulfilled in their lives.

The day of Jesus' crucifixion, the sun was darkened, the powers in the heaven were shaken. Indeed, for Jesus' disciples – the first audience, their world was seemingly coming to an end.

For the second audience, Christians who lived in the Roman Empire probably around the year 70 AD, their world was also in turmoil. Nero had begun the brutal persecution of Christians. And for the Jewish Christians, Jerusalem was recently leveled by the Romans as punishment for the Jewish revolt. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. Those were indeed the days of tribulation.

In those situations, the disciples of the first audience and Christians of the second audience also witnessed the fulfillment of Jesus' words, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

The Resurrection of Jesus conquered death and gave peace to his disciples. Their courageous witness and faith in turn strengthened Christians of the second audience.

May their witness continue to strengthen us when we face the tribulations of our own times.

33rd Sunday - B (November 15, 2015)


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November 7, 2015

32nd Sunday - B


Her Whole Livelihood

Jesus observes that the woman “contributed her whole livelihood.” The word bios translated here as “livelihood” can also be translated “life.” Fr. Frank Moloney, SDB., suggests that the “double meaning is intended” for out of love and trust, she in fact offers her life. [1]

The widow is poor. Some scholars suggest that the Greek word ptochoi used here to described her indicates that she is “the poorest of the poor, a widow reduced to begging.” [2]

But her poverty does not limit her generosity.

Jesus is already in Jerusalem. His mission is near its climatic point. In a short time, he would offer his own life to God and to humanity.

Do I put limits on my generosity and service?

[1]. Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 247.

Greek has two words for "poor"--penes and ptochos. Penes means "working poor." Ptochos, on the other hand, means being destitute. To put it another way: Penes means having to work. Ptochos means having to beg.

32nd Sunday - B (November 8, 2015)


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October 31, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints


Poor and Clean of Heart

We have been reading from the Gospel According to Mark. For this feast of All Saints, we switch to the Matthew. However, the passages from Mark of the last two Sundays might give us some good examples to reflect on two of the “beatitudes” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart.”

In the Gospel for the 29th Sunday, James and John asked Jesus to let them sit one at his right and one at his left. Worse than their demand is the way they speak to Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10: 35). That doesn't seem to be the attitude of the poor in spirit. They think highly of themselves. They appear presumptuous or even arrogant.

Their attitude leads James and John to make such an obnoxious demand. The demand also suggests their desire for power and control.

The blind man Bartimaeus, on the contrary, acknowledges his nothingness. More importantly, he recognizes and professes his faith in the Son of David. He pleads with Jesus to “have pity on” him (Mark 10: 47, Gospel for 30th Sunday). He is poor both in possessions and in spirit.

The recognition of his poverty leads Bartimaeus to depend on Jesus, not on his possessions, position, connections, or talents. And once he has received the sight that he asks for, he follows Jesus as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem.

Looking at it this way reminds us that the two beatitudes “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart” go together. If and when we are poor in spirit then we become more dependent on God. God becomes more the sole assurance of our heart.  

Solemnity of All Saints


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October 24, 2015

30th Sunday - B


Bartimaeus Follows Jesus on the Way

Last week, we listened to James and John asking Jesus for a favor. Today, we heard Bartimaeus' request.

Let's compare Bartimaeus with James and John.

James and John were among the first people Jesus called at the very beginning of his public ministry (Mark, Chapter 1). They are two of the Twelve, those closest to Jesus. Moreover, James and John, often with Peter, have the privilege of being with Jesus on very special occasions. For example, Jesus let them witness the Transfiguration (Mark, Chapter 8) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark, Chapter 5).

Bartimaeus, on the contrary, is a blind beggar. He is not even in the crowd following Jesus. He is nobody. And he has nothing. His sole possession seems to be the cloak, which he even “throws aside” when Jesus calls him.

These opposite background details provides a stark contrast between Bartimaeus and James and John.

James and John addresses Jesus simply as, “Teacher.” Bartimaeus acknowledges Jesus as the “Son of David” and “Master” (or “Lord” in some other translations.)

James and John approach Jesus and demand, ““Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

Bartimaeus is much humbler. He simply pleads with Jesus, “Have pity on me.”

James and John ask for places of honor and power, sitting at Jesus' right and left even though they have been told three times what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. They are with Jesus, but they are not really following him.

James and John have eyes but they do not see.

Bartimaeus had no sight but he could see.

And once given sight, Bartimaeus is told “go your way.” However, he follows Jesus “on the way,” which is the way to Jerusalem [1], the way of humility and sacrifice, the way of loving service.


[1] In Mark, Jesus' enters Jerusalem immediately after this story of the healing of Bartimaeus.