September 26, 2009
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
The Kingdom is both costly and cheap
Jesus came to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God. And since, there is nothing more valuable. It is so precious that it's worth losing a hand, a foot, or an eye so as not to lose the Kingdom. And it is so precious that it's better for a person to die a violent death than to live and cause "one of the little ones" to sin and lose the Kingdom.
And at the same time, the Kingdom seems so cheap. A cup of water given to a person because that person belongs to Christ is enough to win the reward of the Kingdom.
The gift of the Kingdom, so precious, has been made so cheap and plentiful. It is possible solely because the Kingdom is a free gift that God gives gratuitously to anyone who is willing to accept it.
September 22, 2009
September 19, 2009
A Patient and Forgiving Teacher
For 2 weeks in a row, we hear from Mark's Gospel of the disciples' failure to understand Jesus. They just don't get it.
First, Peter shows that they are stuck in their own idea of who Jesus is (last week's Gospel, Mark 8:27-35). He gives the right answer, but not knowing what it means.
Now, as Jesus for the second time tells them that he will "be handed over" and be killed, the disciples do not "understand the saying, and they [are] afraid to question him" (9:31-32). Consequently, they think of the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus as a victory march, and there, the Messiah will establish his earthly reign. So, they turn around and fight over their places in that earthly kingdom (9:34). 
And in response, Jesus tries once more to teach and explain to them his mission and their call to follow his example. Knowing his disciples and their struggles, he now focuses all his attention on them. Thus, "he [does] not wish anyone to know " their whereabout (9:30). Then, once in the privacy of the house, he sits down and teaches them (9:35).
We, as disciples of Jesus, also have his patience and his love to count on when we fail.
 Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 188.
September 15, 2009
September 12, 2009
A Turning Point
This week's Gospel reading gives a turning point in the Gospel of Mark. Up to now, Jesus has shown his identity in his miraculous action and his powerful words. But not everybody recognizes him. We also know from previous passages in Mark, there are still people who even challenge Jesus' teaching authority as a rabbi. As we learn in the disciples' responses to Jesus' question, for most people, Jesus is just "one of the figures expected to usher in the days of the Messiah." 
The disciples know what people are saying about Jesus. But, it is not enough for the disciples to know what others think of Jesus. Jesus asks them for their own faith, "But, who do you say that I am?" (8:29). Here is the turning point in the disciples' following and understanding of Jesus.
There has to be a similar turning point in every Christian's journey of faith. We all learn the faith from somebody else. For most of us, it was first our parents and grandparents who pass on to us the faith. We also learn it from our religious educators, clergy, other Church ministers, and friends. But at one point or another, we all must answer that same question, "But who do you say that I am?" Who is Jesus for me, not somebody else?
Yet, as we learn from the hard lesson that Peter learns, it is not enough to know Jesus according to our own idea or concept. Peter gives the right answer. Nevertheless, he cannot come to understand or accept what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah in God's plan. Peter even goes as far as "rebuking" Jesus. He has a hard time accepting a Messiah who will suffer, be rejected, and die.
At that point, Jesus puts Peter where he belongs, "Get behind me."
Then Jesus gives us the ultimate turning point in any disciple's journey of faith. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (8:34).
It is not enough to know Jesus according to our ideas and plans. We must come to know and follow him as the Messiah, who out of obedience to the Father and out of love for us, gives up his life so that we might live.
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. This is the Gospel of the Lord, Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul, 1993; p. 182.
September 5, 2009
How do I approach Jesus?
Last week, as we returned to Mark's Gospel, we heard Jesus' invitation, "Hear me, all of you, and understand" (Mark 6:14). Meanwhile, some Pharisees and scribes - the religious leaders of Israel, had difficulties accepting the message of Jesus. Ultimately, they would not recognize or accept Jesus for who he was.
Today, we find Jesus in the territories of the Gentiles. There, he had first helped a Syrophoenician woman who "begged him to drive [an unclean spirit] out of her daughter" (7:26). Her humble attitude is also the attitude of the people who brought the deaf man to him. They "begged" him (7:32). And he healed the man.
The Gentiles did not have the covenant God made with Abraham, the Law God gave to Moses, and the words God spoke through the prophets. Yet, they recognized Jesus for who he was. The Syrophoenician woman even called him "Lord." Their humility, the awareness of their nothingness, and their realization that Jesus alone could heal them opened their ears to hear Jesus' word, their eyes to see the Divine Presence, and their mouths to proclaim God's glory.
 The story of the Syrophoenician woman, found in Mark 7:24-30, is not used in the Gospel readings for Sundays of this year B.