March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord - B

Mark 14: 1 - 15: 47

The Revelation of the Son of God

Mark begins his gospel with a clear indication of what he intends to do, that is to write "the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1).

Throughout the book, Mark repeats that theme, or more accurately, that title of Jesus a couple of times. (This year, my reflections on the Sunday Gospel readings from Mark have focused on this title).

First, it is at the baptism at the Jordan river when the voice from the heavens tells Jesus, "You are my beloved Son" (1:11).

Later, at the Transfiguration, the voice from heaven spoke again of Jesus' identity, this time to Peter, James, and John, "This is my beloved Son."

In between, there are incidents when this title of Jesus is professed. "Unclean spirits" address Jesus, "You are the Son of God" in 3:11 and "Son of the Most High God" in 5:7.

In 14:61, the high priest refers to the title "Son of the Blessed One" in his interrogation. But it is not a profession of faith.

The Roman centurion in 15:39 is the first human being to profess this title, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

The centurion does so while standing "facing [Jesus] and saw how he breathed his last."

At the cross, we come to know the depth of God's love, and thus, come to know God.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord - B


Image: Crucifixion by Andrea Mantegna

March 24, 2012

5th Sunday of Lent - B (March 25, 2012)


Ministers of God's Time

The pilgrims who are of Greek origin ask Philip to introduce them to Jesus. "Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus" (vs. 21-22).

Why do these Greeks approach Philip and Andrew?

It was most likely because they are the only two disciples who have Greek names [1].

On the human level, that seems to be the only reason.

Up to this point in the narrative of the Gospel according to John, Philip and Andrew are by no means outstanding among the disciples.

Earlier, in Chapter 6, people walked away from Jesus because they could not accept his teaching that he would give his own flesh and blood as the food of eternal life. Then, Simon Peter professed the faith of the disciples, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (6: 68).

Yet, the disciples are still learners.

It was Philip and Andrew who could not see that Jesus could feed the multitude even though they had been with him for some time and had witnessed his power. [2]

Yet, it is Philip and Andrew who had the privilege of introducing people to Jesus.

It is not up to them, their faith, or their ability. It is because "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." (v. 23).

So it is with all of Jesus' disciples. It is by God's design and power that we are who we are, messengers and witnesses of the love and power of God.
[1]. Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John (Sacra Pagina Series, Volume 4). Collegeville, MN, Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 359.

[2] When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” (John 6: 5-9)

5th Sunday of Lent - B (March 25, 2012)


March 14, 2012

4th Sunday of Lent - B (March 18, 2012)


Light and Darkness

One of the ways to better understand Jesus' words to Nicodemus here is to look at the setting of their conversation.

In John 3:1, Nicodemus is described as "a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews." Yet, he comes to Jesus "at night" (v. 2).

Why would a religious leader and a ruler of the people have to do something at night?

There have been various attempts to interpret Nicodemus' motivation. The author of this gospel, however, makes no mention of any reason why Nicodemus comes to meet Jesus at night.

Nevertheless, to the one who has come to meet him at night, Jesus says, "The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God" (v. 19-21).

Later on in John's gospel, at the moment of Jesus' death, Nicodemus would come forward publicly, "bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about one hundred pounds" for the burial of the crucified Jesus. He no longer does things "at night" (19: 39-40).

How do I measure up to the challenging words of Jesus in this passage?

Am I moving from darkness to light like Nicodemus?

4th Sunday of Lent - B (March 18, 2012)


John La Farge, Visit of Nicodemus to Christ

March 9, 2012

3rd Sunday of Lent - B (March 11, 2012)

John 2: 13-25

God's House

Today, we hear of Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. Verses 14 and 15 mention the location of the episode. The Greek word hieron used here for "temple" has the connotation of "a building where people gather." [1]

For Jesus, it is not just a building where people come together, even if it is a temple, or a place of worship. It is His Father's house. And John used a different Greek word here. He used oikos, refering to a dwelling place, or a house. God's house is where God is present among God's people. [2]

And Jesus asserts that he himself is now God's presence among the human race (v. 19). This continues one of the teachings found in the prologue of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth" (1: 1,14).

In Jesus Christ, God has come to live among us.

This mystery continues in the Church, Christ's Body. The Church is not just a place that gathers people. It is where God lives among the human race.

And whatever is true about the Church is true with each of its members.

How am I God's presence among the human race? How do I live that reality and mystery in my life?

[1]. Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John (Sacra Pagina Series, Volume 4). Collegeville, MN, Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 77.
[2]. Ibid.

3rd Sunday of Lent - B (March 11, 2012)

March 3, 2012

2nd Sunday of Lent - B (March 4, 2012)

Mark 9: 2-10

This is My Beloved Son

Mark began his gospel citing clearly what he intended to teach his readers, "the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God" (1:1)

The rest of his writing teaches us who Jesus is and how in his life, through his words and actions, Jesus reveals to us that he is the only "Son of God."

It begins with the baptism of John the Baptist, where the voice from heaven reaffirms Jesus as God's "beloved Son."

Then we learn of a Jesus who is zealously on a mission to bring God's peace and healing to the human race.

Throughout the gospel, especially when Jesus heals the sick and performs miracles, he would not allow people to speak about it to prevent any misunderstanding of who he is. He is not just a famous teacher or a powerful miracle worker.

Now, as Jesus travels to Jerusalem to undergo his passion and death, with the Transfiguration, he prepares his disciples by giving them a hint of who he truly is, God's beloved Son.

Jesus' identity as God's beloved Son will be fully revealed on the cross, which he accepted out of loving obedience to the Father's will and love for the human race. There, on the cross, through the words of the Roman centurion, Mark teaches us, "Truly this man was the Son of God" (15:39).

God's only Son lives and fulfills his identity on the cross, his ultimate sacrifice of love.

How do we live our lives as God's sons and daughters?