September 29, 2012

26th Sunday - B


The Kingdom Does not Belong to Us

John stops a man from doing the work of Jesus.  John’s reason is rather simple:  “He does not follow us.”

It is important to point out that John is one of the three “privileged” disciples [1], who, earlier in this same Chapter 9, witnessed the great glory of Jesus in his transfiguration.  The event ended with the voice from heaven telling them, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him,” (9: 2-8)

John and the rest of the Twelve were then reprimanded for “arguing among themselves who were the greatest.”  Jesus used the occasion to teach them the proper attitude regarding the least significant people in God’s Kingdom, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me”  (9:37, last week’s Gospel).

In the same chapter, John and his friends also witnessed the great needs of the people.  He even learned that he and his friends were not able to help the people in their needs with their own strength. 

When they came down from the mountain with Jesus, there was a large crowd waiting for Him.  Among them was a father whose son was possessed by a mute spirit.  The man had asked the disciples, John’s friends, “to drive [the spirit] out, but they were unable to do so.”  Jesus healed the boy, and later explained to his disciples, “This kind can only come out through prayer” (9: 14 – 29)

After all of that, John still stops the man from doing the work of Jesus.  Interestingly, he was doing the very thing that John’s friends were unable to do. 

Let us not forget John’s lesson:  The Kingdom of God belongs to God, and not to anyone of us.  And each of us simply serves according to the gifts given to us by God.

[1]  Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002; p. 189.

26th Sunday - B (September 30, 2012)


September 20, 2012

25th Sunday - B


Only to Jesus’ Closest Friends

For two weeks in a row, the Gospel readings from Mark recall Jesus’ prediction of his suffering (passion) and the cross.    

The two passages also share one other element in common:  Jesus speaks of the cross only to his disciples. 

In the setting of today’s reading, Jesus is already on the way to Jerusalem as he and his disciples “began a journey through Galilee.”  Mark emphasizes that [Jesus] “did not wish anyone to know about it.”  It is to his disciples alone that he tells them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and three days after his death, the Son of Man will rise.”

Jesus reveals the mystery of his suffering, death, and resurrection only to his closest friends. 

Am I ready for that?

25th Sunday - B (September 23, 2012)


Image source: 

September 14, 2012

24th Sunday - B

Mark 8:27-35

Who Do You Say that I am?

A look at the context of this Sunday’s Gospel from Mark 8: 27-35 could provide some insights in our appreciation of Jesus’ question to Peter and the other disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

In terms of geographical location, the dialogue takes place in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. It was here that in 20 BC, Herod the Great built “a magnificent temple” out of white marble “in honor of the [Roman] emperor.” Then in 3 BC, Philip the Tetrarch, one of Herod’s sons, built the city up to be the capital of his territory. He renamed the city and “dedicated it to his imperial protector [Caesar] Tiberius.” (The name Caesarea Philippi was used to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima, another town in the territory). [1]

In terms of the location of the passage in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus poses this question after the disciples have witnessed first hands a number of miracles that Jesus performs and have been spell-bound by his teaching. (In the Sunday Gospel readings, the passages for last two Sunday reported first how Jesus surpassed the scribes and Pharisees in his teaching. Next, Jesus opened the ears and mouth of a man, and people acclaimed, “He has done all things well”).

Consequently, Jesus has been the talk of the town.

Against the background of all these worldly glories, both the physical location and Jesus’ success, he asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

No wonder does Peter give the correct answer, “You are the Christ.” Besides, Peter, his fellow disciples, and in fact the whole of Israel, have been waiting for this Christ.

Peter’s answer is correct. But not his understanding of who the Christ is.

In the Gospel of Mark, the true identity of Jesus is only revealed on the cross. There, the gentile centurion identifies Jesus correctly. In the suffering and crucified Jesus, the man recognizes, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

What is my understanding of who Jesus Christ is?


[1] Information found on The Catholic New Encyclopedia,

Image of niches of Greek gods carved into the rocks in Caesarea Philippi from

24th Sunday - B (September 16, 2012)


Sacred Niches on a Greek Temple in Caesarea Philippi

September 8, 2012

23rd Sunday - B

Mark 7: 31-37

Jesus Opens the Kingdom of God

A quick glance at the map of the area mentioned in Mark 7:31 (top of the map) suggests something unusual about Jesus’ itinerary.  He goes out of the way.  The portion from Tyre to Sidon alone is about 25 miles.

There have been various attempts to explain Jesus’ journey north from Tyre to Sidon, then Southeast “into the district of the Decapolis.” 

Some commentators observe that Mark (and also Matthew) was not familiar with the geography of the area. Consequently, it must have been an error on Mark’s part to report such journey.

Others suggests that due to the mountainous terrain of the area, it was more reasonable to travel the way Jesus did than going directly from Tyre into the district of the Decapolis.

Neither explanation considers Jesus’ motivation and purpose.

This unusual itinerary should draw our attention to the fact that during this trip, “Jesus never sets foot in Israel” [1]He seems to prolong his time in a Gentile area.  In fact, the population of region of Tyre was “mixed of Gentiles and Jews.”  And the population of the Decapolis “was predominantly Gentile” [2].

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading from an earlier portion of the same Chapter 7 in Mark reports Jesus’ application of Isaiah’s words  to the attitude of some Jewish religious leaders, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (v. 6). 

Here, the Gentiles accepted Jesus’ presence and words.  To them, Jesus commands, “Ephphatha – Be Opened.”   Not only did they open their ears and their hearts to his words, they also opened their mouths to proclaim God’s marvelous presence and action in their lives. 


[1]  Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord – Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1993; p. 180.

[2]  Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002; p. 149.

23rd Sunday - B (September 9, 2012)