31 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 31 August 2011


Mark 15.1-11 CEB: At daybreak, the chief priests—with the elders, legal experts, and the whole Sanhedrin—formed a plan. They bound Jesus, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” The chief priests were accusing him of many things.

Pilate asked him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? What about all these accusations?” But Jesus gave no more answers so that Pilate marveled.
During the festival, Pilate released one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. A man named Barabbas was locked up with the rebels who had committed murder during an uprising. The crowd pushed forward and asked Pilate to release someone, as he regularly did. Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” He knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of jealousy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead.

It’s a hot day. I can faintly hear the crowd outside. ‘This is it,’ I say to myself. The priest asks me if I have anything to say. Inside my head, I’m screaming, ‘I’m sorry! I was stupid! God forgive me!’ but I keep staring at the stone floor, my mouth shut. My pride so big that it fills the cell.

The guards arrive. ‘Let’s go, Barabbas.’ I glance at the priest. He looks at me with hope in his eyes. If I had my dagger, I’d cut that look from his face.

The guards lead me down the hall toward the judgment platform outside. My fellow inmates are cheering and yelling and cursing at the guards and the priest.

As I make my way to stand on the platform, the crowd is almost deafening. ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ There’s someone else standing there. I can’t make him out from this angle. Looks like the two of us will become food for the carrion crow.

I see Pilate to my right, on the other side of the first man. Pilate is so full of himself, prancing around in his fine robes. My people are starving and he has this huge table full of food just to his right. I’d give anything to make one more attempt on his life before they hang me from a tree. Never taking my eyes away from Pilate, I turn slightly to my colleague and start to tell him what I’m thinking. And then I look at him. My eye meet his eyes. His eyes pierce me to my soul.

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ I hear Pilate ask. Wait. What? What’s going on? This is Jesus. Why is he here? I’ve never heard of him doing anything wrong. He’s helped everyone he’s met. What has he done? The fact that he’s here shows just how corrupt this government is! I’m sure the religious elitists want him out of the way so they can line their pockets with more of our money and continue to climb into bed with the Roman dogs!

‘Release Barabbas!’

What?

The guards come and grab me to take me away. The whole time, Jesus just stares at me. Something’s wrong. That should be me. “Why is he going to be executed?” I shout. “What has he done? This is wrong! Stop this!”

I struggle to break free. Finally, after busting a guard’s nose, I rush back to Jesus. He just stands there with that look in his eyes. My heart shatters. Tears begin to burn my eyes. The guards grab me again. I feel the sudden a burst behind my left ear as one of the guards hit me with his club. Lights and color explode in my head. And then...as I see Jesus reaching out toward me...utter blackness...

~~~

Years ago, I saw a video (Really. It was a VHS video tape.) from a guy who did a one-man drama presentation. In it, he played various characters. The story seemed to be a first century reporter going throughout the region doing interviews with people who knew or met Jesus. There were very powerful performance's, as one might imagine. One of the characters he did was Barabbas. He was a rough character that was a box maker. At one point in the story, Barabbas goes and tells us his story. At one point, he talks about Jesus hanging on the cross and mumbling. Barabbas moves through the outskirts of the crowd toward the cross saying, ‘Yeah! Cuss ‘em. Cuss ‘em. Cuss them damn Gentiles. Cuss ‘em boy. You go to hell, you damn Gentiles!’ But, when then he starts to hear what Jesus was saying, ‘Forgive them...they don’t know what they’re doing...they don’t know what they’re doing.’

This seems to say something about the difference between us and Jesus. Like Barabbas in the skit, I think we would want revenge and retribution. I think if that were us standing up there, and the crowd was screaming for our death, we would be like, ‘Screw this!’ and summon the twelve battle groups of angels to obliterate everyone (Matthew 26.63 CEB)!

But look at him on the platform. Bruised and battered. Silent. Ever silent. I can imagine him looking into the crowds, eyes full of tears; a broken heart. Every now and then, he sees a face he recognizes. Are they, too, screaming for his death? And when they make eye contact, do they turn away in shame? Or do they continue in the moment, going along with the crowd.

What about us? Are we the ones in the crowd wanting blood? Or are we the ones instigating the whole thing? Perhaps we are more like Barabbas. Knowing full well that it should be us paying for our wrongs not quite sure why we get to go free but glad we are.

I think about Barabbas a lot. And honestly, it was because of that skit I saw back in the late 80’s - early 90’s. I probably hadn’t given him much thought before then. But, now and again (and mostly during these times of reading the story of Jesus last few days), I think about him and how he so much reminds me of me. While I haven’t actually killed anyone, I sure have had anger so deep that I could have (Matthew 5.21-22 CEB). Furthermore, as with yesterday’s reflection, sometimes my guilt is so deep that I can’t fathom God’s grace. But I guess that’s the point. When forgiveness comes to the unforgivable, that’s when grace is the most amazing. As Jesus looked out on the rabid mob, the grace of God must have been like a monsoon, towering over the city, ready to fall and wash them all clean. But not just them. God’s grace continues to swell ready to come crashing down upon all of us. And most of the time, it happens when we least expect it. We think that some cosmic fluke has happened and we get off scott-free. But, the wave continues to follow us. Waiting to reach the crest and come crashing down upon us. We can’t escape it. No matter what we do wrong, it’s there watching us. Waiting. And then, ‘where sin increased, grace multiplied even more’ (Romans 5.20 CEB).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

30 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 30 August 2011


Mark 14.66-72 CEB: Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.

The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” But he denied it again.

A short time later, those standing around again said to Peter, “You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.”

But he cursed and swore, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” At that very moment, a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered what Jesus told him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down, sobbing.

I’ve been here before. When I read this passage, I sure feel like Peter. The feeling that I’ve have completely let down Christ. The fact that I was so adamant that I would make it through, and then, like Peter, I failed. What I hate is that this seems to happen more times than I like to admit. I feel that I am constantly messing it up, letting people down, putting myself before others. And all the while, Jesus is in the background, watching me.

As we know, this isn’t the end of the story for Peter. But, let’s not rush ahead. We need to be in this moment, his moment, our moment of failure. Our moment of not being there when it’s needed most. All to often today, we brush past our failures and just ‘press on’ forgetting the past. Certainly we can’t change the past, but that doesn’t erase the hurt and pain we may have caused. Furthermore, it doesn’t remove the guilt some of us feel when we blow it. I can remember all of my faults like they are fresh wounds. And sometimes, sometimes I am overwhelmed. Again, like Peter, I break down, sobbing. There is this sense that people say, ‘Grow up and get over it.’ That works for a few people. But most of us have to deal with the pain and anger and resentment and, yes, even the guilt. And it’s that guilt that is the hardest of all, I think. It’s that guilt that can be the blackest and deepest kind of pain. The ones we have hurt may have moved on but we still have to live with what we have done (or didn’t do in Peter’s case).

But the healing comes. Gradually, yes. For a long time, yes. But, hopefully, it will come. But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes we have a death-grip on our guilt and we won’t let it go. It has so consumed us that it almost becomes our defining aspect. Not always. But sometimes...sometimes our guilt can be so strong that we continue to lash out at those we love and hurt them. Like a wounded animal bites and fights those who are trying to rescue it, we attack others whom are trying to help us. Sometimes...sometimes we just need to be alone with our pain and guilt and cry it out. Let it go. We can’t and won’t let it go until we’re ready. But healing won’t come until we first admit to our mistakes and our short comings and, yes, our sins. So, for the moment, we have to own it. It has to be ours. We have to take the full weight of what we have done upon our shoulders. Only then, can we seek help. Only then can we find rescue in the arms of Christ. Only then can we lift our heads out of despair and cry for freedom.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

29 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 29 August 2011


Mark 14.53-65 CEB: They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders, and legal experts gathered. Peter followed him from a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the guards, warming himself by the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they couldn’t find any. Many brought false testimony against him, but they contradicted each other. Some stood to offer false witness against him, saying, “We heard him saying, ‘I will destroy this temple, constructed by humans, and within three days I will build another, one not made by humans’.” But their testimonies didn’t agree even on this point.

Then the high priest stood up in the middle of the gathering and examined Jesus. “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?” But Jesus was silent and didn’t answer. Again, the high priest asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? You’ve heard his insult against God. What do you think?”

They all condemned him. “He deserves to die!”

Some began to spit on him. Some covered his face and hit him, saying, “Prophesy!” Then the guards took him and beat him.

Sometimes, we just want our way. No matter what. Even if that means that we have to exaggerate a little bit to make ourselves look better, we’ll do it. And some of us, if pressed, will even create an entire lie to get what we want.

In this passage, the ‘Jewish opposition’ (see previous post) wants Jesus dead. They have been planning it for quite a while. They were looking for any excuse. They even brought in a bunch of ‘witnesses’ to make false accusations. When even those didn’t work, they finally got him to admit that he was the Messiah (Christ in Greek) and sitting in the place of power with God. That was plenty for them to justify their own desires.

Apparently, Jesus didn’t seem to know a lot about the court system. Even today, you just answer the question - you don’t give more than you need. ‘Let your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no”,’ as the saying goes (Matthew 5.37 CEB). Maybe, if he had just done that, he might have made it out alive. But that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to ‘drink the cup’ he was supposed to drink. Maybe he was wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. No sense in dragging it out for longer than it need to take.

The part that gets me the most, however, is the last paragraph: ‘Some began to spit on him. Some covered his face and hit him, saying, “Prophesy!” Then the guards too him and beat him.’ This is really harsh. As we know from history, Rome, in general, seemed to have great enjoyment in torture and violence. No doubt the guards did her, too. But it’s the part about trying to get him to prophesy that bothers me. I mean, I don’t doubt for a moment that Jesus knew full well who it was that struck him. With each blow, an image of the guards face, with their mocking cruel smile, must have flashed before his eyes. And his heart ached with compassion and forgiveness.

How often do we slap Jesus across the face with wanting to do things our way? How often do we mock him by demanding our wants and desires at his expense? Or, when Jesus wants us to go with him in a new or different direction, how often do we refuse? This is where I fall a lot of the time. I see what Christ is wanting to do in me or through me, but I don’t want to do it. I refuse. I look for any excuse I can so that I won’t have to follow him. It reminds me of the Charlie Peacock song, ‘Into the Light’: ‘I’m the king of excuses, I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.’

Dear God, help us to follow the Wild Goose, your blessed Holy Spirit, where ever we are led, knowing that you walk before us, behind us, below us, above us, and with us. Help us not to crucify Jesus, your Child, all over again, but ourselves instead. Help us to be like him and do your will. Amen.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

28 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 28 August 2011


John 8.47-59 CEB: God’s children listen to God’s words. You don’t listen to me because you aren’t God’s children.”

The Jewish opposition answered, “We were right to say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon, weren’t we?”

“I don’t have a demon,” Jesus replied. “But I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I’m not trying to bring glory to myself. There’s one who is seeking to glorify me, and he’s the judge. I assure you that whoever keeps my word will never die.”

The Jewish opposition said to Jesus, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets died, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never die.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died and the prophets died, so who do you make yourself out to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is meaningless. My Father, who you say is your God, is the one who glorifies me. You don’t know him, but I do. If I said I didn’t know him, I would be like you, a liar. But I do know him, and I keep his word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see my day. He saw it and was happy.”

“You aren’t even 50 years old!” the Jewish opposition replied. “How can you say that you have seen Abraham?”

“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the temple.

Ouch. What a very heated and tense conversation. We’ve probably all been in these types of conversations. I can imagine being in the crowd, a follower of Jesus, listening to him teach. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the ‘Jewish opposition’ swarming in on the crowd breaking it up. Like so many others, we blend in to the background, behind others standing around.

The conversation starts out pretty direct and gets more and more heated. I start to feel a little bit uncomfortable. Heck, who am I kidding? I start to get a lot uncomfortable. All the while I notice that Jesus, even though he is just giving it to the ‘Jewish opposition’, seems to be in complete control. The voices from the opposition are getting louder and louder while Jesus’ is maintaining the same tone and emphasis.

Finally, the ‘Jewish opposition’ no longer seems to care whose around. Before, when things were getting out of hand, and while I’m pretty certain they wanted to kill Jesus right where he stood, they were afraid of the rest of us starting a revolt against them. But not this time. This time they start picking up stones to throw at Jesus. And, just like him, he doesn’t retaliate. He simply just blended in the crowd and walked away.

How quickly do we become the ‘Jewish opposition’ to new ideas and ways of seeing or understanding the Scriptures or doctrine? How often do we automatically assume that we know all there is to know about such things? Do we even recognize that our understanding is a progressive journey? That our understanding of God has changed over the years?

For example, I used to think that God was only concerned about the individual - me specifically! Then I started to see that God was concerned about the community as a whole. Further on, I saw that God was concerned with the poor and marginalized (I know, right? Who would have thought?). And then, later still, that God was concerned with this planet and how we treat it and each other. Now, these stages were not over night but throughout my entire life. I know quite clearly that I would not have been able to ‘see’ my latest understandings at the beginning of my journey. I wasn’t at a place to receive it. Likewise, God told Moses that Abraham and Sarah only knew God in a limited way and that Moses would know God in a fuller way - not the fullest way, but more than Abraham knew God. The Prophets show us even more of God than what Moses knew. And it’s not until Jesus, wrote St Paul, that we see the fullest, best, most complete understanding of God. It is in Jesus of Nazareth that God is fully revealed.

So, again, how quickly do we embrace new insight about God when we see it? Or, do we react like the ‘Jewish opposition’ of Jesus’ day? I can see in this passage a great wake-up call to us. For us to stop, look, and listen. It may be that God is speaking to us through others and we are missing it because it’s radically different from what we’ve seen before.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

Prayer for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

God of all power and love, the author and giver of all good things: Grant in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

27 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 27 August 2011


Mark 14.43-52 CEB: Suddenly, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a mob carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests, legal experts, and elders. His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss, and take him away under guard.”

As soon as he got there, Judas said to Jesus, “Rabbi!” Then he kissed him. Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

One of the bystanders drew a sword and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear. Jesus responded, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like an outlaw? Day after day, I was with you, teaching in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” And all his disciples left him and ran away. One young man, a disciple, was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.

For me, the tension in this scene is off the chart! In the middle of night, with torches and swords and clubs, the mob swarmed in. You can just see Judas glowing. He finally succeeded where so many others had failed. He would force Jesus’ hand. I think that he believed whole-heartedly that when the mob went to arrest Jesus, he and the others would take up arms and (finally!) start their revolt against Rome. What happened next took him by complete surprise.

He kisses Jesus. The mob rushes him. One of the followers draws a sword to defend Jesus and slices off the ear of the high priest’s slave. ‘Here we go,’ I can imagine him thinking. ‘It’s all about to go down!’ And then...nothing.  In the other accounts of this story, Jesus rebukes Peter (he’s the one who assaulted Malchus, the high priest’s servant; John 18.10-11 CEB), the revolt stopped and all the followers of Jesus scattered. I’m sure as they were dragging Jesus away, Judas just stood there dumbfounded, not really sure what to think about it. Then, all the words and actions of Jesus came flooding back to him and he realized that Jesus was not going to revolt against Rome. Not in the way neither he nor his contemporaries were wanting. The way of peace was the way it was going to play out. That Jesus’ way of being was not what any of them were thinking.

I think the reaction of the other disciples is how we react a lot of the time to Jesus unwavering position on non-violence. It’s so far beyond our comprehension, perhaps imagination would be a better term, that we run away in the face of violence. We don’t yet know how to react to it. Our old way of seeing just doesn’t understand how hatred and violence are defeated with love and compassion.

Also, fear is such a strong motivator. I’m pretty sure that the disciples fled because they knew that if they couldn’t defend themselves with violence, they would be arrested, charged falsely, and crucified just like Jesus. The fear of losing one’s life, of losing our loved ones, is so powerful that even the disciples left Jesus to face this alone. But, Jesus said that if someone denies him, he would deny them before God (Matthew 10.33 CEB). Thankfully, Jesus is merciful. All of those whom denied him were not denied by him. He forgave them and asked God to do the same (Luke 23.34a CEB).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

26 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 26 August 2011


Mark 14.27-42 CEB: Jesus said to them, “You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep will go off in all directions. But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.”

But Jesus said to him, “I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

But Peter insisted, “If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” And they all said the same thing.

Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, he left them and prayed, repeating the same words. And, again, when he came back, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t know how to respond to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.”

This story has always given me a sense of sorrow. I think it’s because it reminds me so much of my walk with Jesus. I seem a lot like Peter at times. One moment I’m swearing my faithfulness but just a short time later, I’m just swearing. I can’t even follow through with the simplest task. That’s what I feel when I read this story about Peter. He’s so adamant that he will be there for Jesus. And yet, when Jesus is in deep prayer and in need of his support, he’s asleep.

I’ve been there. On both sides of this coin. I always seem to have good intentions but I seem to fail miserably. Some times, I get it right. But it seems more times than not, I fall short. I’m so thankful that God’s grace covers that. I’m so grateful that God knows my failings. But more than that, I’m glad God knows my heart. Like Peter (and the rest), my intention is to serve God, neighbor, and enemy to the very best of my ability. And, like Peter, when I’m confronted with my failings, I can sometimes react harshly.

What I see in this passage is the many opportunities for change - for doing the right thing the first time. Perhaps, if Peter (and the rest) had been in prayer with Jesus those three hours, they would have been more prepared for the coming events. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Even if we bathe our selves in prayer, and prepare the best we can, sometimes, we are not ready for what the future holds. Sometimes, you can’t be ready. Sometimes, we have to pray like Jesus and say, ‘Not what I want but what you want, Loving God’.

Maybe that’s the key. We can prepare as best we can realizing that we will fall short but always, always know that what God wants should be our desire, no matter the cost.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

25 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 25 August 2011


Mark 14.12-26 CEB: On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks, “Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?” ’ He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.” The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. During the meal, Jesus said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me—someone eating with me.”

Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, “It’s not me, is it?”

Jesus answered, “It’s one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.” After singing songs of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

The Last Supper. The First Eucharist. However one wants to view it, this is a very powerful scene. There are several elements here but we are just going to touch on one. This meal takes place ‘when the Passover lamb was sacrificed’. The sign shouldn’t be missed. The Passover was part of the Exodus story - some would argue that it’s the Greatest Story of Israel. The Passover retells the story of the ‘tenth plague’ against Egypt - the death of the first born. To prevent death from coming to the Hebrews, a lamb was to be killed and it’s blood was smeared on the door posts of the home. If the blood was on the doorpost, death would ‘pass over’ the family. (An interesting aside, if the blood was not on the doorpost, the first born of that Israelite family would die, too.) After several years of ‘plagues’, death of all the first born in Egypt was the turning point - Israel was released from captivity. Though the Egyptian army chased the Israelites to the Reed Sea, Yahweh rescued the Israelites by making a way through the sea and the pursuing Egyptian army drowned. Israel then began the 40 year journey to the ‘promised land’. Every year, this Great Story of Israel’s rescue is remembered by Jewish families all over the world.

This meal was instituted by Jesus on the same day that this Great Story was remembered. Jesus is thus enacting a New Exodus story - the story of the world’s rescue through his approaching death. This is the first meal - the inauguration of God’s rescue plan for all creation. The idea, then, is the Exodus story is an image, a parable, of Jesus’ story about his death. It is a glimpse into how he understood his approaching death. It is also a glimpse into how we should understand it as well.

This meal that Christians have (some every week, some less often), is the reminder of what God did through the death of Jesus. It should remind us that, not only has God removed our sin, but also the sin of the whole world. It should remind us that the New Exodus, God’s Grand Rescue Operation began with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It should remind us that ‘[God] reconciled all things to [Godself] through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens. [God] brought peace through the blood of [Jesus on the] cross’ (Colossians 2.20; CEB).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

24 August 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 24 August 2011


Mark 14.1-11 CEB: It was two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and legal experts through cunning tricks were searching for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they agreed that it shouldn’t happen during the festival; otherwise, there would be an uproar among the people.

Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

It seems that whenever one talks about helping the poor, this verse is brought up. I always feel like it’s used to say that we don’t have to help the poor. ‘Since the poor is always here, let someone else deal with them.’ That’s the feeling I get, anyway.

Also, since the poor are ‘always’ here, the idea that God’s dream of reconciliation looks to be only that - a dream. But I don’t think that either of these options are what Jesus intended. I believe it’s a classic case of taking a passage out of context to prove a pretext.

The reference to the poor in either context (then or now) misses the point. The story starts and stops with the plot of the chief priests, legal experts, and Judas Iscariot. The chief priests and legal experts were trying to find a way to arrest and kill Jesus. They found it in Judas. He would be the one who laid Jesus at their feet, so to speak.

In the middle of the story we have the part about Jesus being ‘anointed...for burial’. It is another (not so veiled) statement regarding his upcoming death. As we can see, this seems to be in the forefront of his mind the closer it gets. This all takes place just two days before the actual events.

But what about the poor? What’s the point? The point is that, yes, the poor will be with us. And today, there seems to be more and more of us. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider by the day. Jesus is not suggesting that we should forget them. Quite the contrary. We are to address their needs and do good deeds for them ‘whenever we want’. This is reminiscent of a passage from Deuteronomy 15.11, ‘Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow [brothers and sisters], to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.’ This isn’t pushing the issues of the poor into that far future. It’s a call to realize that there will always be need to serve others. To not only help meet the immediate need, but also to work toward fixing the issues that put people in that situation. All one needs to do is take a casual read the the Bible to see that God cares about the poor and by extension God’s people should too (Exodus 23.11; Leviticus 19.10; 23.22; Deuteronomy 15.11; 1Samuel 2.8a; Ester 9.22; Psalm 12.5; 68.10; 76.9; 140.12; Proverbs 14.31; Isaiah 10.1-3; Zechariah 7.10; Matthew 6.1-4; 19.21; Luke 4.17-19; Acts 24.17; Romans 15.26; Galatians 2.10; James 2.1-5; Tobit 4.7, 16; 12.8-9; etc.).



~~~
Br Jack+, LC