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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Be careful of saying “I Know”, you may miss the Messiah. 2 Samuel 24,2.9-17; Mark 6,1-6


Jesus’ visit to his hometown is not a pleasant experience. While in Mark he is designated as a carpenter, in the parallel text in Matthew (Mt 13,53-58), he is designated as “the carpenter’s son”, since Matthew wants to portray Jesus as son of Joseph and so son of David. His status as a carpenter would have been lower than that of a member of the educated class, and the villagers would probably have resented the position that Jesus reached and the status he has acquired. By designating Jesus as “son of Mary” rather than “son of Joseph” they may have intended to insult Jesus, and so cut him down to size. Jesus’ response to his townspeople is in the form of a proverbial saying. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among his own people. Mark adds strongly at the end of the episode that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief” which indicates that Jesus was rendered incapable by the lack of faith of his own.
Often we deal with others in a stereotypical way and label people all too easily. This does not allow us to encounter them in their uniqueness and freshness and we may miss a great deal.

Monday, 30 January 2012

How easily do you give up when this do not go your way? Will you persevere today? 2 Samuel 18,9-10.14.24-25.30 – 19,3; Mark 5,21-43


In the text of today, Mark has used what is known as the sandwich construction. This means that he has introduced the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill (5,21-24), interrupted it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood (5,25-34) and continued again and completed the incident of the curing of Jairus’ daughter (5,35-43). The reason for this sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry but hurry if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can indeed raise even the dead.
In these miracles, both of those who are healed are female, and the number twelve appears in both. The woman has been ill for twelve years and the girl is twelve years old. In both, the cure is the result of faith. These incidents indicate that Jesus has power over both life and death. He is indeed Lord of heaven and earth.
We may tend to give up and lose heart especially when our prayers remain unanswered for a period of time. We may sometimes accept defeat and stop praying. We may lose faith. These miracles call us to continue to hope even if there are times in our lives when our prayers do not seem to be answered. If we persevere and have faith like the woman and Jairus, we too can obtain from the Lord what seems impossible.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own? 2 Samuel 15,13-14.30; 16,5-13; Mark 5,1-20


The healing miracle of today is known as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. The man is so utterly possessed, that it seems almost impossible that he will be healed. Addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the demon attempts to possess Jesus. However, Jesus will have none of it, and silences him with a word. The name “legion” used by the demoniac may mean on the one hand that he did not want to give his name and so be cast out by Jesus, and on the other hand may also refer to the Roman occupation of Palestine. The presence of pigs suggests that it is Gentile territory, because Jews considered pigs as unclean animals, and would not have them near. Some have raised questions about the destruction of nature because of the fact that the herd of pigs is drowned after the demon is sent into them. However, it may also be interpreted as the extent of concern that Jesus had for the man. In other words, the salvation of a human being is worth any price. The healed man becomes an apostle.
Today there are various demons that can possess each one of us. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, addictions and the like, which result in tensions within the family and at times leads to a breakdown of family life. We need first to become aware of them and call them by their names so that with the Lord’s grace they will be exorcised from our hearts and lives. 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Will the “good dog” of your life win? Dt 18: 15-20; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28


An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within.   "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them.   "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong.  Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and right is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."
"Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks. 
"The one you feed," the chief answered.

Since for both kings and priests, authority was based on an inherited status, they often became unresponsive to people’s needs. This is one of the main reasons why prophets were needed. Prophets would not inherit their status but would be appointed by God to bring newness and revolution into the lives of people. They would be charismatic and would preach what God commanded them to preach. To some, it seems that they were self appointed.  This is why they had to have a strong local following in order to limit or even nullify any attempt to thwart their message. Moses tells the people that the prophet, whom God will raise, will be like him and from among them. This will ensure that their teachings will accord with the teachings of Moses and will be for the benefit of the people even though, at times, the words they would speak would not be easy to digest.

The Gospel text of today narrates that Moses’ prophesy was fulfilled in the most perfect of ways in Jesus.  It is significant that, even before Jesus can begin his public ministry, Mark contrasts his teachings with that of the scribes. Though the content is not explicated, it is clear that the teaching of Jesus is a teaching based, not on learning as that of the scribes was but, on an experience, and that he believed that his authority came directly from God, as is evident when he comes into Galilee proclaiming the “good news of God” (1:14). This “teaching” is then shown, in action, in the exorcism that follows, which is the first miracle that Jesus works in the Gospel of Mark. Through this, the authority of Jesus is demonstrated. The demon also recognizes the authority of Jesus and regards him as superior.  The demon knows that Jesus has been divinely ordained and set apart by God. As “prophet” of God, Jesus utters a commanding word and subdues the demon. The demon obeys the command and leaves the man. The crowd’s response indicates how authoritative is Jesus’ teaching. With just a word from Jesus, the demon is subdued. The coming of Jesus, as “prophet” of God, signals the end of all satanic and demonic forces.

The demonic forces that Jesus subdued in his time continue to raise their ugly heads, again and again. They take a variety of forms. The recent financial crisis, from which the whole world is still reeling, and because of which, many have lost their hard earned money, strikes terror in various parts of the world.  The fact that so many, in so many places, go hungry when the world has enough, and more, for all.  The environmental degradation and abuse are striking examples, in our day, of these demonic forces. One response that we might be tempted to give is to lay the blame for the present situation in our world at God’s door. Since Jesus could exorcise demons at will, what is preventing him from doing sp now? Is not God concerned about the plight of so many suffering? Why does he not act? This, however, is not an adult response. We have to realize that the demons that are rearing their ugly heads are not willed by God but are a creation of our own selfishness and self-centeredness. If we keep feeding the “bad dog” as we seem to want to do, then it will keep winning. To be sure, the coming of Jesus has meant that Satan’s rule is at an end, but for this to become a reality today; we have to collaborate with Jesus in wanting to exorcise those demons.

We can do this, no matter in what state of life we are, if we like Paul and have the best interests of others at heart. If we too, like him, want to promote what is good and pleasing to the Lord, then the demons can once again be subdued and God’s power can be seen at work in the world again, like it was in Jesus’ time. Then, the “good dog” will win.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Have you stopped rowing the boat of life because you are overwhelmed with the storms? Will you start rowing again today? 2 Samuel 12,1-7.10-17; Mark 4,35-41


The Gospel reading of today appears immediately after Jesus has completed the Parable Discourse. It is commonly referred to as the miracle of the calming of the storm. While this miracle appears also in the Gospels in Matthew and Luke, the language of the disciples in Mark is harsh. In Matthew, the disciples address Jesus as Lord, and their cry is a plea for help, much like our “Lord have mercy” at the penitential rite. In Luke, like in Mark, Jesus is addressed as “Master” but no allegation about his uncaring attitude is made. In Mark, the disciples allege that Jesus is unconcerned about them. Mark also brings out the contrast between the agitated disciples and the serene Jesus. Jesus is able with a word to calm the forces of nature, and suddenly, there is a great calm.
The boat has often been seen as a symbol of Christianity. The storm then would be the trials and tribulations that attack Christianity from without. Jesus is present with his people even in the midst of all these trials, even though sometimes it may appear that he is asleep and unconcerned. He is able with a word to clam these forces, and so there is no need for agitation and anxious care. We need to keep rowing and trust that he will see us safely to the shore.