Sunday, February 26, 2012
Temptation overcome with the strength of the Spirit Jesus begins the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text of this Sunday’s liturgy presents us with the beginning of Jesus’ public life: the forty days in the desert, the temptations of Satan, the arrest of John the Baptist, the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of God and a brief summary of four points concerning the things that Jesus proclaimed to the people in his land. During the reading, let us pay attention to the following two points: What is Jesus proclaiming to the people? And what is he asking of us?
b) A division of the text as an aid to the reading:
Mark 1:12-13: The Good News is tried and put to the test in the desert.
Mark 1:14: Jesus begins the proclamation of the Good News of God.
Mark 1:15: A summary of the Good News of God.
c) The text:
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of the text did you like best and what made an impression on you? Why?
b) Forty days in the desert and, after that, the temptations. What is the significance of this bit of information for the community at the time of Mark’s writing? What is its significance for us today?
c) It was the fact that John the Baptist was arrested that led Jesus to go back to Galilee and begin the proclamation of the Good News of God. What is the significance of this bit of information for the community at the time of Mark’s writing? What is its significance for us today?
d) The Good News that Jesus proclaimed has four points. What are they? What does each point signify?
e) What is the message sent by all these points for us today?
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the theme.
a) The context of the text in Mark’s Gospel:
* The Good News of God, prepared throughout history (Mk 1: 1-8), was solemnly proclaimed by the Father at the time of Jesus’ baptism (Mk 1: 9-11). Now, in our text, this proclamation is put to the test in the desert (Mk 1: 12-13) and, immediately, the result of the long preparation becomes apparent. Jesus proclaims the Good News in public to the people (Mk 1:14-15).
* In the 70s, when Mark is writing, as the Christians read this description of the beginning of the Good News, they also looked into the mirror of their own lives. The desert, temptations, prison, these were things with which they were familiar. Nevertheless, like Jesus, they tried to proclaim the Good News of God.
* Mark 1:12-13: The Good News is tried and tested in the desert.
After the baptism, the Spirit takes possession of Jesus and leads him into the desert, where for forty days he prepares himself for his mission (Mk 1: 12s). Mark says that Jesus remained in the desert for forty days and was tempted there by Satan. In Matthew 4: 1-11, the temptations are made explicit, the temptation of the bread, the temptation of prestige and the temptation of power. These were the three temptations experienced by the people in the desert after they went out of Egypt (Dt 8:3; 6: 13.16). Temptation is whatever draws someone away from the way towards God. The letter to the Hebrews says, "Jesus was tempted in all things like us, except in sin" (Heb 4:15). Taking his direction from the Word of God, Jesus faced the temptations (Mt 4: 4.7.10). Placed in the midst of the poor and united to the Father in prayer, Jesus remains faithful to both, resists and continues on the way of the Messiah-Servant, the way of service of God and of the people (Mt 20:28).
* Mark 1:14: Jesus begins to proclaim the Good News.
While Jesus was preparing himself in the desert, John the Baptist was arrested by Herod. The text says, After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God. John the Baptist’s arrest did not surprise Jesus, rather the opposite. The experience of the baptism had opened his eyes. In John’s arrest, he saw a sign of the coming of the Kingdom. John the Baptist’s arrest was connected with the politics of the country. Today, too, politics influence our proclamation of the Good News to the people. Mark says that Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of God. Jesus tells us that God is Good News for all human beings. Saint Augustine says, "You have made us for you, and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you". Jesus’ proclamation responds to the deepest search of the human heart.
* Mark 1:15: A summary of the Good News of God.
The proclamation of the Good News of God contains four points: i) The waiting is over. ii) The Kingdom of God has come. iii) A change of life. iv) Belief in the Good News.
i) The waiting is over! For the other Jews, the time of waiting for the Kingdom was not yet over. For the Pharisees, for instance, the Kingdom would come only when the observance of the law was perfect. For the Essenes, when the country was purified. For the Herodians, when they would take over dominion over the world. Jesus’ way of thinking is different. He reads events differently. He says that the time of waiting is over.
ii) The Kingdom of God is at hand! For the Pharisees and the Essenes, the coming of the Kingdom was dependent on their efforts. The Kingdom would come only when they had played their part, that is the observance of the whole of the Law, the purification of the whole country. Jesus says the opposite: "The Kingdom is at hand". The Kingdom was already there, among them, independently of any effort. When Jesus says, "The Kingdom is at hand", he is not saying that it is on the way at a particular moment, but that it is already there. What all were hoping for was already present in the midst of the people, and they did not know it, nor did they see it (cfr Lk 17: 21). Jesus saw it because he could see reality with different eyes. It is this hidden presence of the Kingdom in the midst of the people that Jesus reveals and proclaims to the poor of his land. It is this seed of the Kingdom that will receive the rain of his Word and the warmth of his love.
iii) A change of life! Some translate this as, to do penance, others as, "to convert" or "to repent". The exact meaning is to change the way of thinking and of living. In order to be able to perceive this presence of the Kingdom, a person must begin to think, live and act differently. The person must change the way of life and find a new form of living. We must set aside the legalism taught by the Pharisees and allow the new experience of God to invade our life and allow new sight to read and understand what goes on.
iv) Belief in the Good News! It was not easy to accept the message. It is not easy to begin to think in a completely different way from that learnt since childhood. This is only possible by an act of faith. When someone comes with an unexpected piece of news, difficult to accept, one accepts it only if the person who brings the news is worthy of trust. We would then also say to others, "You can believe this because I know the person and he/she does not deceive. This person can be believed because he/she speaks the truth". Jesus is worthy of our trust!
c) Further information:
The beginning of Jesus’ preaching of the Good News of God in Galilee
The arrest of John made Jesus go back and begin his proclamation of the Good News. It was an explosive beginning! Jesus goes throughout Galilee, its villages, towns and cities (Mk 1: 39). He visits communities. He even changes his residence and goes to live in Capernaum (Mk 1:21; 2:1), a city at the crossroads, which made it easy for him to spread the message. He almost never stays in the same place, he is always on the move. The disciples accompany him everywhere, on the beach, on the road, on the mountain, in the desert, in the boat, in the synagogues, in the houses. They are full of enthusiasm.
Jesus helps people by serving them in several ways: he drives out evil spirits (Mk 1:39), he heals the sick and afflicted (Mk 1: 34), purifies those marginalised on account of the laws concerning purity (Mk 1: 40-45), welcomes the marginalised and treats them with familiarity (Mk 2: 15). He proclaims, calls, convokes, attracts, consoles, helps. He reveals his passion, passion for the Father and for the poor and abandoned people of his land. Wherever there are people who will listen to him, he speaks and conveys the Good News of God. Everywhere!
Jesus reveals everything that animates him from within. Not only does he proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, but he himself is a figure and a living witness of the Kingdom. In him we see what happens when someone allows God to rule, to take possession of his/her life. By his life and manner of acting, Jesus reveals what God had in mind when he called the people at the time of Abraham and of Moses. Jesus put to rest a nostalgia and transformed it into hope. Suddenly it became clear for the people: "This is what God was asking for when he called us to be his people!". The people savoured listening to Jesus.
Such was the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom, which spread rapidly through the villages of Galilee. It started small like a seed, but grew to become a large tree, where people could find shelter (Mk 4: 31-32). Then the people themselves began to spread the news.
The people of Galilee were impressed by the way Jesus taught. "A new doctrine is taught with authority, not like that of the Scribes" (Mk 1: 22.27). Teaching was what Jesus mostly did (Mk 2: 13; 4:1-2; 6:34). It was his custom (Mk 10:1). Over fifteen times, the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus taught. But Mark almost never says what he taught. Perhaps he was not interested in the content? It depends on what we mean by content. Teaching is not just a matter of passing on new truths to people. The content that Jesus preached manifests itself not only through his words, but also through his actions and in the manner of his relating to people. The content is never divorced from the person who communicates it. Good content without personal goodness is like spilt milk.
Mark defines the content of Jesus’ teaching as "the Good News of God" (Mk 1: 14). The Good News that Jesus proclaimed comes from God and reveals something about God. All that Jesus says and does, manifest the traits of the face of God. They manifest the experience that Jesus has of God as Father. Revealing God as Father is the source, while the content is the object of the Good News of Jesus.
6. Psalm 25 (24)
The God of Jesus calls us to conversion
To thee, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.
O my God, in thee I trust, let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Yea, let none that wait for thee be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know thy ways, O Lord;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
for thou art the God of my salvation;
for thee I wait all the day long.
Be mindful of thy mercy, O Lord,
and of thy steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth,
or my transgressions;
according to thy steadfast love remember me,
for thy goodness' sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For thy name's sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man that fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
He himself shall abide in prosperity,
and his children shall possess the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn thou to me, and be gracious to me;
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
Oh guard my life, and deliver me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in thee.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for thee.
Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.