Thursday, January 18, 2018
1) Opening prayer
Father of heaven and earth,
hear our prayers,
and show us the way to Your peace in the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 3:7-12
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God." He warned them sternly not to make him known.
• The conclusion reached at the end of this fifth conflict (Mk 3: 2 to 6) is that the Good News as it was announced by Jesus said exactly the opposite of the teaching of the religious authority of the time. This is why, at the end of the last conflict, it is foreseen that Jesus will not have an easy life and will be put to death. Death is already appearing on the horizon. They decide to make Him die (Mk 3:6). Without sincere conversion it is not possible for people to reach a correct understanding of the Good News.
• A summary of the evangelizing action of Jesus. The verses of today’s Gospel (Mk 3:7-12) are a summary of the activity of Jesus and they highlight an enormous contrast. Earlier, in Mk 2:1 to 3:6, only conflicts were spoken of, including the conflict of life and death between Jesus and the civil and religious authority of Galilee (Mk 3:1-6). Now, in the summary, we have the contrary: an immense popular movement, greater than the movement of John the Baptist, because people come not only from Galilee, but also from Judea, from Jerusalem, from Idumaea, from Transjordan, and even from the pagan region of Tyre and Sidon to encounter Jesus! (Mk 3:7-12). All want to see Him and to touch Him. The people are so numerous that Jesus Himself is concerned. There is a danger of being crushed by the multitude. This is why He asks the disciples to have a boat ready for Him so that the crowd would not crush Him. And from the boat He spoke to the crowds. Especially the excluded and the marginalized who came to Him with their ailments: the sick and those possessed. Those who were not accepted in the society of the time were accepted by Jesus. Here is the contrast: on the one side the religious and civil leaders decided to put Jesus to death (Mk 3:6), and on the other side there was an immense popular movement seeking salvation in Jesus. Who will win?
• The unclean spirits and Jesus. Mark insists very much on the expulsion of the unclean spirits. The first miracle of Jesus is the expulsion of the unclean spirits (Mk 1:25). The first impact caused by Jesus is due to the expulsion of the devil (Mk 1:27). One of the principal causes of Jesus’ clash with the s is the expulsion of the unclean spirits. (Mk 3:22). The first power which the Apostles received when they were sent out on mission was the power to expel demons (Mk 16:17). What does it mean in Mark’s Gospel to drive out or expel evil spirits?
• At the time of Mark the fear of the devil was increasing. Some religions, instead of liberating the people, increased fear and anguish. One of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus is to help people liberate themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom means the coming of a stronger power. Jesus is “the Stronger Man” Who has come to conquer and overcome Satan, the power of evil, and to take way from Satan those imprisoned by fear (Mk 3:27). This is why Mark insists very much on the victory of Jesus over the power of evil, over the devil, over Satan, sin and death. From the beginning to the end, with similar words, Mark repeats the same message: “And Jesus drove out, expelled the impure spirits!” (Mk 1: 26.27,34,39; 3:11-12,15,22,30; 5:1-20; 6:7.13; 7:25-29; 9:25-27,38; 16:9,17). It seems almost a refrain which is repeated! Today, instead of always using the same words, we prefer to use diverse words. We would say, “The power of evil, Satan, which causes so much fear to people - Jesus overcame him, dominated him, conquered him, threw him off the throne, drove him out or expelled him, eliminated him, annihilated him, knocked him down, destroyed him and killed him!” What Mark wants to tell us is this: “Christians are forbidden to be afraid of Satan!” After Jesus rose from the dead, it is madness and a lack of faith to invoke Satan at every moment, as if he still had any power over us. To insist on the power of the devil in order to persuade people to return to Church means to ignore the Good News of the Kingdom. It is a lack of faith in the Resurrection of Jesus!
4) Personal questions
• How do you live your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus? Does your faith in some way help you to overcome fear?
• To drive away or expel the devil! What do you do in order to neutralize this power in your life?
5) Concluding prayer
Joy and happiness in You to all who seek You!
Let them ceaselessly cry,”'Great is Yahweh”
who love Your saving power. (Ps 40)