Thursday, February 23, 2017
1) Opening prayer
keep before us the wisdom and love
you have revealed in your Son.
Help us to be like him
in word and deed,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 9,41-50
Jesus said to his disciples: 'If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
'But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck.
And if your hand should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that never be put out.
And if your foot should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
And if your eye should be your downfall, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out. For everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.'
• Today’s Gospel narrates some advice from Jesus on the relationship of adults with the little ones and the excluded. At that time, many persons were excluded and marginalized. They could not participate. Many of them would lose their faith. The text on which we are going to meditate now contains strange affirmations which, if taken literally, cause perplexity in people.
• Mark 9, 41: A glass of water will be rewarded. A phrase from Jesus is inserted here: If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward. Two thoughts: 1) “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink”. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to give his life. A gesture of great donation! But he does not forget the small gesture of donation of life of each day: a cup of water, an act of acceptance, to give alms, so many gestures. Anyone who rejects and despises the brick will never be able to construct a house! 2) “…because you belong to Christ”: Jesus identifies himself with us who want to belong to him; this means that for him we have great value.
• Mark 9, 42: Who is a cause of scandal for these little ones. Scandal, literally, it is a stone along the road, a stone in the shoe; it is that which leads a person away from the right path. To scandalize the little ones is to be the cause why the little ones go away from the right path and lose their faith in God. Any one who does this receives the following sentence: “It would have been better to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck!” Because Jesus identifies himself with the little ones (Mt 23, 40-45). Today, in the whole world, many little ones, many poor people are leaving the traditional churches. Every year, in Latin America, approximately three million persons are going to other churches. They cannot believe what we profess in our church! Why does this happen? Up to what point are we to be blamed for this? Do we also merit having a millstone round our neck?
• Mark 9, 43-48: To cut off your hand and your foot and to tear out your eye. Jesus orders the person to cut off the hand, the foot, to tear out the eye, in the case in which they are cause of scandal. And he says: “It is better to enter into life or into the Kingdom with one foot (hand, eye) than to be thrown into hell with two feet, (hands, eyes)”. These phrases are not to be taken literally. They mean that the person has to be rooted in his/her choice of God and of the Gospel.
The expression “hell” where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out”, is an image to indicate the situation of a person who remains without God. “geenna” was the name of a valley near Jerusalem, where the trash of the city was thrown and where a fire was always burning to burn the trash. This place full of stench was used by the people to symbolize the situation of the person who did not participate in the Kingdom of God.
• Mark 9, 49-50: Salt and Peace. These two verses help us to understand the severe words on scandal. Jesus says: “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another!” The community, in which the members live in peace with one another, is like a bit of salt which gives flavour to all the meal. To live in peace and fraternally in the community is the salt that gives flavour to the life of the people of the neighbourhood. It is a sign of the Kingdom, a revelation of the Good News of God. Are we salt? The salt which does not give flavour is good for nothing!
• Jesus accepts and defends the life of the little ones. Several times, Jesus insists that little ones should be accepted. “Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me” (Mk 9, 37). Anyone who gives a cup of water to one of these little ones will not lose his reward (Mt 10, 42). He asks not to despise little ones (Mt 18, 10). And at the final judgment the just will be received because they would have given something to eat “to one of these little ones” (Mt 25, 40). If Jesus insists so much on acceptance of the little ones, it is because there are many simple people considered less, who are not accepted! In fact, women and children were not taken into account, did not count (Mt 14 21; 15, 38), they were despised (Mt 18, 10) and reduced to silence (Mt 21, 15-16). Even the Apostles prevented the children from getting close to Jesus (Mt 19, 13-14). In the name of the Law of God, misinterpreted by the religious authority of the time, many good people were excluded. Instead of welcoming the excluded, the law was used to legitimize the exclusion. In the Gospels, the expression “little ones” (in Greek it is said elachisto, mikroi or nepioi), sometimes it indicates “the children”, other times it indicates the sections excluded by society. It is not easy to discern. Sometimes the “little ones” in the Gospel means “the children”. This because the children belonged to the category of the “little ones”, of the excluded. Besides, it is not always easy to discern between what comes from the time of Jesus and that which comes from the time of the communities for which the Gospels were written. And even if things were like this, what is clear is the context of exclusion which reigned at the time and which the first communities kept from Jesus: he places himself on the side of the little ones, of the excluded, and takes up their defence.
4) Personal questions
• In our society and in our community, today who are the little one and the excluded? How are they accepted on our part?
• “A millstone round the neck”. Does my behaviour deserve a millstone or a cord round the neck? And the behaviour of our community, what does it deserve?
5) Concluding Prayer
The Lord forgives all your offences,
cures all your diseases,
he redeems your life from the abyss,
crowns you with faithful love and tenderness. (Ps 103,3-4)