Monday, February 18, 2019
1) Opening prayer
forgive us that in our weak faith
we ask sometimes for signs and wonders.
We know that You are our Father,
but it is not always easy for us
to recognize Your loving presence.
Give us eyes of faith to see the sign
that You are with us in Jesus and His message.
We say so reluctantly, for it is painful.
Purify our trust in You and in Jesus
that we may become more mature Christians,
who love You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 8:11-13
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.
Mark 8: 11-13: The Pharisees ask for a sign from Heaven. Today’s Gospel narrates a discussion of the Pharisees with Jesus. Jesus also, as it happened with Moses in the Old Testament, had fed hungry people in the desert, by multiplying the bread (Mk 8: 1-10). This is a sign that He presented himself before the people as a new Moses. But the Pharisees were not capable of perceiving the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves. They continued to discuss with Jesus and ask for a sign from Heaven . They had understood nothing of all that Jesus had done. Jesus sighed profoundly, probably feeling disgust and sadness before so much blindness. He concludes by saying, “No sign will be given to this generation.” He left them and went toward the other side of the lake. It is useless to show a beautiful picture to one who does not want to open his eyes. People who close their eyes cannot see!
The danger of dominating ideology. Here we can clearly perceive how the yeast of Herod and the Pharisees (Mk 8: 15), the dominating ideology of the time, made people lose their capacity to analyze events objectively. This yeast came from afar and had sunk profound roots in the life of the people. It went so far as to contaminate the disciples’ mentality and manifested itself in many ways. With the formation which Jesus gave them, He tried to uproot this yeast.
The following are some examples of this fraternal help which Jesus gave to His disciples:
a) The mentality of a closed group. On a certain day a person not belonging to the community used the name of Jesus to drive out devils. John saw this and forbade it: “We tried to stop him because he was not one of ours” (Mk 9: 38). John thought he had the monopoly on Jesus and wanted to prevent others from using the name of Jesus to do good. John wanted a community closed in upon itself. It was the yeast of the Elected People, the separated People! Jesus responds, “Do not stop him! Anyone who is not against us is for us!” (Mk 9: 39-40).
b) The mentality of a group which considers itself superior to others. At times, the Samaritans did not want to offer hospitality to Jesus. The reaction of some of the disciples was immediate: “May fire descend from heaven and burn them up!” (Lk 9:54). They thought that because they were with Jesus, everyone had to welcome Him, to accept Him. They thought they had God on their side to defend Him. It was the yeast of the Chosen People, the Privileged People! Jesus reproaches them: “Jesus turned and rebuked them” (Lk 9: 55).
c) The mentality of competition and prestige. The disciples discussed among themselves about the first place (Mk 9: 33-34). It was the yeast of class and of competitiveness, which characterized the official religion and the society of the Roman Empire. It was already getting into the small community around Jesus. Jesus reacts and orders them to have a contrary mentality: “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last” (Mk 9: 35).
d) The mentality of those who marginalize the little ones. The disciples scolded little children. It was the yeast of the mentality of that time, according to which children did not count and should be disciplined by adults. Jesus rebukes the disciples: “Let the little children come to me!”(Mk 10:14). The children become the teachers of the adults: Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it . (Lk 18:17).
As it happened in the time of Jesus, today also the dominating ideology arises once again and appears even in the life of the community and of the family. The prayerful reading of the Gospel, done in community, can help to change our view of things and to deepen in us conversion and the fidelity which Jesus asks from us.
4) For Personal Confrontation
Faced with the alternative either to have faith in Jesus or to ask for a sign from heaven, the Pharisees want a sign from heaven. They were not able to believe in Jesus. The same thing happens to me. What have I chosen?
The yeast of the Pharisees prevented the disciples from perceiving the presence of the Kingdom in Jesus. Has some residue of this yeast of the Pharisees remained in me?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord, You are generous and act generously;
teach me Your will. (Ps 119:68)