Taste and See: And speak?

DSC02003b.jpg

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.

And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

Mark 7:31-37
Gospel for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Messianic secret in Mark’s Gospel – Jesus telling people not to reveal who he is – has occupied scholars for  some while. And presumably will continue to do so, for no entirely persuasive account or explanation has been forthcoming.

My own view is that the ‘Messianic secret’ is born of an anxiety that enthusiastic embracing of the glory of Christ comes at an expense of accepting the (often) high cost of discipleship., and the Cross is so important in Mark’s Gospel.

Was it historically the case that Jesus asked this of people. Perhaps. But for sure it is something Mark exploits to ironic effect as he tells the Gospel: people ignore Jesus even as they proclaim him –  but the community of Rome, for whom traditions suggests the Gospel was written, has fallen silent, following a time of persecution!

In these days of the New Evangelisation we are regularly urged not to keep the good news to ourselves. But what do we say?

  • What are the good things of which we might speak?
  • And to whom?

12C enamel of St Mark. Collection of the Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Open us to life

Mark Marseille 2The Gospel on Sunday, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, reacquaints us with the ministry of healing that was such a feature of Jesus’ public ministry.

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

Mark 7:31-37

Mark gives us a deal of detail of Jesus’ journey. Probably the most important thing is to note that he is on the borders of Palestine, outside of the safe/pure Jewish areas. And in his laying hands on the sick man he reaches out to someone excluded from the community of the pure and whole.

Jesus heals – but heals through an intimacy that is maybe a little startling – fingers into his ears and exchanging body fluids. It’s scarcely the neat and tidy hygienic procedure that we might expect in a contemporary medical ministry.

But then this is not, most importantly, a medical ministry only. It is about restoring the whole person, body, spirit and soul.

The sigh of Jesus shows something of the personal engagement and care that he has for this man, his brother in need. A personal engagement which leads Jesus, to the extent possible, ensuring that the healing is conducted privately.

The crowd may be there for spectacle and signs of power and glory. They get it, but Jesus is about something more important and notable yet.

  • Where do I need healing, opening , restoring to life?
  • Where/how might I share this with others?

Figure of St Mark. Cathedral, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of rest and work

Marylebone, Rosary

Sunday is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary time and the Church continues her reading on into Mark’s Gospel and into, over these weeks, the letter to the Ephesians.

On this Blog a pattern of reading in preparation and in continuation of the Sunday celebration is proposed. For more information go to our About page

The Gospel of Sunday has the apostles returning from the mission they were sent on in last Sunday’s reading, and now they need time to reflect and rest.

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Mark 6:30-34

Many of us are probably also now looking forward to a break and time for R&R. rest and recreation. Re-creation, re-collection . Some of the  words used for this activity suggest how dissipated, drained we may have become.

‘Re-creation’ might remind that we had no active part in the first Creation, and so re-creation might largely be something God has to do – will our rest time allow him space and opportunity?

‘Re-collection’ might remind us of Jesus’ saying that we did not choose him, gather to him, not he called us, and gathers us. In our rest apart from the usual routine (if we’re lucky enough to have it), will we allow ourselves space to hear again his call.

In the Gospel the disciples rest and the Lord continues to work. That might remind us of those many many who continue to serve, and serve us, when we rest, and also remind of the Lord who continues to work for us, and especially when we let him!

Photograph of window at Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of healing and love

Peter's House 2

 

The Gospel reading for today, the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, tells stories of healings and teaches about discipleship.

 

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’

He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus is less concerned for those who are looking for him. He is more concerned for those who do not know of the love and care of God for all people everywhere, always.

The Gospel restores a certain independence to those who receive it – not independence from God but freedom from those things that otherwise distract and bind us.

Peter is preoccupied with managing Jesus. His mother in law is happy to receive new life, to love and serve.

 

Peter's house 1

Peter's House 4

Peter's house 3

Images of the 20th C church built over the remains of the 1st century house of St Peter, contained within the octagonal walls of churches of the 4th and 5th centuries. Capernaum, Galilee. Photographs (c) 2007, 2012, 2013, Allen Morris.