Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (1:1-45)
DAY 1:  Encountering Jesus, part 1

 

1.  Read this first before beginning the “Lectio.”

 

            1.1.  Introduction to the Selected Passages.  The passages you are about to read can be roughly divided into two parts:  1:1-15 (the Prologue to the Gospel) and 1:16-45 (The Revelation of Jesus’ Authority in Galilee.)

            1.2.  Testimonies about Jesus.  In the Gospel of Mark, we encounter Jesus, first through three important witnesses:  The prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah and Malachi, cf. 1:2-3), John the Baptist (cf. Vv. 7-8), and the voice from heaven (V.11).  The testimonies of these three witnesses, appearing as they do in the Prologue, set the tone for our way of understanding Mark’s presentation of Jesus and define the parameters of our encounter with Him.  Mark 1:16-20 presents Jesus as he moves among the people of Galilee.  From these stories, we hear other voices telling us about Jesus. Of these voices, we hear  those of the demons who recognize Jesus (vv. 24 and  34) and that of the crowds for whom the authority of Jesus is a cause of wonderment (v.27).  From Peter, we know that Jesus is much sought after (v. 37).  But most important of all is the voice of the narrator, Mark, who drew his memories of Jesus and his deeds -- so tradition tells us -- from Peter himself.  Our encounter with Jesus can only be possible through the memory of the apostles.  By reading this gospel, we come in touch with this memory.

 

2.  Read the passages slowly.  Take note of the words and phrases that strike you.  Write them down on your journal.  Do not make an effort to find “hidden meanings” in the text; simply enjoy the text.

 

3.  Your first contact with the text has allowed you to scan the terrain, as it were, of Mark 1:1-45.  Let us now look closer at the passages.

 

            3.1.  With this Gospel, Mark is inviting you to take a look at his community’s faith, and allow this faith to help you grow in your own.  Ultimately, all reading of Scriptures is ordained to such growth.  Now, the content of the faith of the Marcan community, is not a message but a person:  Jesus Christ.  It is the aim of Mark’s gospel to help you, the reader, to encounter this Person and challenge you to make a decision that can make a difference in your life.  Are you for or against Jesus, He whom the Marcan community proclaims as “the Christ, the Son of God (Mk. 1:1)?”  Remember that the decision -- whatever it may be -- can only be personal, i.e. dependent upon you, the reader, alone.  Not even a baptismal certificate bearing your name, or the fact that you think you have the desire to be a “close disciple of Christ” can exempt you from making such a decision.

 

            3.2.  The Prologue to the Gospel gives us an initial inkling of who this Jesus is.  He has been announced by the prophets of old (Malachi and Isaiah[1]) and again by a prophet of the last days (John the Baptist) as the one who will bring the blessings of a new era in the history of God’s people.  In fact, it is through Jesus that the Spirit of God -- the blessing of the end-time --will descend upon mankind (cf. V. 8).  Added to this is the testimony of the voice from heaven which, in effect, identifies Jesus not only as the one awaited by the people of Israel (the Davidic ruler, cf. Ps. 2:7) that would usher in God’s reign, but also as one who is so intimately related to God as to be called His “Son” and who gives pleasure to Him.  In other words, Mark is telling us that this man Jesus is the One who alone can fulfill our longings and can lead us to God.

 

            3.3.  The second part of our reading (1:16-45) deepens the initial statement about Jesus but reporting to us his words, deeds and the reactions of those who come in contact with him.

            He proclaims...  Jesus proclaims the advent of the reign of God -- the new era in the history of the world.  The preparation for such an event is summarized in two words, repent and believe (1:15).  The story of the call of the fishermen contains a pattern of how one should repent and believe the good news that Jesus proclaims: to leave everything behind and follow Him (1:18.20).

            He heals...  Jesus’ word of proclamation is effective.  Indeed, wherever he goes, the power of demons (powers which keep men and women in the state of unholiness, i.e., apart from God) recede.  After all, he is the “Holy One of God” (Mk. 1:24), in and through whom holiness is restored (cf. 1:44).  It is thus that in teaching and preaching, Jesus also heals (1:32.39).

            He has authority...  The effectivity of Jesus’ words only means one thing:  he has authority.  But it is an authority that is different from the authority of those who present themselves as people who can teach men how to live (1:27).

            He is a man for others... In these first sections of the Gospel of Mark, we get the impression that Jesus was a man on the move and not wont to stop in a particular place (1:38).  He was no mere busybody; rather, he projects the image of a man who is consumed by a sole passion --to prepare the men and women of his time to receive the reign of God -- and with one motivation:  compassion (1:41), the ability to feel with another the pain he bears.

            ...Yet a man alone.  Jesus prefaced his public life with a 40 day sojourn alone (1:13), confronting the demon that resides in every man, in a place not fit for man and yet, quite paradoxically, the place where God cares for man (recalling the Desert Tradition of the Israelites as recounted in the Pentateuch, cf. Corresponding note in NAB, 1986ed.); he goes to a deserted place to pray (1:35) and fame drives him back into solitude (1:45).

 

4.  For your journal entry, write down your own impressions of Jesus:  “How does Mark’s Jesus strike you?”

 

 


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (2:1-3:6)
Encountering Jesus, part 2

 

1.  Overview of the Passage.  In this “reading session” we shall begin to have a better look at Jesus of Nazareth.  We understand things by comparison and contrast.  In the five conflict stories that you are about to read, the person of Jesus is placed in contrast with the institutionally accepted teachers of life.  In this presentation, we shall have a glimpse of the values, convictions and ideas that make up the interior life of Jesus.

            The content of this reading selection can be described thus:

 

Chapters and verses

Description of Contents

2:1-12

Regarding Forgiveness of Sins

2:13-17

The Associates of Jesus

2:18-22

Regarding Fasting

2:23-28

Regarding the Sabbath

3:1-6

Healing on a Sabbath

 

Note that the selection ends with a note of foreboding:  the Pharisees meet the party of Herod to decide how to kill Jesus (3:6)

 

2.  Read the passages slowly and attentively.  Obscure and difficult passages should not trouble you at the moment. 

 

3.  Guide for Reflection.

 

            3.1.  Jesus and the Communion of Man with God.  We left off with the reading of Mk. 1:40-45, Jesus healing a leper.  The significant thing about that story was that Jesus not only drove the man’s leprosy away, he also restored the leper to the community of Israel.  To be a part of  the community of Israel was important for every Jew:  it meant having your place in God’s plan of salvation.  In fact, it meant being part of the family of God, of being with God.  In the conflict stories you just read, the issue of Jesus’ role in the restoration of an Israelite’s communion with God comes to the fore in 2:1-12 and 13-17.  In 2:1-12, the question was whether Jesus had any authority to forgive sins.  We know that in the healing and exorcism stories, Jesus, in driving away demons, had been restoring man to holiness (bringing them back into the sphere of the divine, i.e. to communion with God).  To what extent then can he restore man to communion with God?  Jesus answers this in 2:10-12:  he has power even over sin.

            3.2.  The Associates of Jesus.  The call of Levi and Jesus’ being with him and his friends at a party, raises once more the question of Jesus’ role with respect to communion with God.  To join up with sinners, to brush elbows with them, renders one unholy, i.e. away from God and away from the community of Israel.  Levi and his friends were all considered public sinners and therefore excommunicated from the synagogue.  To the mind of the teachers of upright living, Jesus’ person has become questionable precisely because he seems to have entered the sphere of the unholy.  And yet we know that he is the “Holy One of God” (1:24).  By his touch, he has rendered a leper fit to enter the presence of God (1:41); by hobnobbing with sinners, he is actually giving them their place in God’s presence.  And since we also know that Jesus is pleasing to God (1:11), we can be sure that that banquet with sinners has become a celebration of reconciliation, of restored communion[2].

 

            3.3.  Patchworks and Total Renewal.  Jesus has become a questionable character to the official interpreters of the religion of Moses because by His words and deeds, he is showing himself to be above the Laws and Traditions of the Fathers.  In fact, in 2:16-20 and in 2:23-28 he presents himself as the criterion of the understanding of fasting and the law of the sabbath, respectively.  By using  the metaphor of the bridegroom, he reinterprets the practise of fasting and makes it dependent, not on the requirements of accepted custom, but on His presence and absence (2:19-20).  In 2:25-28, he interprets a passage of the Prophets (1 Sm. 21, 2-7, cf. Lv. 24:5-9), identifying himself with David, and from this he (or is it the Marcan community?) derives the conclusion that “the son of man (=he) is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

            If Jesus is then the criterion of the understanding of any practise or law which regulates man’s communion with God, then a “patchwork spirituality[3]” will not do.  There must be a total renewal of the heart: to make the whole value system of Jesus one’s own (2:21-22).

 

            3.4.  The Sabbath is a Day for Go(o)d.  The confluence of the different strands of Jesus’ healing and teaching activity, of the relevance which these have on his role in the communion of God and men occurs in the episode of the healing of a man with a withered hand on the day of the Sabbath.  In this story, we have the interaction of two groups:  Jesus and suffering humanity on the one hand, and those who, by their insistence on propriety, have widened the gap between God and man.  Both groups inter-act on the day dedicated to God.  The question which Jesus asks (2:4) can be rephrased thus:  If God is good, would it be licit to do good on the day dedicated to Him?”  Jesus answers this question with an act by which he restores life to the withered limbs of a man.  By this answer, he prepared the way for the complete communion of God with man in his death and resurrection.

 

4.  For your journal entry, write about the most significant quality you have discovered in Jesus and why you think it is significant.

 


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (3: 7-35. 4: 35-6:6)
Knowing Jesus, part 1

 

 

1.  Overview of the Selected Passage.  Today, we move on from mere encounter to knowing Jesus.  It was Jesus’ will that he be known by his disciples first before he can allow them to participate in his work.  Thus we find him choosing certain persons whose first job would be to be with him (3:14).  Let us too join these apostles in accompanying Jesus.  In the first part of the reading, (3:7-35) we get to know how people react to Jesus: his relatives (vv. 20-21), the scribes from Jerusalem (who in those days would be like our theologians from Rome, v. 22) and his mother and close relatives (vv. 31-32).  Jesus, in responding to these latter (vv. 23-30 and 33-35) somehow shows us how he understands himself. 

            If Jesus reveals himself indirectly to us in this first part, he gives a more direct presentation of himself through his deeds in the second part of the reading (4: 35-6:6).  In 4:35-41, he calms a raging storm; in 5:1-20, he cures an extraordinary demoniac and in 5:21-43, he shows on two occassions that he has power over death whether it is just setting in (the cure of the hemorrhaging woman) or as already a fact (the raising of Jairus’ daughter).

 

2.  Directions for Reading.  Since the passage is too long, I recommend that the reader read through the selections rapidly but attentively, noting the following points:

            2.1.  In Jesus’ reply to the scribes who accuse him of being demon possessed, he argues that he is not of the kingdom of the Evil One (vv. 23-27).  At the same time, he links his person to the Spirit of God such that linking him to the Evil One is tantamount to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (vv. 28-30).

            2.2.  In Jesus’ reply to those who informed him that his mother and brothers would like to see him, he links himself to those who do the will of God.  This is not to belittle his familial relationships; rather, his concept of family goes beyond blood-ties.

            2.3.  The reaction of the inhabitants of Gerasa to the exorcism performed by Jesus goes from fear (5:15) to wonder (5:20).  The change is occassioned by the ex-demoniac’s proclamation to his townmates of “the mercy that God has shown to him.”  Fear and wonder are the normal reactions to the presence of something that is out of this world.  The story has a curious note:  while  the inhabitants of Gerasa decide that Jesus cannot be part of their world (5:17), the ex-demoniac wished that he be part of his world.

            2.4.  In the story of the revitalization of Jairus’ daughter, the evangelist uses two words that are connected with the Resurrection, “rise up” and “stood up” (“egeirein” and “anistasthai”, respectively, vv. 41.42).

            2.5.  For the disciples, the calming of the storm raised a question regarding the person of Jesus (4:41).  Even Jesus’ townmates had their question to ask about him (5:2-3), but in the end were “scandalized” because of him.  What do you think is the difference between the question of the disciples and those of the inhabitants of Nazareth?

 

3.  After going through the selected passages, pick one that most suits you and ask:  “How does Jesus reveal himself to me in this passage?”  Write your answer on your journal.


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (8:27-9:29)
Knowing Jesus, part 2

 

1.  Overview of the Passage.  A disciple, knowing his Master, is required to make his/her own the values of the Master.  This is made clear to us by Jesus himself (8:38) and by the voice from heaven (9:7).  Here is a rough outline of the selected passage:

 

Chapters and Verses

Description of the Contents

8:27-30

Jesus is the Christ

8:31-9:1

First Prediction of the Passion:

Consequences for Discipleship

9:2-13

The Transfiguration and the Question on Elijah

9:14-29

Healing of a Demoniac

 

            Notice that in this section, Jesus does not say anything directly about himself.  Only Peter and the voice from heaven tell us about him.  What Jesus does is to explain Peter’s affirmation:  “You are the Christ!” and to point out that the forerunner of the Messiah (Elijah) has already come in the person of John the Baptist (9:13).  He leaves it to the reader to make his/her own conclusions regarding his person.  Note once more, that the two verbs of the resurrection (egeirein and anisthasthai) which Mark employed in the raising up of Jairus’ daughter are used once more here in the healing of the demoniac (9:27)

 

2.  Read 8:27-9:1.  Note the following points:

            2.1.  Jesus corrects Peter.  It is obvious that though Jesus admits Peter’s assertion that he is the Messiah, he does not approve of Peter’s idea of the title (8:33).  Jesus had in mind a suffering Messiah (8:31), one who earns glory through suffering.

            2.2.  The Disciple and the Cross.  Scholars agree that vv. 34-38 was formulated in view of the persecuted Church.  In a situation where a disciple was made to suffer only because of his adherence to the Way of Christ, the passage becomes both a warning and an invitation.  There is also a note of consolation in 9:1:  the persecuted Church will find itself vindicated after a short while.  In short, what the Master will undergo, the disciple will also have to undergo.

 

            How do these passages make sense in your situation?

 

3.  Read 9:2-29.  The two stories here actually speak of only one thing:  the Glory that will be Jesus’ and its effects on those who now live a life of hell[4].

            3.1.  The Transfiguration.  That the Transfiguration should occur on a mountain is not incidental.  Israel received the Laws from God through Moses on a mountain; it was also on a mountain where Elijah was directed by God to pass on the prophetic mission to Elisha.  That these two great figures from the past should appear with Jesus and confer with him would seem to say that all references to the Messiah from the Torah to the prophets find their fulfillment in Jesus.  Finally, the voice from heaven asserts that henceforth, Jesus becomes the Teacher of Life.

            3.2.  Peter’s Comment.  Peter had some inkling of what was going on; but the sight was so overwhelming that he could not formulate it.  What did come out from his lips was the desire to “freeze” the moment, to let this glorious event not pass away.  Again, he misunderstood.  For even when Christ has been glorified, his place will remain to be with those who suffer (cf. 9:14-29)

            3.3.  Jesus and the Living Dead.  The next scene is not about an ordinary exorcism.  For the description of the demoniac is that of one who is in hell, although still living (cf. v. 18).  The demon that inhabits him is a mute and deaf spirit (9:25, cfr. v. 17) that has plunged him into a life that is no better than death (v.22).  At the end, it is through the faith of the father that his son is “raised” to life.

 

4.  Pick one of the stories and use it for your imaginative prayer.  Afterwards, write down the thoughts that crossed your mind while you where praying on your journal.

 


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (9:30-48)
Discipleship is co-discipleship, part 1

 

1.  Overview of 9:30 - 10:31:  The Context.  Discipleship is co-discipleship; no one follows Christ alone.  The disciples were called two-by-two and sent off on missions two-by-two.  Jesus called to himself apostles whose primary duty was to be with him, and thereby to be with each other.  Christian life is community life.

            Mark 9:30 - 10:31, despite appearances does not exclude this aspect: it contains instructions on family life (10:1-12) and asserts that the disciple, in leaving his family for the sake of Christ, enters into a bigger family (10:29-30).  The mention of husbands, wives (10:10-11) and children (9:36. 10:13-16) give this section a homely character.  Finally, it is only in this place -- in the whole of Mark’s gospel -- that Jesus addresses his disciples as children (10:24)[5].  It is within this “homely” context that we should read Mark 9: 30-48.

 

2.  An Outline.  The passage that you are about to read can be outlined thus:

 

Chapters and Verses

Description of Contents

9:30-32

Second Prediction of Jesus’ Fate

9:33-35

Discipleship:  Service

9:36-46

Explanation:

·     9:36-37

·     9:38-41

·     9: 42

     

·     9:43-47

·     Service is Accepting the Weak

·     The Point of Reference is Christ

·     Service is not being an Obstacle to the Weak

·     One Must Die in Serving

9:48

Conclusion:  Be at Peace with One Another

 

Read the Passage slowly and attentively, taking down notes while you do so.  Pay close attention to what Jesus says about the small and the weak.

 

3.  Some difficult passages..

            3.1.  The salt that brings peace.  “be salted” (v.47) and “salt” (v.48) although referring to the same food seasoning, means differently in both verses:  one negative and destructive, the other positive and creative.  “Being salted with fire” refers to the punishment that awaits those who are thrown into Gehenna (compare with Deut. 29:22).  “Salt” in v. 48 refers to the kind of discipline that is alluded to in 9:43-47.  Metaphorically, it is the kind of salt which is associated with the worship of God (cf. Lev. 2:13).  Thus, personal discipline contributes to peace among brothers, that peace which is our worship of God.

 

            3.2.  “We prohibited him because he was not following us...”  The response of Jesus to the assertion of John (in vv.39-41) corrects the idea that the disciples -- their ideas and convictions -- be the norm of their conduct with other people.  The sole criterion is Christ, such that whoever drives demons in his name is considered as being with them, and whoever gives any of them a glass of water, simply because they belong to Christ, shall have his reward.  Similarly, anyone who accepts a weak member of the community (= child, v. 37), accepts Jesus, and accepting Him, welcomes God.

 

            Note that in these passages, my acceptance of the brother/sister  (who is a child of God) is always referred to Christ as foundation and principle.  Only in this way can fraternal relationships become truly Godly.  Let us illustrate it thus:

 

 

4.  Based on what you’ve just read, write on your journal what “Co-discipleship” means for you.

 


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (10:32-45)
Discipleship is co-discipleship, part 2

 

1.  Overview of the Passage

 

Chapters and Verses

Description of Contents

10:32

Introduction

10:33-34

Third Prediction of Jesus’ Destiny

10:35-41

The Request of James and John and the Reaction of the Others

10:42-45

A Lesson in Service

 

2.  The passage has been interpreted in different ways, and I know that the reader is quite familiar with these interpretations.  Allow me then to refresh her mind with the following notes:

            2.1.  A paradigm.  10:35-41 presents to us an instance of a Christian community that is still groping for its identity.  Its tendency is to borrow the mode of behavior of other groups which the status quo finds acceptable.  In sociological terms, this Christian community “internalizes” the system of relationships (power--authority/subjection--submissiveness, cf. v. 42) that it finds in its environment.  The request of James and John mirrors this process:  since they intend to follow Jesus even to the end, they would want a reward:  places of honor and authority in His kingdom.  The reaction of the other ten -- who will be left out of the scenario if James and John get their way -- is also reflective of this process.  They too want those places.

            2.2.  Paradigm shift.  In 10:42-45, Jesus defines the identity of the Christian community:  they are not to “internalize” the accepted relations of power and authority.  The identity of the Christian community is “borrowed” from Jesus, they make their own the self-knowledge of Jesus who “has come to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as ransom for many.”  It is thus that “power” becomes “power to serve” and “authority” becomes “authority for the promotion of the many.”  This paradigm shift occurs under the shadow of the cross, clarifying the meaning of this paradigm shift: glory is from God, received from Him through filial obedience and fraternal solidarity.  For this is what the baptism of Jesus means, making his own the sufferings (=guilt) of humanity; this is the cup he is to drink, obedience to God’s will, even when it hurts.  And both of these, find their consummation on the Cross.  And from the Cross, and only from it, can Jesus receive the glory of the Resurrection (vv. 33-34).

 

3.  Use the episode for imaginative prayer.  You can either imagine yourself in the place of James and John or that of the other ten.

 

4.  As an exercise that can benefit yourself spiritually, re-write this episode having your community in mind.  You can change the words, but not the spirit behind them.  End the story with a prayer for youself, your companions and your community’s superiors.

 


Reading Guide for the Gospel of Mark (14:1-15:47)
The Possibility of Betrayal

 

1.  Introduction.  Someone said that a gospel is a passion narrative with a very long introduction.  Although the statement is an exaggeration, there is some evidence that the first Christians first began to reflect on the meaning of the death of Christ, then on the trial that led to his death, before they began to “collect” memories of his ministry.  Thus, the passages that we are about to read contain stories that have been deeply reflected on by the early Christian communities.  Let us once more enter into the memory of the Marcan community and re-live those moments which it holds dear.

            As you read the passage, you will notice that though the leaders of Jerusalem (Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and elders) on the one hand and the representatives of the pagan rulers of the time (Pilate and the Roman soldiers) on the other are presented as causing the innocent man -- Jesus -- to suffer for the crimes of a criminal, the apostles of Jesus (those whom he has chosen to be with him, cf. previous notes) either actively participate in giving him over to the above-mentioned “tormentors” (Judas), or deny having any part with him (Peter), or simply leave him alone to his fate.

            The act by which Jesus is passed on from one tormentor to another is characterized by Mark as an act of betrayal.

 

2.  The Innocent One Betrayed.  In the original Greek, the word used for “giving over” Jesus is paradidosqai, which in English can mean “hand over, pass on, entrust” and also “give to the power of, betray”.  It has this latter sense in 1:14 (literally, “...after John was betrayed”); and in the predictions of Jesus’ suffering and death (9:31, 10:33,).  It is the definition of Judas, one of the Twelve (3:19, 14:42.44), for the Christian community remembers him as having done that one thing (14:10.11) and Jesus had a curse for him (14:21).  Indeed, the pain is greater when it is a friend who betrays you (14:18.44).  Apart from Judas, the same act is ascribed to the leaders of Jerusalem (15:1.10) and that of Pilate (15:15)

 

3.  Failure in Discipleship.  Mark does not hesitate to show that the death of Jesus was also caused by a failure on the part of his friends.  At the very time of his arrest, they were sleeping (14:41).  Peter, the leader of the group even denied him three times, some time later.  Mark symbolizes the downfall of the group of disciples with the picture of a young man running naked from the scene of betrayal at the garden (14:51-52).  Does this not remind us of another man, in another garden who found himself naked at the beginning of time? (Gen. 3:10 and context). 

 

4.  Here is the outline of the Passion of Jesus:

Chapters and Verses

Description and Content

14:1-31

The Anointing and the Last Supper

14:32-52

Jesus’ Prayer and the Arrest

14:53-15:15

The Trials

15:16-47

The Cruxifixion and Death of Jesus

 

5.  After reading the passages, reflect on the characters involved in the story.  Betrayal is possible even after one has known Jesus:  Mark presents to us “types” of people who have known Jesus and yet who either betrayed him or assisted at his betrayal, reminding us that if it happened then, it will happen again:

 

1.  Peter - one of the first who were called, who was eager to proclaim him “Messiah”, who belonged to Jesus’ favorites (together with John and James) ,who even promised to die for him.  He was the one who denied while Jesus stood before his judges.  He wasn’t there when Jesus hung on the cross.

 

2.  Judas - one of those whom Jesus chose among his many disciples to have a privileged place at his side; the one who, at the end, handed him over to those who were just eager to do him wrong.

 

3.  The crowds - these have followed the career of Jesus with a lot of rejoicing.  But during the trial before Pilate, they allowed themselves to be suaded by voices, words that condemn the representative of a value system that they knew was God-centered.  Instead, guided by these same voices, they chose for themselves a murderer and a thief (Barabbas), the representative of a value system that was guided by violence and all that was inimical to society.

 

4.  The moralists, the theologians, those who aspire to teach the life that leads to God - they knew who Jesus was, they kept a close watch on him, they knew they had nothing wrong against them -- they even broke their own laws to have Jesus condemned.  They were blind since the beginning; and that blindness plunged them into the cliff of their own arrogance.

 

5.  Pilate - He was the judge; he knew that Jesus had no guilt.  But like the crowd, he too listened to voices other than his conscience.  He released an enemy of the society which he had the responsibility to protect and condemned one who has done nothing except to teach his own people to have faith.

 

These are “types.”  Do you recognize yourself in any of them?

 


 Discipleship:  A Gift of the Resurrection

 

1.  For this day’s reading, we will combine two readings, that of Mk. 16:1-8 and John 20:19-23.  We shall do this for the sake of this day’s theme:  “Disicipleship:  A Gift of the Resurrection.”  Read this two passages one after the other:

1.1.  Outline of Mark 16:1-8

Chapters and verses

Description of Contents

16: 1-2

Introduction

16: 3-4

The Uncovered Tomb

16:5-7

The Message of the Angel

16:8

Conclusion:  The Fear of the Women

 

1.2.  Concentrate on the Words of the Angel.  The angel is a messenger (aggeloV), one who bears good tidings.  His message contains three elements: (a)  Jesus has risen; (b) the proof is that he is no longer in the tomb[6]; and (c) that Jesus wants Peter and the other disciples to follow him once more to the place where he first called them, to the place where they first walked with him -- in Galilee.  The group of disciples which had dispersed is now called back; now, they can follow the Lord once more.

 

2.  Read John 20:19-23 once, after which, use the following explanations to help you reflect:

 

1.  “For they were afraid...” - The disciples had barricaded themselves behind closed doors expecting the worst.  The “Jews” were not only the political and religious leaders of the time who instigated the death of Jesus and who were expected to go after his followers too.  The “Jews” are representatives of a way of life and a way of thinking that is anti-Christ, anti-God, and anti-man.  Earlier, you tried to get in touch with yourselves, with your fears, doubts and anxieties.  These fears, doubts and anxieties you hold in common with all the “disciples” of the world.  Try to put yourselves now in the situation of the disciples:  Each of us is afraid.  What are the barriers that we use to protect ourselves?

 

2.  “Jesus came and stood in their midst...” - Jesus comes to those he calls “his own” -- those whom he values because he loves them.  “He had given proof of his boundless love in embracing the Cross and offering himself as a sacrifice of redemption for all mankind.  ‘No one,’ he had said, ‘has greater love than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn. 15: 13).”  No barriers can stop that love from meeting the beloved.  Jesus wants to remain with his friends: as he had stood in their midst before his crucifixion, so now, in the power of the Resurrection, he once more stands in their midst, never to leave them.

 

3.  “Peace be with you...” - On the night before he died, Jesus said:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give it to you as the world gives it.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (Jn. 14:27)”.  Jesus’ peace is not the peace that the world gives.  For it dispels all fear; it takes away our anxieties; it wipes away our doubts.  For the peace that Jesus gives is the peace that reconciles man to himself, to others and to God.  It is peace that restores wholeness.  The Risen Lord greeted the disciples twice.  The first time, it was to dispel the fear of the moment - the threat of the Jews.  The second time, he pronounces his greeting within the context of the commissioning of the disciples.  The disciples will now be sent out into the world as a flock of sheep in the midst of hungry wolves.  But Christ’s peace will accompany them even there.  Let us accept the Peace that comes from Christ.  Let it dispel our worries; let it quiet our troubled hearts.

 

4.  “The disciples rejoiced, seeing the Lord...” - The joy of the disciples result from an act of recognition.  They now recognize Jesus as “the Lord”.  They recognized him from the marks of his Death on the cross:  the nail marks on his hands and the wound of his broken side from which water and blood had flowed.  For the Christian, joy is not simply a feeling of lightness; it is something that rises from a heart that recognizes the love of the Lord, that experiences the Peace of Christ, that is filled up by the presence of the one true Master.  Christian joy is not that kind of joy that is stimulated from without; it comes from within.  It comes from faith.

 

5.  “And he breathed on them...”  As in the moment of creation, when God breathed his spirit into the man he had fashioned that it may become a living soul, so now, in the moment of man’s redemption, He who is One with the Father, recreates man.  In the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, man is “expressed in a new way.  He is renewed.  He is renewed! (RH, )”  On the night Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away and went back “to their own” -- to their former way of life, to their former way of thinking.  On the evening of that same sabbath, they had hid themselves like Adam who hid himself from God.  But now, the Lord had come to seek his own and to remake them, to restore them to his fold, to bring them back to themselves, to being his disciples. 

 

6.  “Receive the Holy Spirit...” - The Spirit is the life-breath of Christ breathed into our nostrils, the gift of the Resurrection.  Jesus had already promised that the Holy Spirit will come to be the Comforter of his small flock, the Counsellor that will accompany them even in the midst of persecution, the force that will carry them even unto the ends of the earth.  The Spirit is with the Church.  The Spirit is with us!  Let us turn our gaze within and discover this gift.  It has been there all along, ever since we were baptized, but because of other concerns, we have not recognized it.  Allow this Spirit to blow with its power in and through us.

 

7.  “As the Father has sent me, so I now send you...” - The phrase is familiar; ibut it is not just a phrase, it is an invitation; it is your call.  It is a call that comes from the Father’s heart and derives from his plan.  Through this phrase, the Lord is inviting us to be his co-workers in the mission of reconciliation, “the forgiveness of sins.”  Sin and guilt are dynamites whose explosions spread destruction and death.  These dynamites are made up, not of nitrogen, but of a threefold alienation:  alienation from self, alienation from others, alienation from God.  The dynamites have been diffused by the Death and Resurrection of Christ.  But not everyone knows it yet.  Our job is to point to Christ, our Reconciliation.  Our job is to let everyone know that in Him, the alienation that impels us to death is now negated.  Christ is risen! And so is man.  This is our message; this is the News we bring.

 

3.  Use John’s story for your imaginative prayer:  allow the Lord to invest you with the power of the Resurrection.



[1]The words “you”(Mk. 1:2, cf. Mal. 3:1), “of the Lord”, “his ways” (Mk. 1:3, cf. Is. 40:3) were understood by the early Christians as referring to Jesus.

[2]The similarity of Levi’s calling to the story of the call of the first disciples should be a reminder to the reader that anyone who associates with Jesus has begun the way of conversion.

[3]An eclectic kind of spirituality which tries to incorporate new  values with old attitudes.

[4]There is also a side issue in these stories:  in 9:2-13, the question was “How can Jesus be the Messiah when theologians are saying that the Messiah must be preceded by Elijah ?” to which Jesus has an answer) In 9:14-29, the side issue is about the ability of the disciples -- as extensions of Christ -- to work on their own.  Jesus answers that they cannot work independently of him (cf. 9:29).

[5]It is worth noting too that in the episode of the rich young man, the commandments which Jesus enumerates are all “societal” commandments (10:18-19).

[6]Mary of Magdala, one of the women listening to the angel, knew where Jesus had been lain (15:47).  If there was any human being there who could verify what the angel was saying, it was her.