Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” – Mark 11:21
Today in Mark, we see Jesus in a very uncharacteristic tone, condemning a fig tree when it did not bear fruit out of season. To take this scene literally casts a shadow on Jesus, and shows him to be as petulant as a child. But, if we are to take Jesus as he claims himself to be, the Son of Man, the Messiah; or even at the level of a prophetic teacher, we must look beyond his actions to find the lesson.
Perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of Jesus’ telling of the parable of the barren fig tree, and the Master who wants to cut it down because it is of no use (Luke 13:6-9). The vinedresser convinces the Master to let it stay another season, giving it care that it may yet produce fruit for his master. What if Jesus meant the condemnation of the fig tree in today’s reading as an extension of that parable?
The people of Israel have been given a chance – or chances, again and again called to faithfulness, and again and again failed. Moses reminds us of this, the Israelites failing to enter the promised land because of their wavering in faithfulness wandered for forty years in the desert.
Jesus may be pointing to the fig tree as an example of Israel, a people who have been singularly cultivated by God himself, and are failing in their bringing forth fruit of faithfulness? Just as a fruitless tree is good for nothing than to be thrown into the fire for kindling, so the life a follower of God is good for nothing if it too bears no fruit.
May God Bless you.
“Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”” – Mark 9:23-24
The father of the boy had come to Jesus seeking healing for his son. He then watched helplessly the failed attempts by the apostles to heal him. His faith was shaken, and the best he could say to Jesus was, “If you can…”
What do we let shake our faith? Perhaps someone who works in the church does something that seems to contradict what they should be about. Maybe we, or someone close to us, has experienced loss of a loved one for whom we have been praying for. Or, because of a poor example, we’ve heard people say: “If this is what it means to be a Christian, it’s not for me.”
Human beings will disappoint. Rather than giving up, let us be like the father in this gospel passage, and bring our situation to Jesus, doubts and all, and ask God to strengthen our moment of weakness and turn it into a moment of grace and healing.
“I do believe, help my unbelief!”
It is a good prayer for us all.
May God Bless you.
“…there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” – Mark 7:15
Jesus has been arguing with the those experts of the Law of Moses over some points of the traditional law. We pick that up today with a statement which turned the Jewish believer’s world upside down.
Yesterday we read in the beginning of this chapter of Mark how no Jew would eat without performing the prescribed washing rituals. And we know from our readings in the Old Testament up to this point, there were foods that were named unclean for them to eat by God himself. So, what is Jesus doing here? Is He contradicting himself? It seems he was shredding the laws that Jews have suffered and died for (see 2 Maccabees 7 for a graphic example, where a mother and her seven sons die because they refuse to eat pork). This was no parsing of words; this was revolutionary and the scribes and Pharisees did not like it. Even his disciples were amazed.
Jesus was making an important distinction that would be good for us who are beginning our lenten pilgrimage can glean from. Jesus wants us to be aware of things and persons. Things cannot be clean or unclean in a true religious sense. They are what they are. Persons, on the other hand, can make themselves unclean by their actions which come from their inner decisions (the heart).
Jesus gives a brutal list of things that manifest from the heart that we should be careful to avoid altogether:
- evil thoughts – our wrong doing doesn’t just happen; it is born from our thoughts, an inward choice.
- fornications – every kind of sexual vice.
- thefts – purposeful, deviant thievery.
- murders – taking life, physically or morally.
- adulteries – taking of what belongs to another.
- deeds of coveting – insatiable appetite to gain for oneself. Plato sums this category up well: “The desire of a man is like a sieve or pierced vessel which he ever tries to, and can never fill.” Seeking a happiness in things instead of in God.
- wickedness – the desire to harm others, to delight in another’s tragedy.
- deceit – crafty, cunning trickery.
- sensuality – resents discipline of the appetite, and abandons himself to it, with no sense of shame (our society on a whole has lost this sense).
- envy – to despise another’s good fortune, to wanting to tear it down, or wish them evil.
- slander – use words against another in order to insult.
- pride – see oneself above others. Interior pride is very harmful, as one may secretly compare themselves to others and see themselves as superior.
- foolishness – one who chooses to play the fool even though he knows better.
What a list! Jesus wants us to be careful of what exits from our heart, or interior decision-making that gives way to our actions. May we use this lenten season to purify our hearts, turning to the Sacraments for strength and, in times where we fail come with contrite hearts to be reconciled to God.
What is the state of your heart? Is what comes out of you today worthy of your name as follower of Jesus?
May God Bless you.
And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.
The Pharisees were looking for ways to trap Jesus so they might have reason to put Him to death. When the moment presents itself they pose their question to Jesus and watch. They want to catch him in the act of…what exactly? Of restoring a person to wholeness? Showing mercy? This phenomenal healing by Jesus didn’t even register with the Pharisees, their eyes were too fixed upon finding fault to condemn him that they miss the working of God in their midst.
Sometimes we can be like the Pharisees and miss the point of God working in our lives as we settle for the rules. Now rules in themselves are good, but when we are so stringent in our observance that we don’t see the needs of those around us, we may need to readjust our focus, with lenses of compassion and mercy.
Let us ask the Lord to assist us today, to see the needs around us and to act with compassion and mercy, like Jesus.
May God bless you!
“Go and tell John what you hear and see…”
In the movie industry, the best promotion for a new release is the audience itself. Go on Twitter and search a film title and you can get a good sense of what people are saying about it. Talk to a friend that recently saw a movie and if they liked it, they are probably going to be sure you know about it! In Matthew, chapter 11, we have followers of John the Baptist coming to Jesus with one question: “Are you the one?”
Jesus responds to the inquirers to observe what is going on around them and “Go and tell John.” Jesus gives them permission to preach the good news! It’s easy to imagine John’s disciples returning to him with excitement to what they saw and heard! And what about us? What have we seen and heard about Jesus? Are we excited to share the ‘good news’ with others?
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to show us how to live for Him, that we may be mindful of what we spend time talking about, that we may seek ways to share our faith, so as to build up our brothers and sisters to more readily put their trust in him.
May God bless you!