09 February, 2012

Homily for the Third Sunday before Lent (B) 2012

Gospel reading Mark 1:29-39

I hope you’ll remember last Sunday’s gospel. Jesus healed a man who was possessed by an evil spirit and taught in the synagogue. Those present were astounded at his teaching (Mark 1:22) and said in their amazement, What is this? A new teaching (Mark 1:27).

Today we continue to explore the first chapter of St Mark’s gospel where the evangelist describes several miracles performed by Jesus as he travel throughout Galilee proclaiming the message (cf. Mark 1:39) It all seems pretty straightforward and plain to see. Mark presents Jesus as a teacher, or rather the teacher who came to proclaim the good news. Mark doesn’t reveal immediately in these passages anything else about Jesus apart from his astounding and charismatic way of teaching.

But there is a problem. Perhaps we are so familiar with this text that we are in danger of overlooking what Mark is trying to say to his readers. When last Sunday we heard the people in the synagogue saying What is this? A new teaching (Mark 1:27), and today we hear Jesus saying, Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also (Mark 1:38); in both texts Mark doesn’t actually report any of Jesus’ teachings, any of his words proclaimed with authority. Mark only describes Jesus’ actions meaning that chiefly through these Jesus proclaimed the message.
A new teaching? But he hasn’t said much at all. Proclaim the message somewhere else also? But Mark is silent about the words of Jesus in the first place.

Mark’s gospel is a gospel of action. Throughout this text, up until the passion, Jesus does things and is in control of the situation. He acts rather more than teaching and proclaiming through words.
Many of us feel not at ease with talking about God; we shy away from engaging our families, our friends, and neighbours in talking about Jesus and the gospel. Don’t we? However, here Mark brings us a word of comfort. As we try to follow Jesus, we must primarily act rather than standing on the street corners with Bibles. An old saying often attributed to St Francis goes like this, Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words. What this means is that in whatever situation we find ourselves we can take every opportunity to do good, and in doing so we will show to others the love of Christ for everyone.

Without a doubt, proclamation through words, sermons and teaching is necessary for the spreading of the gospel and the life of the Church, but not everyone is called to this ministry; while all of us are called to show the life of Christ with our actions to whoever we meet, however hard or time-consuming that may be. This way of being Christian is possibly less preachy but it will probably require more practice and putting more care in whatever we do. I don’t suppose many of us will have the chance of performing an exorcism, of casting out demons or of curing illnesses through miracles. So if we want to follow Mark’s Jesus, what should we do?

Here St Paul comes to our aid in our second reading, giving us an idea. He says, 
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a servant to all, so that I might win more people. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. [...] To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some (1 Corinthians 9).
Let us pray,
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

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