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This Sunday's Programme

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10th Sunday Year B

Sunday 9th June 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mk 3:2–35

When Jesus came home, such a crowd of people gathered that he and the disciples couldn’t even have a meal.  Hearing of this, his relatives came to take him in hand, saying to themselves, that he was out of his mind.

Some scribes had come from Jerusalem and said ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub’ and that ‘It is by the prince of devils that he is able to cast out devils.’  Confronting them, Jesus challenged them with parables, saying ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom descends into civil war, how can it survive as a kingdom?  If a household is torn by dissention, how can it remain whole? And if Satan rises up against himself, how is he going to win?  It is the downfall of him.

‘No-one can enter the house of a strong person and steal their property unless they have first tied up the strong person.  Only then can they steal from the house.

‘I am telling you most truly, all the sins of human beings can be pardoned, and all their blasphemies but if they should blaspheme against the Holy Spirit that cannot be pardoned, it is an eternal sin.’  He said this because they had been saying, ‘He has an evil spirit in him.’

His mother and brothers came to him and, standing outside the house, they sent in a message to him.  As he sat in the midst of the crowd, the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’  Answering them he said, ‘Who are my mother and brothers?’  Looking round at the crowd, he said, ‘Look, here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 129

From the depths of my being I cry to you God.
Lord, hear my voice.
Bring your ear close as I cry,
wailing for your mercy.

If you recorded sins,
who would survive?
But with you is forgiveness
therefore you are feared.

For God, I wait, my soul waits,
my hope is God’s word.
More attentive than any early warning system
I wait for God.

Put your hope, Israel, in God,
in God’s unfailing love
in God’s abundant redemption.
For it is God who will redeem
all your sins.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving Jesus, the good you do in our world and in our lives confronts us in so many ways. You challenge our complacent ideas about what life should be and the judgements we make. Open our minds and hearts to the mystery of your Spirit at play in our world so we may live by the will of the Father and be mother, brother and sister to you.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The Gospel of Mark has gotten underway. John the Baptist has witnessed to Jesus. He has been into the desert and returned, and his ministry has begun with a dazzling array of miracles: numerous and varied healings and the confrontation with and casting out of demons. Along the way Jesus has called a number of disciples and has even selected his inner circle of the Twelve and what a motley group they are: fishermen, a tax-collector, a zealot and, of course, the one who would betray him. Now that the scene has been set and the story begun, Mark introduces a major element in his drama of Jesus’ salvation: misunderstanding.

Two groups usually viewed in a positive light, family and the religious authorities, are shown not only to fail to appreciate Jesus’ mission to seek and save what was lost, they are seen to thwart it.Today’s Gospel begins and ends with Jesus’ family seeking to take him in hand and bring him home and, hopefully, to his senses. Sandwiched between these scenes of ‘familial’ care, is the much more menacing confrontation with the religious authorities who will eventually seek and orchestrate Jesus’ murder. On one hand, one can feel for the family wanting, according to their best lights, what was ‘good’ for Jesus. They wanted him to be safe in what was familiar to them. On the other hand, one senses the implacability of the scribes who feel threatened by someone practising a form of religion that doesn’t fit into the patterns that their tradition had set.

Jesus is determined in the face of both groups. To his family, he offers the challenge and the opportunity to enter into this new world of faith that is determined by doing the will of God. To the scribes, he throws down a terrifying gauntlet. They had given the ultimate insult to the one who was doing so much good under the power of the Holy Spirit: they have called his good actions evil, saying they could only be done under the power of Satan. If they had listened to the words of Isaiah, ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.’ (Is 5: 20ff) they should have, at least, paused and questioned Jesus before they began their condemnation. But they did not.

Throughout this Gospel of Mark, misunderstanding will be a major leitmotif. In the face of the overwhelming mystery of God, it is only after the Resurrection that some understanding of the person of Jesus will dawn on his disciples, to be deepened as they seek to live out the will of God in their lives.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

I feel sorry for Jesus’ family and understand where they are coming from when they came to take him back to Nazareth. From what little we know Jesus had, until then, lived within that village, presumably as just another member of the village community, caring for his family, worshipping at the synagogue, serving and being served by those around him. Their hopes and dreams for him would have been shaped by what they knew. Then, to their minds, he had the most extraordinary reaction to the preaching of John the Baptist. After a period away in the desert, he began to do the most amazing deeds, healing and casting out demons, preaching around the countryside, drawing the crowds and gathering a strange group of disciples. Is it any wonder that they thought he had taken leave of his senses? Their response was well named by Mark when he said they wanted to ‘arrest’ him: that is they wanted to stop him and confine him. But he was doing the will of God and they could as much hold a sunbeam in their hand as they could stop Jesus following the Father’s will.

In a very real sense, we each and all have to move away from the expectations of our families. I often say to people that at some stage we have ‘to cut our own umbilical cord’, and that this is an integral step in growth to maturity. But something more is at play in this Gospel reading. Jesus wasn’t growing up, he was growing out: out of human expectations to living under the divine will. This is something that is offered to all of us at some stage in our lives as followers of Christ: we will be called to do and be more than is the expected in the human round. Much of the time, this will pass unnoticed by those around us. But sometimes people will note our changed, and challenging, behaviour…and more often than not, it will not be liked. It will be misunderstood and misinterpreted. It may lead to us being alone for some time, or rather, humanly alone. But God will be with us and we discover then that we have become ‘mother and brother and sister’ to Jesus.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Recently Pope Francis was quoted as denying the existence of hell and the internet lit up in controversy but a little investigation on that same internet shows that he was misquoted. Indeed one source quotes him as saying in 2016, ‘Hell is wanting to be distant from God because I do not want God’s love. This is hell.’ How does a person come to such a pass?

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we possibly have the clearest insight into how this can occur. The scribes had clearly heard all about the amazing things Jesus had been doing. Indeed they had travelled from Jerusalem not to congratulate him but to confront him. What was extraordinary, and warped, about their reaction was that they had condemned Jesus is the strongest possible terms. They must have done some investigation, heard all about the good he had done… had declared it the work of Satan. Jesus saw his good deeds as flowing from the power of the Holy Spirit so when the scribes denied the good he had done, he understood them as denying Holy Spirit. Simply, when you call the works of God the works of Satan, where do you go from there, except into your own personal hell?

The journalist who had misquoted Pope Francis did it, I think, out of a sense of compassion. Even though an atheist himself, he could not imagine a good God condemning someone to hell. A fine sentiment, except that it doesn’t take into account the profound respect that God has for human free will. People can embrace evil in such a way that they seem to leave themselves closed to the possibility that they may be wrong and their actions may be wrong. When they are in such a state, they readily call those who are good evil and despise good actions. How do I know? I have met such a person. I dream and hope that at some stage before he died, the love of God touched his heart and he repented but if he did not, God would respect his decision.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

The Pharisees and Scribes confront Jesus by James Tissot.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees  by Richard Linford.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on how you judge your actions and those of others. What criteria do you use? As you question these, try to recognise how inadequately and limited our human understanding is.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of God.

When you are at rest, ponder on the times when you have been called in faith to step out and do something different or unusual.  How did you feel when people challenged or criticised you or your work?  Were you able to centre on the call of God in the midst of this criticism?

What did you learn that you could use in the future?

Rest in the love of God