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This Sunday's Programme

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15th Sunday Year B

Sunday 14th July 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 6:6b-13

Jesus went round the villages teaching. He called the twelve to him and began commissioning them to go out in pairs. He gave them power over evil spirits. He commanded them to go on their way with nothing but a staff: no bag, no bread, not even money in their wallet. They could have sandals, but not a spare coat. He told them: ‘Wherever you go take up the first offer of hospitality and remain there till you leave that area. If you aren’t made welcome or listened to, as you leave shake the very dirt of that place off your feet. I’m telling you seriously, it will go better with Sodom and Gomorrah on judgment day, than it will with the people of that town.’

So they went out, preaching repentance. They cast out many devils and anointed the sick with oil, who then recovered.

Psalm

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

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 84:9-14

I hear what God the Lord says,
for he speaks peace to his people and his holy ones.
Do not turn away apathetically.
God’s salvation is near to those who fear him
so glory abides in our land.

Kindness and truth have met,
righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth springs up from the earth,
while justices gazes down from heaven.

Yes, God gives all that is good.
Our land will yield abundantly.
Justice goes before him
and sets our feet in his ways.

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 God, you call me to follow Jesus in such a way that my life preaches the transforming power of his love. Send me your Spirit, that I may trust in your love upholding me in all situations and that I may offer to all the welcome Jesus gives to me. I ask this in his name, confident that you will hear me.

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

This Sunday’s Gospel begins a new section in Mark. Now till the end of Mk 8:21, nearly every scene will involve the disciples as Jesus forms them into his future community. Even though they have been with him for a short time, even though their experience is limited, he still sends them out to preach ‘repentance’. It is within the actual challenge of preaching that they will learn the reliance of God that is integral to the Kingdom. The references to the clothing of the disciples, especially the staff and sandals, remind the reader of the exodus from Egypt that formed the people of Israel. As those people had been reliant on God in the desert, the preaching disciple is to be reliant on God in the hospitality that will be offered. Having been stripped down to the essentials, they will accept simply hospitality offered them and not be calculating in looking for something better. Conversely when they are rejected, they are to make the gesture that a pious Jew would make on leaving pagan territory. They are to shake the very dirt from their sandals. By this gesture, they are saying that those who rejected them have no relationship with them.

In stating that they cast our devils and healed the sick, Mark tells the reader that discipleship of Jesus involves confrontation with evil in its various forms, a confrontation that the disciples are sure of winning because they have been sent out by Jesus.

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

Years ago I saw a poster that read, ‘The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.’ After reading the injunctions that Jesus gives his disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel, one could say, ‘Preaching the Gospel will set you free, but first you will feel very vulnerable.’ Jesus tells his disciples to go out with little more than what they are wearing, to accept what is given them, without looking for anything better and they are not to retaliate when rejected but rather, symbolically reject the rejection and move on. Somebody doing all that is very vulnerable, yes, trusting in God but they have to receive what God gives through the hands of other people…and Jesus is making no assurances that nice people will always be there to help.

What does this say to us, with our credit cards, insurance systems and social security? While it may be hard for us to get into the mindset of those disciples as they walked away from Jesus with that mission, we do get some sense of the freedom they must have had in that vulnerability. Most of us are not called to walk away from all we have but we all, at some stage, have to experience something that takes us to the edge and then over – illness, loss, betrayal. There, stripped down, we can learn much about God and about ourselves and hopefully, true freedom.

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

I’ve read the work by Professors Kegan and Lahey, of Harvard University, who write on why we don’t change even when we say we want to. They recognise that most of us have a list of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ that we trot out when we feel our life should shape up a little more, which we ‘work’ on for a while but which fundamentally produce no change. Kegan and Lahey offer a series of exercises by which their readers uncover the hidden assumptions that undermine our desire to improve. If done, one can feel more than a little uncomfortable and embarrassed. It is not simply that we are not as good as we think we are but rather that we are very complex beings.

When Jesus sent out his disciples it was to preach ‘repentance’. This was not a call to be a miserable ascetic crying, ‘Woe is me…and everyone else for that matter.’ The repentance that Jesus is asking for is a change of mind, an ongoing transformation that helps one to see reality in a different way. What this looks like can be seen in the injunctions Jesus gives the disciples: do not rely on things, rather rely on the hospitality of God and people, accept what you are given graciously and don’t go looking for something better, don’t argue with people who reject you but don’t lie down and take abuse. Behind these injunctions is a certain way of living that is transformative. We are to trust God and accept the hospitality of people, don’t argue with abuse. Does that seem simple? Try it in this coming week and see what you learn about yourself.

 

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

This Sunday’s scene is not often presented in art works.
– James Tissot’s painting He sent them out two by two.
– James Tissot’s On entering a house

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 the challenge Jesus gave those disciples to go and preach repentance. Seeing repentance as a challenge to live a deeper, richer, truer life, mull on how you could invite the people you live with to do just that. Ask the Spirit to guide your words and your actions.

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 your God.

Imagine what those disciples must have felt like when Jesus told them to go out and preach, having little more than what they wore. Imagine their sense of vulnerability. Sit with that sense of vulnerability but hold yourself in the love of God at the same time. Vulnerable but held secure in God.

When you have a sense of what that is like, ask God what situation in your life should your live out that vulnerability and trust in God. Hold that situation in your heart and then try to imagine how you could act.

Rest in the love of your God.