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This Sunday's Programme

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3rd Sunday Year B

Sunday 21st January 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 1:14-20

Now after John was given over (into prison), Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the reign of God. He said, ‘The moment is now, the reign of God is so close. Change your attitudes and embrace the good news.’

As he walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a handnet into the sea – for they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’ Immediately, they let their nets go and followed after him. A little further on, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, with his brother John, in their boat fixing the nets. Immediately he called them. They left their father in the boat with the servants and went after Jesus.

Psalm

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

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 24:4-9
Lord, make known your ways to me,
teach me your paths.
Lead me into your truth.
Teach me! God of my salvation.
I wait for you each day.

Remember your compassion, Lord,
your kindness from all time.
Do not remember the sins of my youth,
recall rather your mercy and your goodness.

God is good and upright.
He shows the right path to sinners.
He leads the humble into right judgment,
guiding them into 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, we know that Jesus has called us to be transformed by the good news of your love. Send us your Spirit to open our minds and hearts to his new way of living. Following behind Jesus, may we draw others into the joy of your Kingdom. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.

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 simple straightforward style of the Gospel of Mark belies its richness and complexity. At the very end of the Gospel, the angels at the tomb order the woman to tell the disciples ‘to return to Galilee’. This is not meant to be a physical return but rather a remembering, a going over, of all that Jesus had taught and done, in the light of his Death and Resurrection. As we go through Mark’s Gospel this year, we too are asked to reflect with the disciples on the meaning of Jesus’ words and deeds in light of God’s outstanding liberation of humanity.

Today’s Gospel opens with one of Mark’s signature summary statements. There is a lot condensed in those few words. The verb used for John’s arrest after his controversial preaching – ‘passing over’ will be used of Jesus’ arrest and of the disciples’ future arrest after they too have preached the ‘good news’. The words ‘good news’ and ‘time’ (kairos) evoke the promise of liberation preached by Second Isaiah, which in Jesus’ time was being interpreted as a social and political liberation. But here, Jesus’ transformation of the idea of Good News from God has begun. The term ‘repent’ meant not the grovelling sorrow for sin that we often associate with this word, rather it is a change of mind and heart that sought to break with the power of Satan and subhuman forces and to live according to the ways of God. This time of transformation, of the reign of God, is pressing but before Jesus begins his preaching and teaching, he first starts to form the community that will bring his salvation into the world – he calls his first disciples.

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

‘Hurrah for the revolution!
The beggar on horseback lashes the beggar on foot.
Hurrah for the revolution!
The beggars change places but the lash goes on.’

So sings this ditty on the nature of revolution. We could cynically dismiss it, except that experience shows that it is often true. Change for the good doesn’t necessarily happen because people say it will. Still, like the people of Jesus time, we desire socio-political change but are often disillusioned by the change that ‘reforms’ bring. Interestingly, the Gospel has little to say about such change, not because it is against it, but because the primary change needed is within the human heart, each human heart, your heart and mine. We are captive to sin and to sub-human forces. The transformation that is needed for genuine change is to recognise our weaknesses and accept the grace Jesus offers. We need to look at people, relationships, society, ourselves, with the mind and heart of God. This brings in the reign of God and from this will flow changed behaviour – a behaviour that could have profound influence. For one whose heart has been cleansed of sin and selfishness is the one most capable of seeing a community’s needs and transforming them into places of grace.

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

‘Faith is a face to face vision in the dark.’
This paradoxical statement captures the ‘now and not yet’ of the reign of God. It presses in upon us, but like a presence in the dark, it is only felt, not seen. Personal and intimate, it entices us to live close to the heart of God yet we have little tangible evidence to ‘prove’ that it is there. We find it hard to describe, but we know the compulsion it places in the heart. To embrace such a life comes at a cost. Not one of silver or gold or the riches of this world but rather a giving up of our bondage to sin and the sub-human forces that can so easily dominate our lives.

Jesus’ emphasis throughout Mark’s Gospel will be on the transformation of the human heart that takes place when we turn from the bondage to Satan and freely accept a loving relationship with God. Make no mistake about it: Mark takes sin seriously. It binds us to sub human behaviour and in the face of its force, we are weak. But Jesus, the Strong Man, has come in on our side. The battle has been fought and won in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Now, we each have to ratify that victory in our hearts and lives.

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 Calling of Peter and Andrew    by  Duccio di Buoninsegna.

– Charles Cuisin’s painting gives an image of a strong fisherman who Jesus is watching.  Perhaps this is the moment before Jesus calls him.

– [William Brassey Hole’s presentation  shows how he sees Jesus’ lodgings on the side of the Jordan.

– This is James Tissot’s Calling of Sts Peter and Andrew.

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

Jesus calls each of us as he did those first disciples to be fishers of people. As you interact with people this week, mull on the ways you could draw them into the presence of Jesus.

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.

When you are at rest, imagine Jesus asking you, ‘What do you want?’ Allow all your different wants and desires to rise. Don’t let shame or embarrassment hold you back. When you have allowed them all to rise, sift amongst them and tell Jesus the important ones.

Sit with these for a while. Then ask Jesus how you could begin to go about fulfilling these desires. What practical measures would help you make them a reality?

Rest in the love of your God.