In today's Gospel (Mark 10:35-45), Jesus is closing in on Jerusalem, the destination where he will be crushed by the ruling authorities. Two of his closest followers, James and John, ask him for special seats of honor and positions of power when Jesus finally arrives “in his glory.” Although it’s an undignified request it shouldn’t surprise us. It might also anger us, just as it does Jesus’ other friends, perhaps because we and they didn’t think of asking first.
Today's Gosepl tells the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. After an exchange about the importance of following the commandments, Jesus then looks upon him lovingly and says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor… then come, follow me.” The story ends with the man going away sad because he had many possessions. Many interpret this passage as speaking about the need to be detached from material wealth or possessions. All well and good!
Today’s Gospel readings, as well as the first reading, deal with divorce. The Gospel also deals with Jesus’ love for children, but let’s look at divorce first. At the time of Jesus, the Jews, following the Law of Moses, were permitted to divorce their wives by writing out a decree of divorce.
So what do you do for a living?”
“I work for the Catholic Church.”
“Ah, very interesting,” the person often will respond. “And what do you do for the Catholic Church?”
“Well, I’ve held a variety of roles,” I reply. “But I’m currently at a parish in Chicago serving as the Director of Evangelization and Adult Formation.”
(Even lifelong Catholics usually greet that last part with a confused stare.)
Driving in town has to be the most competitive sport within the City of Chicago. Forget the Bear’s defense. Drivers in Chicago are on the greatest defensive team. Drivers dodge other cars, pedestrians, potholes, and construction zones. We become irritated with pedestrians who wear earbuds and can barely hear an ambulance coming down the street. The simple commute can seem like a race from start to finish and a feat just to avoid being hit or hitting something else.
The readings this weekend are rich with content, direction and questions, I encourage you to spend more time with them in the week ahead. I personally think the most interesting question is, how do I explain the word “Messiah”? I have to be honest, I haven’t really taken the time to sit down and reflect on this question in my life until now. Yes, we can look up the dictionary definition, but how do I explain the Messiah? How do you explain the Messiah?
In the Gospel from Mark this Sunday, we hear of the event in which a deaf man with a speech impediment is brought before Jesus. After pleas for healing from those who brought him, Jesus “took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven” and said ’Ephphatha!’—this is, ‘Be opened!’—and immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” This miracle speaks volumes about the healing touch and power of Jesus, allowing this man a new take on life.
Today's Scripture readings are a perfect example of the timelessness of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. In the second reading today we have from the Letter of James, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” He then goes on to describe pure and undefiled religion and what it is. “Care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
In light of the recent grand jury report out of Pennsylvania relating to clergy sexual abuse it was requested the following transcript of last week's homily by Father Paul Seaman be sent to everyone. This is a not a complete response and will be a continuing discussion in our church family.
"Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil."
Last weekend I spoke at all the Masses about the recent grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Church in Pennsylvania. I want to thank everyone for your comments, questions, and words of support. It was very difficult to speak, but I felt it important that you hear what I, as pastor, had to say. When the Church is under fire, it is tempting to become defensive. It is tempting to talk about all the good and real things the Church does that changes people’s lives for the better. That is certainly part of the picture. But right now, we simply need to sit in the mess.