8 July 2018 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of his neighbours. Many would suggest that if Jesus was to come among us again he would be amazed at how Ireland has changed. People living in fear of being attacked in their homes. Violence and robbery and suicide are on the increase. During his Irish visit some years back, then-president Bill Clinton reminded us of our need to return to core values alongside the journey to economic recovery. A country’s economic difficulties are not the end of the world but the beginning of another chapter in our history. ‘We need to help our friends not just to recover but to keep their heads on straight while recovering.’ If just before dying every person had thirty lucid minutes I doubt that many would spend them thinking how great it was to be rich or celebrated in this life. They would rather think about people they had loved, and how the flowers smelled and rivers sparkled in the summer. Parents would remember their joy when their children were born or when they were united to a life-partner at the altar of matrimony. Times change but values and personal relationships last. What part would our faith play in those final, lucid moments? Hopefully, we will hand ourselves over peacefully into the arms of God. But if this kind of faith is to be handed on to the next generation, we Catholics will have to stand up and be counted. We need to talk about the values and principles we hold dear. Prophets who speak up may not always be accepted among their own people but silence is not enough nowadays. We need to speak the truth we believe in, and keep the faith.
15 July 2018 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 6:7-13
Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Up until this point in Mark’s Gospel the disciples have been travelling with Jesus, listening to his teaching and witnessing his actions. Now they are called to take a more active role. They have watched him drive out demons and cure the sick. Now they are called on to repeat in their own lives and mission, exactly what he does himself. This is a great test of their response to what they have learned thus far. They are to take nothing with them but a staff and sandals, the symbols of the wandering missionary. Nothing else is necessary; they rely on God as they follow Jesus. When they are accepted by people, they are to remain with them, a sign that the kingdom of God is near at hand. For those who reject them, simply shake off the dust and continue the journey. As we saw in last week’s gospel, nothing can be achieved where there is no faith.
22 July 2018 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
In last week’s gospel, we read of the disciples being sent out on their mission to preach, cast out devils and cure the sick. Their mission has been a great success and now they excitedly return to tell Jesus of ‘all they had done and taught’. They are weary but still the people come. They are so busy that they don’t even have time to eat! Jesus is aware of their needs and insists that they find a quiet place to rest. But the crowds too have their needs and they follow Jesus and the disciples, yearning for answers to their problems. Jesus is also moved with compassion when he sees the needs of the people. They are like lost sheep who are desperately searching for truth but don’t know where to find it, so he sets himself the task of teaching them and bringing them closer to that truth. Jesus meets the needs of both the disciples and the crowds and thus becomes the ‘good shepherd’ who will look after his flock.