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Praedicatho homélies à temps et à contretemps
Homélies du dimanche, homilies, homilieën, homilias. "C'est par la folie de la prédication que Dieu a jugé bon de sauver ceux qui croient" 1 Co 1,21

The gospel: fresh or out of preserves ? - Homily 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Walter Covens #homilies in English
15 TOB ev
 
 
    We enter a new section of the gospel of Marc1. Of this new section the liturgy will make us hear several passages (but not all !) between the 15th and the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Too often we are satisfied to read the Gospel by small pieces. The Sunday liturgy itself cuts out in pieces a coherent text, giving rise to serious misunderstandings if we are satisfied to be only "Sunday Christians". The Word of the gospel is much more than a succession of anecdotic accounts. It is really worth while to quietly read through Mc 6 : 6 – 8 : 30. You will be surprised to notice that these chapters form a beautiful and very coherent unit which challenges our faith highly. You will then have the surprise of those who know pineapple only out of can, in cut sections, and who, may be during their holiday in the West Indies, discover that a pineapple is a beautiful fruit that needs to bend down to be harvested. At the same time, you will not dream any more, like this indeed very badly informed poet, who pretended to take a nap "in the shade of pineapples in flowers".

       What is the main subject of these three chapters of Marc ? The word "breads" occurs eighteen times, as well as the verb "to eat" and "to be satisfied". This is why this section is called "the section of the breads".

       What is also characteristic of this section, is the geography. After being rejected by "his home city", Jesus "circulated in the villages around, while teaching". The sending on mission of the Twelve goes in the same direction of an extension of the Kingdom of God : by sending them, Jesus widens his activity in words and in acts, not only among the Jews, but also among the pagan ones (7 : 24...)

       Through the instructions given to the envoys, Jesus reveals what is true and essential food for the road, by referring to the history of Israel. And it starts by pointing out to them what is the essence of the equipment of the people when it was on the point of eating first Passover of the history, according to the book of the Exodus :
 
And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand… (Ex 12 : 11)


In S. Marc Jesus

 

ordered them to take nothing for the journey except a stick … They were to wear sandals.

Want is essential to a journey in the name of the Lord who can give from day to day what is appropriate, as He formerly did for the people in the desert :

 

(the Lord your God) made you experience hunger, but he gave you the manna to eat which neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that man lives not on bread alone, but that all that proceeds from the mouth of God is life for man. (Dt 8 : 3)


       The sending of the Twelve is like an Exodus of the ground of Egypt towards the Promised Land, while passing through the Red Sea and the desert. The instructions are the same ones as for the twelve tribes of Israel which, the night, were to eat Passover with haste, ready to leave : a stick with the hand and sandals with the feet (contrary to Matthew and Luke !). The Pascal meal is seen like a food to support the forces of the pilgrims. Their true fatherland, the true Promised Earth, is the Kingdom announced by Jesus :

 

Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead and had rejoiced in it from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travelers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove that are looking for their own country. For if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one ; so God, who prepared the city for them is not ashamed of being called their God. " (He 11 : 13-16).

Peter, one of the Twelve, will write after Pentecost :

 

From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Jews who live outside their homeland… to those whom God the Father has called, according to his plan, and made holy by the Spirit, to aboy Jesus Christ and be purified by his blood : may grace and peace increase among you. (1 P. 1 : 1-2)

And also :

 

My dear brothers, while you are strangers and exiles, I urge you not to indulge in selfish passions which wage war on the soul. (1 P 2 : 11)


       This is what gives a meaning to poverty. It is not poverty for the sake of poverty, but the disencumberment of oneself to be able to travel without too much burden :

 

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is getting shorter, and those who are married must live as if not married ; those who weep as if not weeping ; those who are happy as if they were not happy ; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing. (1 Co 7 : 29-31)


       This is what gives a meaning, not only to poverty, but also to hunger, tears and persecution :

 

Lifting up his eyes to his disciples, Jesus said : "Fortunate are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Forunate are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Fortunate are you when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Remember that is how the fathers of this people treated the prophets. But unhappy are you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Unhappy are you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Unhappy are you when the people speak well of you, for that is how the fathers of these people treated the false prophets." (Lc 6 : 20-26)


       So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent.

       As for the sick in body and heart, they are not forgotten. Oh no ! During their voyage in the search of the fatherland, the Lord grants to the Twelve to do the same as him. But whereas because of the incredulity of his compatriots, Jesus could only heal a few sick people, the Twelve "drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them".

 

Truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will do the same works as I do ; he wil do even greater than these, for I am going where the Father is. (Jn 14 : 12)

The Church is not some insipid dilution of Jesus. The Church is the "full" Jesus "for the multitude".

       Notice that S. Marc is the only among the evangelists to speak about the anointing of the sick in this context. Oil was used to heal wounds. Think of the good Samaritan, also travelling, and seeing another traveller who had fallen on gangsters. Stripped and beaten, he had had been left half dead. 

 

He went over to him and treated his wounds with oil and wine Lc 10 : 30-35).

The Twelve will do "the same" (v. 37). The Council of Trente teaches that in this gesture of the Twelve there is an "allusion" to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, which will be instituted by the Lord and later "recommended to faithful and promulgated by the apostle James" (cf James 5 : 14...).

       Speaking of the sick, Jean-Jacques Rousseau groaned : "So many people between God and me...". Here is the diagnosis of a certain Josef Ratzinger for those who who have the same desease :

 

It is for us a scandal that God must be communicated by a whole external apparatus : the Church, the sacraments, dogma, or even simply the preaching (kerygma), in which one takes refuge readily to attenuate the scandal, and which however is also something external. Vis-a-vis with all that the question arises : Does God live in the institutions, events or words ? Doesn't the Eternal reach each one of us from the inside ?

And then there are those who spend their time complaining about the bad example given by the popes of the Renaissance. As those of today are more presentable, one falls back on the the Vatican. Von Balthasar wrote a book entitled : "The anti-Roman complex". Of this work, he will write later :

 

a work of which the sale was difficult, because none of those who suffered from this disease bought it !
I fully agree with all those who complain about the bad example given by some of the clergy, and who call for a "reform" of the Church,

writes André Manaranche, a french Jesuit,

 

provided that they start with themselves, that they do not destroy the Church from the inside and that they do not leave the Church with insolence !

And he quotes in a footnote a passage of a fictitious letter which Bernanos addressed to Martin Luther, and saying in substance :

 

My dear Martin, you had a lot of trouble with the priests : how I understand you, because so do I ! But you reacted the wrong way. See Fancis of Assisi : he surely leaped with indignation in front of the crested and frivolous clerks of his time, but instead of denouncing them, he was lived in poverty as in a purifying bath. He did not reform anything, except himself. And he succeeded in restoring a Church that was falling in ruins. Whereas you, the smart and virulent reformer, you ended up becoming a man with swollen cheeks and dull eyes. What a mess !


       Let us return to our pineapple for one moment. If you want it natural, what does the Gospel of saint Marc say ? The first words of the Gospel of Marc affirm clearly the divinity of Jesus Christ :

 

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God " (Mc 1 : 1)

This assertion of the divinity of Jesus, such as expressed by Marc in the first words of his Gospel, is undoubtedly a summary of the message contained in his book. A summary that, in addition, the evangelist presents as a key necessary to the comprehension of all the things which the reader will discover thereafter : if it is not believed that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, one cannot understand the Gospel. All the heresies, including the errors which relate to the mystery of the Church, finally amount to falling into one from the two extremes : either to deny the divinity of Jesus, or to deny his humanity.

The Holy Spirit allowed the words of a Roman officer present at Jesus’ deayth to be reported as to summarize the Gospel of S. Marc :

 

The captain who was standing in front of him saw how Jesus died and heard the cry he gave, and he said, "Truly, this man was the Son of God". (Mc 15 : 39)

This centurion was ripe to enter the Church.

       The Vatican II Council (LG 8) teaches that this mystery is not without analogy with the mystery of the Church:

 

The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element. For this reason the Church is compared, not without significance, to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature, inseparably united to him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a somewhat similar way, does the social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ who vivfies it, in the building up of the body (cf. Eph. 4 :15).

    It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to see Jesus today.
    It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to hear Jesus today.
    It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to touch Jesus today.

    Without the Church, Jesus is a vague memory of twenty centuries ago.

       Long live Jesus !

       Long live the Church !

       And do not forget : eat pineapples but fresh, not out of preserves !


1. Traduit du français : 

L’ÉVANGILE : FRAIS OU EN CONSERVES ? (Mc 6, 7-13)

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