GOSPEL READINGS FOR MARCH 2003
Sunday 8th. of Ordinary Time. Mk 2, 18-22.
Yes, the best fasting is to be ¡¥friends of the bridegroom¡¦ (Jesus) and to follow him wherever he goes. In other words, to live and work following the others¡¦ needs here and now. This is the new skin (mentality) for the new life Jesus brings. And this is what LENT is all about.
Sun 1st. of Lent. Mk 1, 12-15.
¡§Be converted and believe¡K¡¨ The greatest change is not from bad conduct to good conduct, or from good conduct to better conduct. The greatest change is from unbelief to believe. This is the change Jesus encourages and helps us to make.
Sun 2nd. of Lent. Mk 9, 1-9.
Jesus tries to help at least the tree closest to him to accept what is going to come. For this purpose he points to the other side of suffering, namely the joy and glory which suffering brings with it. But, for the time being, they only pay attention to the ¡¥happy ending¡¦. They need time and the experience of suffering.
Sun 3rd. of Lent. Jn 4, 5-42.
The long path Jesus walks in dialogue with the Samaritan woman is the long path He wants to walk with each of us until we face and accept our whole self: our desires, frustrations, failures, smallness and greatness. It is also the long path we have to walk with each other to give Jesus the chance to walk with each person. Is not this the ¡¥worship in spirit and in truth¡¦?
Sun 4th. of Lent. Jn 9, 1-41.
When you have really been touched and healed by Jesus (as this blind man did, and not the paralytic of Jn 5) you really go and give witness, even when facing opposition.
Again and again I have to listen to people saying: ¡§But I do not understand the gospel¡¨. Other people are all the time looking for ¡§teachings of Jesus¡¨. A buddhist friend sent me a Xmas card this year and gave me a detailed report of what he finds in his daily gospel reading, and compared with his findings when reading buddhist books. Perhaps, if you start by using the basic powers of knowing which you have been given (seeing, listening and touching) when approaching the gospel, you will be happy to find unforeseen results. Let us try concretely a passage, which is quite complicated and even confusing and struck me when it came in the liturgy: Mk 5, 1-20. Let us observe how much any person, without much knowledge of the gospel, just by observing the text, can find out by herself and, better, in a small group: (the words in parenthesis are added by me.)
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes.(find the place in a map and follow Jesus and the disciples) 2 When he got out of the boat, at once a man 2 from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. 3 The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. 4 In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.(from these details we can see that the situation was very serious) 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.(the situation of that man was very pitiful) 6 Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, 7 crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!"(we can observe and listen to these strange words: he needs help but begs Jesus to go away) 8 (He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!") 9 He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." 10 And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. 11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. 12 And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." 13 And he let them,(you may also observe that Jesus, who first had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man, now accepts to send them into the swine) and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. (you need neither to believe nor to doubt about this, just accept it, for the time being, as it is said) 14 The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. 15 As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear.(notice how what they have seen arises fear in those people) 16 Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine.(the eyewitness do their job) 17 Then they began to beg him to leave their district.(you may think why) 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. 19 But he would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." (we would probably welcome him perhaps in order to continue helping him or just to have one more follower, but Jesus acts differently) 20 Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
The events narrated in this passage may have happened as they are written, the numbers and other details maybe exaggerated with some concrete purpose, they may have some symbolic meaning. Plenty of possibilities should be studied in order to listen more carefully what the primitive Church wanted to tell us about Jesus and his work. But, even without this study, we can perceive a very rich message. We can see a person in great distress, who cannot be helped by human power. We can see Jesus perfectly calm while facing this person; he even changes his mind and, without any special gesture, just by simple command, makes that man free. We can see the reaction of fear among the people of that area and their conclusion: please, go away, and we may think why do they react that way. Finally, we see Jesus reacting so differently by sending that man back to his family to tell them how the Lord has been merciful to him. And that man obeyed. If, when we come across a passage like this we just give up by saying: I do not understand! we miss all these and more other experiences we can have by just approaching it using our senses. By the way, you may realize that the Gospel is not, so much, to be understood or to draw some moral conclusions from it. The Gospel is rather to give us a chance to ¡§see, hear and touch the Word of God which existed from the beginning¡¨ (1 John 1, 1). Through this experience of seeing, hearing and touching we are changed into different persons and different communities. This is salvation.