June 10 2018 (B) Tenth Sunday of the Year (B)
- The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
- Reflection and Dialogue: Ongoing mission of the Church in hostile circumstances.
- A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
First Reading (Genesis 3:9-15). I will make you enemies of each other; you and the woman; your offspring and her offspring. This passage comes towards the ending of the Garden of Eden narrative after the man and the woman (Eve and Adam) have eaten of the forbidden fruit. The earlier relationship of friendship between God and them had now ended, after the woman had allowed herself to be deceived by the serpent. God (or to use the terminology of this section of Genesis the Lord God) now proceeds to declare the punishment to follow for each of those involved, in the order of their offence – first the serpent, then the woman and finally the man (Adam).
We should view this narrative, as the Paradise account in general, at different levels. First there is the message intended by the first author or the original narrative. Then we have the manner in which this sacred narrative was viewed and interpreted by later generations, as its content was reflected on in the light of later developments with regard to divine revelation. In the first instance Eve and Adam are reminded of the harsh realities facing each of them in the world they will know, and as later generations with experience – the pains of childbirth, the inferior status of women, the toils of making a living in difficult environments, ending in a return to earth at death.
It is possible that in the first instance God’s words to the serpent may be merely descriptive of a serpent’s perceived nature and food were, as those to Eve and Adam originally were unlike cattle, with no legs, crawling, perceived as eating dust, in ongoing enmity with the woman and her seed, with some undefined outcome to this. However, later Jewish reflection would develop this foundation text of humanity’s origin and future. The Book of Wisdom (2:24), about 30 B.C., identifies the serpent with the devil: “Through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it”. Later Jewish reflection would go further. In an Aramaic paraphrase of the passage, possibly current in New Testament times, God tells the serpent, concerning this ongoing enmity with the children of the woman, that when these children observe the Law they will smite the serpent on the head and kill it. There will be a remedy for the children of the woman, but not for the serpent and the victory will come in the days of the Messiah. Paul may have such a tradition in mind when concluding his letter to the Romans he prays that they may be wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; then, he continues, the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Romans 16:19-20).
This Old Testament reading is aptly chosen to go with today’s Gospel text in which Jesus speaks of the victory over Satan.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 129). With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 4:13-5:1). We believe, and we therefore speak. In the passage immediately preceding this Paul has spoken of the dignity of the New Covenant and of the transparency it requires of the ministers of the Gospel. The God who once said “Let light shine out of darkness” (Genesis 1:3) has shone again in the hearts of Paul and the ministers of the Gospel. It is a tremendous treasure in the weak earthen vessels of humans, and success comes from God alone. He then goes on to narrate some of what he has suffered for the Gospel, afflicted in every way, persecuted but never despairing. Why does he continue despite all this? He gives his answer in the opening sentence of this reading today. He has the same spirit of faith as the Psalmist (Psalm 116:10): “I believed and so I spoke” – his belief in the power of God to give success to his mission. This leads him to reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, which implies ultimate success and eternal joy for himself. It strengthens his faith. He knows that even though his weak human nature (“outer man”) is fading away, the inner life of grace and union with God (“the inner man”) is being renewed. The present troubles which will soon be over for him carry a weight of eternal glory. This has him reflect on the eternal realities, the invisible not those the eye can see. His final reflection on all this is expressed by looking at his bodily life on earth as an earthly tent and his eternal spiritual body in heaven as a house built by God, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in heaven.
Gospel (Mark 3:20-35). It is the end of Satan. In this reading the have a typical feature of Mark’s style of writing known as “the sandwich technique”, in which he begins with one narrative, suddenly changes to another ending with a return to the original one, or one related to it. There is a unity running through the entire section in that it speaks of increased alienation from Jesus and opposition to him and his mission.
Jesus has been working miracles, and crowds were following him. Mark gives no reason for the concern of his relatives about him, apparently his safety and his very sanity. (We may note, although not too relevant here, that his mother and his brothers will all be believers in Jesus and united with the Apostles waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:14.)
Mark notes that the opposition against Jesus is now increasing, with scribes arriving from Jerusalem accusing him of sorcery, accusing him of casting out devils through Beelzebul, one of the names then current for Satan and demonic persons. At his baptism Jesus was anointed with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and in the strength of that Spirit he cast out devils and healed. This was the sign that in him the kingdom of God had come, or was coming. To attribute this his work to Satan himself was the most serious of sins, which would explain Jesus’ very harsh words on it.
The final section of the reading returns to Jesus’ family. Jesus words on his mother and his brothers may seem hard, but must be viewed in regard with the purpose of the section, which is Jesus’ statement that his true family, mother, sisters and brothers belong to the realm of faith, those who do the will of God, central to which in Jesus’ mission would be acceptance of Jesus and his work as God’s messenger. This section makes the statement that despite the position of family relatives or opposition from adversaries, the work of Jesus will continue in a new family of faith and obedience to God’s will, obedience to the Gospel in Paul’s words.
As is clear from Luke’s Gospel and Christian tradition, of course, the mother of Jesus is the ideal believer, who began the process of the coming of the kingdom with her humble act of faith and obedience, in her reply to the angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:29).
- B. Reflection and the Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day. Ongoing mission of the Church in hostile circumstances.
The topic for reflection and ongoing dialogue with the society of our day seems clear from all three readings today. It is the mission to preach the Gospel, in season and out of season. Jesus himself expressed his conviction about his mission. He would not be detained in just one town in Galilee. He and his disciples had to go beyond this to proclaim the good message there also; “for that is what I came out to do (Mark 1:38). Likewise with Paul: “ If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). This tremendous mission for weak mortal nature was a treasure in clay jars, to make Paul and others realize that success could come only from God, from the power of the risen Jesus. He had reason to despair and not carry on, In a passage immediately before today’s second reading he lists some of these trials and contradictions: afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in his body the death of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7-10). But he never gives up, de to his faith in Christ. As he says in today’s reading, he has the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with Scripture: “I believed and so I spoke”. He believed in the resurrection of Jesus and of the power of God with believers to the end of time.
The ongoing struggle between believers and contrary powers is already foreshadowed in the book of Genesis, as in the first reading today. In our own day, in the old world, and in our own country, some may be tempted to believe that the forces against the Church are now too strong, and driven to give up the struggle. This would be contrary to that the Gospel message stands for. The struggle is part of the Christian existence. With the Psalmist and with Paul we can express our faith in the words: “We believe, and for that reason we speak”, we act and continue in our mission no be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.