I think most of us experience the readings of today -- and it always happens at the end of the church year -- as being kind of, well, frightening or perhaps kind of dismal. Even the kind of gloomy day that we have seems to fit in with the readings. And we find them puzzling, I think, and so perhaps the first thing we need to remind ourselves of as we try to reflect on these readings is that the Gospel reading and the passage from the Book of Daniel are both what we would call apocalyptic writings -- like the Book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament.
The Peace Pulpit
Because Bishop Gumbleton was out of town November 12, we do not have Special NCR coverage notice:
a homily to post this week. Please return next week to read the bishop's latest homily.
Special NCR coverage notice:
Every week as we try to listen deeply to God's Word it's important to put the passage that we listen to on a particular Sunday into the larger context of the gospel and that's especially important today if we're really going to respond in an adequate way to what Jesus is teaching us. As I reminded you before we began the gospel, this has been a continuous reading of Mark's Gospel, and we've traveled with Jesus on this last journey to Jerusalem. Along the way he kept teaching us how to be a disciple.
So today as we listen to the gospel, we realize that we are coming to the end of this last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. For six weeks now we have been listening to Jesus teach his disciples -- teach us -- as he walked this final journey. Jericho is the last stop before they get to Jerusalem where it will all happen as Jesus had told them. He will be handed over to enemies, people who hate him. They'll torture him, nail him to the cross, crucify him, but then on the third day he'll rise again.
For six Sundays now, we have been traveling together with Jesus and the disciples as they make this journey to Jerusalem, and Jesus has been instructing them on what it means to be a disciple and so of course that instruction is for us. We are the community of the disciples of Jesus. That's what the church is; that's what our parish is -- a community of disciples.
As I read through various commentaries this week on the scriptures, I came across this item: "Biographers of W.C. Fields", a stand up comedian many decades ago, "always narrate an episode which happened shortly before he died. A friend came to visit him in the hospital and was amazed to find the comedian reading a Bible. 'I didn't know you were a religious person, Bill,' the friend said. 'I'm not!' Fields shot back. 'Then what are you doing with that Bible?' 'Looking for loopholes.' "
As I mentioned in introducing the Gospel, we continue to listen to Mark's description of this final journey of Jesus with his disciples to Jerusalem where he is to suffer and be put to death, and along the way Jesus is instructing them about discipleship -- how to be his disciples. He's asking for some radical change in their thinking and in their way of acting and so if we listen carefully to what he is teaching us, we too, if we wish to be his disciples, will discover that we need to change, perhaps even radically, in our thinking and in the way we act.
In order to reflect on these Scriptures today, it's very important, I think, for us to remind ourselves of the context within which we hear these particular readings. Three Sundays ago we began a short cycle of readings that all have to do with hearing God's Word. On that first Sunday, we had a passage from Isaiah where we were instructed about what it means to be a disciple. Each of us is a disciple of Jesus. "Morning after morning God wakes me up to hear, to listen, like a disciple." To be a disciple means to be a learner, to listen, to hear and Isaiah speaks about how God, every morning, alerts him so that he can listen, he can hear. And this is what we must do. We must commit ourselves to hearing deeply God's Word because that is what will form us, help us to become truly, authentically a disciple of Jesus. And our lessons have shown us where we must turn to listen. We listen to God's Word in the Scriptures. We listen to God's Word as it's proclaimed through the whole community of disciples -- the Church.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Bishop Gumbleton was unable to provide us with a homily this Sunday.
Many times, you've heard me refer to our community as a community of disciples. This is what the whole church is, a community of disciples of Jesus. If that's the case, then of course, it's very important to understand what it means to be a disciple. As I mentioned in introducing the first lesson, Isaiah makes it very clear that the first thing about being a disciple is to be one who listens, listens deeply to God's word. "God has taught me, so I speak as God's disciple. Morning after morning God wakes me up to hear, to listen, like a disciple. God has opened my ear."