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Spiritual Reflections

Comings of the Christ

With the season of Advent, a new liturgical year begins, and the praying assembly is called to look back with gratitude on all that has been and forward with hope to what will be. In looking back, we are to ponder what J.B. Phillips has called “the towering miracle of God’s visit to this planet” (“The Christian Year,” Good News: Thoughts on God and Man, Macmillan, 1963).

Parousia postponed

It’s impossible to understand today’s first and third readings without an appreciation of the idea of biblical apocalyptic literature.    

The Bible isn’t a book, it’s a library. Not only does it include books written by different authors at various times, but, like any library, it contains works composed in different genres. We need only walk into our local library and look at the names above the bookshelves to surface those genres: history, fiction, reference, biography, etc.

Two daring women

Jesus chose unlikely role models for his disciples to emulate. In a society where children were regarded as the property of their fathers, with no rights or voice of their own, Jesus set forth a child and claimed that the kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” He also held up people who were thought to be ritually unclean or even sinful because of a physical malady or their ethnicity (the Gerasene demoniac, the woman with a hemorrhage in Mark 5; the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7; the boy with a demon in Mark 9; blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10).

Listen! Love!

In today’s liturgy, the Testaments meet. Both affirm that loving God and loving one another are the essential challenges that identify believers and authenticate their faith. However, this love is not about feelings. On the contrary, love is a deliberate decision to serve another regardless of our emotions. Love, as Ralph Kuehner and Joseph Juknialis have noted, is about making decisions based upon the vision of Jesus, despite the allure of those many other visions that may be clamoring for our attention and allegiance (Living the Word, World Library Pub., 2005).

A blind beggar sees

Unless we understand the original context in which Mark placed today’s gospel pericope, we won’t appreciate the important theological message he tried to convey.

Mark has just concluded his last prediction-misunderstanding-clarification passage on dying with Jesus. He and his disciples are leaving Jericho, the last town before they reach Jerusalem. The next narrative describes his triumphant Palm Sunday entrance into the holy city. Mark has just one bit of unfinished business before he narrates Jesus’ last days. His chance meeting with Bartimaeus will take care of that business.

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October 10-23, 2014

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