Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 9, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said,

Honor your father and your mother, and whoever curses father or mother shall die.

Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: There are many ways to read scripture. If we read this passage critically, that is, with a scholarly eye to what the author’s choices mean, it teaches us one set of facts. If we this passage for its inspiration, it teaches us another set of facts.

A critical reading of the text tells us something important about the Gospel of Mark. The author of the gospel appears to be Jewish because he is familiar with a Hebrew word and Jewish customs like the purification rituals. But because he is explaining a Hebrew term and Jewish practices to his readers, his audience logically does not seem to be Jewish, since if they were Jewish, there would be no reason to explain these things. Since first century Christians who were not Jews were Gentiles, passages like this one suggest to scholars that the audience of the Gospel of Mark was Gentile Christians.

Of course, the audience of the gospel evident in this passage is an interesting aside. The deeper point of this passage is about the difference between our actions and our hearts. Jesus makes clear that God does not value meaningless performances; God values what we mean by what we do. What we do is not unimportant, but unless we put our hearts into it, God does not esteem it. So love what you do, and do nothing religiously that has no meaning for you. If nothing you do religiously is meaningful for you, look for something that is, or find a way to fill your religious behaviors with meaning. Be transformed.

To illustrate this, let me relate a story about Abba Joseph of Panephysis, one of the desert fathers:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

You see, Abba Lot had many fine pious practices that were a part of his daily routine, but when he asked Abba Joseph what else he could do, Abba Joseph told him to throw his whole self into it. It’s good advice.

Saint of the day: Born in November, 1854 at Cuenca, Ecuador, Miguel Febres Cordero Muñoz, was a member of a prominent family. Born with an unknown disability, he was unable to stand until age five when he received a vision of Our Lady. At age eight, he was miraculously protected from being mauled by a wild bull. In 1863, at age nine, he enrolled in a school run by the Christian Brothers, a congregation that had only recently come to Ecuador. He joined the Brothers in 1868 at age 13.

A school teacher at El Cebollar School, Quito, a position he held for 32 years, Miguel was a gentle, dedicated, and enthusiastic teacher. He wrote his own textbooks, the first at age 17; some were adopted by the government, and used throughout the country. He wrote odes, hymns, discourses on teaching methods, plays, inspirational works, and retreat manuals. Elected to the Ecuadoran Academy of Letters in 1892, he soon after became a member of the Academies of Spain, France, and Venezuela. He conducted religious retreats and prepared children for their First Communion. He served as novice director for his house from 1901 to 1904.

Sent to Europe in 1905 to translate texts from French to Spanish for use by the Order, he worked primarily in Belgium. His health began to fail in 1908, and he was transferred to the school near Barcelona, Spain. He continued to work, but slowly, his health continued to fail, and he died there in 1910. In addition to being a religious role model, Miguel is considered a national hero in Ecuador for his success in so many worthwhile areas.

Spiritual reading: Teach us how to love, and here we come to the sixty-four thousand dollar question: Is loving an emotion? Is love a state? Or is it a Person? It is the person of the Carpenter who spent thirty years in a village of no account. Teach us how to love a Person, because love is a Person. (Catherine Doherty)

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