Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What (then) will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture passage:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes.
They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our readings from Mark’s gospel are coming to a close this week. Today’s passage gives the parable of the wicked tenants, a story that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all narrate. The meaning of this parable of the Lord is readily evident, and Mark places the parable in his recounting of the events of the Lord’s final days before his crucifixion. It is an allegory about the unfolding of history. The vineyard owner is God, and the servants that God sends are the prophets. The people continually reject the words of the prophets, and for this reason, God sends to them God’s own Son, who of course is Jesus. In the end, the people kill even Jesus. But this is not the end of the story, for Jesus quotes the scripture about the stone that is rejected by the builders becoming the cornerstone.
Our God is a God of transformation and renewal. Every wretched horrible thing in human history, and most particularly the cruel and unjust death of Jesus, God uses to fashion something new and heretofore unimagined. Our God is the God of renewal and change: a God of the dearest freshness deep down things. Our God is the God of the living and not the God of the dead.
Saint of the day: Amazing! A young, unwed girl finds herself pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Should she hide from the possibility of the culturally-conditioned sentence of death by stoning? No, instead the dispossessed young women hurries to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, whom the angel said was with child. Miracles are all around. But not just big miracles, such a the virginal conception and conception at an old age. There is the miracle of love: Mary must have realized that her cousin’s pregnancy would be difficult at such an advanced age and went to share her burden. Then there is the miracle of the revelation of life in the womb as the children danced in greeting; the prophet meets his Savior. What joy! To top it off, we have the bridge between the Old Testament and the New in the Magnificat. Today is indeed a day of celebration of life and fruitfulness in the spring of the year.
Spiritual reading: Do whatever he tells you. (Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Gospel of John.)
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today is the celebration of diversity in the undivided life of God. The Church from very close to the death and resurrection of Jesus has understood and taught the Trinitarian reality of the one God. Matthew, written probably in the 80s, has an explicit reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Jesus’ commandment to go out and baptize, and the oldest extent copies of Matthew contain this formula. Paul, writing to the Philippians in the 50s, quotes a beautiful Christological hymn, a hymn that well may date to the late 30s and one that contains overt inferences to the divinity of Jesus. The very term that the New Testament over and over again uses to refer to Jesus, the Greek word Kurios meaning Lord, is exclusively reserved to God in the Old Testament. It is quite true that the dogmatic definition of the Trinity occurred in 325 at Nicaea, but that event was just an effort to put a clear label on an experience that the followers of Jesus believed and prayed from the very earliest years of the Christian community. The triune nature of the one God is not something that the mind readily accepts, but it is how Christians from the very inception of the Church have interacted with God. And in an age that has recognized and celebrated the immense diversity of human experience even as it still longs for community, the interior life of God teaches us that perfect unity despite multiplicity is not just possible but the most basic condition of reality.
God for Us, we call you Father.
God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus
God Within Us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things.
Even us, and even me.
Every name falls short of you
Goodness and Greatness.
We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.
As it was in the beginning, is now,
And ever shall be. Amen.
(Richard Rohr, OFM)
Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him and said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”– they feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage addresses openness to Jesus. The leaders of the people see themselves as the ultimate source of authority. Knowing that Jesus does not have their blessing to do what he does, they ask him where he gets the right to teach and minister. Jesus replies that he will tell them if they will answer a question. The question is about the source of John’s baptism and whether it came from heaven or earth. The leaders recognize that Jesus has laid a trap for them, so they decline to answer. If they answer that John’s baptism came from heaven, Jesus will ask why they did not receive it, but if they answer that John’s baptism had a human origin, the people will be disturbed, because they believed John was a servant of God’s will. Because the leaders decline to answer, Jesus likewise declines to answer.
But Jesus actually really has answered the leaders’ question with his question. The people recognized the overwhelming evidence that John provided that John’s baptism was from God, and the people likewise recognized the overwhelming evidence that Jesus’ words and acts were from God. It is a cold hard heart that does not melt in the presence of what Jesus says and does, and the lesson this gospel teaches us is radical openness to the Lord’s presence in our lives.
Saint of the day: Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in 1779. Her legacy can be found in the more than 100 schools operated by her Society of the Sacred Heart, institutions known for the quality of the education made available to the young.
Sophie herself received an extensive education, thanks to her brother, Louis, 11 years older and her godfather at baptism. Himself a seminarian, he decided that his younger sister would likewise learn Latin, Greek, history, physics, and mathematics—always without interruption and with a minimum of companionship. By age 15, she had received a thorough exposure to the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and theology. Despite the oppressive regime Louis imposed, young Sophie thrived and developed a genuine love of learning.
Sophie lived during the French Revolution, which saw the suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young, particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. During this period, Sophie, who had concluded that she was called to the religious life, was persuaded to begin her life as a nun and as a teacher. She founded the Society of the Sacred Heart, which would focus on schools for the poor as well as boarding schools for young women of means; today, co-ed Sacred Heart schools can be found as well as schools exclusively for boys.
In 1826, her Society of the Sacred Heart received formal approval. By then she had served as superior at a number of convents. In 1865, she was stricken with paralysis; she died that year on the feast of the Ascension.
Spiritual reading: If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. (Mother Teresa)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs.
And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it. They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.”
The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.
Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage we read today is in the closing section of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has made his last journey to Jerusalem, and he nears the time of his passion and death.
In this narrative, Jesus teaches the same one lesson in three ways. First, we have what is essentially a living parable. Jesus condemns a fig tree that is not ready to bear fruit. In the second portion of the story, Jesus turns over the money changers’ tables in the temple and accuses them of making a house of prayer into a den of thieves. The end of the passage then makes clear that all of this is about faith. The fig tree is like those who appear to be green and alive but in reality, they have no fruit; their shows of religion are hypocritical. The money changers similarly are people who appear to be engaged in religion, but they actually are involved in pure commerce with a veneer of religion.
At the end of the passage, Jesus contrasts both of these examples with an unambiguous teaching that faith demands a complete commitment to truth which we have received. Faith is God’s gift to us, so let us pray today that we may receive that kind of faith that trusts God to do what God knows is best.
Saint of the day: Born in about 923 in Menthon, Savoy, Saint Bernard of Menthon was the son of a rich and noble family who were able to provide him a complete education. His family wanted him to marry, but he snuck away to join a Benedictine monastery. Ordained a priest, he evangelized the people of the Alps for over 40 years, he eventually became the vicar-general of Alpine diocese.
Bernard started a patrol that cleared robbers from the mountains, and he established hospices for travelers and pilgrims to Rome. He died in Italy in 1008.
His fame, however, probably results most from his association with a certain breed of large dogs. This breed, trained to search for lost victims in the mountains, is named for this very saint, and I am sure you know about them:
He who has come to men
dwells where we cannot tell
nor sight reveal him,
until the hour has struck
when the small heart does break
with hunger for him;
those who do merit least,
those whom no tongue does praise
the first to know him,
and on the face of the earth
the poorest village street
blossoming for him.
Jane Tyson Clement
Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Reflection on the gospel reading: I am loathe to repeat the cliche that there are many ways in which we humans can suffer from blindness, but it is perhaps a cliche because it it so apparent to all of us that it is true. Certainly, there is the kind of physical blindness that afflicted Bartimaeus, and we all have met people who cannot see in the physical way that Bartimaeus could not see. But there are many other kinds of blindness as well: kinds that are more pervasive and afflict even more of us than those whose physical vision is impaired. There are many examples: We can be blind to the beauty in God’s creation; we can be blind to the situations that others face; we can be blind to our own situation; we can be blind to the deepest meaning of life; we can be blind to the path that God calls us to tread. Bartimaeus in a sense represents all of us, for his physical blindness stands as a symbol of all the ways in which all of us are blind.
All of us have suffered, I think, the experience of being dismissed, of having our feelings and ideas being diminished. Bartimaeus was a man of little account in the world in which he lived, so in this second sense, Bartimaeus represents all of us. Because of Bartimaeus’s similarities to us in his inability to see and his weakness before the world, he has something to teach us: when he hears that Jesus is passing by, this blind, dismissed, and diminished human fearlessly shouts out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
The people around him tell him to be quiet. After all, Jesus is an important person, and Bartimaeus is a man of no position in the world. Bartimaeus, however, is undeterred. Consonant with Jesus’ teaching that we should be confident and consistent in prayer, Bartimaeus shouts again, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Bartimaeus is persistent in asking Jesus for help, and as the result of his persistence, Jesus hears him cry out and calls Bartimaeus to come to himself. Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, and in his nakedness, he approaches the Lord.
Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” And Bartimaeus responds, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus grants his request, and with his newly acquired vision, Bartimaeus is able to follow the Lord along the Lord’s way.
So it with us: in the midst of our blindness and marginalization, we may become disheartened and fail to call out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me.” But let us be attentive: the Lord is passing by. If he appears at first not to hear us, let us cry out again, “Have pity on me,” and persist until he hears our call. When the Lord asks us what we want, let us throw off our cloaks, those things which conceal who we are, and in the complete vulnerability of our nakedness before the Lord, approach him in confidence that if we ask for our sight, the Lord will not deny us. And when he restores us, let us with our new eyes train our sight on his way and follow the path he lays out for us as he leads us in his way.
Saint of the day: At the end of the sixth century anyone would have said that Augustine had found his niche in life. Looking at this respected prior of a monastery, almost anyone would have predicted he would spend his last days there, instructing, governing, and settling even further into this sedentary life.
But Gregory the Great had lived under Augustine’s rule in that same monastery. When he decided it was time to send missionaries to Anglo-Saxon England, he didn’t choose those with restless natures or the young looking for new worlds to conquer. He chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected, and dangerous, trip to England.
Missionaries had gone to Britain years before but the Saxon conquest of England had forced these Christians into hiding. Augustine and his monks were to bring these Christians back into the fold and convince the warlike conquerors to become Christians themselves.
Every step of the way they heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of their future hosts. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.
King Ethelbert himself wasn’t as sure, but he was a just king and curious. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him. Fearful that they would use magic on them, he held the meeting in the open air. There he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. He did not convert then but was impressed enough to let them continue to preach — as long as they didn’t force anyone to convert.
They didn’t have to — the king was baptized in 597. Unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religious a free choice. Nonetheless the following year many of his subjects were baptized.
Augustine was ordained bishop of the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because, although the English had embraced the new religion they still respected the old. Under the wise orders of Gregory the Great, Augustine aided the growth from the ancient traditions to the new life by consecrating pagan temples for Christian worship and turning pagan festivals into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury was built on the site of an ancient temple. Augustine was only in England for eight years before he died in 605.
Spiritual reading: Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe. (Augustine of Canterbury)
Gospel reading of the day:
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In Mark’s gospel, Jesus three times foretells his suffering and death. Today’s gospel passage relates the third time that Jesus makes this prediction. Over the last couple of days, we have seen the rich young man receive and reject a call to follow the Lord and Jesus’ subsequent teaching about the call to discipleship. Today’s gospel explains what the real price of following Jesus is and describes the nature of Christian discipleship.
The gospel reading suggests that Jesus and his disciples were on the way to Jerusalem. The text indicates that the disciples were very concerned about what Jesus was doing; after all, they knew that the authorities were after Jesus and they suspected this journey could have no good end. Surely, they must have wondered if Jesus appreciated the situation, but the Lord demonstrates to them that he knows exactly what he is doing and tells them precisely what will happen to him when they arrive in Jerusalem.
The sons of thunder, James and John, then come to the Lord and ask that they may sit one at Jesus’ right and one at his left when Jesus inherits his kingdom. This scene makes unambiguous that James and John still do not understand what Jesus is doing and saying; the brothers labor under the spell of a vision of an earthly kingdom. Jesus responds to their request with an explanation that the cost of discipleship is a willingness to pay even the ultimate price to reveal God and God’s way of life.
When the other disciples hear when James and John have asked to have, they naturally become incensed at their behavior. But Jesus explains to them that what they have imagined is greatness is all wrong. In the world that Jesus came to create, greatness is making oneself small, taking the lowest place at the table, washing the feet of others. True discipleship is service to others.
Saint of the day: Philip Neri was born July 22, 1515 at Florence, Italy. Though he was related to Italian nobility, Philip came from a poor family. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pray young person who was taught the humanities by the Dominicans. He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family members with their business, and while he was there, he would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received inspiration while in a deeply prayerful state that he had an apostolate in Rome. To follow his inspiration, he cut himself off from his family, and went there.
Philip was befriended by Galeotto Caccia who took Philip in and paid him to tutor his two sons. Philip wrote poetry in Latin and Italian and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor. He began to visit and care for the sick, and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He became a friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest, and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.
With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, and many people came to the Lord as the result of his preaching. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later he considered missionary work in India but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome. He entered the priesthood in 1551, heard confessions by the hour, and could tell penitents their sins before they confessed. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to play, becoming involved in their lives.
Philip’s popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect but was cleared of this baseless charge. He founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years he was beset by several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer. He died May 27, 1595.
Spiritual reading: For as the body is clad in cloth, and the flesh in skin and the bone in the flesh and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul and body, clad in the Goodness of God and enclosed. (Revelation of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)
Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Among the founders of the religions of the world, Jesus uniquely asked that his disciples love and follow him. Jesus is at once the founder and focus of Christianity. From the very beginning of the faith, Jesus has been the central goal of his followers, and it was Jesus’ intention that he be this. This is apparent in today’s gospel. In this passage, Peter observes that he and his companions have made a radical commitment to follow Jesus, that they have left everything to be with Jesus. And Peter’s comment elicits from Jesus an important response, that Jesus should be at the center of the lives of his disciples. So it is at the instruction of the Master, with love for him and confidence in his teaching, that we as Church proclaim that to the glory the God the Father, Jesus Christ of Lord.
Saint of the day: Bede the Venerable was born in 672 in England around the time the country was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there his whole life. A Benedictine monk, he was the spiritual student of the founder, Saint Benedict Biscop. Ordained in 702 by Saint John of Beverley, Bede was a teacher and author. He wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.
Bede was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ, that is, he was the first person to use the notation AD for years after Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He is called a Doctor of the Church. He died May 25, 735.
Spiritual reading: And I pray you, loving Jesus, that as you have graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of your knowledge, so you would mercifully grant me to one day have you, the fountain of all wisdom and to appear forever before your face. (Venerable Bede)
Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We read today the beautiful and terrible story of Jesus and the rich young man. As believers, the gospel passage we receive today ought to trouble us deeply. Even as we experience the outcome of a painful recession that has adversely affected and caused many people great anxiety and crushing problems, we by-and-large are far more comfortable than even the rich of another age. It should not be difficult for us to put ourselves in the man’s place and all of us to think of ourselves as the person in dialogue with Jesus in this narrative.
The man clearly has endeavored to live a moral life. He approaches the Lord with reverence, falling on his knees, and calling Jesus, “Good teacher.” Yet there is a certain self-centeredness in what the young man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His question is about a prize that he desires for himself. Jesus’ response is instructive. He quotes every commandment that concerns relationships with other human beings. Given the young man’s response, he must have been pleased to hear what Jesus says up to this point, since he reports he has done all these things from his youth. But Jesus is not done; he has one more thing to say, “Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.” Jesus speaks to the radical nature of the commitment we need to give the gospel; the young man is crestfallen and walks away very sad, for he had many possessions.
What the gospel tells us is that it is not sufficient for us to live a moral life: we must be companions of Jesus, and being companions of Jesus requires extraordinary acts of self-renunciation. Many of us are generous and readily give of our surplus, but reaching down deep into our substance, reducing our personal comfort to raise the comfort of people who have less than we do: this is something a lot fewer of us actually do. Even so, it is exactly what Jesus says the Good News requires of us and the thing precisely necessary to inherit eternal life.
Very few of us actually satisfy this mandate. And as the passage from Mark attests–with God nothing is impossible–this failure leads us to the mercy of God, but if the passage does not leave us troubled, I don’t believe we have read it correctly.
Saint of the day: David I was born in 1084, the son of King Malcolm III and Queen Saint Margaret of Scotland. He was sent to the Norman court in England in 1093. In 1113, he married Matilda, the widow of the earl of Northampton, thereby becoming earl himself, and added the title earl of Cumbria when his brother Alexander I became king. He waged a long war against King Stephen for the throne of England on behalf of his niece Matilda but was defeated at Standard in 1138.
As King of Scotland from 1124, he was much more successful, ruling with firmness, justice, and charity. David established Norman law in Scotland, set up the office of chancellor, and began the feudal court. He also learned the spirit of Cistercian monks from Ailred of Rievaulx, who for a time was David’s steward. Scottish monasticism began to flower from the start of David’s reign and countless almshouses, leper-hospitals, and infirmaries were established.
The monasteries founded under David’s patronage were superb architecturally as well as spiritually. The king re-founded Melrose Abbey on the main road from Edinburgh to the south, and it remained one of the richest houses in Scotland. David also founded Jedburgh Abbey in 1138, filling it was monks from Beauvais in France. At Dundrennan in Dumfries and Galloway he founded in 1142 a splendid abbey and staffed it with Cistercians from Rievaulx. The monks were so well managed that they even started their own shipping line and traded from the Solway Firth less than two miles away. He died at Carlisle, Scotland, on May 24, 1153.
Gospel reading of the day:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Happy Pentecost! The Holy Spirit is our Counselor, our Guide, and our Peace: come, let us embrace the Spirit of God. Let us ask the Spirit for good counsel. Let us plead for the Spirit to give us wisdom. Let us fall down and worship the Holy Spirit of God.
Happy Pentecost when the Seven-Fold Spirit rains down upon us!
Spirit derives from the Latin word spiritus, a word that can mean breath. Holy Spirit of God, animate us! Enliven us!
Spirit derives from the Latin word spiritus, a word that can mean wind. Holy Spirit, surprise and refresh us like a gentle breeze that comes on us by surprise on a hot day!
O bright and true Spirit of God, who loves us into existence, make our relationships with one another and God full of light and faithfulness!
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blessed!
Spiritual reading: Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the
indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)
Gospel reading of the day:
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?”
It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In contemporary biography, writers seek to present what they know about people, questions like what their subjects liked and disliked, how they went about answering questions, and the ways they related to other people. Ancient biographers, however, weren’t interested in questions like personal predilections or cognitive and social styles; they focused on stories about what people said and what they did.
The gospels, I think, leave us with a somewhat dissatisfying sense of our Lord’s personality, that is, I think they leave us with a somewhat dissatisfying sense of the Lord’s personality right up to the the point of the resurrection accounts. Somehow, the accounts of the resurrected Lord so excited the authors that they left us traces not only of the resurrected Lord’s deeds and sayings but also his attitudes and approaches toward people. This gospel presents perhaps the best example of what I see of the depiction of Jesus’ personality evident in the resurrection accounts.
In today’s passage, Peter apparently exhibited a certain preoccupation with what was going to happen to someone else. While the Lord is talking to Peter about Peter, Peter seems to want to change the subject. He effectively says, “Hey, Lord, what about that guy over there?” And our Lord replies, “Peter, never mind that guy over there. What happens to him is not your concern. Pay attention to what I am telling you: you, Peter, are to follow me.”
So it is with us. We naturally are concerned with what happens to the people around us, but we ultimately exercise responsibility for our own behavior. We need to keep our eye on the ball: Jesus has charged us, just as he charged Peter, to follow him. If we do this, we will discharge our duties to one another, as well.
Saint of the day: Saint Rita of Cascia was an Augustinian nun; she also is called Margarita. She was born in Roccaporena, near Spoleto, Italy, in 1381, and expressed from an early age the desire to become a nun. Her elderly parents insisted that she be married at the age of twelve to a man described in accounts of her life as cruel and harsh. She spent eighteen extremely unhappy years, had two sons, and was finally widowed when her husband was killed in a brawl. Both sons also died, and Rita, still anxious to become a nun, tried unsuccessfully to enter the Augustinians in their convent at Cascia. She was refused because she was a widow and because of the requirement that all sisters should be virgins.
Finally, in 1413, the order gave her entry, and she earned fame for her austerity, devotion to prayer, and charity. In the midst of chronic illnesses, she received visions and wounds on her forehead which resembled the crown of thorns. She died on May 22 at Cascia, and many miracles were reported instantly. She is honored as a patron saint of hopeless causes.
Spiritual reading: The Church is a prayer; the Church is a song; the Church is the tears of all mankind; the Church is the smile of a child; the Church picks up the last look of the dying man or woman. (Catherine Doherty)