Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 1, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 11:27-33

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?’ 86cf94a4e2e81523b69def9b4280c645_w600But 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: Jesus understands the human heart and the different impulses that motivate people. The chief priests, scribes, and elders know that Jesus does not have their blessing to preach, so they ask him to tell them by whose authority he teaches. Jesus smells a trap, that they are setting him up. If he says he teaches by God’s authority, they will accuse him of blasphemy, and if he says he does it on his own authority, they will say his ministry has no credibility.

But Jesus is without guile when he tells his questioners he will answer their question if they will answer his, so he is able to set his own trap for them without compromising his personal integrity. Jesus challenges them to tell him by whose authority John the Baptist taught. The chief priests, scribes, and elders perceive the ambiguity of their situation, recognize the trap that Jesus has set for them, and decline to play their game any further.

This scene speaks to one of the central messages of Jesus’ ministry, the call to authentic religion–faithful practice where the outside self reflects the inside self. If the chief priests, scribes, and elders had been authentic in their religious practice, their transparency would have allowed them to answer Jesus’ question without hesitation, because everyone would already have known the answer. If they already had been hot or cold for John, they could have just said yes when they meant yes and no when they meant no. But their duplicity allowed Jesus to be, as the Lord teaches elsewhere, as wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove and create the possibility for everything to happen which had to happen before Jesus’ hour arrived.

Saint of the day: Joseph André was born March 14, 1908. A Catholic priest of the diocese of Namur, Belgium. He was declared Righteous among the Nations by the government of Israel in 1968. He spent two years in the Society of Jesus between 1926 and 1928, but his frail health forced him to leave the Jesuits. He entered the seminary of Namur and was ordained a priest Andrein 1936. He was teacher in a high school for a few years before became curate at the parish of St Jean-Baptiste in Namur.

This was in 1941, and Belgium was under German occupation. Under his quiet and discreet leadership, the parish youth center, located right next door to the Gestapo ‘Kommandantur’ of Namur, became the hub of a vast clandestine organization that sought to save Jewish children from deportation and certain death. It was a transit house where children were sheltered–sometime more than 20 together–for as few days as possible before being entrusted to religious institutions or rural families where they could remain in hiding. To feed them, Fr. André and his collaborators went about the country, from farm to farm, begging for food, hams, bread, and cheese, while at the same time they were on the look out for more shelters for his protégés. With a personal love for Jewish people and a profound respect for religious freedom, Fr. André never tried to convert or baptize the children. Though he was occasionally suspected by the Gestapo, and several times interrogated, his center and organization were never uncovered and remained active till the end of the war.

17211747311933655514After the war, he carried out social and charitable activities in connection with the Service social des Juifs of Belgium. Living very poorly by choice, he had an evangelical love for the marginalized and the lost. As Chaplain of the Namur jail from 1957 till his death, he opened a welcome center for ex-convicts, illegal migrants, and political refugees, the Chateau de Bomel. Always interested in the destiny of the Jewish people and fascinated by the mystery of Israel, he closely followed the birth of the new state in 1948. In 1967 he received the highest honor of the nation: he was declared “Righteous Among the Nations” and a tree in his name was planted in Yad Vashem. The following year, the frail old man, always in a black cassock, was invited to New York by the United Jewish Appeal and greeted by more than a thousand Jewish people.

Fr. André was found dead in his office of the Namur jail on the June 1, 1973. The Diocese of Namur is petitioning to open an investigation into Fr. André’s virtues.

Spiritual reading: His whole life long he did nothing but go down. He went down in becoming flesh, he went down in becoming a baby, went down in obeying, went down in becoming poor, rejected, persecuted, crucified, in always taking the lowest place. (Charles de Foucauld)


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