10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

There is a natural instinct in parents to protect their children.

There are rare exceptions to this, and they need be noted.

Our television screens are filled with nightly news clips of Gaza women and men scurrying with the child/children to find shelter.

Or again trains filled with mothers and their children exiting the major cities of Ukraine.

Men and women in the highlands of Papua New Guinea dig with their bare hands.

Mary, and other members of the family thought Jesus had gone mad!

This Sunday’s Gospel has a rawness to it that the inclination is to ignore, or at least skip over the text.

St Mark in his very direct way, pulls up short:

The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain Jesus, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mk. 3: 20 -21)

Indeed, the consensus was Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, the Prince of Demons. [An alternate spelling has Beelzebub which translates as ‘Lord of the Flies’ – note the novel by William Golding.

If we dare remove the verses 22 – 30 from our text, the passage now reads,
“The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain Jesus, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mk. 3: 20 -21)

“Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3: 31 – 34)

Why had his mother and his brothers arrived at the door?

Why were they asking for him?

They had come to restrain him! (v31)

Restrain, similar words from the dictionary include hold back, hinder, restrict.

His family considered he, Jesus, was out of his mind!

Today we commit such persons to psychiatric care and medication.

In a word they had come to take him to the safety of the home!

The struggle I had for many years was to allow Mary to be the woman and mother she was, rather than the woman and mother we have made her out to be.

Mary was a 1stC Jewish woman. She was not made from porcelain or ceramic.

She was not the wrinkle free ‘Virgin at Prayer’ of the artist, Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato and others like him.

Mary, and other members of the family thought Jesus had gone mad!

Body and Blood of Christ

Have you noticed how we use the word Amen like a liturgical full stop?

Many of our prayers, both liturgical and others, end with the word, “through Christ our Lord, AMEN”.

Quite frequently there is a physical shift and relocation – for example the community sits, and activity relocates to the ambo (that is a flash term for the lectern!)

We conclude our Prayers of the Faithful with a concluding AMEN and activity relocates to the Altar.

Frequently a liturgical doxology will conclude with the word, “Through Him, and with Him. AMEN”.

During the Rite of Communion persons approach the minister of Bread or Cup and the following interaction takes place:

“Body of Christ. AMEN”.

“Blood of Christ. AMEN”.

Technically the word AMEN has the meaning of “So be it”.

Beyoncé has a track on her album ‘Cowboy Carter’ with the title AMEN)
Amen has become a liturgical full stop.

I was once in ministry in a parish where for one old lady the full stop had been done away with – at least during the Rite of Communion.

This woman was a Māori kuia, that is an elderly woman of standing.

At the Rite of Communion this woman of age would approach the Minister of Communion and to the invocation “Body of Christ” the kuia would respond, “Nau mai”.

At the invocation, “Blood of Christ”, she would respond in a like manner, “Nau mai.”

Nau mai is a form of greeting and of welcome – as far distant from a full stop as you could possibly get!

Does the Body of Christ we know as Church resemble a full stop, or a welcome.

Body of Christ Nau mai.

Blood of Christ Nau mai.

The illustration is a painting (oil on velvet) with the title ‘Māori Elder’. The artist is Charles McPhee (1910 – 2002).

 

Pentecost

Imagine four people.

Each is given a large glass jar.

Each, in turn, is instructed to return one with water, one with fire, one with earth, and one with wind in their respective jars.

Two return with their jars filled; two however return with their jars empty.

You can capture earth, and you can capture water.

Fire and wind remain elusive.

Yet, these are the two images used by the author of the Acts of Apostles to describe God’s Spirit.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1 – 4)

Greek philosophy supposed the Universe to comprise four elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air.

These are well-known and yet unknown realities.

Of the four elements only earth has fixed shapes; and in the long run, even these shapes are not fixed (remember liquefaction?

A word that was added to many a vocabulary with the occasion of the Christchurch earthquake!)

In Hebrew and Aramaic, scholars tell us, the same word means ‘spirit’, ‘breath’, and ‘wind’. This word is “ruah”.

Fire and wind as earth elements can at times be devastating. We only need remember the horror of bush fires raging and of cyclonic winds.

I, and no doubt others, so want to tame God’s Spirit; to make this Energy acceptable!

In doing so maybe we are attempting to suck God’s life out of God!

It may be time we put our glass jar away and refrain from catching our God! The “elusive one” is not for catching!

The alternative to “catching” is “being caught”.

That is what happened that first Pentecost day – may it continue today!

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

The departure lounge at a transport hub—be it an airport, a bus, or a train station—is a place of mixed emotions.

A person(s) is leaving. Persons have come to say goodbye however they are staying.

Each goodbye is particular and indeed peculiar to everyone.

I can only name emotions that I have personally experienced; for others, the emotions may well be quite different.

As the one going, I feel a mixture of sadness at leaving those who are important and special, anticipation for what lies ahead, and no doubt a certain anxiety—where I had known friends as immediate contact and support, I might well be on my own.

As the one staying, I experience an equal mix of emotions.

There is pleasure for the one leaving—perhaps stepping out for the first time to a new place of learning or job opportunity, and there is also sadness that the one leaving will leave a hole—and it is to that hole I must return to and be reminded of with regularity.

The regular aroma of a particular scent or aftershave is no longer there!

The irrepressible laugh or chuckle of the other is no longer heard.

Toward the end of the Gospel of John, I find one of the most intimate moments in the entire Gospel. Jesus, newly risen from the dead, is standing on the shore of the lake,

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise it was Jesus.

He called to them, “Friends, have you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

When they did, they could not haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (Jn. 21:4 – 6).

It is that early morning call, piercing the approaching light, “Friends!”

On the feast of the Ascension, I suggest that before we run headlong into any theological discourse on the role of proclaiming the Good News (Mk. 15:15), we take a moment to reflect on the very real experience of friends saying goodbye.

These persons are as we are with all the mix of emotions that make us human.

Remember, too, one of those persons Jesus needs say goodbye to is his mother.