Last night was the first of a four-session program sponsored by Christ the King and St. Thomas Apostle parishes in Minneapolis titled Reflections on Jesus’ Post-Resurrection Appearances. Each week we will examine the final passages of one of the four Gospels and prayerfully reflect on how the early Christian community experienced the Risen Christ and what that means in our lives.
I am co-presenting the series with Bill Nolan, Pastoral Associate at STA parish. Last night our focus was St. Mark’s Gospel, with Bill taking the lead and offering the reflection.
Bill began by talking about the authorship of the Gospel and about the time in which is was written, stressing the sense of urgency in Mark’s Gospel. After a pause during which we read the Gospel aloud and allowed participants to share a word or phrase that struck them during the reading, Bill shared ideas about the “short” and “long” versions of the ending of the Gospel. We spent some time talking about the reaction of those who saw Jesus and about the pattern of appearance/disbelief in the longer ending. Toward the latter part of the session we invited participants to talk in small groups about some of the discussion questions we distributed.
You can access a recording of Bill’s talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 25:57. There is a break at about 6:32, where I paused the recorder while we read the Gospel passage aloud and asked participants to share a word or phrase that struck them.) A copy of the handout we distributed with some questions for further reflection and sources for further reading is here. We also distributed to the participants a copy of the Gospel passages for the entire four-week program, which you can find here.
Next Wednesday evening, I will take the lead, giving a talk focusing on the final chapter of St. John’s Gospel. (In contrast to the brevity of Mark’s account, John spends two chapters talking about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.) If you are in the Twin Cities area, please join us. If not, look for the podcast here next week.
Yesterday’s Gospel was St. Mark’s account of Jesus’ healing of the leper, a passage I mentioned in my post on Friday in connection with a Huff Post piece.
One of my really great Christmas gifts from my husband was Feasting on the Word, which contains essays on the Sunday Mass readings – four for each of the biblical texts for each week (First Reading, Psalm, Second reading and Gospel). For each of the four texts, there are four essays: one offering a theological perspective, one a pastoral perspective, one an exegetial perspective and one a homiletical perspective.
Although I can’t say it do it every Sunday, I do like to take some time on Sunday to read the essays for that day (if not all of them, at least the Gospel ones).
What I read this week made me think about the fact that there are details we (or at least me, and I’m guessing one or two others), don’t always notice. The detail in this case is this:
The story of the healing of the leper is the third of three healings recounted in the 45 verses of the first chapter of Mark. (I say third recounted, since there is also a reference in that chapter to other healings.) What the homiletical essay observed is something I have never focused on: the difference in locations of the healings. The first takes place in the synagogue (the man with the evil spirit), the second in a home (Simon’s mother-in-law) an the third in an open field.
The essay written from a theological perspective observed that “Mark has steadily moved us from the religious space through the house/private space to the public space, strongly illustrating the overwhelming power of God’s kingdom in all human spaces.”
As interesting as I find the particular observation, my dominant thought was: gosh, how many other details have I overlooked in reading the Gospels? Mark was clearly very intentional in his recounting of these healings; he had a point to make. One I had not gotten until now.
For me this experience was an invitation to reflect on the Gospels with more care to see what else I might find.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Mark, the writer of what is thought to be the first Gospel to be written. Mark was a man of few words, and his is the shortest of the four Gospels.
Mark records very few of the spoken words of Jesus, forcing us to focus on Jesus’ actions: calming the storm, walking on the waves, feeding the multitudes, curing the ill and raising the dead. Perhaps because there is less emphasis on words, we find in Mark vivid descriptions, with small details not found in the other two synoptic Gospels.
On the one hand, Mark is quite clear in his emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. On the other, in the words of Fr. Joseph Mindling,
With an eye for detail not always recorded by the other gospels, Mark shows fascinating aspects of the human side of the Messiah as well: That Jesus liked to eat with his friends, that he used a litte pillow to sleep on in the boat, that he hugged little children and enjoyed being with them, that he did not always hide strong emotions, that he used mud in the performance of a miracle, that he listened carefully to the parents of a little girl who had died, and that he was fearful before he himself died. Individually, many of these observations may not catch our attention, but collectively they deepen our understanding of what it meant for the Son of God to take on our human nature and share our everyday life.
Fully divine, yes. But also fully human. And Mark gives us a vehicle through which to explore that humanity.
Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation can be purchased from Amazon here. Or you can order it directly from the Oxford University Press here. For information on upcoming book talks and signings of Growing in Love and Wisdom, see my Facebook page here.
My Upcoming Offerings
Sacraments of Initiation - St. Thomas Apostle (Minneapolis) Adult Faith Formation (with Bill Nolan). April 10, 17 and 24, 6:45-8:00p.m.
Growing in Love and Wisdom - Augsburg College, April 18, 7:30p.m..[to be rescheduled due to snow
Intentional Discipleship and the New Evangelization - Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Minneapolis, April 28, 10:00a.m..
For information on upcoming book talks and signings ofGrowing in Love and Wisdom, see my Facebook page here. For more information about any of the events above, contact me by e-mail.