Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 3:1-14
Psalm 95
Mark 1:40-45

REFLECTION: "Well that didn't take long."
For a guy who wanted to fly under the radar, Jesus didn't take long in attracting crowds so large that he had to remain in more isolated areas, at least for a time. On Tuesday, in the wake of our Gospel reading, we examined some of the reasons that Jesus didn't want his name widely manifest, at least not at this point in his ministry. 

We identified two central reasons linked to those readings: First, he wants to avoid undue publicity early on because, as he shared with his mother, it wasn't his time. Second, names have power, and he didn't want anyone, especially demons, misusing his name or speaking it in a way that would discredit his preaching.

Today, we examine to other reasons that Jesus wished to fly 'under the radar'. 

The first of these, which is tied in what the concept of "Messianic Secret" that I mentioned on Tuesday, is to fulfill the model of the Suffering Servant shown forth in the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah says that one clear sign of the true Messiah is that he will go about his work with a sense of hiddenness, with humility and restraint.  Jesus' true power did not lay in his miracles, as impressive as they were. The true power of his incarnation was to be realized in his passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus wasn't interested in drawing a crowd and entertaining. His goal was to build faith through his atoning work on the cross. The astonishment that comes with miracles is not the same thing as faith. They may help to support faith, but they themselves don't constitute faith.

Second, and in a way we touched on this on Tuesday, if Jesus was manifestly revealed as Messiah, if he used such terminology openly, at this point in his ministry, he'd immediately be ran off into a prison. People speculating that John was the Messiah helped him to land in Herod's hands. Remember, in Israel, the Messiah was going to be a military leader, like Joshua (whose Hebrew name was actually Yeshua, just like Jesus!), and like the Maccabees. The Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and restore to Israel its independence and self-determination. This was a threat to puppets like Herod Antipas... and to the Roman Empire. No, a Messiah just wouldn't do. That is why, for the most part, in Mark's Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, a Messianic title rooted in seventh chapter of Daniel, but one which did not carry with it the militaristic and revolutionary heft of some of the other titles of Messiah.

Now, I want to address miracles for a moment. Jesus' miracles are great and magnificent. Certainly faith is built where miracles occur... but faith isn't generally generated from miracles. Again, the faith that saves is not a faith in a miracle worker, it is a faith in a Messiah who renews our human nature through his death and resurrection... who forgives our sins and makes peace for us through the blood of the cross. Miracles form a helpful part of the framework of the 'house of faith', but just as Moses, so to are miracles servants in the 'construction' and 'maintenance' of the house of faith. Without a cross, without a spotless Lamb, there is no faith worth having.

Medical doctors and pharmaceutical researchers minister healing talents day by day... but they are not the Messiah. Those working in our streets even now, as the wind chill hovers in the -20's are showing great compassion and love, but they are not the Messiah. No miracle, no good deed, nothing constitutes Messiahship, Scripturally speaking, save for the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah... and they require the Messiah to be a sacrifice for sin.

Hopefully, in this introductory chapter of Mark's gospel, you've already drawn closer to the mission of Christ, to an understanding of its nuances. It can't be reduced to a simple movie plot-line. It's complex. It's a real situation, with drama fomenting in the shadow of political and religious tension, where one wrong move can end things in a hurry.


For the wisdom to listen faithfully to the Word,
and to follow his example with patience, zeal, and wisdom,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who serve the Church,
that they may seek only the exaltation of God
and the salvation of souls in their labors,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who serve the common good,
that their lives and their work would be guided
to the relief of need,
the securing of justice,
and the reconciling of the human race,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who, today, find themselves
without food, shelter, or hope,
and for those who fervently seek to minster to their needs,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those within these walls who must soon face death,
and for their families,
that as the Lord speaks in their hearts today,
they would be warmed with hope and consolation,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For our own personal needs and concerns…
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.