Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 10, 2018
First Reading: Genesis 3: 9-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1
Gospel: Mark 3: 20-35
“The devil made me do it.” As a young child I remember this popular phrase being uttered by the 70’s comedian Flip Wilson as well as many others as an excuse for bad behavior. I am reminded of this phrase today while encountering the first reading from Genesis. A little background is in order. The first eleven chapters of Genesis contain two creation stories. This Sunday’s reading comes from the second creation story that actually begins in the second chapter of Genesis. Ancient peoples often dealt with abstract concepts, such as who is GOD, through story. These stories were then handed down from generation through generation and addressed questions about the human existence. One such question addressed the following: why are there problems in the world and where did evil come from? The story in Genesis hopes to explain this question by focusing on the actions of those first humans created by God.
At the heart of this story in Genesis is the question, why is there evil in the world? How did it get there? Where did it originate from? Now it is clear that Adam and Eve had choices; they were not manipulated by the serpent but they decided to use the serpent and one another as scapegoats for their behavior. Is this so unusual? Even today don’t many persons try to blame others for their bad behavior? Haven’t we even fallen into the trap of scapegoating in this society. How often on the news do we read of our leaders choosing to blame others for the events of the day rather than looking at their own accountability? When have we scapegoated members of our family, community, or work environment for decisions that we have been ultimately responsible for? While Adam and Eve misused the gifts that God had given them and chose personal desire over God’s will, today we too can learn from their actions and make the choice to be disciples of God or enslaved by our personal desires. The good news is that God is with us and does not wish to leave us alone but wishes to continue in relationship with us. In the busyness of our lives it is sometimes easy to make choices without adequate discerning reflection and prayer, choices that may feel good in the moment but may not always be the best choice for ourselves or others.
In Psalm 130 we have a lament. Laments cry out to God in frustration and desperation and in fact show an intimacy with God that is an all too human response to adversity. There is hope in that the psalmist also acknowledges that there is nothing that God will not forgive (130:4)
In the Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus confronted by communities that question his authority as well as his mental state. My colleague, Biblical scholar, Laurie Brink states the evangelist Mark uses a literary technique dubbed the “Marcan sandwich” to frame these events in Jesus’ life.This technique begins with one narrative, then is interrupted by another and then shifts back to the original one. For this Marcan sandwich we have Jesus’ relatives concerned about his mental state and then the story shifts to the scribes accusing Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebub (or Satan, take your choice), then we come back to Jesus’ family who wish to see him. Mark is full of activity and human emotion as well as a little chaos. Within this chaos there is a truth which Mark wishes to reveal. That truth is that ultimately “whoever does the will of God is brother, and sister and mother” has entered into a special relationship with Jesus.
How to know if we are doing the will of God? That is the thread that connects the first and the Gospel reading and, in many aspects, the second reading from 2 Corinthians as well. Discernment is a tricky journey. In the midst of our busyness it is very easy to forget to take the time to slow down, pray and discover the will of God. Even this past week in meeting with the German Evangelical Lutherans, Pope Francis stated, “Let us not forget to start from prayer, so that it is not human plans that indicate the way, but the Holy Spirit: He alone opens the way and enlightens the steps to be taken.” Jesus throughout his ministry was led by the Spirit of God. It is that Spirit that can ‘renew our inner self day by day’. So, as we journey today in spirit and in truth, let us be strong in our prayer that sustains our relationship with Jesus, so that we are truly his brother or sister, take responsibility for our actions, and can journey in God’s Amazing Grace.
C. Vanessa White
Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Ministry
Director of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry Program