Abraham is a problematic figure in the biblical story. He lies to Pharoah about his wife, hanging her out to dry to protect his own skin. He does the same thing a few chapters later to another king, Abimelech. But when push comes to shove, at the moment of the test, he … ’passed with flying colors’ as we used to say in school.
Mark wrote his gospel for persecuted Christians living in Rome. These early believers lived in fear of being thrown to the wild beasts in the public square; their cruel and agonising deaths a source of grotesque ‘entertainment’ for Rome’s citizens!
The Old Testament Law existed to protect God’s people from physical and moral hazards that could harm the whole community. The Law’s emphasis on spiritual and bodily purity established how God’s people could live together in a healthy relationship with God and each other.
The story of Job was a huge challenge to the accepted moral outlook of the Old Testament people: namely, that suffering was God’s way of punishing the sinner. Yet, Job was convinced of his innocence and was not afraid to bemoan his lot, complaining to God, despite his friends’ admonitions that he must be guilty.
In today’s gospel, the Evangelist Mark, from whose gospel we will take the readings this year (Year B), tells us about the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Last week, we learnt of Jesus choosing his disciples. This week, Mark describes Jesus’ first public action. In important ways, this portrayal of Jesus here at the outset of his public life encapsulates the key elements of Jesus’ person and ministry that inform Mark’s whole gospel.
The Greek word “metanoia” is often used by theologians as well as psychologists to describe a deep change of heart and mind, which results from having our previous beliefs and values challenged and consequently, turning towards a way of living which embraces a greater openness to growth and to God. It is this invitation which Jesus put to his disciples by the sea of Galilee in today’s gospel.
In my office there is a wall hanging with the letters C+M+B. which I was given when I visited Innsbruck in Austria in 1997. As I walked from the railway station to our Redemptorist house, I noticed these letters written in chalk above the entrance doors to a number of houses in the following fashion 19*C+M+B+97.
Many would have seen the 2016 movie, “Hidden Figures,” which focused on the roles of three African American women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – who worked at NASA during the Mercury program. Few would have known how these three women played crucial roles in the success of John Glenn’s historic spaceflight.
In preparation for the birth of Jesus tomorrow, today we celebrate the Annunciation, the announcement to Mary that she is being invited to become the mother of the Saviour. Moreover, we hear the story in the Gospel of Luke who portrays Mary as a true believer and first disciple of Jesus. While Mary is not a disciple like the Twelve who accompany Jesus in his ministry, she is presented as the true disciple who hears the Word of God and acts upon it.