Getting Ready to Pray
I had an orange for breakfast this morning which was very juicy and sweet, but the peel was difficult to pull off and there were an amazing number of seeds in each section of the fruit. It all became quite messy, but the tastes were worth the struggle. It would be easier just to open a can of orange juice and seedlessly enjoy the tastes.
Each of us labors to taste life with joy, but there are similar difficulties—events which have coverings or hard things to peel away. There are lumps and bumps in our everyday lives; relationships which are bothering to us. We keep drinking life’s juices, though, despite the seeds of discontent.
We are tempted also to read books or articles for easy canned resolutions or answers. We can think that somebody has reduced all of life to a simple idea or practice which is easy to swallow. We can even think that religion or sacred scripture has it all reduced to just our opening the can of God and all shall be sweet.
As we prepare for the celebration of this week’s liturgy, we can pray with the peels and seeds as well as the juice of receiving and living the Eucharist. To love God does not mean enjoying the seeds. We pray for the freedom to receive it all and not turn easily to frozen or concentrated or deluded life-juice.
In today’s First Reading we hear Moses responding to the peoples’ fearful request for different words from God. Moses tells them that a speaker will be given, a prophet, who will hear from God and speak from God all that the people need to hear.
Two little warnings are given which end our reading. When the prophet does speak, the people better listen or they will be dealt with. Also if the prophet speaks what are his own thoughts not God’s, or if the prophet speaks on behalf of other gods, then he will be punished.
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus is revealed to be the one who is sent to confront the evil one, the power of evil throughout the whole world. He has come to reveal the authority of God over all creation and he is to call others and send them as well to reveal God’s love and authority.
A man with an unclean spirit presents himself to Jesus. The Magi came worshiping and they leave having been changed. This is Mark’s first manifestation or epiphany that Jesus is revealed as the one sent to confront such unclean, ungodly spirits.
There is a spirit that moves us to hold tightly to what we think without any depending on authority, interchange, or on much self-reflection. Little children learn the power of the word, “mine!” quite early in their young lives. That is not an unclean spirit unless it is allowed to grow and control ones relationships and life. It is when opinions become the center of one’s approach to life that Jesus invites that spirit to be silent and to come out of us.
In this Gospel, as with many other healings, Jesus gives the person back him-or herself with the dignity of being known by God. The “authority” with which Jesus speaks and which the crowds find new and amazing, is the creative love of God, who wishes us to know our dignity and not to be dominated by the unclean spirit of self-rejection.
He is the new Prophet, telling us not to be afraid or worried.
Let your face shine on your servant,
and save me by your love. Lord,
keep me from shame, for I have called to you.