This season is not about waiting to see what is under the tree. We are not celebrating Christmas yet, even if we are decorating and listening to Christmas music. We Catholics are focused on something much greater. We are focused on preparing for the coming of the Lord. We are preparing for the end of time.
The end will come. I know, it’s not the most cheery thought to start with, but it is an ultimate truth. There is not, has never been and never will be someone born who will not die. . . physically. (Ok, there are a few exceptions, ie. Jesus, Elijah, and Enoch) It is an odd circumstance of humanity that while, yes, our physical bodies will die, our souls are immortal. They have no end.
That truth can be the most significant source of peace in our lives or the most significant source of anxiety.
In Mark 12:28-34, a scribe comes to Jesus and asks, “which is first of all the commandments?” In a sense, he is asking, “which commandment is the critical one? You know, the thing I should be focused on.” Jesus’ answer is crystal clear. First, love God. Second, love your neighbor. There is no wiggle room in it. He doesn’t just say love God. He says to love God with your heart, your soul and your mind. That is your body, your spirit, and your intellect. Everything that you are is called to love and serve the Lord.
Somedays it’s hard to get out of bed. I’m not talking about the tired sort of hard to get out of bed. I am talking about the weary, hard to get out of bed. There is a difference. Tired is physical. Weary is more about the soul.
On weary mornings the alarm can’t be loud enough or the coffee strong enough. The shower can’t be hot enough or long enough. On weary mornings you stand in front of the mirror, and all you can see looking back is a mask. Sometimes it’s pain over loss, frustration over things that seem out of your control, failure where you feel like you should have been better or any number of other things. On weary mornings it is hard to hear God say, “you are my beloved” and all too easy to hear the devil’s whispers of “you will never be enough.”
Read the Gospels, and you will see that the relationship the disciples had with Jesus was special. It is clear that Jesus was the master, and they were his students. But, to imagine that their relationship was cold and mechanical would be a significant error. Jesus loved the Apostles, and the Apostles loved Jesus. That is demonstrated in Mark 10:35 when James and John, whom Jesus called the “sons of thunder,” come to Jesus and say “Teacher, we want you to do for us anything that we ask of you.” The question almost seems scandalous. Two creatures approach the creator and ask him to “do whatever we ask of you.” Perhaps the original Greek conveys it better, but in reading the English translation, it doesn’t come off so much as a question as it does a demand.
Jesus’ response might surprise you. He doesn’t retort “How dare you!” There is no admonishment at all. Instead, he just replies, “what do you wish me to do for you?”
In this Sunday's Gospel Jesus is approached by a wealthy young man. The young man begins by asking Jesus a question that a lot of modern-day Christians are asking as well, “What must I do?” Do you see the problem? The position he is taking with the Lord is “how do I earn this inheritance? What can I do? Me, me, me.” That is not how this works.
In this week's Weekly Word we unpack Mark 10:17-30.