In the first reading David’s son, Absalom, has betrayed him and has raised an army against him and is moving towards Jerusalem to take the throne from David. David flees Jerusalem to protect it from destruction at the hands of Absalom. Once out in the countryside David is confronted by a man who, belongs to the family of Saul, begins to curse him. David perceives the cursing as by God’s will and offers it up in hopes that he might find favor with God.
In the Gospel Jesus uses the authority of his words to cast out demons that have afflicted a person. The demons ask to be casted into a nearby heard of swine and they promptly run off into the water where we presume they drown. I am sure that the herders/owners were not happy about losing two thousand swine, which were their livelihood. The words spoken by Jesus healed one person but made others loose what they had. The scriptures say that the herders runaway and tell the town what happened. Did they curse Jesus? Were they in awe of what happened? Another lesson in saving one person and letting others go? It is possible that after the shock wore off they were not happy about the situation.
Words have power to lift someone up when they are in need of consoling. Words can harm when used in anger against another. Words can heal or soothe a broken heart. Words are hard to take back once they have left our mouths. When a loved one has passed on we often think of what they said to us and the last words we spoke to them. David gives us an example of not reacting to words spoken out of anger. Sometimes the best action is no action at all. Jesus’ healing of the man with the demon gives us an example of how we know what needs to be said to one person may not help others. In today’s society words are everywhere whether we are speaking to others face to face or through our texts, emails, or other apps that are made for quick communication. Words, a gift from God to be holy and sacred. Proverbs, “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well” (10:19). Maybe fewer words and more action is the message of the scriptures for today.
How do I use my words?
Linda Schork is a theology teacher at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.
Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
A book entitled, “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,” is based on a comprehensive study done by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; the authors (McCarty and Vitek) state that a primary reason many young people have drifted from the practice of their Catholic faith is that they feel judged.
Today’s feast might offer us a sort of strategic plan to respond. Our first reading is the second of three conversion accounts in the life of the apostle, Paul, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 9, 22, 26). Each time the circle of Paul’s listeners gets larger, more dramatic. But it’s good to see all of this in a wider context. Early on, Saul was a good Jew, a committed rabbi, intense and zealous. He was so confident in his faith that he was willing to die for it; unfortunately, he was also willing to kill for it. Remember the martyrdom of St. Stephen, when the perpetrators placed their cloaks at the feet of Saul/Paul, and he “concurred” in the act? (Acts 8:1)) The trouble with certitude is that it can be not only delusional but dangerous. We know of misguided religious fervor today as well.
We learn much from Paul when he speaks of his woundedness, as a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12), or when he confesses his sin, something that he cannot control (Romans 7), or when we hear of the conflict with Barnabas and Peter in Acts 15 (“so sharp was their disagreement that they separated”). Maybe that’s the real conversion. Paul is healed by the community in Damascus; the violence and hatred are eclipsed by acceptance and care, and he is transformed.
The next time I feel wronged or hurt or ignored by another, I pray I can suspend my often verbal “scorched earth” policy, and transform the situation by loving another into more abundant life.
Fr. Jack Conley, CP, is the local superior of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. R. Alleluia, alleluia. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
As I read the Word of God for today’s Liturgy, I was struck by two powerful challenges: to let go of the destructive desire to kill our enemies, and to respond to the call to be missionary disciples.
In the first reading, from the Book of Samuel, we have the continuing saga of the decline of King Saul and the ascendency of King David. First, a little background. We have been reading about Samuel and his calling for about a week now, how his birth came about and how Hannah, his mother, consecrated him to God. Samuel grew up under the watchful care of Eli, the High Priest. It was revealed to Eli that God “will choose a faithful priest who do what I have in heart and mind.”
Samuel was God’s choice and God directed Samuel to first anoint Saul as King, and when Saul abandoned God’s ways, to anoint David as his replacement. It came as no surprise that Saul became jealous of David, even though David delivered Israel from the clutches of their mortal enemy, the Philistines. Saul becomes more convinced that David would eventually want to overthrow him and make himself king. So Saul does what every insecure leader does, he goes after his opposition with every intention of killing his rival. He brings with him his powerful army, thinking that he can eliminate God’s chosen one by force! We see this theme played out time and time again in the Scriptures.
Saul quickly finds out that God is in charge and not his evil intentions. David finds Saul at his most vulnerable moment, and could have easily killed him, but he decided not to do this, not to give into his baser desires. Rather, David lets him live and then offered to make peace with him. As we find out later, Saul ultimately destroys himself, and God’s choice, David, takes over Saul’s kingdom.
It is God’s choices that will ultimately overcome evil. It is God’s Love that will overshadow hate. It is God’s Will that will ultimately be done, in heaven and on earth.
The Gospel passage for today’s Mass continues with this theme of God choosing those that will ultimately overcome sin and death. As Jesus begins his ministry in Mark’s gospel, Jesus chooses those he wanted to have at his side so that he could send out to preach. I believe that we would benefit greatly if we took our time to reflect upon the reason why Jesus chose his apostles, that is, why Jesus chose us as his apostles. No matter whether we are named Hannah, Samuel, David, Mary, Peter, or John, we have all been chosen to do God’s work here on earth.
As Jesus would say to us later, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you until the end of time.”
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.
…for he had healed many…all who had diseases pressed upon him…
Thus far in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been on a whirlwind of healing. Everywhere he went he healed and cast out demons. His reputation (as a healer) preceded him. People were flocking to be in his presence – some even lowered through the roof! Today they are coming from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea and beyond the Jordan – quite literally people are swarming from every direction! Jesus is worried about the size of the crowd – get me a boat so I don’t get crushed…
Jesus reputation was that of miracle worker, healer and everyone was attracted, everyone wanted to catch sight of him, to touch him, to be healed. The demons thought, cried out ‘You are the Son of God’. Does that have the same attraction? If Jesus is the Son of God, what does that mean for me? How do I enter into that?
It’s much easier, safer even to come to the ‘miracle worker’, let him touch me and cure me and then I can go my merry way. But if he is the ‘son of God’ do I have to stick around, do I have to believe? Follow? Change my ways even?
Could this little ‘pause in the action’ of Mark’s gospel calls us to pause as well. Who is Jesus for me? Do I have (or want) a relationship or is it easier just to ask for help every once and a while. What ‘miracle’ do I need to grow my relationship with the Son of God?
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.