Once again Jesus is frustrated with the Pharisees in today’s gospel. No big surprise there! And, once again, it is easy for us to distance ourselves from the actions of the Pharisees, claiming that we would never have treated Jesus the way they did. However, a little self-evaluation may indeed reveal that we are all much more like the Pharisees than we would like to believe.
Fully convinced of their own righteousness, the Pharisees wanted "holiness" to be defined by how well they followed rules and laws. In return for their "holiness", they expected God to reward them with signs and special treatment. Meanwhile, they were completely ignorant of all the signs around them. They were ignorant of the thousands of disciples who were rediscovering hope and having their lives transformed. They were ignorant to the fact that God was visiting the poor of the world through the person of Jesus. They were ignorant of their God being "Emmanuel" -with them in their humanity.
Perhaps the same can be said of you and me as we live in the modern world. Instead of celebrating what’s right with the world around us, do we celebrate what’s wrong with the world? Instead of accepting our own weaknesses in humility, do we hope to be rewarded for our "holiness"? Instead of considering it "all joy when we encounter trials," as James writes in today’s first reading, do we consider it all sorrow? Instead of having unwavering trust and faith, are we "tossed about by the wind?" (James 1: 6)
What is so ironic about Mark’s gospel today is that this section of chapter eight immediately follows Mark’s depiction of the second miracle of the loaves. The Pharisees are demanding a sign from Jesus immediately after he just fed a very large crowd with just seven loaves! The power of the Bread of Life was not fully appreciated – something we still fail to appreciate in the modern world. Think about it: How often do we fully recognize the true power of the Eucharist? How often do we acknowledge that our Creator gives us a "miracle of the loaves" every time we go to Mass? With the Eucharist as our food for the journey, we should be able to recognize the "signs of the times" – that Jesus is truly present in the modern world. We would see that despite selfish tendencies, humans truly are full of service and love. The Body of Christ remains strong.
Tony Cortese, a recent college graduate, is the Campus Minister at the Newman Catholic Community at Sacramento State Univversity.