Hebrews 7:25 – 8:6
In the nineteenth century biography of Edmund Gosse called Father and Son, we are privileged to journey with Edmund from his birth, through his childhood, and into his young adult life of faith. His father was a rather strict believer and raised his son in this framework of religion. Edmund passed through his grammar and early high school days believing firmly that only the elite of Christian believers would make it to their heavenly reward. These were few, they were chosen by God, and they adhered to a strict understanding of their profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. His father was one of them and so was he. Edmund had the highest regard for his father, so much so that his father was practically perfect in his son’s eyes. Then it happens. Edmund begins to see the human side of his father. He discovers that his father is fallible, he makes mistakes and some very serious ones at that. As a result, Edmund has a crisis of faith which leads him to an understanding of the Christian faithful as a much wider reality than his father’s understanding. All were called to faith, all were called to holiness, all were called to the life of heaven.
Edmund’s young adult insight into his call to faith may well have stemmed from today’s scripture readings. When we read the scriptures, especially the Gospels, details can be important to understanding the meaning. It is just so today. In his Gospel, Mark gives us a fascinating vision of a great crowd of people gathering to see and hear Jesus. In yesterday’s gospel we saw how Jesus’ healing of the man with the withered hand caused hateful thoughts and actions by some Pharisees and the Herodians. But word has gotten around and the people want to see and hear for themselves. They follow Jesus. And where do they come from ? Some make their way from the synagogue and the surrounding area, others from Jerusalem, Idumea , from beyond the Jordan River, and from Tyre and Sidon. In these details, Mark is making a very important point for us. Jesus has begun his mission to announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the people of the Chosen Race first but He does not stop there. Jesus, in this passage, is reaching out to the Gentiles, to those beyond the expectations of the Pharisees and Herodians. Jesus is creating by His Words and Actions an inclusive People of God to which all are invited. All may not come but all are invited to the Kingdom. Jesus is interested in everyone including the poor, the outcast, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the sinners and yes, even the Gentiles. In this passage, Mark makes it clear for us. The call to faith in Jesus, the call to live in companionship with Jesus, the call to live eternally with Jesus is a universal call. Once we respond to that call, once we accept companionship with Jesus and come to know Him in ever more loving a deeper ways, we might, in an odd sort of way, share just that one small characteristic with the unclean spirits whom Jesus drove out of the human hearts. We might not be able to keep quiet about who Jesus is for us and for everyone. We might just have to proclaim our faith in and our life with Jesus in ever clearer and bolder ways. We might enthusiastically desire to be identified as a believer in the Lord Jesus whose daily walk with the Lord in life makes all the difference in how we understand ourselves as sinners before God, how we see each other with more loving and compassionate eyes, and how we understand the presence of God in our hearts, in our lives and in our world.
When Edmund Gosse discovered the universal nature of Jesus’ call to life in the Kingdom, his life opened up to a new view of the people in his life and in his world. He discovered a much richer and more joyful life lived in Jesus. Perhaps Mark has the same hope for us as we come to a deeper understanding of God’s immense love in calling everyone to life in the Kingdom of God.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province and also serves on the Provincial Council of Holy Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.