What do you want me to do for you?

Sunday 30 (Year B) – Mark 10:46-52

It was a hot day. There was barely any breeze blowing to provide any relief to the heat of the valley; just enough to carry the insistent smell of sand and the salt from the Dead Sea just a few miles away. Which meant it was pretty much like any other day. And just like any other day, as I waited here at the gate of the city, catching my breath after a morning spent in the market, my peace and quiet was – once again – interrupted by that flaming beggar. He was always there.

He was always annoying. Like so many other beggars. I knew his father; unlike this one, his father Timeaus was a good man. Who knows what he would have thought of his son ending up like this, sitting there on that flaming cloak – begging. Everything changed for Bar-Timeaus after the accident that left him blind. Actually he was an ok kind of kid. But now, oh now – he is just a right pain. And what’s this? Just when I’m finding a way to filter out his cries, he starts getting louder! Oh I see why. Or I hear why – there’s a crowd of people coming, and he sees a chance to earn a coin or two to put some bread on the table tonight. His voice is so annoying! Oh man, now he’s started to actually shout. But who’s he calling to? What’s he on about then? He’s addressing someone in the crowd – he’s calling him the ‘Son of David’ of all things!? Doesn’t he know that’s the title for the Messiah? Doesn’t he know that he’s calling after the King himself?

There’s no one who looks like a king in this crowd. Just a bunch of ruffians. Oh wait – there’s someone there – the people seem to be pressing in around him and crowding around him. But he looks just like a Rabbi or something. No one special. Not a king certainly. There’s a name on so many lips – almost like a chant. Jesus – Jesus of Nazareth. Now Bartimeaus has taken up the name – and he is shouting this name – and he’s shouting and crying … for mercy. What does he think this is?

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Recorded at Sacred Heart 9.30am (13’36”).

Ambition and the Cross

Our gospel today (Mk 10:35-45) comes immediately after Jesus’ third prediction of his passion and death: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” (Mk 10:33-34 – NRSV) So, that James and John, these young brothers approach Jesus and put this question to sit at his side in his glory is even more stark. We are almost at the end of the journey of Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem – next week we have the final passage before the arrival in Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday (Mk 11:1). So what is going on? And what are the cup and the baptism all about? Are there any other stories that can help us address this question of ambition expressed by the brothers? Listen in to find out more…

Recorded at St Michael’s 9.30am (12’06”)

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The gaze of Jesus and the one thing

Season of the Year – Sunday 28B.
Mark 10:17-30 Wisdom 7:7-11.

Our life is defined by the decisions that we make; sometimes we manage to make good decisions – often something less than that. The first reading provides us with the example of the author of Wisdom who clearly prays for the right things – for understanding (prudence) and for the gift of Wisdom. When s/he receives these gifts, s/he values them more than the finest jewels; more than good health; more than beauty; more than honour and reputation; more than the greatest wealth. What do we hold onto? What do we cling to? What defines us? What choices have we made that identify who we are? In the Gospel we have this astounding figure of a rich man (Matthew also calls him young, and Luke calls him a ruler) who runs up to Jesus and puts this great question to him – what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus tells him first to keep the commandments – but after being told that these were already under control (wow!) Jesus simply gazes at him – and loves him. I suspect that if we let Jesus do the same thing to us – to stare at us – to love us – that we might find that there is one thing that we lack. What is our one thing? What is holding us back today? What do I need to surrender to the Lord?

Recorded at St Michael’s 8am (7’38”)

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Marriage in the beginning

Sunday 27 in the Season of the Year (B) | Mark 10:2-16

One thing that I have discovered, is that usually when a particular moral question is put to me by someone, almost inevitably there is a context – a back-story if you like. If I simply answer the question in the abstract, without attending to the particular situation that provoked the question, then equally inevitably, I will more than likely get the answer wrong. When Jesus is asked this question in the Gospel today, his hearers would have known what that background story was; but we can miss it, especially when we don’t read verse 1 of Mark 10. There we read that Jesus and his disciples have just travelled to Judea, to the region beyond the Jordan River. If we think of the Jordan, than we should immediately think of the prophet who ministered around the Jordan – John the Baptist. Back in Mark 6 John had been arrested and then executed because he had challenged King Herod about marrying his brother Philip’s wife Herodius.

So we see that the test that the Pharisees put to Jesus is really a question of whether Jesus will stick his own neck out and make the same treasonous declaration about Herod’s marriage which had got John killed. In answering the question, Jesus gives the injunction to return to the beginnings – to see what the Lord had said about marriage in the account of creation. So, like Jesus, we need to turn back to those first chapters of Genesis to see what God’s original plan had been all about regarding the marriage covenant.

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