The holy huddle of discipleship

As Jesus and his disciples make their way back from the mountain-top experience of the transfiguration and the ultimate revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, it is little wonder that the disciples remain confused. Jesus has been teaching them and preparing them for the day that they finally grasped that he was the true Messiah – which Peter was able to confess last Sunday when they arrived at Caesarea Philippi. What is wrong in this picture is the whole expectation of what the Messiah would look, feel and act like. Clearly as the restored king of Israel, gathering armies and overthrowing the Roman occupiers and cleansing the temple – this did not look like what Jesus was now doing. As they make their way along the road and the poor disciples are struggling to work out is what Jesus telling us meant to be taken literally or should we be somehow going deeper to find a symbolic meaning in all of this? I imagine that Jesus brings the disciples together into a holy huddle to try and explain all this.

Once they arrive back in Capernaum, which is their home base for most of the public ministry of Jesus, Jesus is able to bring them back into the house and confront them with the discussion/argument that they have been having along the road. Conveniently a child is there in the house (a child of one of the apostle’s?) – the Greek term used suggests a very young child – and Jesus is able to embrace the child and use him as a teaching moment. Children had little value in ancient society – until they were old enough to be put to use around the house or out in the fields. Suddenly this worthless child becomes the paradigm of what being in the kingdom will look like.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm (7’45”)
Sunday 25B. Mark 9: 30-37

Social Media ideas

Born in country NSW, I celebrated my first birthday in the 1960s; but a few weeks later decided that I was bored with this decade and we moved into the decade of flares, big hair and the first TV that my family owned. Some of my earliest memories as a child are of watching reports of the Vietnam War and thinking ‘why are people so unkind.’ Our TV was a big box with a small black & white screen that only had one channel, Win TV, because we lived behind a hill that blocked the ABC signal. We also had a couple of radios – here we were luckier, because we had a whole two channels to listen to: the ABC station 2BA, and the local Bega commercial station, then known as 2BE. We only received two newspapers as well – the twice weekly Bega District News (which we generally only bought once a week – the Tuesday edition, because that was Mum’s weekly shopping trip when we ventured into the ‘big smoke’) and the Catholic Weekly.

This was still the era of centralised media production and distribution. News content for our family came from these few defined channels. Broader information came from books that we bought or borrowed from the school library. If you wanted to find out information for a school project, you read articles in the World Book Encyclopaedia, or if you wanted to seem especially brainy, you looked up the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Eventually my family were able to purchase our own set of Encyclopaedias, when a door-to-door salesman convinced us to purchase a set of Funk and Wagnells – which as kids we like to quote from because it was as close as we were allowed to say something that sounded rude.

The Brittanica, published continuously since 1768, ceased print publication this year; its 65,000 articles written by over 4,000 expert contributors and $3,000 price tag could no longer compete with the eleven-year-old Wikipedia with its more than 22 million articles (over 4 million in English) in 285 languages created and edited by idiots and experts alike. When my parents sold our family farm five years ago and downsized to a smaller house, the decision to recycle the Funk and Wagnells was an easy one; they no longer had a relevant place in the 21st century.

The world has certainly changed in my lifetime. Okay – in part that is because I’m an old middle-aged fart [Adam Hills reference] and grew up in the country. But mainly this is because all of us are living through what objectively can only be described as either a revolution or a key watershed moment that the annals of human history (in whatever format that is) will record as a key turning point. In the work of Canadian educator, philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan (died 31 Dec 1980), who although born into an agnostic family became a Catholic in his mid-twenties and lived a subsequently devote life, this current revolution that he predicted and described with such accuracy is as significant as the two key watershed moments in human history that McLuhan identifies: first, the creation of the full alphabet (vowels and consonants) by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, and second, the conversion of a wine press into the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439.

Both of these innovations set in place revolutions that radically altered the shape and complexity of human history. What we are living through now is doing exactly the same.

One of the dimensions of this present period is the way that hundreds of millions of people have changed from being content consumers to content producers. Our news no longer comes from only a few select channels like when I was a child; we help to shape and create the news. This is the case whether we have a regular website, or a blog on WordPress, Blogger, TypePad or Weebly; a micro-blog on tumblr or twitter; a video channel on YouTube or Vimeo; a podcast; send out random emails or texts; or we just like using our iPhones to take photos of food or drunk friends which we then share on facebook, we have all become part of the social media network. (more…)

Who is Jesus the Messiah?

The Gospel passage today is taken from the centre of the Gospel of Mark – not only is it the literal centre chapter, but it is also the place in Mark where the ministry of Jesus takes a definite turn. Jesus and his disciples are on the move. Last week, in Mark 7, we heard that Jesus travelled from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee via Sidon and the Decapolis region of the ten cities. This week, after leaving Bethsaida, where Jesus has healed a blind man in two stages after taking him first out, away from the crowd, it seems that Mark wants us to see that perhaps we are also blind to who Jesus really is, and we need to take time to journey with Jesus away from the crowds and ponder who he really is. Let journey with Jesus and the disciples towards the slopes of Mount Hermon, and ponder the questions that Jesus asks the disciples: “who do you say I am?”

Like the blind man, who when Jesus first lays hands on him is able to see – but people look like trees walking around – perhaps the disciples have seen little more of Jesus than the crowds. Perhaps they think that all his mighty deeds make him like one of the great prophets of old – like Elijah or Elisha – who also have great miracles attributed to them. Just as Jesus takes the man away from the crowds in order for his eyes to be open, so he takes the disciples away on a two-three day walk to the pagan region of Caesarea Philippi. It was not the kind of place that good Jewish boys would normally go – associated as it was with the worship of the god Pan, and more recently (as the name suggests) with the new worship of the Roman Emperor. (more…)

New Kindle version of eMissal now available

Over the weekend I have been able to create and post new versions of the both the ePub and Kindle editions of the Roman Missal (3rd edition); for the first time the Kindle edition now includes all of the music of the ePub edition, as well as the corrections of a number of minor errors that I have spotted as I have used the Missal. With the latest version of Amazon’s Kindle App on the iPad, I find this app is now better than Apple’s iBook.

To add the mobi edition to an Android device (such as the Nexus 7), simply copy the file into the /kindle folder.

Both versions are available on my website:

The following information, which is available within the ebook (slightly different in each edition), may be helpful: (more…)

He does all things well


The Fathers of the Church remind us that there were many miracles that Jesus performed; when a particular one stood out in the memory of the evangelists, it was perhaps for a particular spiritual lesson that the story can offer to us as we read and listen to it. AS always, we are invited to enter into the scene before us and allow Jesus to address us.

To begin, Mark provides us with an interesting geography lesson as he relates the route that Jesus took from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee. To travel between these two points via Sidon and the Decapolis is a little like travelling from Sydney to Canberra via Newcastle and Bathurst. You can do it, but you should seriously consider updating your GPS if that is the suggested route! (more…)

Fulfilling the law

One of the gifts of Fathers’ Day – which we celebrate today in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – is the impunity that it gives to fathers today to tell Dad jokes. Even though it might invoke a deep groan on other days, today we are more inclined to declare these to be hilarious. One of the lovely things about a joke is that it opens up to teller and hearer an understanding of a mutual, sometimes hidden, worldview. But this breaks down when you have to explain yourself and the context. Mark is faced with this in today’s Gospel. When writing to a new Jewish audience, he has to provide little editorial asides to us to explain what the issue is, so that the words of Jesus make sense. The reading would also make more sense if we read the entire passage, rather than the three extracts that we are given by the liturgy.

Sometimes this passage is interpreted as a conflict between scripture and tradition; others say it is between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ but in fact it is much deeper and points to how we are meant to understand the law as a whole.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (8’45”)
Sunday 22B