For many the declaration of how bad times are is part of the daily ritual like the newspaper at breakfast. Has this stereotype maybe overlooked something?
Namely that each era has people with a clear, incorruptible vision, who point out the true dangers and necessary course settings – but are pushed to the side? Israel’s wisdom literature describes this reflex towards those people who think critically and against the tide: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions”. In threatening times, 1927, Thomas Haecker said: Times have thought that the western heritage could be preserved in spite of or even because of the emancipation from the one faith. “Without the Christian faith Europe is merely a grain of sand in the whirl of opinions, ideas and religions.” Are these proven words of a clear-sighted admonisher heard today? bek
The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end. For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
“Go in Peace”
With scorching criticism the letter of James zeros in on the attitude faith could be separated from deeds.
A notion that already surfaced in the contention of the early Church with the Greek worldview. Faith as solely an inner mindset or opinion is barely possible in Judaism, where a certain kind of action, loyalty to the Tora, is the way of faith itself. That is why there can be no division of labor here: some believe, others act. The biblical faith exists only with works. James explains the connection using the example of Abraham, the first believer, and concludes: “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.“ So it neither comes down to faith alone, nor to works alone, but to the cooperation of both. tac
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.
It is extremely rare to have an original quote of Jesus’ preserved. When he raises Jairus’ little daughter he encourages her: “Talitha kumi – little girl, arise”; in today’s gospel he addresses a deaf-mute: “Effata – be opened.”
He heals his ears, in which he places his fingers, and makes his tongue speak again. With this story Mark places Jesus’ work in the tradition of the prophets: When God himself comes – what happens then? “Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened”. Here the bystanders say: “He has done all things well.” In Jesus’ action the God of Israel’s trademark is revealed: “Here is your God!” (Is 40,9?). The Effata has been adopted into the ritual of baptism. Maybe Effata has its origin in the words of the servant of God: “Morning after morning he wakens my ear.” ars
It’s surprising: At the end of the catalogue of negative behaviors that Jesus lists in an exchange with his critics he names folly. It seems harmless at first glance compared to everything else that is mentioned.
But for Jesus folly is as harmful and destructive as adultery, embezzlement, rabble-rousing and murder. Folly turns things upside down, sees crucial matters as triviality and puffs up irrelevances. It does not consider the identity of things. It injures the creation in which the faithful recognize the logic of God, the reason of the creator. The question of what a faithful life is could be asked differently: Is what we do foolish or reasonable? acb
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands,* keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Freedom of Will
For some believing in God is primarily a matter of the heart, for others more a matter of reason. The biblical tale of the people’s assembly in Shechem emphasizes a third option: The will that can choose freely.
Reason recognizes that no promise has fallen short. The heart gratefully knows from where salvation comes and both help the will. And the greatest help: the lived alternative of those who decide for themselves and together: “We will serve the Lord”. hak
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
Food has an expiration date. Also, the time to give your life direction is limited.
It all depends on internalizing what is heard as if, like food, it were a means to life. For the Sunday readings are read aloud to unfold their effectiveness, give the ones celebrating together a new direction at a specific place and at a specific time: The shortly available lifetime opens itself up to something greater. ruk
Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The Self and the Other
What is the innermost core of the commandments? This question was posed and discussed as far back as biblical times. The reading from the letter to the Ephesians describes it with the words: “Be imitators of God”.
God’s essence, which is to be imitated then, however, is the way he is oriented towards something opposite. Towards something that is not himself, but completely different. That was His incitement, if one can say that, to create the cosmos, the world, man. Matter is that which is completely different from Him, who is pure spirit. Because of this otherness it is His joy – the world with us humans. To imitate this God would mean for us to orientate ourselves towards that which is different from our self, the foreign. More precisely, not to take exception to the otherness of the neighbor and discount it, but to recognize it as the reason for our joy. bek
And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
What the world needs to live
Since its beginnings, Israel has specialized in understanding that man does not live on bread alone, but on the decisive word.
When the people complain in the desert, manna from heaven fills their stomachs and the word from heaven, the Tora, fills their lives. From now on this word is the daily bread of Israel. Because Jesus is the decisive word of the Father, he can also be called the bread of life. Being the logos of the Tora, he is the true bread that has come from heaven. “Eating him” and listening to him are one. tac
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
The Great Misunderstanding
The gospel of Mark is so short that John gets a chance as a kind of fill-in from the 17th until the 20th Sunday. He writes differently from the synoptics in many ways::
He substitutes the last supper for the foot-washing; the cleansing of the temple he moves to the beginning of Jesus’ appearance; he gives his own twist to today’s story of the wonderful feeding: “Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king.” Is John closer to the historical truth than the others? During the interrogation Pilate will ask Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” and then he will have the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” inscribed on the cross.
A few centuries later Martin of Tours has an apparition: Somebody, in a crown and imperial gown, steps in front of him and says: “I am Christ.” He repeats it and again a third time. Only then does Martin realize: It has got to be the confuser. “I can not believe that Christ would have come in any other way than with that demeanor and outward appearance with which he suffered, than with the stigmata of the cross.” The solving of the misunderstanding has not been completed yet. ars
After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias]. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
“I am suspicious of most theologians, they might disappoint me because each word that leaves their mouth I had already known before.”
The young Hans Scholl, who wrote this down in his diary August 17th, 1942, was not looking for the spectacular ideas of creative thinkers; he longed for those who say something new because they experience something new. Mark tells of a new experience of God’s presence that manifests itself in Jesus’ way of companionship with the disciples. The question for the enlivenment of this history still arises today. acb
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.