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.
How can the otherworldly, transcendent God have a believable effect in history?
According to the ancient oriental law for couriers the messenger of a king was regarded as the authorized representative of the faraway ruler. The biblical texts speaking of God and his people have a similar context: he operates and helps through people who let themselves be sent, like the prophets, Moses and Elijah. The sender himself is present in those he sends. That is why Jesus is characterized as a messenger in the New Testament and once even explicitly called apostle, meaning messenger. He involves the Twelve and his disciples in his own mission when he makes them into his messengers: “Whoever listens to you listens to me...” (Lk10,16); “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me...” (Mt 10,40). And the disciples are sent out in pairs of two for their credibility as witnesses. hak
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”So they went off and preached repentance.They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sickand cured them.
Paul was marked by a mysterious illness; maybe it was epilepsy. That, for him, was like a thorn in the flesh. He could have given up and shut himself away in bitterness.
Instead he exposed this weakness in front of his community in Corinth and in front of God. Because he said yes to his powerlessness, something could take effect in his weakness that did not originate in himself. Traditionally this is described as mercy, said in a different way: Strengthening and help for continuing together in the mission. ruk
Therefore, that I might not become too elated because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
The daily reports confront us with violent death, be it through weapons, other acts of violence or drowning in the Mediterranean. It’s enough to make you despair.
But the invisible counterpart of the world, the great YOU, constantly raises objections. Because He is a friend of life. Therefore there is nothing harmful in the world and its set-up: It is a reflection of the good that defines the creator himself. It culminates in the justice that He has bestowed on all of creation: that it is just as it is because it comes from Him and is directed towards Him. Paradise could be possible, everywhere and every day. If there was not the great corrupter, envy, who turns everybody against each other and wants to see blood. But there is a remedy for that: His people from all the peoples that lives his justice! No, we need not despair: Anyone, be they critical or enamored of the world, can help to build up this people. bek
Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome; there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of Hades on earth, for righteousness is undying. For God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it.
The calm in the storm
For an entire day Jesus speaks to the people in parables. Before Mark talks about Jesus stepping into the boat in the evening he notes: “But to his own disciples he explained everything in private.” Now he is alone with them on a boat as a storm breaks out at sea.
Apparently this story is an explanation of the parables told: Most recently Jesus compared the Kingdom of God with the autonomously growing seed. And now, during the storm, he is sleeping. Mark even mentions that he is lying on a pillow. The master is not bothered by the fear that the boat might sink because he knows that the seed grows – without activism and fuss. The combination of boat, disciples and Jesus will not sink. This calm first transfers to the sea – and after Pentecost also to the disciples. tac
On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
What is certain
The modern consciousness defined itself absolutely, disregarding everything exterior, coincidental, historical and dogmatic: “I think, therefore I am”. The only certainty left.
Hence the emancipated, autonomous subject of the modern era developed, whose dignity and rights are laid down in many constitutions. Thus a degree of freedom and self-determination is reached that in this form has not existed in history until now. Is there a bridge leading to Sunday’s gospel? In the parable Jesus reflects on what is certain. Exegetes do not agree whether he is speaking of the seed growing on its own or the confident sower. Jesus sees a process put in motion that is initiated by the sower and in which “the earth” participates in cooperatively until it is time for the harvest. John perpetuates Jesus’ certainty (4,36): “The sower and reaper can rejoice together”. ars
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The word used as a request and quickly spoken in the hustle of the checkout line or on the bus usually means: Pardon! I’m sorry. Put into bigger words: Forgive me. Such a sentence does not come naturally.
Already on the first pages of the bible we can find what usually happens, told quite matter-of-factly: “The woman gave me …”. “The snake tricked me …”. Everyone blames each other. Through such words the paradisiac garden is lost. There never actually was a conversation in paradise like this, but the issue was there and still is today. It can only be eliminated through behavior like Dag Hammerskjöld, the second United Nations Secretary-General, describes in his diary: “Forgiveness breaks the causal chain because he, who forgives out of love, takes responsibility for the consequences of what you have caused.” It is the key to reopening the garden. acb
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me — she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”