Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, March 5, 2000
New users of the Web: Click on the underlined Scripture references to see the text of the readings.
This year, we're traversing the gospel of Saint Mark Sunday by Sunday. Mark's gospel is balanced around the famous scenes, Mark 8:27-38, where Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ (in Hebrew, "the Messiah") and Jesus immediately announces that he has to suffer, die, and be raised from death, all to fulfill his Messianic mission. Today's gospel passage, Mark: 2:23-3:6,
lays the groundwork for Jesus' dire prediction; it shows him violating the legalistic Sabbath regulations and irritating some influential Jewish leaders, who begin to plot his death.
All that said, the first reading gives us, in its last two sentences, the reason for the Sabbath rest in the first place:
Slaves work every day. Free people get a day off.
You're no longer slaves. Act like free people.
That's right. The original purpose of the sabbath was not to give people a day to worship, although that's a good thing. It was to remind the people that the Lord God, with strong hand and outstretched arm, had liberated them from slavery in Egypt. Even the Hebrews' own slaves, even their animals, were to take a day of rest.
How will you express this in your proclamation? Pause significantly before the sentence "For remember ..." Say this and the last sentence very solemnly. Attack the words "That is why."
That's what you want your listeners to remember.
Had Jesus lost sight of this great truth when he violated the Sabbath rest? That's really for the homilist to explain, but the short answer is no. Custom had obscured the meaning of the Sabbath with excess legalism, and Jesus was working on a greater liberation.
In sophisticated, cosmopolitan Athens, Paul had tried to preach the gospel in a clever, intellecutal way, and got laughed out of town. See Acts of the Apostles 17:16-33
. He went immediately to Corinth, where he founded a Christian community by means much more modest than his failed Athens plan (See Acts 18
This time the gospel took root and flourished. Paul realized it was the Spirit of God, not his own work, whether harder or smarter, that brought this about, the evidence of which is in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians
. But things still didn't go smoothly for Paul himself. Some Corinthian Christians challenged his authority (See last week's lector notes
). That's why he says his message is a great treasure, but the bearer of the message, Paul himself, is quite beat up and bedraggled. To mix the metaphor a bit, the messages is the finest wine, but the vessel isn't Waterford, it's throwaway Styrofoam.
As you proclaim this, try to keep in mind Paul's mindset. He's a little sorry for himself, but he's very excited about Jesus. By varying the pitch of your voice, you can bring out this contrast.