Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gospel for Wednesday after Epiphany

Memorial (USA): St. John Neumann, Bishop

From: Mark 6:45-52

Jesus Walks on Water
[45] Immediately he (Jesus) made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. [46] And after he had taken leave of them, he went into the hills to pray. [47] And when evening came the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. [48] And he saw that they were distressed in rowing, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; [50] for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." [51] And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, [52] for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

48. The Romans divided the night into four parts or watches, whose length varied depending on the season. St Mark (13:35) gives the popular names for these watches: evening, midnight, cockcrow, morning. Therefore, it is towards dawn that Jesus comes to the disciples.

He wishes to teach us that even when we are in very pressurized and difficult situations, he is nearby, ready to help us; but he expects us to make an effort, to strengthen our hope and temper our resolve (cf. note on Mt 14:24-33); as an early Greek commentator puts it: "The Lord allowed his disciples to enter danger to make them suffer, and he did not immediately come to their aid: he left them in peril for the whole night, to teach them to be patient and not to be accustomed to receiving immediate succor in tribulation" (Theophylact, "Enarratio In Evangelium Marci, in loc.").

52. The disciples do not yet see Jesus' miracles as signs of his divinity. They witness the multiplication of the loaves and the fish (Mk 6:33-44) and the second multiplication of the loaves (Mk 8:17), but their hearts and minds are still hardened; they fail to grasp the full import of what Jesus is teaching them through his actions--that he is the Son of God. Jesus is patient and understanding with their defects, even when they fail to grasp what he says when he speaks about his own passion (Lk 18:34). Our Lord will give them further miracles and further teaching to enlighten their minds, and, later, he will send the Holy Spirit to teach them all things and remind them of everything he said (cf. Jn 14:26).

St Bede the Venerable comments on this whole episode (Mk 6:45-52) in this way: "In a mystical sense, the disciples' effort to row against the wind point to the efforts the Holy Church must make against the waves of the enemy world and the outpourings of evil spirits in order to reach the haven of its heavenly home. It is rightly said that the boat was out on the sea and He alone on the land, because the Church has never been so intensely persecuted by the Gentiles that it seemed as if the Redeemer had abandoned it completely. But the Lord sees his disciples struggling, and to sustain them he looks at them compassionately and sometimes frees them from peril by clearly coming to their aid" ("In Marci Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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