Thursday, March 03, 2011

Gospel for Friday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial: St Casimir

From: Mark 11:11:26

The Messiah Enters Jerusalem (Continuation)

[11] And He (Jesus) entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

The Barren Fig Tree. The Expulsion of the Money-Changers
[12] On the following day, when they came from Bethany, He was hungry. [13] And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if He could find anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. [14] And He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And His disciples heard it.

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; [16] and He would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. [17] And He taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." [18] And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the multitude was astonished at His teaching. [19] And when evening came they went out of the city.

[20] As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. [21] And Peter remembered and said to Him, "Master, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered." [22] And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. [23] Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. [24] Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. [25] And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

12. Jesus' hunger is another sign of His being truly human. When we contemplate Jesus we should feel Him very close to us; He is true God and true man. His experience of hunger shows that He understands us perfectly: He has shared our needs and limitations. "How generous our Lord is in humbling Himself and fully accepting His human condition! He does not use His divine power to escape from difficulties or effort. Let's pray that He will teach us to be tough, to love work, to appreciate the human and divine nobility of savoring the consequences of selfgiving" (St. J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 161).

13-14. Jesus, of course, knew that it was not the right time for figs; therefore, He was not looking for figs to eat. His action must have a deeper meaning. The Fathers of the Church, whose interpretation St. Bede reflects in his commentary on this passage, tells us that the miracle has an allegorical purpose: Jesus had come among His own people, the Jews, hungry to find fruit of holiness and good works, but all He found were external practices--leaves without fruit. Similarly, when He enters the temple, He upbraids those present for turning the temple of God, which is a house of prayer (prayer is the fruit of piety), into a place of commerce (mere leaves). "So you", St. Bede concludes, "if you do not want to be condemned by Christ, should guard against being a barren tree, by offering to Jesus, who made Himself poor, the fruit of piety which He expects of you" ("In Marci Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").

God wants both fruit and foliage; when, because the right intention is missing, there are only leaves, only appearances, we must suspect that there is nothing but purely human action, with no supernatural depth--behavior which results from ambition, pride and a desire to attract attention.

"We have to work a lot on this earth and we must do our work well, since it is our daily task that we have to sanctify. But let us never forget to do everything for God's sake. If were to do it ourselves, out of pride, we could produce nothing but leaves, and no matter how luxuriant they were, neither God nor our fellow man would find any good in them" (St. J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 202).

15-18. Our Lord does not abide lack of faith or piety in things to do with the worship of God. If He acts so vigorously to defend the temple of the Old Law, it indicates how we should truly conduct ourselves in the Christian temple, where He is really and truly present in the Blessed Eucharist. "Piety has its own good manners. Learn them. It's a shame to see those 'pious' people who don't know how to attend Mass -- even though they go daily -- nor how to bless themselves (they throw their hands about in the weirdest fashion), nor how to bend the knee before the Tabernacle (their ridiculous genuflections seem a mockery), nor how to bow their heads reverently before a picture of our Lady" (St. J. Escriva, "The Way", 541). Cf. note on Matthew 21:12-13.

20-25. Jesus speaks to us here about the power of prayer. For prayer to be effective, absolute faith and trust are required: "A keen and living faith. Like Peter's. When you have it -- our Lord has said so--you will move mountains, the humanly insuperable obstacles that rise up against your apostolic undertakings" (St. J. Escriva, "The Way", 489).

For prayer to be effective, we also need to love our neighbor, forgiving him everything: if we do, then God our Father will also forgive us. Since we are all sinners we need to admit the fact before God and ask His pardon (cf. Luke 18:9-14).

When Christ taught us to pray He required that we have these predispositions (cf. Matthew 6:12; also Matthew 5:23 and notes on same). Here is how Theophylact ("Ennaratio in Evangelium Marci, in loc.") puts it: "When you pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in Heaven may forgive you [...]. He who believes with great affection raises his whole heart to God and, in David's words, opens his soul to God. If he expands his heart before God in this way, he becomes one with Him, and his burning heart is surer of obtaining what he desires."

Even when he is in the state of sin, man should seek God out in prayer; Jesus places no limitations at all: "Whatever you ask..." Therefore, our personal unworthiness should not be an excuse for not praying confidently to God. Nor should the fact that God already knows our needs be an excuse for not turning to Him. St. Teresa explains this when she prays: "O my God, can it be better to keep silent about my necessities, hoping that Thou wilt relieve them? No, indeed, for Thou, my Lord and my Joy, knowing how many they must be and how it will alleviate them if we speak to Thee of them, dost bid us pray to Thee and say that Thou will not fail to give" (St. Teresa, "Exclamations", 5). Cf. notes on Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:7-11.

26. As the RSV note points out, many ancient manuscripts add a v. 26: but it is clearly an addition, taken straight from Matthew 6:15. This addition was included by the editors of the Old Vulgate.
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, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase
The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

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