June 2021: The Deep End
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
6 June 2021
He has gone out of his mind’
In the Gospel today we read that Jesus has returned home and causes quite a commotion on his arrival. Word about this healer and teacher has gotten around, the crowds have gathered, and the religious leaders are not happy. Jesus’ growing popularity has started to upset daily life for his family to the point where ‘they could not eat’. In an effort to protect their son and their brother, Jesus’ family try to explain away his ‘unruly’ behaviour. They tell the crowd and the religious leaders that Jesus does not mean what he says, he has simply ‘gone out of his mind’. In their view, things have gone too far. Jesus was preaching a message that seemed radical to many. He knows that bringing about God’s dream for the world involves speaking out and behaving in ways that are counter cultural. The religious leaders go so far as to say that Jesus was possessed by a demon. It was their way of ‘explaining away’ someone that they could not cope with, someone who was challenging their systems and practices. We can think of those in society today who are ‘explained away’; those whom society wishes would stop speaking out because it is uncomfortable to listen to. Name-calling is often a last resort when institutions or ‘powers’ are disgruntled. The young climate activist, Greta Thunberg, knows this well. Following taunts by Presidents and Fossil Fuel executives towards her, she famously said, ‘When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go… and then you know you’re winning.’
The end of today’s Gospel is troubling as Jesus seems to dismiss his mother, his brothers and sisters. But Jesus’ mission is now wider than his immediate family. It is not that he no longer cares for them, God’s vision and Jesus’ vision for this world are now one. As sometimes happens in life, we have to let go of certain things in order to follow our true path.
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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
13 June 2021
‘It is like a mustard seed’
Something we may not often think about is Jesus’ earthly relationship with creation. Jesus walked everywhere, went to quiet places to pray, preached from mountains, from boats on the water; his followers included fishermen in tune with the rhythm of the sea. In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home, he reminds us that Jesus ‘was in constant touch with nature, lending it an attention full of fondness and wonder’ (Laudato Si’, 97). Jesus’ parables are full of imagery from the natural world and in today’s Gospel we have an example of this in the parable of the mustard seed. People of Jesus’ time may have preferred the image of the lofty ‘cedars of Lebanon’ to explain God’s kingdom, mustard plants however, only stand a few feet tall. Jesus is turning the ideals of power and triumph on their head. There is an ancient text which forbade planting mustard seeds in Palestinian gardens because the shrub takes over wherever it is planted and attracts unwanted birds. Author and activist, Shane Claiborne, compares it to kudzu, a wild vine that could blanket entire mountain areas, smother trees, even crack cement buildings. This mustard seed image of God’s dream for this world is one which suggests that it will grow even in places where it is not wanted, putting cracks in seemingly mighty structures.
The New Testament not only tells us of the earthly Jesus and his tangible and loving relationship with the world. It also shows him risen and glorious, present throughout all of creation (Col 1:19-20). ‘The very flowers of the field and the birds which [Christ’s] human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence’ (Laudato Si’, 100). As we watch out for traces of the mustard seed kingdom this week, let us also embrace the joy of Christ in all of creation.
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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
20 June 2021
‘Let us go across to the other side’
‘Let us go across to the other side’ is an important phrase in Mark’s Gospel which occurs many times. Jesus and the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee from what is a predominantly Jewish area to a more Gentile (non-Jewish) region. While this phrase signifies Jesus’ geographical position, it also suggests that he is inviting the disciples to go a little deeper on their journey. They are perhaps entering into the unknown, moving out of their comfort zones and therefore feeling anxious. The crossing of the water does not go so well for the disciples as a storm begins to brew and eventually the water begins to endanger the boat. To the disciple’s astonishment, Jesus is asleep through the whole ordeal. Their anxious call is understandable, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ After all, Jesus has led them, and ‘other boats’ into this situation and now appears not to care what will happen to them all.
In times of turmoil in life, we too may feel totally abandoned, swamped by fear and anxiety, adrift in a storm where even Jesus appears to be asleep. During such experiences, we might remember the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel and repeat them, like a mantra, ‘Peace! Be Still’. While the wind is howling around us it can be frightening but Christ is always with us, present within our very selves, offering us this deep peace. Often, coming back into this awareness can help us navigate through the storm and remind us that Jesus is very active in our lives, especially when we are entering into unknown territory. What is required of the disciples in this account, is a more mature faith, a deeper trust in their Teacher, that he will not abandon them.
‘May the peace of Christ go with you wherever he may send you; May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm; May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you; May he bring you home rejoicing.’ (Shane Claiborne).
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Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
27 June 2021
In today’s Gospel we hear two healing stories: Jairus’ daughter and the woman with a haemorrhage. At first glance these stories might not seem to have a lot in common. The woman is a complete social outcast because of her condition, yet Jesus calls her ‘daughter’. He does not let social convention dictate who can be called a child of God. Jesus reminds the people of this woman’s true identity. The synagogue official surprises us, pleasantly, with his faith in Jesus and his message. What these two characters have in common is faith against all the odds as they reach out to Jesus in faith-filled action. There are those in the story who laugh when Jesus says he can bring back Jairus’ daughter. They are sent away. Jesus’ healing breaks down the barriers that isolate us from one another and from God.
We can all recall times when we were struggling. We needed something to move us, to help us forgive, to help us walk away or to relieve us of physical pain. In the end it can be the simple gestures that save us: a kind word, someone praying for us, a gentle touch or we reach out to someone and like the woman with the haemorrhage we suddenly feel within ourselves that we are healing. These accounts show us something of how God’s grace can enter our lives and transform situations.
Mark leaves untranslated Jesus’ native language when he restores the young girl to life: ‘Talitha cum’ – a beautiful phrase meaning: ‘Little girl, get up!’. Jairus’ daughter has been given new life; the woman has also been given new life. Both have overcome barriers that were keeping them from being free. We know what those barriers are for each of us. God’s grace is gentle yet can bring life to situations of death. What do you need healing from today? Bring this to prayer.