patmarrin's blog

Prayer and Fasting

"Why could we not drive the spirit out?" (Mark 9:29).

Jesus' disciples are surprised that in his absence they cannot handle a father's request for an exorcism of his son. They invoke Jesus's name, but the possessing spirit will not yield. By the time Jesus returns, the entire scene has roiled into a stand-off fueled by crowd excitement.

Be Perfect

“But I say to you …” (Matt 5:39).

If we sometimes find the Beatitudes to be otherworldly or a bit too idealistic for practical living, today’s continuation of the Sermon on the Mount will not make Jesus’ challenge to his disciples seem any easier. What is important to keep in mind is that Jesus is inviting us into a fundamentally different way to think and act in our relationships.

Our Ladder to Heaven

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Today’s first reading from Genesis 11 about the “Tower of Babel” was a tale from the prehistory meant to caution humans from entertaining any divine aspirations. The human race is dispersed geographically and linguistically by a jealous God for building a brick tower to connect earth to heaven. Think of the pride of place and technological prowess claimed by the tallest skyscraper in today’s world. “Is there anything we cannot do?” some boast.


“Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27).

Many dramatic plays divide the production with an intermission. The first part of the play introduces the characters and the plot, building up the tension and the questions introduced by the story. During the intermission, the audience retreats to the lobby to discuss the action and speculate how the play will resolve itself.

I Long to See Your Face

“Do you see anything?” (Mark 8:24).

In the previous chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we had the healing of a deaf mute. Jesus leads the man away from the crowd and, using spittle and touch, restores first his hearing and then his ability to speak.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man by putting spittle on his eyes. Like the earlier miracle, some creative effort is evident, and the healing seems to happen in stages, again performed in private, away from the crowds.

The Leaven of Sincerity and Truth

“Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).

One of the aspects of the gospels and of Jesus as a teacher is the power of language to transcend the literal meaning of words to reveal a much deeper realm of metaphor and symbol. If we cannot cross this threshold to grasp the underlying truth in the imagery Jesus uses, we will find it hard to understand his invitation to faith.

The Sign of Contradiction

“Amen, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12).

The Pharisees were skeptical of Jesus, and so they asked him to give them a sign to prove that he was from God. They want certainty; he invites them to take the path of discernment and faith.

When Jesus was presented in the Temple as a baby, his mother was told that he would be a sign of contradiction destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. It was an ominous foretelling, for the final sign given to an unbelieving world was the sign of the cross.

GIve Me a Discerning Heart, O Lord

“Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart” (Ps 119:34).

Every reformer is criticized for breaking tradition. The early church had to defend Jesus for his radical interpretation of the Mosaic Law. Critics said he was a law breaker and a heretic. No, Paul and the evangelists responded: Jesus actually rescued the Law from those literalists. legalists and fundamentalists who failed to grasp the underlying essence and Spirit of God’s revealed truth

Hear the Word

“He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).

If you cannot hear, this will alter your ability to speak. In meeting the deaf man with a speech impediment, Jesus first addresses his deafness. He puts his finger into the man’s ears, then spits and touches the man’s tongue. “Be opened!” he commands, and deaf man can hear, the impediment is removed and he speaks plainly.

Learning from and with Jesus

“Let the children be fed first” (Mark 7:26).

Matching up today’s Genesis reading about the creation of woman with Mark’s Gospel about Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenecian woman gives us the rare chance to say that both Adam and Jesus "met their match."

God sees that Adam is lonely, and so every creature is brought to him to be named as a possible companion. But only the woman, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, is a true partner. They reflect each other so completely that together they exhibit the full image and likeness of God.