“The Son of Man is coming be on your Guard”
We begin today a new year in the Church’s liturgy with the first Sunday of Advent. Most of the reading during this year, Year C in the missal, will be taken from the Gospel of Luke. Today’s Gospel comes from one of the last parts of the Gospel. We may expect it to deal with the birth of Christ, as Advent is a time to prepare for it. In fact, the reading is about his second coming. Jesus warns his disciples to be ready to meet their master. We are in Jerusalem (Lk 20 -21) and the confrontation with the Jewish authorities is going to lead to the death of Jesus. The rising from the dead, will however, overturn the apparent victory of his enemies (Lu 22-240.
“A Kingdom not of this world”
Today’s Gospel is the last in Liturgical year B which was devoted to the reading of the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel is shorter than the others and John’s is used to supplement it. The passage taken helps us understand the meaning of the feast of Christ the King. We see Jesus before Pilate who questions him about his identity and the accusation that he is “King of the Jews.” Jesus explains his kingship. It is different from that of kings of this world.
“Jesus is coming again”
In chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the end of the world and his second coming in glory. The occasion for the speech, according to Mark, is a question put by Peter, James, John and Andrew, four of his disciples, while they were sitting down on the Mount of Olives facing Jerusalem. They feel that the end is drawing near but they do not know when and how it will happen. Jesus assures them that he will come again but when and how he will not say. They must be vigilant.
“The Widow offers all she has”
During his ministry in Jerusalem. Jesus spent much time debating with the religious leaders. He also found time to teach the people regarding what God wants of them, as we see in today’s Gospel (Mk 12:38-44). Having warned his hearers against merely outward religious practices that are performed only to attract attention, Jesus invites the disciples to be like the poor widow he sees making her offering in the temple. She gave generously from the little she had to live on.
“The Two Great Commandments”
Jesus has reached Jerusalem. He challenges the heart of the Jewish religion by driving out the traders in the Temple (Mk 11:15-19). The opposition to him is now at its height and religious leaders try all they can to trap him and arrest him. A first test is about paying taxes to Caesar (Mk 12;13-17) and a second concerns the resurrection of the dead (Mk 12:18-27). Jesus wins both arguments. Today’s Gospel, the last test, is about the greatest commandment. Jesus replies that the heart of the Law is a total undivided love of God and of one’s neighbor
“Bartimaeus is cured and follows Jesus”
In today’s Gospel Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples who are in state of fear. Three times he has told them that he is going to die there but they did not really understand him. At Jericho just before entering Jerusalem, Jesus meets Bartimaeus, a blind man, who, in spite of the crowd, makes his way to Jesus. When he is cured of his blindness he sees and without hesitation decides to follow Jesus along the road to Jerusalem and to be with him in his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
“To be a disciple is to serve others”
As Jesus and his disciples approach Jerusalem, Jesus reminds them for the third time that he will suffer, die and rise from the dead. As with the two previous announcements, the disciples fail to understand his teaching and Jesus has to challenge them again. John and James show how much they misunderstand Jesus when they ask for the places of honor in his kingdom. Once more Jesus has to teach them and all those who want to become his followers that to be his disciple is to become servants and even slaves to all, following his own example of total self-giving.
“Following Jesus whole heartedly”
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where he will suffer, die and rise from the dead. The disciples follow him without fully understanding how they are to behave. In today’s Gospel a man comes to Jesus and says he wants to follow him. He has been obedient to the Law of Moses since his childhood. Jesus challenges him to go beyond observation of the law, make a serious commitment to God by giving up his riches and following him. This is too much for the man and he goes away sad. When riches are a hindrance to entering the kingdom of God they must be gotten rid of.
“Marriage is for life”
The Gospel of today challenge our vision of marriage. Religious leaders are often presented in the Gospel of Mark as putting Jesus to the test in order to trap him and accuse him of some crime on religious grounds (Mk 7:5; 8:11). Today’s trap is about divorce. The law of Moses permits it. Jesus forbids it. The disciples, as is often the case in Mark, do not understand Jesus’ position very well and have to be taught. Part of their formation is to become like little children so that they might share fully God’s life.
“Who is for Jesus”
In Mark 9:38-50 Jesus continue to teach his disciples about the implications of following him. John tries to stop somebody who is not one of the group from using Jesus’ name to drive out an evil spirit. Jesus shows him that what the person had done showed that he was following him already. A true disciple of Jesus must never believe that only the members of his group, or his movement or his Church belong to Jesus and are ‘saved’. Wherever we see people doing good, healing others, liberating them from any kind of spiritual or social oppression, the Spirit of Jesus is at work.
“Jesus teaches his disciples”
The Gospel of today comes after the transfiguration of Jesus, witnessed by Peter, James and John (Mk 9:2-8). Jesus is now travelling through Galilee, but Mark tells us that he does not want people to know because he is instructing his disciples. He will tell them again about his coming suffering, death and resurrection which they miss completely once again, and he will have to take time to instruct them what it means to be first in the Kingdom of God and how they should welcome him, the messenger of the Kingdom.