04Mar Friday of the Eighth Week

Sir 44:1ff. Israel’s ancestors were blessed in life and in their descendants because of God’s covenant with them and their fidelity to it. In times of trial rejoice that you share in Christ’s sufferings.

Mark 11:11ff. Two interwoven episodes: cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple; at the centre comes an insistence on prayer.

End and New Beginning

Jesus’ driving out from the temple those engaged in buying and selling confront us with the ending of an era. The withering of the fig tree signals the end of the Jerusalem temple. Yet it is clear that life goes on and that our response must not be mere passive submission to events.

Mark’s gospel sets Jesus’ cleansing the temple in some association with his cursing the fig tree and its withering, since the story of the fig tree envelops the other incident, a style quite common in Mark. Jesus was doing more than cleansing the temple, for his words, drawn from the Old Testament, announce a new type of temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” In those days, non-Jews were forbidden under pain of death to advance beyond the outer court of the gentiles, and the Roman authorities ratified this prescription. But Jesus draws from an Old Testament passage (Isaiah, 56) from a tradition which was not dominant in the life of Israel, though the words give an understanding of God’s plans for the future of his people. Clearly, he wants them to live more prayerfully and more generously towards others, and allow outsiders to share in the Jewish prayerful awareness of God’s presence.

Sirach advises us to look to our ancestors in order to do the proper thing for our posterity: “Now will I praise those godly people, our ancestors, each in their own time…. And for all time their progeny will endure.” This text bridges past and future and is rooted in God’s covenant. Fidelity to God and to God’s bond with us will carry us over the deepest chasms and ruptures in our life. No matter what may happen – death of one’s spouse or children, financial loss, disturbance of one’s health – nothing can break the bond of God’s covenant that unites ancestors with descendants.

We can overcome our trials, and look to the future because of the bond of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. No matter what may happen, the practical instruction of today’s texts is there to help us.

First Reading: Sirach 44:1, 9-13

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.

The Lord apportioned to them great glory.. But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.

But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.

Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.

Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out.

Gospel: Mark 11:11-26

Then he 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.

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer or all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses.”