01Jun 01 June, 2018. Friday of Week 8

(St Justin, Martyr. Memorial)

1st Reading: 1 Peter (4:7-13)

Rejoice, for you are sharing Christ’s sufferings

The end of all things is near. Therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be constant, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 96)

R./: The Lord comes to judge the earth

Say among the nations: The Lord is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity. (R./)

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult. (R./)

Before the Lord, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy. (R./)

Gospel: Mark (11:11-26)

The barren fig-tree withers away

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and after looking 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.”


Starting again

After last week’s Irish Referendum result showed such ambivalence among the electorate about the right-to-life of the child in the womb, supporters of the Pro-Life campaign are surely discouraged. What shared value-system now underpins our society? What laws should now express our culture and civilisation? Can we ‘suck it up’ and make a fresh start in re-thinking where we stand? After the first shock of the overwhelming repeal of the 8th Amendment we will need to do some soul-searching. Where is God leading our nation, and what ought we to do, to promote a consistently life-affirming message?

Peter’s warning (in the epistle) and Jesus’ purging the temple (gospel) both speak of purifying a religious culture. Peter predicts that the end is close at hand, and 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 to reverses needs us to be proactive and not merely passive submission to the flow of events.

Mark sets Jesus’ cleansing the temple in parallel with his cursing the fig tree and its withering, since the story of the fig tree envelops the other event, in Mark’s typical “sandwich-style”. Jesus was doing more than cleansing the temple, for his words, echoing the Old Testament, announce a new vision of the temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” In those days, non-Jews were strictly forbidden to enter beyond the outer court of the gentiles, and the Roman authorities ratified this rule. But Jesus draws from Isaiah (ch 56) a tradition which had been largely ignored, a new understanding of God’s plans for the future of his people. Clearly, he wants them to be more authantic in prayer and more generous towards others, allowing outsiders to share in the Jewish reverence for God’s presence.

In Peter, this sense of renewal is also strong, when he advises, “Be mutually hospitable without complaining… put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure that each has received.” Even while doing one’s best, we are not to be surprised if “a trial by fire” may occur, but instead, “Rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings.” Sorrow can put us in contact with the greatest of our ancestors, Jesus Christ, who continues to live through the bond of the new covenant. 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 mercy of Christ is there to help us.

The barren fig-tree and the temple

Mark often links two stories that he perceives to have something in common. Here he links the cleansing of the temple with Jesus parable of the fig tree. When Jesus could not find any fruit on the fig tree, he declared that the tree had no future. Then when he entered the temple he found it not bearing spiritual fruit. Instead of being a house of prayer it had become a robber’s den. Like the fig tree, it had no future.

This cleansing of the temple calls for a new level of prayer. The temple will be replaced by a new house of prayer, a new praying community, people who do the will of God as Jesus has revealed it, the community that came to be called the church. The church is to be a prayerful community, and also one marked by forgiveness. Notice that when Jesus speaks about prayer he links it to forgiveness. ‘When you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against others, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’ This readiness to forgive as we have been forgiven is a major quality that God expects to find among this new, purified community.


(Saint Justin, Martyr)

Justin (100-165) was a lawyer and philosopher from Neapolis in Judaea (modern Nablus), who spent his adult life in Rome. He was the foremost interpreter of the theory of the Logos in the 2nd century. A gifted writer, his best known surviving text is his Apologia to the Roman emperor, Antoninus, defending Christian morality, and offering ethical and philosophical arguments to get him to cease persecuting the Christian church. For refusing to sacrifice to the emperor, he was beheaded after a trial by Junius Rusticus, prefect of Rome.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    Believe it is already yours

    I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.
    Mark 11:24-25

    In my younger days I used to regard these words of Jesus as idealistic or wishful thinking – the bit about believing it is already yours: but not anymore. What exactly is Jesus saying in these words? Do not come to God with your requests and just stand there, waiting to see if God will answer you. This is slot machine faith and not faith at all. The Lord tells us to understand that God so loves us truly that he always wants to help us and in order to be helped we need to open our hearts in trust and live as though what we pray for is already here. For God is faithful and will hear us. In other words we have a part to play in this asking and receiving experience. Our part is to make ourselves ready for God’s grace to come to us. Living as though we have already received what we pray for will open us up to living in God’s blessed light.

    In the same way the matter of forgiving others is vital if we are to know forgiveness ourselves. To live a forgiving life, pardoning people, individuals and institutions, for the hurts done to us is a grace dearly to be wished for, and more importantly, prayed for.

    In today’s gospel we see powerfully the way in which the sorrows and the troubles of this life are met and embraced and overcome by the living power of faith in the loving Lord and the willingness to be reconciled one to another. The sufferings of this world are enormous and the patient suffering of the Lord is the response that scatters the darkness. If we can have some share in the sufferings of the Lord, let us do our part in our personal daily lives to live lives of faith and forgiveness.

    What is it you want God to give you? Then today start to live in that way, and so remove whatever blocks the flow of grace that the Lord always wishes to give you in abundance.

    I find myself today an older and a wiser man.

    Brian Fahy

  2. Frances Burke

    ‘Slot machine Faith’

    Brilliant description.

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