19Feb 19 February. Tuesday of Week 6

A work in progress. Jesus seems to be frustrated with his disciples. In spite of all they’ve known him to say and do, they do not really grasp who he is or what he is about…

1st Reading: Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10

The universal flood; the Lord’s regret at creating the human race

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created, people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord.

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.

Responsorial: Psalm 28:1-4, 9-10

Response: The Lord will bless his people with peace.

O give the Lord you sons of God,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Adore the Lord in his holy court. (R./)

The Lord’s voice resounding on the waters,
the Lord on the immensity of the waters;
the voice of the Lord, full of power,
the voice of the Lord, full of splendour. (R./)

The God of glory thunders.
In his temple they all cry ‘Glory.’
The Lord sat enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits as king for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:14-21

Jesus is amazed at the blindness of his disciples

The disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus gave them this warning, “Watch out, beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

BIBLE

From external to internal

On the surface, today’s texts are about external things. In Genesis, Noah escapes from the flood that covered the earth while in Mark the disciples worry that they have too little bread for their voyage across the Sea of Galilee. Our own reflections, and our theology also, usually begins from what is visible and tangible. It is the sight of the poor and the oppressed that stirs us to wonder what place or purpose suffering may have in the wise providence of God. The misdeeds of the people in Noah’s time provoked regret in God’s heart and that phrase in Genesis raises all sorts of theological problems, such as: How can God regret? Did he see the creation of mankind as a mistake? Is there room for change in the divine mind? Similarly, Jesus’ response to the disciples turns into a volley of questions which evinces surprise on his part that his followers acted as they did: “Do you still not see or comprehend? Are your minds completely blind? Have you eyes but no sight, ears but no hearing? Do you not remember how I broke the five loaves, ?” The gospel ends on the question: “Do you still not understand?”

We begin with the externals but we must probe beneath them. Biblical interpretation must not bog down arguing about externals, as in the case of Noah’s flood. Did it really cover the earth? Could all those animals have been contained within the ark? etc. Even if archaeology suggests that mammoth floods in ancient Mesopotamia gave rise to various flood sagas, these sagas show people struggling with theological issues too. The flood story in Genesis begins with the motives of the human heart. It says that when the Lord saw such wickedness on earth, and how no human desire was even anything but evil, he regretted having made man, “and his heart was grieved.” The Scriptures move back from external actions to human desires and to regret in God’s heart. To benefit from such stories, we need to quietly examine our own motives as well as our behaviour.


A work in progress

Jesus seems to be frustrated with his disciples. In spite of all they’ve known him to say and do, they do not really grasp who he is or what he is about. They do seek the inner significance of his deeds, such as his feeding of the multitudes. Worse was to come. They not only misunderstood him but they eventually abandoned him. Mark gives quite a negative portrayal of the disciples. Yet, these are the very ones who passed on the faith.

Mark’s original text ends (Mk 16:8) with the words of the young man from the tomb, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him, just as he told you.” After their failure, Jesus met with them again in Galilee to renew their call. The gospel shows Jesus as faithful to us, even when we are less that faithful to him. He goes ahead of us into all the places we find ourselves in. He is there ahead of us, calling us to begin again. St Paul puts this very simply, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful.”


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