From the ecstatic peace of the mountain we descend, with Christ and the three disciples, into the usual melée which is the backdrop to life on the ground. For all of us it can be so appealing to want to remain in the thickness of the cloud, removed, as it were, from one reality to be able to experience real reality in the undiluted presence of God.
In this moment of unparalleled encounter we too, like Elijah and Moses, are invited to be friends with God, speaking with him face to face.
It seems that our lectio of Mark’s Gospel has happily reached a point which perfectly mirrors this moment in the liturgical calendar: the conditions of discipleship are placed into the context of our common and personal Lenten journey!
With these few verses in our lectio we reach the real point of Mark’s Gospel – that the Christ has come to be revealed in his Passion. The verses which have preceded these, of course, form a single unit and each portion relies upon the other for its full meaning: the faith realisation about Jesus’ true identity and then what that identity implies.
With this lectio divina we reach a turning point in the Gospel, and with it, perhaps, a turning point for ourselves. There is no doubt that we cannot avoid being drawn into this scene as participant, both hearing Jesus’ questions addressed directly to us, and feeling his expectation as he waits for each of us to answer. He asks a profoundly disturbing question, which divides itself into two parts – the first general, by way of softening us up, as it were; the second particular, personal, and pointed.
The themes of blindness, loss of sight, and poor sight, are some of the most common themes which appear in Sacred Scripture. This suggests that the particular affliction – whether from birth or occurring in formerly sighted people – was not uncommon and provides a foundation of experience for our sacred authors. A quick scan in a biblical concordance reveals a wealth of passages in which the blind or blindness is mentioned, and that’s without looking for phrases which express loss of sight or similar experience.
Just a few verses, but so much comes into our prayer as Christ asks us to reflect with him on the value of signs in our lives. The Pharisees are really not very happy people! Almost nothing satisfies them and they continually hanker after something more. It’s a way of life and an outlook on life which is doomed to be characterized by perennial disappointment. More than that, it lacks the wonder and awe which is the mark of those who know that they have the possibility of encountering mystery at every moment.
There is no repetition in a Gospel simply for the sake of repetition. In this the sacred writings are somewhat akin to music, when a section is marked with a repeat mark: although the very same notes and chords will be played the performer must have a sense of a slightly different feel to the same music and communicate that to the audience.
Very few of us can recall the moment of our baptism because it belongs to our farthest infancy and so resides in that time when memory is not yet attuned to explicit storing and recall. Perhaps that has something to do with our difficulty in allowing it to be the dynamic event which it is in itself.
One of the striking things about all four Gospel accounts is the place and role given to women in their relationships with Jesus and how he meets them and engages with them. It was certainly a counter-cultural way of behaving, in that it is obvious that Jesus gave space to women to become real protagonists with him.