Almost There – Reflection for 4 November 2018
In today’s gospel, a man approaches Jesus to test him. He asks a question that divided rabbinic schools. The test is which side Jesus will choose. The subtle irony of Mark’s gospel presents itself yet again in the scribes response to the answer Jesus provides, “You are right, Teacher.” We can grin at the irony of a mortal man judging the truth of the Son of God’s answer, but if we are honest, we do the same thing. We pick and choose the parts of Scripture that we like and we try to explain away or ignore the parts that challenge us.
The scribe goes on to proclaim that the heart is the center of life in relation to God rather than the temple system. As much as the liturgical and sacramental tradition brings us near to the presence of God, if our hearts remain far away, the time is wasted. Just as then, the heart and not the church is the center of our relationship with God. The degree to which we are more interested in how the person in front of us is wrong instead of asking how we can love that person, is the degree to which we remain separated from God.
Jesus hears the scribes words and knows that the man has the right knowledge. The less subtle irony in Jesus’ proclamation that the man is “not far from the kingdom of God,” encourages and saddens me. The man indeed is standing in the very presence of God, and yet for all his knowledge can not recognize the God he proclaims.
If we read Mark as a baptismal text, perhaps we can hear the challenge to the catechumens. They have learned the right answers. They are very near the kingdom of God. Will they deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus? Will they journey through death into life in the water of their baptism? Will Christ be revealed to them in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist? Will they recognize Jesus and respond in love? As we come to the Table today, will we?