Refine by:

Proper 5

Spirituality of Conflict

Proper 5

By Pádraig Ó Tuama

Mark 3:20–35
  • Themes: Exclusion and Prejudice Exclusion and Prejudice Exclusion and Prejudice
  • Season: Ordinary time

For our gospel reading today we hear some complicated words to Jesus and complicated words from Jesus. We hear about Beelzebub; houses divided against themselves; binding strong men; mother and brothers. This is not the gentle Jesus meek and mild that we sing about. This is a political Jesus, engaged with the chords of power, with those who have public voice and he is critiquing, most forcefully, the language used. 

Gospel Reading for the Day

Mark 3:20–35

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

  “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Comment

For years, I took the gospels and tried to rewrite the story we were reading from the point of view of each individual mentioned in the text. How would his mother have heard this? To take the words in their simple and immediate context it would be hard to imagine Mary could have heard these words and not felt their sting. 

However I think there is a narrative context that opens up a possibility for imagining she’d have heard the words and felt the boost of pride. When I began to hear Jesus’ words from the point of view of those who had been dispossessed I found a way into the text where instead of dividing things — as Jesus is accused of doing — he is is expanding them.

What does it mean to live a divided life – and not just a divided life, but a life that is divided and  is both impoverished and impoverishing. 

  • It means that we turn against each other. 
  • It means that when we hear something that speaks to a wider imagination we label it as demonic. 
  • We seek to divide and conquer even among those we consider to be our enemies. 
  • We begin to reach into the dregs of the worst kind of interpersonal interaction. 

And here, in Mark’s gospel, we see that Jesus has popularity. What do the leaders do? They accuse him of being evil. They don’t like him, and we understand from our reading that they haven’t even properly grasped his message in order to agree or disagree with it, but instead of engaging they accuse him of being less than human, inhuman, they dehumanise. 

And what does Jesus do?

He expands the table of family. 

He opens up belonging. He says words that would be hard to hear for his family, but words that would be a comfort for all those who heard him who themselves were dispossessed of dignity in the eyes of their leaders. 

No wonder he was unpopular. No wonder he caused the most anxiety amongst those with the most power. Whether you control the strings of the purse of the strings of the heart, you carry deep responsibility, and it seemed to be deep in the psyche of Jesus to challenge that wherever he saw it. 

I don’t think that Jesus minded much about being accused of being in cahoots with Beelzebub. 

What he does care about is that the beloved community, the gathering in of the broken hearted, the place of cure, healing, truth and light, the place that embodies love – he cared that this place would not be subject to the games of power played out by those who bear few of the consequences of their irresponsibility. 

This gospel calls us all to attend to ourselves. Where are we controlling? Where are we calling demonic what we simply do not understand? 

Jesus calls us to the small moments, and in the small moments, we discover that which is wide, expansive, broad and undivided. The great love of God. Sometimes we will be like the mother and brothers of Jesus, hearing news about belonging that makes us evaluate the borders of our belonging. Sometimes we will be like those who are dispossessed, hearing that we have always belonged in the great embrace of God. 

I think of Tolkien, who built his epic around the smallness of courage and its enduring quality. 

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king

Response

This gospel calls us all to account for ourselves. Where are we controlling? Where are we calling demonic what we simply do not understand? Where have we been called demonic or evil by people who, it seems, do not wish to understand us? 

Pay attention to public language from this week: language in politics; language in church debates; language in entertainment. 

Who is calling who devilish? What is the impact or consequence of that? 

And who is opening up the table of belonging? What is the impact or consequence or fruit of that? 

Prayer

Undivided and undividing God. 

Your breath, word and imagination creates and sustains this world. We look and see so much beauty. 

And we divide this world. We do not let it breathe, instead we fracture it and seek the larger part for ourselves. 

Breathe in us today, life giving God. Breathe in us. Expand our lungs with the life unlimited. Open our eyes to the beauty that calls us. Draw us to each other. 

We ask this because you are the one who holds all things together. Hold us too, God. Hold us in the breadth of your love. 

You are the one who holds us, not us You. 

Amen. 

By Pádraig Ó Tuama

For our gospel reading today we hear some complicated words to Jesus and complicated words from Jesus. We hear about Beelzebub; houses divided against themselves; binding strong men; mother and brothers. This is not the gentle Jesus meek and mild that we sing about. This is a political Jesus, engaged with the chords of power, with those who have public voice and he is critiquing, most forcefully, the language used. 

Gospel Reading for the Day

Mark 3:20–35

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

  “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Comment

For years, I took the gospels and tried to rewrite the story we were reading from the point of view of each individual mentioned in the text. How would his mother have heard this? To take the words in their simple and immediate context it would be hard to imagine Mary could have heard these words and not felt their sting. 

However I think there is a narrative context that opens up a possibility for imagining she’d have heard the words and felt the boost of pride. When I began to hear Jesus’ words from the point of view of those who had been dispossessed I found a way into the text where instead of dividing things — as Jesus is accused of doing — he is is expanding them.

What does it mean to live a divided life – and not just a divided life, but a life that is divided and  is both impoverished and impoverishing. 

  • It means that we turn against each other. 
  • It means that when we hear something that speaks to a wider imagination we label it as demonic. 
  • We seek to divide and conquer even among those we consider to be our enemies. 
  • We begin to reach into the dregs of the worst kind of interpersonal interaction. 

And here, in Mark’s gospel, we see that Jesus has popularity. What do the leaders do? They accuse him of being evil. They don’t like him, and we understand from our reading that they haven’t even properly grasped his message in order to agree or disagree with it, but instead of engaging they accuse him of being less than human, inhuman, they dehumanise. 

And what does Jesus do?

He expands the table of family. 

He opens up belonging. He says words that would be hard to hear for his family, but words that would be a comfort for all those who heard him who themselves were dispossessed of dignity in the eyes of their leaders. 

No wonder he was unpopular. No wonder he caused the most anxiety amongst those with the most power. Whether you control the strings of the purse of the strings of the heart, you carry deep responsibility, and it seemed to be deep in the psyche of Jesus to challenge that wherever he saw it. 

I don’t think that Jesus minded much about being accused of being in cahoots with Beelzebub. 

What he does care about is that the beloved community, the gathering in of the broken hearted, the place of cure, healing, truth and light, the place that embodies love – he cared that this place would not be subject to the games of power played out by those who bear few of the consequences of their irresponsibility. 

This gospel calls us all to attend to ourselves. Where are we controlling? Where are we calling demonic what we simply do not understand? 

Jesus calls us to the small moments, and in the small moments, we discover that which is wide, expansive, broad and undivided. The great love of God. Sometimes we will be like the mother and brothers of Jesus, hearing news about belonging that makes us evaluate the borders of our belonging. Sometimes we will be like those who are dispossessed, hearing that we have always belonged in the great embrace of God. 

I think of Tolkien, who built his epic around the smallness of courage and its enduring quality. 

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king

Response

This gospel calls us all to account for ourselves. Where are we controlling? Where are we calling demonic what we simply do not understand? Where have we been called demonic or evil by people who, it seems, do not wish to understand us? 

Pay attention to public language from this week: language in politics; language in church debates; language in entertainment. 

Who is calling who devilish? What is the impact or consequence of that? 

And who is opening up the table of belonging? What is the impact or consequence or fruit of that? 

Prayer

Undivided and undividing God. 

Your breath, word and imagination creates and sustains this world. We look and see so much beauty. 

And we divide this world. We do not let it breathe, instead we fracture it and seek the larger part for ourselves. 

Breathe in us today, life giving God. Breathe in us. Expand our lungs with the life unlimited. Open our eyes to the beauty that calls us. Draw us to each other. 

We ask this because you are the one who holds all things together. Hold us too, God. Hold us in the breadth of your love. 

You are the one who holds us, not us You. 

Amen.