Bishop John’s Homily on the Second Sunday of LentMonday 1st March 2021
Each week we will be sharing Bishop John’s homily for each Sunday in Lent on a Monday.
The Second Sunday of Lent
I think we have to be very careful about the context we find in that last passage from Mark‘s Gospel. Just last week we read a passage from chapter one, the prologue to the whole Gospel, in which Jesus gives his Mission statement. The time has come, the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand, repent and believe the Good News. But this extract comes from Chapter 9, we’re half way through the Gospel. Let’s not forget what’s happened in those eight chapters. We’ve seen Jesus teaching the crowds in parables, we’ve seen him healing the sick, performing miracles. We’ve seen him feeding thousands of people with a handful of loaves and fish. We’ve seen him set out to go round all the towns and villages, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devil.
There’s just been one thing that hasn’t been going that well. It’s the disciples. They’re not really understanding what’s going on. We heard in Chapter Four that Jesus had started teaching the crowds in parables and they came and said, what was the meaning of that parable? The first one, the one to the sower. And later in that chapter we see Jesus preaching the parables to the crowds as far as they could understand him, but then he’d take the Disciples off on one side and explain everything he’d said to the crowds. They’re not really keeping up.
In the chapter just before the Gospel extract that we’ve just heard, he’s really lost his temper with them. He’s saying, can you not see what’s happening? When i broke the loaves and fishes for those thousands of people, how many basket loads of scraps did you collect? And they knew, they knew the answer to that, but he said do you still not understand? Are you totally lacking in perception? He’s having real trouble with the disciples. Then we come to this scene that we’ve just heard, the Transfiguration, that moment when Jesus takes three of his Disciples, they go up a mountain and Jesus is Glorified and a voice comes from heaven, saying who he is.
And they don’t really understand that either, they are too frightened to know what’s really going on. That’s what I find so encouraging from Mark’s Gospel. Those twelve, chosen by Jesus to be his close companions, to be sent out as he had already sent them out in Chapter Six, sent out to preach the Word and cast out devils. They’re not really understanding everything that’s going on. They’re making mistakes, they’re lacking in perception, they’re not quite sure what Jesus is doing. I just find that so encouraging.
Because I can tell you I honestly believe that God has a plan, but i’m not terribly sure sometimes what that is. I can tell you that I really do want to do God’s will, but sometimes it’s very very difficult to know what that will is. Particularly during these days of the pandemic, how best do we conduct ourselves as Christians? How best do we live the Gospel values? How are we going to reconstruct things as we come away from the pandemic? Are we just going to go back and continue as we were before? I hope not, because that wasn’t making our world a better place. But are we going to be discerning, listening, seeing step by step what Jesus is asking of us?
Because in the Gospel of Mark, even though the Disciples are having trouble and not really understanding so much of what’s going on, it’s not stopping Jesus in his plan, he’s carrying on exactly what he set out to do. Although he can be critical of his Disciples, he doesn’t abandon them, he keeps patiently teaching them. Four times in the Gospel, he says i’m going to suffer, i’m going to die, I’m going to rise from the dead. But when he does rise from the dead they still haven’t worked out what he’s talking about. But still he doesn’t give up, he comes back and he commissions them to go out. So if we don’t understand the whole story, if we’re not terribly sure what God is asking of us, let’s not be in despair. Jesus didn’t give up on his Disciples, He’s not going to give up on us either. He’s asking us to be ambassadors for him in our world.
There are times ahead that are going to be difficult when we don’t know necessarily what we should be doing, but that’s the whole role of the Holy Spirit isn’t it? To be in our lives. And if we’re asking the right questions and praying, he will gently direct us. He’ll get on with his plan and we’ll make our mistakes, but if we’re sincere about it we know we’re going in the right direction at the right speed, which is why we can pray, as always, Stay with us Lord, on our Journey.
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