Day 157: Following Jesus

Mark 7:1-23 The scribes and Pharisees had expanded Jewish dietary and purification norms so much that the purposes behind these customs and laws had become lost. Christ taught that the purity of our heart matters far more than the purity of our hands or the vessels with which we eat. (CCC 574, 581)

Ch 7:8-13 Christ’s teachings on the observance of the Law and the Commandments lead to the heart of the Law: love of God and love of neighbor. (CCC 581, 2196, 2218, 2247)

Ch 7:8 In these verses, Christ was referring to those traditions that were man-made. Paul firmly taught that we should hold fast to the Tradition that has been handed down to us from Christ and the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thes 2:15; 3:6). (CCC 80, 83, 95, 97)

Ch 7:19 Thus he declared all foods clean: This teaching of Christ was explicitly confirmed in a vision received by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 10:1-16). Sin and evil do not originate in created goods but from the human heart. Human passions must be governed by the use of reason inspired by the natural law. The removal of the dietary prohibitions is also a sign of the new People of God liberated from legalisms to be replaced by the new law of grace and charity. (CCC 582)

Ch 7:24-30 Here we see another example of surprising faith among the Gentiles: A woman begged Christ to exorcise a demon from her daughter, a gift of healing that represents “the crumbs” that belonged to the people of Israel. The woman showed humility and perseverance in not allowing his initial rebuke to deter her. Only after humble and persevering insistence did the Lord grant her request. This woman’s faith under apparent adversity serves as a model for everyone. (CCC 2616)

Ch 7:31-37 Put his fingers...touched his tongue: Christ often used physical signs and gestures to accompany his healing: a touch, the laying on of hands, water, washing, mud, or his own spittle. These signs laid the foundation for the institution of the Seven Sacraments, the outward signs by which Christ, through his healing “touch” offered by his designated ministers, gives us his sanctifying and healing grace. In healing the deaf man with the speech impediment, Christ effectively opened his ears to hear God’s Word and enabled his tongue to speak his praises. The Church retains this ephphatha, Aramaic for “be opened,” in the Rite of Baptism, expressing that the newly baptized become open to the Word of God in his or her life. 

He makes even the deaf hear and the mute speak: An explicit connection is made here to the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 35:5, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (CCC 1151, 1504)

Ch 8:1-10 The second miracle of the loaves gives another reference to the new People of God.

Have come a long way: While the first miracle was performed for Jews, it appears that many in the crowd here were Gentiles. Whereas the earlier miracle saw twelve baskets of scraps collected, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, this miracle resulted in seven baskets collected, representing the seven Gentile nations that neighbored Israel. As was indicated to the Syro-Phoenician woman in the previous chapter, the Gospel is first preached to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, but ultimately all are invited to worship and partake in the Eucharist of the one Church of Christ. The Church encourages all Catholics who are properly prepared and not aware of having committed mortal sin to receive Communion frequently. While non-Catholics are invited to participate in Catholic worship, they cannot receive Holy Communion as they are not in full communion with the Church. (CCC 1355)

Ch 8:6 In the breaking of the bread, Christ used Eucharistic language, thus prefiguring the Sacrament of the Eucharist that he would institute at his Last Supper. (CCC 1355)

Ch 8:11-21 Christ would not perform miracles on demand for those who refused to believe. In fact, he warned of the leaven of the Pharisees, which was a hardness of heart caused by pride and disbelief. The Apostles did not understand the metaphor of the leaven of the Pharisees or the meaning of the multiplication of loaves. This understanding would be granted to them after the Last Supper and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (CCC 854)

Ch 8:18-26 Having you not hear?: This rhetorical question takes on special significance in light of the curing of the deaf and speech impaired man (cf. Mk 7:31-37) and the following passage on the curing of the blind man (cf. Mk 8:22-26). The curing of the blind man is an allegory for our journey of faith. Christ cures us of our spiritual blindness until we see him in all the circumstances and events of our daily life (cf. Mk 7:33). (CCC 1151, 1504)

Ch 8:27-30 Who do men say that I am?: This is the fundamental question for all people. If Christ is the Son of God, then his teachings reveal the truth of God and his Death and Resurrection offer redemption. Here, the question of his identity was resolved with Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ.” It is important to note that Peter was not merely voicing another opinion but making a profession of faith that was divinely inspired. 

Ch 8:31 Christ knew that his redemptive mission would involve his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. (CCC 474)

Ch 8:33 In trying to convince Christ to avoid the Cross, Peter was UNINTENTIONALLY acting in the same manner as Satan when he had tempted Christ in the wilderness (cf. Mt 4:1-11). The Devil had tempted Christ to shun sacrifice, which was necessary to make reparation for sin and to break the bondage that the evil one had on the world. (CCC 1851)

Ch 8:34-35 Take up his cross: Christ is our model, even unto his Death on the Cross. To be a true disciple of Christ means to be willing to endure all kinds of rejection, persecution, and even death for his sake.

For whoever...will save it: Christ asks his followers to lay down their lives in the hope of achieving a holiness that reflects his own joy and peace. (CCC 459, 1615, 2157, 2166, 2544)

Psalm 23 This is one of the best-known and most-loved of the psalms. In sharp contrast to Psalm 22’s lament over a seemingly distant God, this psalm portrays God as one who knew the psalmist intimately and was with him on every step of his journey, in every moment of his life. The Lord is a shepherd who looks after all our needs. He is also a most gracious host who exalts us over our detractors, anoints us, and lavishes on us an abundance of goodness and mercy. To live forever with the Lord is our singular goal. This psalm is prayed at Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Year C, and on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year A.

Shepherd: This frequent image of a caring and dutiful overseer is symbolic usually of a king or of God. The shepherd of the sheep is among the metaphors Christ applied to himself, most famously in his self-description as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, and he is the same shepherd who goes out to find the one sheep that has strayed from the flock (cf. Jn 10:11-16). Throughout this psalm, the psalmist described the profound happiness and joy that exists for those who seek righteousness fervently.

You anoint my head with oil: Anointing is symbolic of abundance, joy, cleansing, health, beauty, healing, and strength. Anointing with the Holy Oils is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. In the first three of these Sacraments, the anointing signifies the infusion of the grace of the Holy Spirit together with the imprint of a seal or indelible mark on the soul; for this reason, these Sacraments may be received ONLY ONCE. In the Anointing of the Sick, the Oil of the Sick is a sign of spiritual healing and preparation for entering eternal life. (CCC 1293, 1303-1305)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)


Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and we thank you. We thank you so much for being our Divine Shepherd, our Good Shepherd. Thank you so much for being the one who guides us, especially as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Lord God, that is what this world is. That is what life is. It is known as the ‘veil of tears’. It is known as the ‘valley of the shadow of death’. And yet we can say, like David, ‘I fear no evil.’ Why? Because you are with me. Because you are with us. Your rod and your staff that comfort us. Lord God, you can only be our Good Shepherd, REALLY, if we are your sheep, if we allow you to direct us, if we allow you to guide us, if we allow you to protect us. But when we go wandering away from you, then not only are we left alone, not only are we vulnerable, not only are we in the valley of the shadow of death with no protection, we know that even then (we know that even then) you come in search of us. David didn’t know this. The ancient patriarchs, the prophets, they didn’t know this as clearly as we know this because, Lord God, through your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed that you are the one who seeks out the lost sheep. You are the one who, when we do wander, you go in pursuit of us, desperately seeking us. Because you have declared that for whatever reason (whatever reason) you love us. And you pursue us even when we wander far from you. So, Lord God, pursue us. Now if we have wandered, pursue us, like the Good Shepherd that you are. And lead us back so that we may dwell in the House of the Lord forever all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”