TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 7: 31 – 37] records some apparently puzzling words of Jesus. “And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” Did he realistically expect those who had witnessed the healing miracle to remain silent? There are a number of interesting matters arising from the Gospel reading. First of all, it does not clarify where the miracle took place. Was it near the Sea of Galilee or in “the region of the Decapolis?” If the incident had occurred in Galilee’, then the assembled people would have been Jewish, and if the Decapolis, those present were Gentiles. However, either location would have known and / or heard about Jesus but their astonishment “beyond measure” would have been founded on different premises.
Nevertheless they were charged by the Lord to tell no one! He was not in the business of being a miracle-worker. His principal ministry was to bring people to faith – faith in him and faith in the Father. What he said, his teaching, was far more important. People’s faith was never to be based or founded on miracles – especially miracles of healing.

In other words, Jesus was not a service provider. This fact is vitally important for so many contemporary Catholics to understand, learn and acknowledge in practical terms. The Church in general and our own parish centres must not be seen as being there to provide particular ‘services’ as and when we decide on some immediate particular need which we expect on demand and at our convenience. We are all, clergy (including bishops) and laity in need of a change in mind set. This is partly evidenced by Pope Francis’ appointments of new bishops in many parts of the world. {I was delighted by a change in the wording of the official document of appointment which, among other matters, refers to the man as being “well-versed in modern theology.”} What was Jesus trying to communicate to the ordinary folk involved in today’s gospel extract? To answer that question, we should all reflect on words spoken at his installation by the new archbishop of Melbourne, Australia. I reproduce some of these here.
“The Church is not an institution. Though we strive to do good works, we are not an NGO. Though we have things of beauty, we are not a museum. Our common task is a missionary one. Our task is to go with the gospel of Jesus. Our time has come to see the gospel-need, and do something about it. We must nurture a faith that trusts, foster a hope that encourages, and offer a love that is tender. May we prefer nothing to him because he prefers nothing to us.” If we reflect on the above words we will begin to understand the importance of the addition to a piece of graffiti on a platform wall of a London tube station. Some artist had sprayed the words, Jesus has the answer. To this, another person had added underneath in a different colour – WHAT WAS THE QUESTION? We as a Church need, not only, to ask the right questions of ourselves, but we also need to hear the questions that are actually being asked by others. Only then will we, as Church, begin to being described as having done all things well.

It is counterproductive to posit answers to questions which are not being asked. A trip down memory lane may selfishly feed a little nostalgia for a few but is of no gospel value to the contemporary world. Further we must ensure that the manner in which we answer any particular enquiry does not resemble a door being slammed in the face, TODAY’S PSALM [ 146 or 145] reminds us “it is the Lord who protects the stranger.” If the Lord does, so should we.
A contemporary spiritual author {Thomas Halik in Patience with God: Image Books} tells us that patience with God is faith … patience with ourselves is hope … patience with others is love. In this regard let us be attentive to words from TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 35: 4 – 7a]. “Say to those who are of fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! … Behold your God will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” THEN – AND THEN ONLY!

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