Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Roy Parker, OHC
Proper 5 B – Sunday, June 7, 2015
Genesis 3: 8 - 15
2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1
Mark 3: 20 - 35
This is a story about Markʼs Deli in Caeserea, a favorite rest stop for Jesus and the Twelve whenever they were on the road. This explains why Markʼs Gospel is known for something called “The Markan Sandwich,” in this case not a killer lunch item as it was, but a literary device to illuminate particular episodes of the Gospel. Here are some examples:
TWO SANDWICH DIAGRAMS
(Concluding with Todayʼs Gospel) Mark uses the Sandwich device so that the bread and the
filling become commentaries on each other . . .
(1)Jairusʼ Daughter & the Hʼd Woman: Jairusʼ twelve-yearold daughter is at deathʼs door. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, a woman whoʼs been afflicted with hʼing for twelve years, and therefore unclean, also unsusceptible to ordinary medicine, sneaks up to touch him and is healed. She has to confess her taboo action and is assured that her faith has saved her whom Jesus addresses as a beloved daughter of God. Itʼs a kind of deliverance from death. Thereupon another daughter of God, of a similarly hopeless situation, linked to the hʼing woman by the figure twelve, is also delivered from death by the faith of her parents united to Jesus.
(2)The Special of the Day:
The Bread: Family Intention to Restrain Jesus on the basis of Nutsy Behavior Attributed to Unclean Spirit Possession. The Filling: The Binding of Satan by the Stronger One: The Centerpiece is Jesusʻ arrival as the one capable of binding and despoiling Satan, which Mark underscores five times by using the verb from which we get dynamite, dynamo, dynamic and so forth, the evangelistic equivalent of kryptonite.
Itʼs the key point which ignites the opposition of the scribes and that of his family, including Mary, which raises the intriguing question of how could she, of all people, regard her son as nuts and possessed of a dirty spirit if heʼd been miraculously conceived? The key point is that a stronger than Satan has arrived to tie him up and repossess the stolen goods.
This overpowering of Satan has been described in terms of the Crucifixion as the offering of a kind of bait which the devil swallows to his undoing, giving rise to the expression: The Place of the Skull has become the Gate of Paradise. Archbishop William Temple, one of our spiritual forebears, riffs on this to describe how Jesus becomes the stronger one who binds the devil in captivity to love for ever. His words are from the article Mens Creatrix: “It is out of the uttermost gloom of ʻMy God, my God, why have you forsaken meʼ that the light breaks. The light does not merely shine upon the gloom and so dispel it; it is the gloom itself transformed into light.
For that same crucifixion of the Lord which was, and for ever is, the utmost effort of evil, is itself the means by which God conquers evil and unites us to (Godself) in the redeeming love there manifested. Judas and Caiphas and Pilate have set themselves in their several ways to oppose and to crush the purpose of Christ, and yet despite themselves they become ministers. They sent Christ to the cross; by the cross he completed his atoning work; from the cross he reigns over (humankind). God in Christ has not merely defeated evil, but has made it the occasion of (divine) supreme glory.
Never was conquest so complete; never was triumph so stupendous. The completeness of the victory is due to the completeness of the evil over which it was won. It is the very darkness which enshrouds the cross that makes so glorious the light proceeding from it. Had there been no despair, no sense of desolation and defeat, but merely the onward march of irresistible power to the achievement of its end, evil might have been beaten, but not bound in captivity to love for ever. God in Christ endured defeat, and out of the very stuff of defeat . . . wrought (the divine) victory and achievement.”
Evil bound in captivity to love forever. Therefore the binding of Satan in todayʼs passage must be related, but how on earth and in what outlandish behavior could Jesus have engaged which would cause his family and the scribes to certify him crazy and to sin against the Holy Spirit by declaring him motivated by a dirty spirit?
For one thing, the apparent craziness isnʼt hard to imagine in consideration of the prophetic tradition of Israel from which Jesus comes. One only need recall Samuelʼs advice to the newly-anointed King Saul that he, Saul, was about to meet a band of prophets who would be in a prophetic frenzy accompanied by musical instruments. At that point the spirit of the Lord would possess him and he would be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. Sounds pretty certifiable to me.
It also sounds as if Jesus in a kind of prophetic frenzy will be operating with an undomesticated, apparently soiled spirit, which is what scares us, as it scared one of Alan Whittemoreʼs directees back in 1929 with this advice: “The glory of the mystery of Free Will is that one may reveal and express the Will of God, very often, through following oneʼs own deepest desires. We ought to remember this fact and rejoice in it much oftener than we do. Instead of spending all our lives in terrified inhibitions and scrupulosity, we should be learning . . . to live forthrightly and boldly; and not to be afraid to follow the desires of our heart, for (Godʼs) sake. . // .
I feel confident that, were it unmistakably revealed to you that God wished you to take this or that course, you would want to do it with all your heart. (In the absence of any such clear revelation) will you not be bold enough to believe that God the Holy Spirit who indwells you will guide you in and through your desires? It takes great courage, sometimes, to quietly ask ourselves what, really and truly, in our heart of hearts, without any consideration as to right or wrong, or expediency, we would most like to do, and then do it wholeheartedly to the glory of God.” (Joy in Holiness, pp.27-28)
For us particularly concerned with monastic rules, their caution about spontaneity and their warnings against the soiled spirit, the conclusion of Ronald Hansonʼs book Mariette In Ecstacy is noteworthy. Those whoʼve read this delightful work will recall that Mariette, while a religious novice, receives the stigmata. This proves such a disturbing factor in the convent that sheʼs eventually asked to leave the community. Living in a town nearby she remains in correspondence with one of her dear friends in the novitiate to whom she writes on one occasion that sheʼs managing her new situation satisfactorily and, continuing her habit of prayer, is occasionally consoled by Jesus whispering to her, “Surprise me!”