Thoughts on Mark 13

• The Christians who listened to St Mark’s Gospel in the middle of the first century would have had no difficulty in understanding the reading we have just heard. For them, Jesus’ “second coming” was very near and all they had to do was hold out against the evils surrounding them long enough for them to witness it.

• Clearly, it didn’t happen or hasn’t happened yet, and over the centuries which followed we have become more concerned with saving our souls and getting to heaven rather than waiting for Jesus to return in glory.

• One of the characteristics of those first century Christians that non-Christians picked out was how much they all loved one another. We know from St Paul’s letters and the witness of history that this was not the whole story, but it has to be said that there was solidarity, one with another, which we have in our day largely lost.

• Today’s Catholic Christians have a distinct tendency to merge with the wallpaper whenever faith is discussed or questioned. For example, if I were to ask any one of you what you thought of the Pope’s invitation for any Anglicans who so wish to be re-united to the Catholic Church – what would you say? What is the difference between Catholic Christianity and Protestant Christianity anyway? Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have the same roots in God’s call to Abraham, why are they so divided? If I mention the word “Theology” do you cringe and say to yourselves “that’s not for me – I don’t understand that!” The word “Theology” means speaking about God – what is there not to understand about that!

• If there is one thing that St Paul and all the gospel writers agreed upon it was that Jesus Messiah came to establish the Kingdom of God – here on earth. Jesus’ first words in Mark were: “The right time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe in the good news.”(Mk 1:15). We are, because of our baptism, stewards of that kingdom. The care of the kingdom as it grows has been entrusted to us. If the kingdom of God falters we have only ourselves to blame.

• So, if this is true, what do we need to do? Saint Bernard, especially in his darker moments, used to ask himself, Bernarde, ad quid venisti? "Bernard, what are you doing here? Why have you come?" Bernard used to seek answers to his questions in the Scriptures, so he may well have picked up the words of Isaiah: "You've come to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near" (Is 55:66). We should ask ourselves the same question: “Why have you come here this evening?” We have not come together merely to “hear” or “get” mass , we have come to seek the Lord while He may be found and together, with one another and for one another, to call upon Him while He is near.

• This must be the key to a vibrant, effective and fruitful community – an understanding of faith that leads to prayer and an irresistible desire to reach out to others. Each one of us is Christ to our brothers and sisters. Do we see Christ in those around us?

• It seems to me that as a parish community, and as a church in general, we have only just begun. The future is full of possibility, which we can only truly realize when we dare to do what our dreams describe. If this were our work and our mission, failure would be a possibility. The fact that this is Christ’s work, and a part of his continuing plan for us, the creation of the kingdom of God, means that we are marked with and led by the Spirit and are capable of reaching heights that none of us could aspire to alone.

• We are then, or should be, a Spirit led community. When we are led by the Spirit procrastination is not an option, neither is a lack of funding, or a shortage of priests. When we are led by the Spirit we have to live our lives as if each day is a miracle and never be surprised at what God can do for us.

• I am sure that one of the first things you look for when you read your newsletter is what the Fellowship Group is up to this week. If it isn’t, can I suggest it should be? It is not a “group” of people as such, it is more like a time and place where anyone who is able is invited to come and pray, learn, discuss, meet and talk to people you may not have met before; to meet Christ in each other and to gain courage and strength from that encounter; to build up that part of the kingdom of God which is our community!

© Bob Birtles 2009