Bible · faith · Jesus

Wise Words From Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan, Catholic Priest and peace activist one said that the major tasks of the church were to build community, foster spiritual dsiciplines and teach bible literacy.

The first task of reading the Bible is to ask why it was written. What was the experience of the authors that had moved them to write as they did ? And the second task is to ask what relevance it might have for us today.

It’s bible literacy that I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been listening to the first two chapters of Mark’s Gospel this week. Here is Mark chapter 1:40-45

40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

In verse 41, we read that Jesus was moved with pity. But in other, possibly earlier manuscripts, Jesus is moved with anger.

If that is so, then is it possible that those who were copying out the manuscripts thought that pity was more in line with who they though Jesus was ?

If the original meaning was that Jesus is somehow angry, then who is he angry with, and why. Many commentators are clear that a major theme (or maybe The Major Theme) of Mark’s Gospel is the conflict between Jesus and the authorities. The Scribes and the Pharisees. It’s easy to see this conflict building up as the Gospel account moves on.

So to suggest that Jesus is angry with the religious powers fits the narrative, and the idea that Jesus is angry here is very possible, even likely.

Why ? Because as the narrative moved on, we see that the priests enter the story. Ched Myers suggests that the man has already been to the priests to be delcared clean, and has been turned away. Jesus is effectively saying – the religious powers are not the only ones that have authority. They cling to their power for fear that anyone else might make a decision for themselves. If the priests can persuade the people that they (the priests) are the only ones that can declare someone clean, then they hold onto a great deal of influence over people’s daily lives.

Jesus will have none of that. A central part of his mission is to open up a way to God that does not rely on the power of a priest. His activity, out and about in the towns and the villages, far from the temple, is showing that God is working anywhere and everywhere, and God doesn’t need a priest to be the one who decides if someone can be accepted in the community.

Very soon after this incident in the Gospel, Jesus will send out the 12 with authority to announce the message and heal wherever they go. You can do this too!

And so can we.

Grace and Peace.

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