10th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle B)
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of the Readings: Overcoming Evil
The First Reading and the Gospel Reading define the total phenomenon of evil as the Satan (ha satan, "the adversary" in Hebrew), also known as the devil (diabolos, "false accuser" in Greek), the serpent and Beelzebul. The Book of Revelation describes this entity of evil as, The huge red dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels thrown down with it (Rev 12:9). In the First Reading, it is Satan disguised as a serpent that deceived our original parents and led them into sinning against God by eating from the fruit of the forbidden tree (Gen 3:1-7). In the Gospel Reading, Jesus is maliciously accused of healing the afflicted by the power of Beelzebul. But Jesus has come to undo the works of Satan and to restore mankind to the intimacy of the relationship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God before their fall from grace. In today's palms we sing, "With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption", and St. Paul writes that we have "the hope of eternal glory" in Christ Jesus. In Christian baptism, we become children of an eternal Father with brothers and sisters in a covenant family who, like us, are destined for "a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven" (2 Cor 5:1).
The First Reading Genesis 3:9-15 ~ The Fall
9 After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." 11 Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I have forbidden you to eat! [Have you eaten from the tree of which I have forbidden you to eat?"*] 12 The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." 13 The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it." 14 Then the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on our belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers [her seed]; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." [..] = literal Hebrew translation, IBHE, vol. I, page 7. *Verse 11 in the brackets indicates the better translation since all God's words to Adam suggest questions instead of statements, beginning with "God asked" in verse 11 (see NJB and the Jewish Tanakh that phrase 3:11 as a question).
After Adam and Eve violated their covenant with God and ate from the forbidden tree (Gen 2:16-17), they were afraid and hid from God. They hid and were afraid because, having lost the grace of their original holiness, their sin had alienated them from God and had given them a distorted image of Him. They no longer saw God as a loving and protective Father; they now fearfully viewed Him as demanding, controlling, and jealous of His prerogatives. See CCC 397-99.
God came to them in the Garden. Notice in verses 9-15 that God asks Adam and Eve four significant questions:
God knows the answers to all His questions, but what is important is how they respond. The first question, "Where are you?" is not a question of physical location. God, being omniscient knows exactly where Adam and Eve are hiding in the garden. God's question is instead concerned with their spiritual condition: "Where are you in your relationship with Me?" The second question establishes that they are no longer "clothed in grace" but have become "dis-graced" and are deprived of divine son-ship in the family of God. The third question calls for an acknowledgement of their sin, and the fourth question is an invitation to turn away from sin in order to turn back to holiness. In asking the four questions, God the Father is calling His children to confession and repentance. Yahweh is asking Adam and Eve to examine their spiritual state, to acknowledge their sin, to confess their sin, and in expressing contrition and repentance to turn away from sin:
These are the same questions God is asking every sinner who comes into His presence in the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. In the sacrament, we come to God as fallen children seeking forgiveness for our sins from a just and loving Father (CCC 980; 1422-24; 1468-70).
When God calls Adam to repentance and accountability, he blames both Eve and God for his failure. He sinned because God "put her here with me" (verse 12). He has denied his bride, disavowing her "goodness", she who was the last "good" thing created in the Creation event, and he has blamed God for giving him the gift of the bride. As companions they are no longer united; sin and guilt has turned them against each other. When God calls the woman to repentance and accountability in verse 13, she blames the serpent. But who bears the heavier burden of guilt, the man or the woman?
While it is true that man and woman are equal in God's affections and equally owe Him their loyalty and obedience, their vocations are different. The man's vocation in God's service was to guard (samar) and serve/tend/cultivate (abad) the garden Sanctuary (Gen 2:15). The woman's vocation was to be the man's helper (ezer) in the garden Sanctuary (Gen 2:18). Adam gave the bride her identity as "woman" (Gen 2:23). He had authority over her only in his duty to maintaining the sanctity of the garden Sanctuary; therefore, it is the man who is ultimately responsible. The woman was "deceived (Gen 3:13), while Adam stood silent and willing (Gen 3:6c). In memory of this catastrophic event, the Law of Moses ruled that a husband was responsible for any vow his wife made to which he remained silent (Num 30:1-6).
God will pronounce three judgments in Genesis 3:14-19. The three defendants who face God's judgment are the serpent, the woman, and the man. The first judgment is against the serpent who is Satan (Rev 12:9). The animal form that Satan used is condemned to travel on its belly as a reminder throughout human history of the catastrophic event of the Fall of man and the form Satan took to accomplish his evil intent. Down through salvation history, there will also be constant warfare between the "offspring/seed of the serpent" the "offspring/seed of the woman."
The "seed of the serpent" does not mean the offspring of snakes. This title reflects God's judgment on sinners who stand in opposition to His divine will and attempt to subvert the destiny of the people of God (see 1 Jn 3:1-10). St. John the Baptist will condemn the "offspring of the serpent" in Matthew 3:4-12. Filled with the Holy Spirit, St. John called a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him for the baptism of repentance a "brood of vipers." He knew these men were only coming to him for the baptism of repentance as an outward show of their piety to the people. He knew their hearts were full of willful pride and a lack of genuine repentance. In their refusal to sincerely repent their sins, and in turning away from the will of God for His people, these men had become the "offspring of the serpent."
In the literal Hebrew the text reads "seed of the serpent" and "the seed of the woman" instead of "offspring". The Fathers of the Church saw the words "seed of the woman" in a collective sense as referring to the promised line of the "holy seed" or the "faithful remnant" , those men and women who, despite the difficulties imposed upon them through the curse of sin in the world, will remain faithful to knowing, loving, and serving Yahweh. It will be these men and woman who will stand in opposition to the "seed of the Serpent/Satan," the men and woman who oppose the will of God. But the "seed" of the woman can also be understood to refer to one individual who will battle Satan. In the phrase he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel, the pronouns are in the singular and not in the plural, and the pronoun "it" can be translated "he, she, or it". In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (c. 250 BC) known as the Septuagint, the pronoun "it" was translated as the masculine pronoun "he". The Hebrew scholars who translated the Hebrew text into Greek in the 3rd century BC acknowledged that this passage offered the first promise of a future Redeemer who will be wounded in His struggle with the Serpent. The phrase, to strike at his heel, is a Semitism for "do violence to, or to wound". But in the struggle between the Redeemer and Satan, the promised Redeemer will be victorious and will crush the head of the Serpent: it [he] will strike at your head; also translated bruise [crush] your head; the phrase is a Semitism for "to strike a mortal wound." In both phrases the verb "to strike" (or "to bruise") is the same Hebrew word, the verb shuph, a prime root meaning "to grape, i.e. snap at; fig. to overwhelm: break, crush, bruise, cover."
The Church Fathers called Genesis 3:15 the Protoevangelium, "the first Gospel/good news." Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, born from a woman chosen by God. The Doctors and Fathers of the Church have always identified this woman as the Virgin Mary who, in her perfect obedience to the will of God, untied the knot of disobedience of the virgin Eve. Bishop St. Irenaeus (b. 130 AD - m. 202 AD) wrote that the Virgin Mary is the "new Eve": "As Eve was seduced by the word of a [fallen] angel to flee from God, having rebelled against his word, so Mary by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying his word. The former was seduced to disobey God [and so fell], but the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. As the human race was subjected to death through the act of a virgin, so was it saved by a virgin, and thus the disobedience of one virgin was precisely balanced by the obedience of another" (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.19.1). Genesis 3:15 is the proof that God was not willing to abandon mankind to the rule of sin and death.
Responsorial Psalm 130:1-8 ~ In the Lord there is Mercy
The response is: "With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; 2 LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
3 If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? 4 But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.
5 I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. 6 More than sentinels wait for the dawn, 7 let Israel wait for the LORD.
7b For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; 8 and he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
This was a penitential psalm to be sung or chanted on the journey up to the Jerusalem Temple. In the Church today, it is a lament known as De profundis, and it is used in liturgical prayers for the faithful departed. In sorrow the psalmist cries out to God (verses 1-2), asking for mercy despite his sins (verse 3). He has confidence that God will extend His mercy (verse 4). The result is that the psalmist's trust in God (verses 5-6) becomes a model for the covenant people (verses 7-8).
The Second Reading 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 ~ The Promise of Eternal Glory
Brothers and sisters: 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed, therefore I spoke", we too believe and therefore we speak, 14 knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence. 15 Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. 16 Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. 5:1 For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
Like the psalmist, St. Paul clearly proclaims his faith by affirming his belief in the promise of life beyond the limit of human death (2 Cor 4:10-11) and the life-giving effect of his preaching the Gospel to the communities of the Christian faithful (2 Cor 4:14-15). When Paul writes with confidence: 14 knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence, he is expressing his conviction that God will present him and them to Jesus at His Second Advent and in the Last Judgment.
In verses 15-16, in a series of contrasts, St. Paul explains the extent of his faith in the afterlife despite the temporal sufferings Christians must endure in the present. He contrasts:
Life is already present and revealing itself, but life will outlast the present experience of suffering and dying because life is eternal (verses 17-18). He urges them not to become discouraged, despite the experience of death that all humans must face. He contrasts one's "outer self", meaning what the individual is subject to in earthly perception and observation in the temporal body, to the "inner self" that is the interior and hidden self which undergoes renewal, as he writes, "being renewed day by day" (verse 16).
In this Paul is suggesting a process is taking place. The renewal already is taking place even as one moves toward death in one's life journey, because Paul and other Christians already have a share in the life of Jesus through Christian baptism and the Eucharist. But we only recognize this by faith as we journey through "light affliction" that "is producing for us an eternal weight of glory" (verse17). In 5:1 Paul calls our earthly bodies a "tent", meaning a temporary structure (St. Peter uses the same descriptive term in 2 Pt 1:13), that will be destroyed in death, but that doesn't matter because "we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven". That eternal "dwelling place" is life in the Spirit that we will experience in Heaven at the end of our earthly lives, and the promise of the bodily resurrection at the end of time. This contrast recalls Jesus' saying about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the construction of another "building not made with hands" in Mark 14:58; it is a prediction later applied to Jesus' own body (Jn 2:20).
The Gospel of Mark 3:20-35 ~ Blasphemy of the Scribes and the Parable of the Strong Man
20 Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." 22 The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons." 23 Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder the house. 28 Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." 30 For they had said, "He had an unclean spirit." 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 A crowd seated around him told him, 'Your mother and our brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." 33 But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 35 For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
St. Mark inserts a story of Jesus' family between the arrival of religious officials from Jerusalem (the scribes were the "theologians" of their day) and their verbal exchange with Jesus. This "sandwiching" of stories appears several times in Mark's narrative. Jesus is returning from "home" (verse 20) which is Peter's house in Capernaum (see Mk 2:1). Once again St. Mark mentions the personal cost of Jesus' successful ministry, not only for Him but for His Apostles. There are so many people waiting to see Jesus that they cannot even take a meal (verse 20b). Jesus' family, His mother Mary and his brothers, come from Nazareth to bring Him home (verse 31). In the culture of Jesus' time, "brothers" referred to all kinship relationships including siblings from the same mother, half-brothers, step-brothers, cousins, uncles and countrymen and women. That His kinsmen feel they have authority over Him suggests that they are older cousins and uncles. In the customs of Jesus' time and in Middle Eastern countries today, sons are under the authority of their fathers and elder brothers or relations. Since it is assumed that Joseph, Jesus' foster father, has died at this time, Jesus' older male relatives would assume this responsibility.
According to Church dogma, Mary remained a virgin all her life and therefore Jesus, Mary's first born son (Lk 2:7), had no younger brothers or sisters from Mary. Ancient documents like the Protoevangelium of St. James claim that Joseph had children from a previous marriage and was an elderly widower when Mary was put under his protection in marriage. See CCC 500, 2780 and the document "Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters."
The "this" that His relatives heard in verse 21 is that the crowds now pose a threat to Him (mentioned in verse 20b), and they intend to rescue Him. That they say "He is out of his mind" does not mean they disagree with His ministry; it only means they think He is "out of his mind" to put Himself in such danger. Jesus' mother knows His true identity (Lk 1:31-33), but his kinsmen do not understand at this point in Jesus' ministry, as St. John will record (Jn 7:5), but they will believe after the Resurrection. Jesus' kinsmen will be among those disciples mentioned praying in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). Jesus' kinsmen St. James and St. Simon will become the first two Christian bishops of Jerusalem and both will be martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ.
scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and
"By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
News of this Galilean rabbi and miracle worker has spread to Jerusalem, and it is probably that the Great Sanhedrin (supreme Law court) has send teachers of the law to investigate Him. Such men were also sent from Jerusalem to investigate St. John the Baptist when he began his ministry of baptism and repentance along the east bank of the Jordan River (Jn 1:19).
The religious authorities from Jerusalem make two accusations against Jesus:
This spiteful accusation, generated by their jealousy of Jesus' influence with the people, foreshadows the growing opposition to Jesus. Beelzebul is another name for Satan that is probably derived from a title for the chief god in the Canaanite pantheon, "Baal the Lord/Prince." Some ancient manuscripts of Mark's Gospel read "Beelzebub" which is similar to the mocking derision of Baal's name in 2 Kings 1:3, 6, which means "Lord of the Flies". It is remarkable that Jesus responds with such patience. What does a prophet of God do when faced with opposition by the civil or religious authorities? Like the prophets of old, He speaks in parables. Jesus will use a parable to refute the absurdity of their accusations step by step.
Mark 3:23-30 ~ Parable of the "Strong Man" and The Unpardonable Sin
23 Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. 28 Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." 30 For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
Notice that it is Jesus who summons His accusers. Jesus uses two arguments to refute the claim that He exorcises demons by the power of Beelzebul/Satan. The first argument Jesus uses to reveal the senselessness of their claim is that their accusation is not reasonable. Jesus is casting out demons, an act that is opposing Satan and not advancing Satan's power over the earth. Why, Jesus asks the rhetorical question, would Satan give Jesus the power to weaken Satan's hold over men and to threaten Satan's kingdom?
In His second line of defense Jesus uses a short parable: 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. The strong man is Satan ("the prince/ruler of this world"), his house is the earth, and his property consists of those who are not the children of God. By casting out demons, Jesus is tying up the "strong man's (Satan) power and plundering his "house" (see Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
Parable of the Strong Man (Mk 3:25-27)
Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. 1 Jn 3:8
|Strong man's house||the earth|
|Strong man's property||all those "children of Adam" who do not belong to God|
|The one who "ties up"/overpowers the Strong man||Jesus Christ|
28 Amen, I
say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven
them. 29 But whoever
blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty
of an everlasting sin." 30 For
they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
In the Gospel of Matthew the statement is a bit stronger: And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Mt 12:32).
This must discussed passage speaks of the one unpardonable sin that is the sin against the Holy Spirit (see Mt 12:31-32; 3:29; Lk 12:10; CCC 679 and 1864). Jesus says that all sins can be forgiven and even all blasphemies, which are sins committed against God Himself by insulting or abusing God's Divine Name or claiming His divine prerogatives for one's self. In his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Pope John Paul II explained that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit "does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross." He continued that it is "the sin committed by the person who claims to have a 'right' to persist in evil, in any sin at all, and who thus rejects Redemption" (Dominum et vivificatem, 46).
Citation of CCC 1864 of the Catechism adds: "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss."
God places no limits upon His mercy in the offering of His gift of salvation by the Holy Spirit through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. The Church teaches that every human sin, no matter how heinous, can be repented and forgiven prior to death with one exception: anyone who deliberately and repeatedly, in his hardness of heart, refuses to recognize God's action and even attributes that action to evil, and rejects God's mercy and the gift of eternal life offered by the Holy Spirit up to the moment he takes his last breath in death, commits the final sin that is past pardoning and that person condemns himself to the loss of eternal life. Jesus is not necessarily saying that the Scribes have committed the unpardonable sin, but He is warning them that, in calling the good works of God the Son generated through the power of the Holy Spirit evil, they are in grave peril, and they must open their hearts and repent before it is too late.
Mark 3:31-35 ~ Jesus Defines His Family
31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for you." 33 But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 35 For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
St. Mark now resumes the story about Jesus' family that he started in verse 31. This time Jesus' mother and brothers are mentioned. Some manuscripts of St. Mark's Gospel include "sisters". The crowd around Jesus is so densely packed that they cannot get near enough to speak to Him, and so they send a message through the crowd that they are outside. Notice that Mark uses the word "outside" twice in verses 31 and 32.
Jesus' reply is to ask a rhetorical question: "Who are my
mother and my brothers?" 34 And
looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and
my brothers. 35 For whoever
does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
Jesus is not rejecting His human family, but He is redefining the meaning of "family" in the context of the Kingdom of the "new Israel" of Jesus Christ that is stronger than any blood relationship. Those who do the will of God in accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior and submitting in faith to the Sacrament of Baptism are members of His New Covenant family. They are brothers and sisters in the family of God and co-heirs of Christ in the promise of eternal salvation
This is not to say that Jesus' Nazareth family is to be excluded. However, they will need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to be included in the family of the Gospel Kingdom of the New Covenant Church. Even Mary, who was conceived without sin and given the revelation of the angel Gabriel, will need to accept Jesus beyond the limits of a human son. She and Jesus' kinsmen will all accept Jesus as both Lord and Savior as St. Luke records in Acts 1:14 ~ All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Genesis 3:9-10 (CCC 399); 3:9 (CCC 410, 2568); 3:11-13 (CCC 400); 3:11 (CCC 2515); 3:12 (CCC 1607); 3:13 (CCC 1736, 2568); 3:15 (CCC 70, 410, 489)
Psalm 130:3 (CCC 370)
2 Corinthians 4:14 (CCC 989); 5:1 (CCC 1420)
Mark 3:22 (CCC 548, 574); 3:27 (CCC 539); 3:29 (CCC 1864); 3:31-35 (CCC 500)
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