Friday in the 8th week of Ordinary Time
DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY:
“HAVE FAITH IN GOD.” (Mk 11:11-26).
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it.
They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.”
The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.
Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.”
Commentary from the Navarre Bible, St. Mark, (with permission)
- 12 Jesus’ hunger is another sign of his being truly human.
- When we contemplate Jesus Christ we should feel him very close to us; he is true God and true man. His experience of hunger shows that he understands us perfectly: he has shared our needs and limitations.
- “How generous our Lord is in humbling himself and fully accepting his human condition! He does not use his divine power to escape from difficulties or effort. Let’s pray that he will teach us to be tough, to love work, to appreciate the human and divine nobility of savouring the consequences of self-giving” (J. Escrivá, Christ is passing by, 161).
- 13-14 Jesus, of course, knew that it was not the right time for figs; therefore, he was not looking for figs to eat. His action must have a deeper meaning. The Fathers of the Church, whose interpretation St Bede reflects in his commentary on this passage, tell us that the miracle has an allegorical purpose: Jesus had come among his own people, the Jews, hungry to find fruit of holiness and good works, but all he found were external practices — leaves without fruit. Similarly, when he enters the temple, he upbraids those present for turning the Temple of God, which is a house of prayer (prayer is the fruit of the piety), into a place of commerce (mere leaves). “So you”, St Bede concludes, “if you do not want to be condemned by Christ, should guard against being a barren tree, by offering to Jesus, who made himself poor, the fruit of piety which he expects of you” (In Marci Evangelium expositio, in loc.).
- God wants both fruit and foliage; when, because the right intention is missing, there is only leaves, only appearances, we must suspect that there is nothing but purely human action, with no supernatural depth — behaviour which results from ambition, pride and a desire to attract attention.
- “We have to work a lot on this earth and we must do our work well, since it is our daily tasks that we have to sanctify. But let us not forget to do everything for God’s sake. If we were to do it for ourselves, out of pride, we would produce nothing but leaves, and no matter how luxuriant they were, neither God nor our fellow man would find any good in them” (J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 202).
- 15-18 Our Lord does not abide lack of faith or piety in things to do with the worship of God. If he acts so rigorously to defend the Temple of the Old Law, it indicates how we should conduct ourselves in the Christian Temple, where he is really and truly present in the Blessed Eucharist.
- “Piety has its own good manners. Learn them. It’s a shame to see those ‘pious’ people who don’t know how to attend Mass — even though they go daily, — nor how to bless themselves (they throw their hands about in the weirdest fashion), nor how to bend the knee before the Tabernacle (their ridiculous genuflections seem a mockery), nor how to bow their heads reverently before a picture of our Lady” (J. Escrivá, The Way, 541). Cf. note on Mt 21:12-13.
- 20-25 Jesus speaks to us here about the power of prayer. For prayer to be effective, absolute faith and trust are required
- “A keen and living faith. Like Peter’s. When you have it — our Lord has said so — you will move the mountains, the humanly inseparable obstacles that rise up against your apostolic undertakings” (J. Escrivá, The Way, 489).
- For prayer to be effective, we also need to love our neighbour, forgiving him everything: if we do, then God our Father will also forgive us. Since we are all sinners we need to admit the fact before God and ask his pardon (cf. Lk 18:9-14). When Christ taught us to pray he required that we have these pre-dispositions (cf. Mt 6:12; also Mt 5:23 and notes on same).
- Here is how Theophilactus (Enarratio in Evangelium Marci, in loc.) puts it:
- “When you pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive you. . . . He who believes with great affection raises his whole heart to God and, in David’s words, opens his soul to God. If he expands his heart before God in this way, he becomes one with him, and his burning heart is surer of obtaining what he desires.”
- Even when he is in the state of sin, man should seek God out in prayer: Jesus places no limitations at all: “Whatever you ask…”.
- Therefore, our personal unworthiness should not be an excuse for not praying confidently to God. Nor should the fact that God already knows our needs be an excuse for not turning to him. St Teresa explains this when she prays:
- “0 my God, can it be better to keep silent about my necessities, hoping that Thou wilt relieve them? No, in deed, for Thou, my Lord and my joy, knowing how many they must be and how it will alleviate them if we speak to Thee of them, dost bid us pray to Thee and say that Thou will not fail to give” (St Teresa, Exclamations, 5). Cf. notes on Mt 6:5-6 and Mt 7:7-11).
- 26 Many ancient manuscripts add a v.26: ‘But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses;’ but this is clearly an addition, taken straight from Mt 6:15. This addition was included by the editors of the Old Vulgate.
TOPIC: WHAT TWO THINGS MUST YOU HAVE FOR YOUR PRAYERS TO BE ANSWERED?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells us to important factors for our prayers to bear fruit: FAITH and FORGIVENESS.
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