June 9
Genesis 3. 8 – 15
Psalm: 130
2 Corinthians 4. 13 – 5.1
Gospel: Mark 3.20 – 35

In the last 2,500 years, brave prophets have tried to awaken us to the responsibility that comes with our advances. They point out that by choosing to better our interactions with everything around us, we can create a better world. Mark’s Gospel shows us how well that turns out.
Jesus’ preaching and healing made him immensely popular with some and a threat to others. Some believed he wanted to unseat them; others were jealous. Some deeply religious people feared that he was satanic. His own family worried that he was demented. Jesus’ good news was too much, too new and different for many of his contemporaries.
What unsettled both believers and doubters? Nothing more than his core message: “The reign of God is at hand.” That might not sound so bad, but its implications were earth-shattering. When Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news,” he wasn’t talking about sin and remorse. That’s easy.
The Greek word for repent, metanoia (metanoeo), conveys Jesus’ invitation to see everything with new eyes, to discover God’s reigning and to join in. “Repent” invites us to venture into a new stage of evolution, to allow God to lead us into becoming more than we had ever imagined. Large crowds heard that and were electrified because Jesus taught with authority; he embodied the promise and effects of metanoia. Faith in this good news enabled disciples to begin to act like Jesus, going beyond old boundaries designed to keep them safe and pure — and exclusive.
Mark’s story about Jesus and his mother, sisters and brothers presents a parable in action to depict the radicality of metanoia. Jesus’ family, those to whom he had belonged from birth, were looking for him because they couldn’t comprehend what he was doing or how people were responding to him. When he heard that his family had arrived, his response was scandalous: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus’ call to metanoia entailed a rejection of every type of exclusivity, be it family, ethnic, tradition, heritage, classism, sexism or nationalism. In Jesus’ vision of God’s reign, the measure of every action and relationship rests simply on how it fosters or impedes love and human thriving.
The truth of the saying “pride goeth before destruction” (Prov. 16:18) is clearly demonstrated in the first and third readings today. Pride indeed induced the First Parents to disobey God. They wished to be independent of him, in fact, they hoped to be his equals. The evil results of their folly are still among us. It was their sinful pride, their sense of superiority, their utter contempt for all who did not conform to their standard of observance, that led the Scribes and Pharisees to oppose Jesus. Blinded as they were by this deep-rooted pride, they could see nothing good in him. Absurdly, they explained as the work of Satan the miracles he worked. To any honest mind, these miracles proved that he was, at least, a friend of God. That most of the Scribes and Pharisees continued in their blind pride even after their attempt to silence him forever had failed, is most likely, as Jesus’ reference to the unforgivable sin would indicate. They could not be forgiven while they refused, through pride, to ask for forgiveness.
While we can thank God that perhaps none of us has the same exalted opinion of himself as had the Scribes and Pharisees, there is still much pride in even the best of us. It is still the root of all the evil that is in our world. If faithfully observed the Ten Commandments of God would make the journey of all men to heaven easier, safer and surer. But they are violated daily. Why? Because proud men refuse to be restricted in their actions. They cannot admit that any higher power has the right to regulate their lives; they are the sole arbiters of their fate; they will do as they please.
Which of us would admit to violating the first commandment? “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have strange gods before me.” We never even thought of adoring a false god, we will say, we would never think of setting up a statue of Mars or Jove or Venus and bowing the knee before it. Yet, every time we break the law of God, we are setting up an idol—one more absurd than any false god of the pagan world. We are setting up our own self, our own will, our own authority in the place of God. We will not have him rule over us!
We are living today in what is politely called the permissive age—the age when God’s laws are shamelessly flouted and despised; the age when men and women, old as well as young, do what they like regardless of whether or not their actions offend God and neighbor. This is a false philosophy, not of life, but of death; this is a philosophy or whim which has the ripe seeds of destruction of human society breaking through its crust. How long can we go on living together on earth, if each one claims the right to do as he pleases? If, with impunity, we can lay our hands on all the wealth and property we feel we want, what of our neighbors whom we despoil? If we can drive a coach and four through the laws of the state, which are themselves applications of the laws of God, how long can our state last? If, outside of marriage, we have every right to enjoy all the sexual pleasure of which we are capable, who is going to take on himself the responsibilities of married life: Who will produce the next generation of citizens and who will feed and educate them! If we have the right to all possible comfort, pleasure and ease in this life, then abortion, euthanasia for the old and defectives, in fact, the quiet removal of anyone who stands in our way, who interferes with our absolute freedom, is not only lawful but absolutely necessary! How many will survive this regime?
Of course, those who approve of and demand permissiveness, do not encourage going to such extremes—except when it suits them. But if there is no divine authority the state laws will have to be enforced with the gun. They will collapse, however, once a sufficient number of citizens opt for permissiveness.
He who does the will of God is the brother and kinsman of Christ and only his true brothers will get to heaven. We must keep the commandments of God. not only are they the guides that will keep us on the road to heaven, but they are our only guarantee of survival during our short sojourn here on earth.
On this theme of disharmony the parable of Jesus takes on a resonance that was not originally intended; a house divided cannot stand. Equally we can see that a humanity radically divided and fighting against itself cannot survive, since our ingenious creativity has put so much destructive power in our hands. One of the paradoxes of the human situation seems to be that the more we develop our control over the world and the more good we are capable of producing, the more the possibilities for evil also proliferate. This is the Achilles heel, the radical flaw in the fallen human condition.
This ambiguity was hinted at in the Genesis text when it says: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Human achievements are so often flawed; we can build our towers to the heavens but they become a Babel of confusion and races. What hope is there then for us? The Gospel provides a way forward. What was hinted at in Genesis came to its full revelation in the ministry of Jesus, who worked to fully overcome the power and influence of evil. What he revealed in action was God’s power restoring creation — healing women and men and making them whole again. From here on our humankind is no longer left on its own in a hopeless struggle against evil. It is now possible for us to share in the new creation, if we belong to Christ.
Still, there is nothing overwhelming about the presence of God in Jesus, as we can see from the cynical reaction of the scribes to him. Pride, the desire to make oneself the arbiter of all that is good, motivates them to see in Jesus not the visible power of the Spirit of God, but a trick of the devil. What seemed to be good they could not deny but only reinterpret, in order to hold on to their own fixed position. Such a closed mentality merits the censure of Jesus; he reminds us that we must be ready to see God’s goodness in unexpected places. Our road back to the new creation involves true openness and humility. It is a journey that does not involve positions of guaranteed privilege. Even the blood relatives of Jesus have no special standing in the kingdom. To belong to Jesus is equally open to all; the only condition is our readiness to commit oneself to doing the Father’s will. This was the commitment that Adam and Eve failed to make but which is opened up to us in Christ.
Jesus’ mission of establishing the Kingdom of God is directly linked to the struggle against this adversary. He, the enemy, deceives people, misguides them and leads them astray, putting in jeopardy God’s plan for humanity. He even tried to tempt Jesus, the Son of God, to deviate from His God-given mission. He apparently succeeded when he got his agents to crucify Jesus but Satan bit off more than he could chew. Jesus, who defeated Satan during temptation, won a definitive victory with the resurrection. But the Devi continues his evil activity of deception and destruction. The warfare between the Son of Man, who sows good deeds in the world, and the enemy, who sows weeds, will continue till the end (Mt 13:38 – 39).
St. Paul speaks often of the spiritual powers in space, ‘the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God’ (Eph 2:2). It is a spirit sweeping in the air, moving in the space which people unconsciously and effortlessly breathe in. This is the spirit of a given period in history controlled by the evil one. One easily thinks of public opinion created by mass media. How much of mass media is controlled by the devil? Here too the children of the light are asleep while the children of darkness are active.

What is the spirit of our age? War, violence, corruption, greed, sexual promiscuity…… All these and all the negative things that ‘rule’ our age can summed up in one phrase: a civilization of death. And death, according to the Bible, came through the envy of Satan.

Today, many might agree with the family’s opinion that Jesus had gone off the deep end. Although they probably would say it more politely with statements like, “That’s just not practical,” or “But in the real world …”, the message remains the same.
To that, Jesus’ replies uncompromisingly: “Those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness!” Being closed to metanoia, to new insights, to a frightening, but grace-filled and ever-growing relationship with God and others, impedes and denigrates the Holy Spirit. That stance remains unforgivable until a person decides to be open to the newness of grace.
Jesus’ focus on metanoia’s good news suggests that the Trinity’s motive for the incarnation had less to do with sin than with God’s deep desire that we continue to evolve, becoming mothers, brothers and sisters with and in Christ.
As with Adam and Eve in the garden, our evolution and growth will undoubtedly include many falls, but participating in the emerging reign of God makes it worth the risk.
God bless!