BY RORY COONEY
DIRECTOR OF LITURGY AND MUSIC
At the point in Mark’s gospel that we have reached, there follows a series of healings and encounters clusteredaround two feedings of multitudes. The lectionary departs from Mark at the point of the first feeding (this year,on July 25) and moves to John’s version of one of the feedings for five weeks, the fourth of John’s seven “signs.”Jesus performs these signs to call the disciples and others to a deeper faith in him who is revealing a particularview of God. These signs point toward a God of life, plenty, reconciliation, freedom, and healing. John may seethese signs prefigured in the signs God wrought through Moses in the Exodus (see Ex. 10:2).
But back to Mark for a few Sundays. The core of Jesus’s preaching right from the beginning of the gospel wasthreefold: “The time is now. God’s rule is right here. Turn around, follow me, and believe in God’s victory.(Mark 1: 15)” Jesus walks through the villages of Galilee with a company of disciples on a campaign of healingand exorcism (liberation from bondage). He establishes his authority (honor) over the customary teachers of thepeople: the elders, the Pharisees, and their scribes. By his preaching, healing, and exorcism, Jesus creates adissonance between life as it is and life as it could be so that there is room for people to recognize a possibilityof change. He makes room for the gospel by acting on behalf of the marginalized. And of course, in doing so, healienates those whose privilege depends on the great majority of people simply accepting their oppression andliving in fear of the terrorism of random brutality.
We live, as Jesus did, in a nation and world with great imbalances of power, opportunity, and privilege. Thegospel of Jesus is first and foremost good news for the poor. The rest of us, that means a lot of us writing andreading articles like this, are called to change our lives now because the kingdom of God is already here. Whatis needed is for us to start acting like it means something. Jesus has invited us to participate in the changesneeded for the gospel to sound like good news again, news that liberates rather than oppresses, heals ratherthan wounds, and has ears to hear the cries of the unheard and eyes to see their pain. The Eucharist, livingmanna, is a sign that God is present with us to liberate us from systemic sin so that we can actually start livingas a human family. It is the God of the Exodus, made flesh in Jesus the Messiah and given to us through theHoly Spirit in baptism, who meets us in the Eucharist, feeding us on our freedom journey.
Perhaps the Assumption of Mary, celebrated on a Sunday this year, encapsulates all these truths. We meet theBlessed Mother in the gospel of the day traveling from her home in Galilee to the hill country of Judea, whereher kinswoman Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah are expecting their child who will be called John. Thepregnant Mary makes this long journey to be of service to an elder who needs attention. Their mutual greeting,infused with the joy of God’s intervention and deliverance in their lives, erupts in the Magnificat, Mary’scanticle of rescue and freedom, praising God’s overturning the tables of the world in every age in favor of thepoor. All of regal imagery of Revelation and Psalm 45 are lavished not upon an actual queen, but on a youngpeasant woman who makes a long journey to serve an elder relative. In the reign of God, queenship, like everykind of leadership, is a simple act of service.
Let’s sing the truth. Let’s invite each other into lives of service to others. Our example of feeding the hungry,resisting oppression, and releasing others from the captivity of isolation and marginalization, will begin tocreate a space for faith to blossom. There, Christ is among us as manna, bread for everyone, freely given,equally available on both sides of whatever sea we think keeps human beings apart.