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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Gen 4:1-15.25): The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, «I have produced a man with the help of the Lord». Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the Lord said to Cain: «Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master».

Cain said to his brother Abel, «Let us go out in the field». When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord asked Cain, «Where is your brother Abel?». He answered, «I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?». The Lord then said: «What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth».

Cain said to the Lord: «My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight». «Not so!», the Lord said to him. «If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold». So the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. «God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel», she said, «because Cain slew him».
Responsorial Psalm: 49
R/. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the Lord has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. «Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your burnt offerings are before me always».

«Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?».

«You sit speaking against your brother; against your mother’s son you spread rumors. When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it? Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes».
Versicle before the Gospel (Jn 14:6): Alleluia. I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mk 8:11-13): The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

“Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given”

Fr. Jordi POU i Sabater (Sant Jordi Desvalls, Girona, Spain)

Today, it looks like the Gospel does not say too much about Jesus or about us. “Why does this generation seek a sign?” (Mk 8:12). Commenting on this episode of Jesus' life, Saint John Paul II said: “Jesus invites us to discern between the words and the deeds testimony of (or a “sign of”) the arrival of God's Kingdom.” It seems the Pharisees questioning Jesus are lacking the capacity or the will to discern that sign which —in fact— is the entire manifestation, deeds and words, of the Lord.

Nowadays, Jesus is also asked for some heavenly signs: that He let us see His presence in our world or that He tells us in a clear cut manner how we are to behave. The Roman Pontiff makes us see that Jesus' refusal to give a sign to the Jews —and, consequently, to us, too— is due to the fact He wants to change the “world logic, oriented to look for signs confirming man's desire of assertiveness and power.” The Pharisees did not want just any sign, but one showing Jesus as the Messiah they wanted. They were not waiting for the Messiah coming to save them, but for the Messiah who was to give them the certainty they were doing things the right way.

In short, when the Jews in Jesus' time, or today's Christians, ask —one way or another— for a sign, what we are actually asking for, is for God to act according to our own way, that which we think is better and which also stands by our way of thinking. But God, who is omniscient and omnipotent (this is why in The Lord's Prayer we say “your will be done”), has His own ways which, more often than not, we find it difficult to understand. But He, who allows us to find Him when we are truly looking for Him, if we beg Him to enlighten us, He will help us to understand which are His ways and how we can, today, distinguish His signs.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “There are three ways for wisdom or prudence to abound in you: if you confess your sins, if you give thanks and praise, and if your speech is edifying.” (Saint Bernard)

  • “‘If you are God's Son...’. He is ‘tested’ just as products are tested. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding Him.” (Benedict XVI)

  • “The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him (…). Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 548)