bible blog 163

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1,  1 Peter 1:18-25

Self-sacrifice cannot be imposed

18 For you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, 19 but in precious blood as of a blameless and spotless lamb, Christ. 20 He was marked out before the world was made, and was revealed at the final point of time for your sake. 21 Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for this very purpose — that your faith and hope should be in God.

22 Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart; 23 for your new birth was not from any perishable seed but from imperishable seed, the living and enduring Word of God. 24 For all humanity is grass, and all its beauty like the wild flower’s. As grass withers, the flower fades, 25 but the Word of the Lord remains for ever. And this Word is the Good News that has been brought to you.

There are a number of key metaphors in the New Testament for the liberation of humanity by God in Jesus. “Ransom” is one of these. It is tempting to press the details of the metaphor too far, but it may be reasonable to ask to whom the ransom is paid. The answer is certainly not God, but rather the powers which have held humanity captive in a “futile way of life” Christ’s death is the price exacted by these powers for our freedom. But before we go too far into mythology, we should see the meaning of this metaphor: that Christ’s sacrificial pouring out of his life convinces us to trust his way, even in the face of evil and death. The ransom is not real unless we believe in the currency of self-sacrifice. We are challenged to have faith by the word that tells not only of the sacrifice but also of the resurrection of Jesus. This message, because it witnesses to Jesus, and shares in his character, is the ever- living word of God.

Gospel, Mk 10:32-45

32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him, 33 ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him, ‘We want you to do us a favour.’

36 He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’

37 They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’

38 But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I shall drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I shall be baptised?’

39 They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I shall be baptised you shall be baptised, 40 but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

41 When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, 42 so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the gentiles those they call their rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. 3 Among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. 45 For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

It's easy to dismiss the self-sacrifice of others

This story is a good illustration of the passage from 1st Peter above. The “futile way of life” is one in which greatness means power over others, which is exactly what James and John are looking for. Jesus speaks of his “baptism”, that is, his sufferings and death, and asks James and John if they can share it. Too readily, they say they can. Jesus, looking ahead to the fullness of their discipleship agrees that they will come to share it. He then spells out the downwardly mobile love which should be the spirit of his followers, and concludes by stating that his life is one of service, more literally, slavery, for the sake of the freedom of “many”, that is, all races.

St. Francis embraces the leper

This gospel is a challenge not only to individuals within societies but to to whole societies and their way of life. Power over others is a “futile” way life; becoming a ransom for others is the true way.

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