bible blog 165

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1,  1 Peter 4:7-13

smart scientific image of end of world?7 The end of all things is near, so keep your minds calm and sober for prayer. 8 Above all preserve an intense love for each other, since love covers over many a sin. 9 Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. 10 Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these varied graces of God, put it at the service of others.

11 If anyone is a speaker, let it be as the words of God, if anyone serves, let it be as in strength granted by God; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

12 My dear friends, do not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you; 13 but in so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.

One of the difficulties of the New Testament is that almost all the writings show the early Christian belief that the present world was swiftly coming to an end. There were different versions of this belief, but it is there in all the books. It was mistaken. We can wriggle as much as we like, but the fact is: it was mistaken. That in itself shows that the scripture is not inerrant. And why should it be? It’s only idolaters who want a book to be God, who’ve suggested that this is a problem. The bible is a human book; Jesus was a human person; both were mistaken about the coming end of this world.

If we could just grow up and accept gladly the scripture for what it is, rather than mourning the absence of certainty! The passage here is a good example. It’s wrong about the end of all things, but it’s right about love –“covers over many a sin”- and about hospitality, the gifts of individuals for the common good, and the joy of sharing the sufferings of Christ. Surely that’s more than enough.

Gospel, Mark 11:11-26

11 He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he had surveyed it all, as it was late by now, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. 12 Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. 13 Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he addressed the fig tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say this.

15 So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out the men selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. 16 Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. 17 And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have turned it into a bandits’ den.’

18 This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. 19 And when evening came he went out of the city.

20 Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. 21 Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree that you cursed has withered away.’

22 Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. 23 In truth I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Be pulled up and thrown into the sea,” with no doubt in his heart, but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 I tell you, therefore, everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’

This passage shows Mark’s mastery of a literary device called “inclusion”-in this case the story of the temple “included” between the two bits of the story of the fig tree. The framing story is meant to provide the meaning of the story that is framed. In this case Jesus looks for fruit and finds none on the fig tree, just as God has got none from his people and especially from its corrupt temple. When Jesus returns from the temple he finds the fig tree withered, just as the temple will wither away, under God’s curse. To the disciples the temple and its religion is a mighty mountain indeed, but those who have faith will see it cast into the sea.

barren fig tree

Do our religion and its paraphenalia produce fruit for God? If not, we better start thinking about withered fig trees…..

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