Prayer Enables Witness To Faith
Friday: Eighth week of the Year May 27, 2016
Mark 11:11-26. Year I: Sirach 44:1-13; Psalm 149:1-9; Year II: 1Peter 4:7-13; Psalm 96:10-13.
This is an “overturning” Gospel. It overturns assumptions, customs and values. But the key to it is prayer.
It begins with “Palm (Passion) Sunday.” Jesus entered Jerusalem with people shouting, “Hosanna!” (11:1-10). Then he “went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything” he “went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”
He must have thought about what he saw, because the next day he went back and “began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers.” He said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer…’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Apparently the priests didn’t want to alienate business interests by keeping priorities pure — just as we often give athletic events and fundraising priority over spiritual activities. Jesus overturned their triviality together with their tables.
Prayer is the key to this reading. Going into Jerusalem Jesus wanted figs but found “nothing but leaves” on the tree. Disappointed, he said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” The next day “they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.” When the disciples asked Jesus about it he said, “Have faith in God…. I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and it will be yours.”
Jesus was fighting discouragement — in himself and in his disciples. The crowd had acclaimed him as Messiah, but when they realized the kind of Messiah he really came to be they were going to turn on him and shout “Crucify him!” (15:13). The “chief priests and scribes were seeking a way to put him to death.” Their religion was all show: leaves without fruit. The travesty of the temple was a sign of it. It was not the “house of prayer” it was meant to be. His Chosen People were not responding. They were doomed to wither.
Jesus’ response was to call his disciples, to be a true “house of prayer” and “for all nations.” He would replace the temple in Jerusalem with the living temple of his Church, his risen body on earth (13:14; 14:58; 15:29,38). He would have to “move mountains” to do it, but he said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.’”
The work of the Kingdom is the work of God. We have to believe that and show it by prayer that bears witness to faith.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Rethink your priorities. What keeps you from giving time to prayer?