Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Pass By and Hard Hearted -- Confusions!

Today is the feast of St John Neumann, one-time Bishop of Philadelphia.  It is a feast that reminds this blogger of a priest who has meant so much in his life:  Msgr. James McGrath.  Known to so many as "Jim,"  this Philadelphia priest served the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as "Officialis."  This is the office in charge of marriage annulments among many things.  For many years Msgr. McGrath also, as Officialis, worked on the investigation of events that ultimately led to the canonization of Bishop Neumann.

The gospel reading for today, however, is one that should be read carefully because there are two phrases St. Mark uses that might cause the careful reader some consternation:  "He (Jesus) meant to pass by them," and then "They (the apostles) had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary their hearts were hardened."

To read that Jesus meant to pass by the apostles who were in much distress because of the heavy storm that endangered them is surprising if we use the contemporary interpretation of that phrase.  In biblical language, however, the phrase has a very different significance.  In essence it means "God is revealing himself to you!"  So very different, isn't it, from our understanding of those two words.  And in Mark, a hard-hearted person was one who was finding it difficult to accept Jesus for who he was.

Notice as Jesus neared the apostles, they were frightened by a "ghost."  Then he said "Do not fear!  IT IS I."  Perhaps since the event of the multiplication of the loaves seem to have thrown the apostles -- remember Mark is quoting Jesus' words that the apostles seemed to be hard hearted at the multiplication of the loaves.  Jesus is trying again to assure them that he is the Savior that had come to the people.

For those who go through moments of genuine trial this is a great gospel of reassurance:  Do Not Fear!  It is I.  Remember that during tough moments.  Jesus is with you if you take time to discern what is actually happening.