10th Sunday of the Year Genesis 3:9–15; 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1; Mark 3:20–35
Mrs. Hannah “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Mrs. Hannah is a widow in Colorado. One day her daughter was murdered. The assailant was eventually apprehended, found guilty, and imprisoned.
But Mrs. Hannah could not forgive the murderer. She knew that Jesus said “Love your enemies, . . . and pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27–28
But try as she may, she could not bring herself to forgive the man. Describing her feelings in a magazine article, she said that her heart was filled with hatred for the man. The “love, laughter, and beauty” that once characterized her personality were slowly being destroyed. She herself was being destroyed by her own burning hatred and anger.
Mrs. Hannah didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
Then one day, after thinking about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, she decided to act on it, in spite of her feelings.
She bought a Bible, wrote in it a message of forgiveness, and sent it to the prisoner.
That action changed not only her life but the life of the prisoner as well.
The prisoner, who was previously sullen and bitter, sent word to Mrs. Hannah that she had opened the door to a new world for him.
Her forgiveness made him realize, for the first time since the crime, that God would forgive him if he asked.
Before receiving her note, he had all but despaired that God would ever forgive him.
Her note made him realize that if she could and would forgive him, then God could and would forgive him also.
That story dramatizes three important points found in today’s readings:
1. the sinfulness present in our world, 2. the sin against the Holy Spirit, and 3. the importance of doing God’s will.
First, let us consider the sinfulness present in our world.
Crimes like murder remind us that Satan is still very active in our world, just as he was in Jesus’ world.
This makes us ask the question, If Jesus established God’s kingdom on earth, why is Satan’s kingdom, with all its evil, still present in our world?
The answer is that God’s kingdom has, indeed, been established on earth, but Satan’s kingdom has not yet been extinguished on earth.
In other words, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth is not an instant happening, but a gradual process. It is not a one-time event, but an ongoing movement.
This is why we still pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”
The kingdom of God is like a plant. It is alive and growing, but it has not yet borne its intended fruit. Until it does, evil will always be with us.
In other words, the kingdom of Satan has not yet come to an end. It is only under the sentence of death.
This brings us to the second point that the story dramatizes.
It concerns the sins against the Holy Spirit that Jesus refers to in today’s gospel reading. The story of Mrs. Hannah illustrates perfectly what that sin consists of.
Before Mrs. Hannah sent the Bible and her note to the prisoner, he had all but despaired of being forgiven by God.
In other words, the prisoner was on the verge of convincing himself that God couldn’t and wouldn’t forgive him the terrible sin he had committed.
This is what we mean by the sin against the Holy Spirit. It’s despairing of God’s forgiveness.
In other words, we sin against the Holy Spirit when we deny that God can or will forgive us. It is unforgivable, because God won’t force anything on anybody, even forgiveness.
It was into this situation that the prisoner in the story was rapidly slipping. Thanks to Mrs. Hannah’s own forgiveness, the situation was reversed in time.
And this brings us to the third point that the story dramatizes.
The third point is this: You and I become true brothers and sisters of Christ only when we do God’s will.
In other words, we must live out God’s will in our daily lives, just as Mrs. Hannah did.
We must put God’s will before our own will and feelings, as she did.
This brings us to this church and each one of us in it.
Today’s readings invite us to ask ourselves how we stand in relation to the three points we have just discussed.
For example, what are we doing to bring about the end of Satan’s kingdom and to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom?
In other words, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” but what are we doing in our daily lives to bring God’s kingdom to its final completion?
Second, today’s readings invite us to become true brothers and sisters of Christ by doing God’s will.
In other words, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done,” but what are we doing in our daily lives to live out God’s will?
Finally, today’s readings invite us to trust in God’s forgiveness and to forgive others, as Mrs. Hannah forgave the prisoner.
In other words, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” but what are we doing in our daily lives about forgiveness?
In brief, today’s readings invite us not merely to pray the words of the Our Father, but also to live them out in our daily lives.
Please pray along with me in silence:
God our Father, help us realize that it’s not enough to merely pray the Lord’s Prayer, which your Son taught us. Help us realize that we must also live out the Lord’s Prayer in our daily lives.
Series II 10th Sunday of the Year Genesis 3:9–15; 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1; Mark 3:20–35
The Exorcist Jesus’ power over demons is a sign that Satan’s power over the world has been broken.
Some years ago, William Blatty wrote a popular book called The Exorcist. It was made into a movie and set box-office records across the country.
Blatty’s book deals with the same question that today’s gospel deals with. It deals with the question of demonic possession.
The book is not total fiction. It bases itself on an actual case of demonic possession. The case took place in 1949 and involved a 14-year-old boy from Mt. Rainier, Maryland.
Describing some of the details of the case, Newsweek magazine said:
“Pictures, chairs and the boy’s bed would suddenly move about. At night the boy could barely sleep. After he was admitted to Georgetown University Hospital . . . the boy began to mouth fierce curses in ancient languages and at one point, while strapped helplessly in his bed, long red scratches appeared on his body.’’ In the movie The Exorcist, a young priest asks an old priest, “What’s the purpose of demonic possession?’’ The old priest answers, “Who can know? Who can really hope to know?’’
One thing we do know for sure is that the Gospel frequently portrays Jesus as involving himself in cases of demonic possession.
Jesus’ involvement in exorcisms and his power to drive demons out of victims made people of his time ask: What does this mean? How do we interpret these actions of Jesus?
Jesus himself answered these questions elsewhere in the Gospel. He said that his power over demons is a sign that he is inaugurating the kingdom of God on earth. (Luke 11:20) It is a sign that the power of Satan over people is being destroyed.
In other words, Jesus’ power over demons is a sign that the kingdom of Satan, which has enslaved the world since the first sin of Adam, is now giving way to the kingdom of God.
Here we need to recall that the first sin of Adam opened the floodgates of sin. It resulted in a tidal wave of sin that engulfed the world. The human race fell under the influence of sin. The kingdom of Satan held sway on earth.
By driving out demons, Jesus makes it clear that the power of Satan in the world is at an end.
In other words, the long-awaited kingdom of God is being inaugurated on earth.
This raises two important questions.
First, if Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God over 2,000 years ago, why do we continue to pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come’’?
And second, if Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom over 2,000 years ago, why is evil still so widespread in our world?
The answer to the first question about why we still pray “Thy kingdom come’’ is this.
The kingdom of God isn’t an instant happening. It’s a gradual process. It’s something that takes time. It’s an ongoing movement in human history.
Jesus compared the coming of God’s kingdom to the planting of a seed. After the seed is planted in the ground, it takes time to grow and to bear fruit.
The kingdom of God is like that. Jesus planted the kingdom in the soil. But he left to us the job of cultivating it, fertilizing it, and watering it.
It is our job to see to it that the kingdom bears the fruit that God intended it to bear.
This brings us to the second question. If Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom over 2,000 years ago, why is evil still so widespread in our world?
Or to put it in another way, why is the kingdom of God so slow in coming? Or to put it in still another way, why is the kingdom of Satan so slow in dying?
The answer to these questions brings us to the practical message contained in today’s gospel.
The reason why the kingdom of God is so slow in coming and the kingdom of Satan is so slow in dying is that we Christians aren’t carrying out our job as well as we should. We aren’t doing our job of completing the kingdom of God as well as we should be doing it.
Take just one example. How many of us live out Jesus’ command to love one another as he loves us? You know the answer to that as well as I do.
Our failure to love others as Jesus loves us extends not only to our enemies and to our neighbor, but also to our own family.
And the reason we fail to love even our own family as we should isn’t because we’re bad. It’s not because we’re mean. Rather, it’s usually because we’re forgetful. It’s because we get so caught up in everyday affairs that we overlook even the needs of our own family members. We get so caught up in everyday affairs that we lose sight of how wonderful our children and our spouse really are.
And so the practical message of today’s gospel is that we need to become more aware of our task as Christians: to complete the kingdom of God.
And one way to do that—beginning right now—is to try to become more aware of Jesus’ command to love one another— especially our own family—as he loves us.
This is the practical message of today’s gospel. This is the challenge that Jesus sets before each one of us in this liturgy.
Series III 10th Sunday of the Year Genesis 3:9–15, 2 Corinthians 4:13–5, Mark 3:20–35
Kingdom of God Where God’s will is done, there we find God’s Kingdom.
Whoever does what God wants is my brother, my sister, my mother.” Mark 3:35
The Catholic Digest contains a feature called “The Open Door.” It consists of first-hand accounts of how people happened to enter the Catholic Church. One account begins:
I was born and raised the son of a Protestant minister. I graduated from high school at fifteen and began college.
The author, who identifies himself only with the initials D. S., says that in college he met a Catholic girl. They married in the Catholic Church; but he didn’t consider conversion, because it would hurt his parents too much.
Seven years later, and after the births of three children, he finished law school. By that time, however, he was dealing big time in cocaine. He was caught and sentenced up to 50 years in prison. He was afraid he would lose his wife and children, but they remained faithful to him.
Soon the violence in prison got him to thinking about death. He began to attend instruction classes conducted by the Catholic chaplain.
In 1988, after 13 years in prison, he was baptized and confirmed, with his wife and children in attendance.
Less than a year later, his wife, his eldest daughter, his son-in-law, and his grandson were killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver. He was released on furlough to his parents to attend the funeral. The sight of the four coffins destroyed him. He cursed God, rejecting him as unloving.
Aware of his rejection of God, the priest who presided at the funeral Mass visited him regularly in prison. Eventually he made his peace with God and returned to the faith.
It took him another ten years, but he was finally able to write a letter of forgiveness to the young man who caused the deaths of his loved ones. The man concluded his account, saying:
The Church was there to help me. It not only saved my soul, but helped me to find peace of mind and forgiveness. Retold from Catholic Digest (June 1998)
That moving story underscores the main theme in today’s readings: the presence of evil in our world.
Crimes traceable to the misuse of drugs and alcohol are concrete evidence that Satan in still very active in our world.
This makes us ask this question: If Jesus established God’s Kingdom on earth, why is Satan’s kingdom still so active in our world?
The answer is that Jesus has, indeed, established God’s Kingdom on earth. But Satan’s kingdom has not yet been destroyed.
In other words, the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth is not an instant happening but a gradual process. It is not a one-time event but an ongoing movement.
This is why we continue to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come.” We might compare the Kingdom of God to a plant. It is alive and growing. But it has not yet borne its intended fruit. Until it does, evil will always be with us.
In other words, the kingdom of Satan has not yet come to an end. It is only under the sentence of death.
This brings us to a second question: What do we mean by the phrase “Kingdom of God”?
Let us begin by noting that the New Testament uses two phrases: “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew almost always uses the phrase “Kingdom of heaven,” while Mark and Luke almost always use the phrase “Kingdom of God.”
The reason for this practice is traceable to the fact that devout Jews had a deep reverence for the divine name. Wherever possible, they would use a substitute word rather than pronounce it.
Matthew’s primary audience was Jewish. Therefore, out of reverence for the divine name, he avoided speaking of the Kingdom of God, and used in its place Kingdom of heaven.
Mark and Luke, being less influenced by Jewish customs, did not hesitate to speak of the Kingdom of God.
Surprisingly, the Gospels contain no definition of what Jesus meant by the phrase “Kingdom of God.” Although Jesus does not define what he means by the “Kingdom of God,” he refers to it in a variety of ways.
For example, he says that the Kingdom of God is like a seed planted in the ground—and so on.
That brings us to its basic meaning. Let us approach it this way. Again, let us begin by noting that Hebrew prayers often use parallelisms.
For example, the psalmist frequently repeats the same idea in slightly different ways. For example, Psalm 139 says of God:
Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding. Psalm 139:6
A closer look a parallelisms shows that the second half of the parallelism explains or clarifies the first half. And so when the psalmist says in the first half of the parallelism, “Your knowledge of me is too deep,” he repeats and clarifies the same idea in the second half of the parallelism. He says, “it is beyond my understanding.”
Many scholars feel that the Lord’s Prayer contains such a parallelism, when it says: “thy kingdom come; thy will be done.”
Assuming this is the case, the “Kingdom of God” and the “will of God” turn out to be the same. This gibes with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21, where he says:
“Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.”
This also gibes with Jesus’ words in Luke 17:21. There he says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
This brings us to an application of all this to our own personal lives.
When we pray “thy kingdom come,” above all, we are praying for ourselves: that we begin to do God’s will on earth as it is done by the saints in heaven.
In a few minutes we will be praying for this as we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Let’s do it today with truly profound sincerity and devotion.