|Tobit 3:1-11, 16
Psalms 25:2-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
In today's Gospel reading, Mark considers the particular problem of life after death and its implications. We might notice that here Jesus takes the side of the Pharisees, believing in resurrection from the dead, as opposed to the view of the Sadducees. This is one of the reasons why Jesus frustrated the Pharisees so much: although he seemed to be one of them according to this criterion, he refused to interpret Scripture as literally as they did or to put as much importance on a strict and literal interpretation of the Law. And even here he goes beyond (not against) what many Old Testament texts seem to assume concerning both life after death and the meaning of marriage.
The wider question which Jesus (and Mark) is opening here is how we are to interpret Scripture. A literal interpretation is easy for us to understand and so to follow, at least insofar as our having confidence in doing the right thing is concerned. Anyone who is actually willing to come to grips with Scripture, however, soon recognizes that this approach has its problems, even in something as seemingly simple as naming the twelve tribes of Israel or trying to decide whether Job or Jonah are to be taken literally.
Much of this interpretation can be left to scholars, who have the appropriate skills and information to discover what the "truth" of a text is, and their conclusions can be found in such works as the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. But what is important for us is how we as individuals read Scripture and draw sustenance from God through it.
What I refer to is prayer: if we are to have a living relationship with God we must be in conversation with him. Scripture, as the Word of God, plays an important role here but cannot be taken literally or assumed to have only one "message" in a given passage: if that were true, by now we would have one and only one homily in regard to each Scripture passage. Scripture is rather a place where we listen to what God says through a particular passage. The Spirit will lead us to pay attention to one aspect of that reading, to a word or expression, or will inspire us with a new understanding of ourselves and who we are. This is how Christ himself arrived at the understanding of the afterlife which he reveals in today's Gospel passage.
What is most important here for us is first that we actually pray,
regularly, with or without using the Scripture, and then that we reflect
on what we are doing and what we experience in prayer. And then go
on to live in the strength of that Word.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook