Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 6:14-29, David Ewart, 2009.
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons
Let nothing, O God, be dearer to us than your Son, no worldly possessions, no human honors; let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, who alone makes known tot he world the mystery of your love and reveals the true dignity of every human person. Grant us onlyt hre riches of your grace, and pour forth on us the full measure of your Spirit, that by word and deed we may prclaim Chrsit, in whom you betsow forgiveness and redemption on all. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 6:14-29
Jesus and the disciples have been and are on a missionary journey. We have taken a side trip here in this passage. Jesus and his followers are making their way to the cross slowly and surely. Here in the passage today we are told of the martyrdom of John the Baptist who was a "holy and righteous man." This is a side journey in which we see the powers of this world rebelling and slowing the progress of the kingdom down. We cannot understimate the thematic battle between the powers that is being shaped in Mark's gospel. This very wierd detour is an example of just such a battle. Her there is death and martydom in store for the followers of Jesus. Just like John the Baptist the message is clear that those who choose the way, choose the way of the cross and will loose their life along the pilgrim way.
In Mark's narrative John the Baptist has an important role to play. He is the one who is making way for God. He is the Elijah of our story. As the story goes a masterfully gothic tale unwinds itself in the eventual macabre beheading of John.
Again, we see here the powers of the world are rebeling against the mission of God. This is a stumbling block a moment when the mission is attacked by the forces that would see the reign of God end in favor of a far more worldly reign of Herod.
In the other gospel accounts the story of John the Baptist and his death makes room for Jesus to take center stage. Something different is happening in this martyrdom.
|Famous Actress/Dancer Maude Allen as Salome|
This would have been powerful and hopeful news to a community not unlike Mark's own which was most probably in the midst of persecution.
And, as we are immediately reminded in 6:30ff, out of death and wilderness places comes life and abundance.
I pause to ask how are we dying today? How are we dying in our lives? What is dyng? I find that as I reflect on my own life experience typically what is taking place is that my true self is dying. My imperfect self which desires and hopes for love is dying. My soul which longs to belong and waits for community is dying. The real me is dying. That is what is being martyred. It is be martyred in the banqueting hall of my ego. There my ego enjoys all the false appetites and fake symbols of life lived to the max. It is the death of the ego that I resist; and it is my heart that I am willing to be pulled out of me.
I live a life where in my true self dies and awaits resurrection by the God who gives mercy and love. I have hope that God chooses me, the real me, the martyred me. I await the death of all the false banqueting halls of power in favor of the feeding of the thousands by the bread of life himself - Jesus.