Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 18:6-9.19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12)

Every year from January 18 to 25 Christians of all stripes are asked to pray for Church unity. The festival of prayer ends with the celebration of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Of course, the apostle to the Gentiles not only championed Church unity but also expressed a willingness to sacrifice himself so that the majority of his fellow Jews would join the former pagans in accepting Christ. For various historical reasons, unity is elusive but today’s gospel suggests a reason for cooperation among all Christians.

Throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus strives to keep his identity as God’s Son hidden. In today’s passage he admonishes the unclean spirits, who are aware of spiritual reality, not to make him known. His reasoning is not hard to fathom. Jesus needs time to demonstrate that God saves His people through suffering as well as mighty deeds. In 1901 the Protestant scholar William Wrede popularized the idea of a “Messianic secret” to describe Jesus’ will to hide his identity. Wrede’s explanation has been refuted over the years, but his attention to the gospel peculiarity has spurred study and reflection.

Catholicism is indebted to Protestantism for the latter’s Scriptural scholarship as it owes respect to Orthodoxy for its attention to liturgy. Christians need to come together to fully realize God’s plan for His Church. Of course, real unity cannot be achieved without a demand for truth. But for that reason as well, we must not allow pride and prejudice to derail the quest.