Thursday, January 23, 2014

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 - 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 hints at a good 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, the only ones who are aware of whom he is, not to make him known.  His reasoning is not hard to fathom.  Jesus wants to demonstrate that God will save His people even more through suffering than through deeds of power.  In 1901 the Protestant scholar William Wrede published his idea of a “Messianic secret” to describe Jesus’ intention to hide his identity.  Wrede’s explanation has been refuted over the years, but his thesis has spurred study and reflection by Christians from different traditions.

Catholicism is indebted to Protestantism for the latter’s Scriptural scholarship as it owes respect to Orthodoxy for its attention to liturgy.  Other churches and faith communities can similarly look to Catholicism for ordered unity.  All Christians should share their different gifts so that God’s plan for His Church may be fully realized.  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.