Not Far from the Kingdom

(from the 2010 Magnificat Lenten Companion)

There is a disquieting mystery contained in the brief exchange between Jesus and this scribe, recounted with so few words in the Gospel of Mark. The man approaches Jesus in order to trick him into an answer that will embarrass him; but when he asks Jesus which commandment is greatest, somehow Jesus succeeds in making the scribe answer his own question. The scribes were the authorities on every question of the law. It is as if a professor handed an exam to a student, and the student convinced the professor to take the exam in his place; and when the professor had completed his own exam, the student evaluated his teacher and offered encouragement for answering well! Perhaps Christ's gaze, so tender and knowing, pierced through to that man's soul. Or perhaps the authority in Jesus' voice disarmed the scribe. We can only imagine that to stand in Christ's presence must have been disorienting for all but the hardest of hearts, but we will never know exactly how Jesus overcame this individual; all we know is that the man momentarily forgot his goal and fell under the power of Christ's presence. Perhaps it was this fact, even more than the truth of the scribe's answer, that led Jesus to conclude that the man was not far from the kingdom of God.

Reflection based on Mark 12:28-34
Suzanne M. Lewis

Almighty Father, allow us to succumb to the power of your
Son. Take away our hearts of stone, so that we may stand
naked and disarmed in his presence. May our hearts be
pierced each day by the tenderness of his gaze.

Today's suggested penance: Fast from television or some other amusement.