June 7, 2012 - Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

2 Timothy 2:8-15
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
Mark 12:28-34

Part of what is going on in this gospel reading is a little tug-of-war about who is testing who. The scribe asks the question as if he were testing Jesus; Jesus answers it with authority as if he were the teacher; the scribe approves of Jesus answer as if he were the teacher; then Jesus approves of the scribes approval, and he gets the last word. This is all clear to those watching this back-and-forth. Jesus is not only teaching the commandments, he is teaching the scribe that who the real teacher is. He is shifting his perspective.

In the second reading, St. Paul quotes a “saying”, whether it was a hymn or what we do not know, that contains four if-then statements. These statements are about looking at the universe in a way that is different than what we know, a shift in our perspective. The first statement is ““For if we died with him, we will also live with him.” This refers first of all to baptism, where, by going into the water, we die with Christ. It also refers to how we live. Dying with Christ is an everyday activity. We think that the more we enjoy the pleasures of the world, the happier we are, but this says “No, if you want to be happy then die.” The next statement reinforces this first one and takes it further: “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Not merely live, which would be enough, but reign.

Then it says, “If we deny him, he also will deny us.” This is a foundation teaching of Christianity. Would it be possible for a Christian to deny Jesus in order to avoid trouble? The answer is no. Even if the enemy is at the door and they will kill you and your whole family, you must never deny Jesus. We would tell ourselves that it was only words, that we did not mean it, but if we love God above all things, then nothing is important enough to make us deny him.

Then the last statement, which is so profound and comforting: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful. He cannot deny himself.” If we do deny him whether in words or by sinning against him, we may doubt that we can be forgiven. What if God has given up on me? He has not. How do I know? He is the Faithful One, and nothing I do can change that.