Queen's counsel IX

May 2002

One of the most important things about theological training or reflection is trying to understand one's self. Whether this is done in a formal way through intensive study, as at Queen's, or informally through life at home, at work and in the community does not matter. But it is worth reflecting on how we develop and become more fully ourselves; perhaps one could say on becoming who we are intended to be.

The second term of our Biblical Studies module at Queen's involved the New Testament and we spent several sessions looking at the Gospels and one in detail at that of St. Mark. It is the shortest Gospel and is generally recognised to be the earliest. The humanity of Jesus comes across strongly but there is also an air of mystery about him. Both aspects may be instructive to us.

Early in St. Mark's Gospel, the demons know who Jesus is as he seeks to make people whole but his disciples just don't see it. Later, when Jesus feels the need to ask his disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" and Peter replies: "You are the Messiah", he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone (Mk.8:29-30). He has an urgent sense now that they need serious preparation for when he is no longer around, to be more self-aware and more self-confident.

His disciples were happy to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah as He entered Jerusalem towards the end but they had to learn to serve each other as at the Last Supper and to pray for each other as in the Garden of Gethsemane. They would only be able to do this effectively as they become transformed by love and obedient to the Father's will as exemplified by Jesus through his passion, death and resurrection.

There are various endings suggested for St. Mark's Gospel, the first leaving the disciples in "terror and amazement" (Mk.16:8) that Jesus had risen, terror that they seem to be on their own and amazement that these prophecies had come true. Other versions add resurrection appearances, the commissioning of the disciples and Jesus ascending to heaven. This is a process we all need to go through whenever substantial change takes place in our lives.

Whether it be a severe illness that leaves us changed or the loss of a loved one that makes us feel bereft or the loss of a job, we need to find ways of remembering the past, responding to the present and gaining the ability to respond lovingly to whatever life throws at us. And then, as we become stronger through the Spirit and begin to know ourselves better as God's creatures, we may become closer to Christ himself. The Muslims put it this way:

O my God
How near thou art to me,
And how far I am from thee.

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This page was last updated on 2002-05-18

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