Sometimes the things Jesus said are hard to understand. They don’t seem to make any sense at first reading. The gospel reading for Thursday was a bit like that I would say. He suddenly started talking about hiding a lamp under a basket or under the bed. It’s an amusing picture but what is he trying to say? By looking at the context it’s possible to get a better idea. Jesus had been teaching the people using parables, specifically the parable of the sower just before the gospel for the day. His followers needed help to understand what he meant. Jesus then goes on to explain that the light he brings is not designed to be hidden but to give light to all. However, we have to do some work. As we work, as we exercise ourselves in a spiritual sense, we will understand more and more as God shows us more and more. If we choose not to try we will be left relying on our own resources.
The readings for the day were Psalm 132: 1-5, 11-15 and Mark 4:21-25. My reflection is given below:
I wonder, have you ever given thanks to God for the gift of laughter? There is something so life giving about real laughter. It brings a sense of well-being and joy. It releases tensions and anxieties. It draws friends together; it can even help to create friendship.
As we’re made in the image of God, I think we have to assume that God has a sense of humour and enjoys laughter. Jesus came to show us what God is like and I’m sure he smiled and laughed or children would not have come to him. In his stories we sometimes get a glimpse of his sense of the ridiculous. Only someone with a sense of humour would be able to paint some of the word pictures we have recorded for us.
Today’s Gospel passage starts with a funny scenario. We can imagine the evening drawing in somewhere in the Holy Land. The family is gathering from the day’s tasks. Perhaps it’s time for the evening meal. It’s gloomy in the house so the mother takes her pottery lamp and carefully fills it with oil through the hole in the lid. She trims the wick, lights the lamp and then walks past the wooden lampstand to a corner of the room and puts the lamp on the floor. She picks up a basket and puts it over the lamp. Suddenly the light is lost and the room is plunged into darkness once more. It’s ridiculous; no one would do such a thing. What would be the point?
What point is Jesus trying to make with this word picture? Taken out of context these five verses of Mark’s Gospel seem to be an odd muddle of ideas, with very little to link them together. Looking at what happened just before this passage makes a bit more sense of it. Jesus had told the parable of the sower and then was asked by those gathered around him just what it meant. He had to explain each point in it to them as they just didn’t get it at all. Maybe that’s hard for us to understand but we have the advantage of having read the explanation!
In this context the short passage we have before us is really a reassurance by Jesus to his followers. If a human being would not light a light and then hide it surely God would not do the same silly thing either. We know that Jesus is the Light of the World and God certainly didn’t let that Light be hidden. He was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to himself. Perhaps what Jesus is thinking of more here is his role as a teacher, to bring enlightenment about the things of God to all people. The disciples and others were struggling with his teaching but he reassures them that the light he has come to bring is not designed to be hidden but to give light to all.
Things hidden and secret are designed to be seen and discovered. There are truths in the parables which are there for us to find and absorb. Given in story form, they can gradually teach us as we are able to accept the information. Jesus was a great teacher and he taught in such a way that things were accessible to each person’s stage of development. Even a child can grasp the basics of the Good News.
Then Jesus told his listeners to pay attention to what they heard. The very basic knowledge of the Gospel is fairly easy to get hold of but to really understand, to ‘see the light’ as it were, needs more attention, more effort. As the effort is put in by us so we will gain understanding. If we use only a small amount of effort, we will only grasp very little. If we try harder, we will learn more and that learning will accelerate: ‘still more will be given you’. Part of that trying harder is to put into practice what we learn. It will not do us any good if it’s all theory. It’s as we see how things work that we will gain further insight. Obeying what the teachings of Jesus tell us will help us to see better what he means and to deepen our understanding. It may mean that what we think is the right thing to do now is somewhat different from what we thought before, but that’s to be expected as we mature as believers.
The final verse in this passage always seemed very mean to me. The person with a lot of something gets more but the one with little gets even that taken off him. How can that be fair? I suppose I have been enlightened somewhat and I can see what Jesus meant. If we welcome what God wants to teach us, using our abilities and what we know, we will gain more and more fruit in our lives. If we just don’t bother to use the spiritual side of our nature it will shrivel and die. We will be left depending on our own resources. It’s a case of ‘use it or lose it’.
I know from my own experience that there is always more to learn about God and about living the life of faith. Sometimes the learning is sudden and I have made a huge leap in my understanding. Sometimes I have been frustrated by my lack of progress or the apparent impossibility of making sense of something. I suppose it’s a bit like being on a long walk in hilly country. Sometimes the way is downhill and you can near enough run along with your eye on the distance. Other times it is a long, hard slog up a steep hill where you can’t see much ahead but more of a climb and you suspect that at the top of that climb there may well be another one!
At the tough times we have to rely on Jesus’ promises that we will see the light and we also need to rely on friends who travel with us to give us encouragement. It really is worth keeping on because it’s usually at the end of a tough climb that we see the best view of how far we have come.
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor