Mark has been a constant puzzle to me. I didn’t much care for it for a long time. His sense of urgency and spareness of narrative left me feeling I was reading the Cliff Notes of scripture. That began to change a few years ago when I took a hard look at whether Mark was as immediately this and immediately that as I assumed.
"The more we read," writes James Fallows, "the more we see reminders that experiences or perceptions we thought were distinctive to us are in fact widespread, even banal." And here I thought I was the only one who ever noticed that!
Fallows has in mind his admiration of the Book of Common Prayer.
The Republicans invited him first, and his acceptance raised questions about whether Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was lending the authority of the Catholic hierarchy to the GOP. But then the Democrats shrewdly invited him to pray at their convention too. Dolan shrewdly accepted.
I don't get that excited about the perennial calls for civility in politics. Treating others with respect is important, and I certainly have no problem with political discourse that's even friendly and good-humored. But it's not clear that the latter serves any purpose beyond itself—that it builds understanding or encourages useful moderation or enables compromise. Chatting may be generally preferable to yelling, but it's not really a solution to division and gridlock.
I do, however, appreciate timely reminders that our neighbors include those we disagree with.
On September 9, when many of our members return from Labor Day vacations or summer travels, the gospel text from Mark and the sacrament of communion might be a powerful combination to welcome folks back to the gospel-centered community.
Whether she knows it or not, the Syrophoenician woman’s reference to the table is a persuasive image for her audience. The table stands at the center of Jesus’ ministry.