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Mark 3:20-35

While I was teaching a confirmation class to two very bright thirteen-year-olds, we had been slogging our way through the workbook and the catechism. One of the girls had just read the definition of a major tenet, the Trinity. She handled the religious language well and was quite attentive. I nodded approval and agreement with what she had said. Then suddenly on impulse I asked, "Do you have any idea what that means?" She smiled, blushed, and with the candor of youth stated, "I haven't got a clue."

Well, you know, it was sort of like that at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Mark the Evangelist tells us that Jesus had been teaching and healing throughout Galilee. It was really exciting. There was energy in the air. What Jesus was saying was touching people right on the nerve. He was giving a new slant to things, a challenge to some of the old preconceptions. As he went about he touched and even healed some. People were beginning to find a sense of healing and wholeness and identity in the person of Jesus. Everyone knew something was happening, but they couldn't figure out exactly what. Boy it was exciting! But they really didn't have a clue.

Now it was dinnertime in Jesus' hometown, and when Jesus appeared there were so many people following him that it wasn't possible to eat. You know what happens when your son or brother starts to become a star athlete, musician, or a successful politician. What do you do? You hope he isn't getting the big head or becoming extreme. You pull on the sleeve, start getting protective, and try to bring him inside. You might even say, "Don't forget who you are!" or "Do you know what people are saying about you? Some of your cousins and some of the neighbors think you are stressing out!" They hadn't a clue.

Things were getting worse. Here was Jesus in the countryside and small towns, healing and teaching. Now healing by exorcism and touch, as well as teaching, was fairly commonplace. No one really cares what you do or say as long as you are unsuccessful, irrelevant, and disorganized. But Jesus was appearing to be successful and relevant. Furthermore, he was getting organized, for he had appointed some disciples. And so the politically correct police were sent down from the metropolitan capital. Some scribes came down from Jerusalem and assessed the situation. No one could really be touching people's lives and driving away the demons in their lives unless he were neurotic, psychotic, weird. Jesus, himself, must be  possessed, doing black magic, or in cahoots with Beelzebub.

Jesus, the small town carpenter, called the scribes and others to him and told them that they really didn't have a clue. Satan cannot cast out Satan. A divided house can't stand. You can't turn something on itself and expect it to work. The healing and coming alive in people's lives is something else. It is one thing to sin and blaspheme. That is wrong, can be repented, and can be forgiven. But to miss seeing what is happening right in front of one, to willfully fail to see the activity of God in your presence, to label the healing and creative power of God as evil, why that is an unforgivable blasphemy! Ignorance, innocent naivety, natural sinfulness is different from willing to be clueless.

Of course it was still dinnertime, and Mary and the family called Jesus to eat. The crowd around him said, "Jesus, your mother is calling you." He may have been in his early thirties, but he was still Mary's son. The crowd persisted, "Your family, your mother, and brother, and sisters need you." They hadn't a clue. They knew what it was to have an identity as part of the people of Israel, and they knew what it was to be part of other groups. But Jesus is telling them that family is more than a biological connection. Those of you who have adopted parents or children can understand that. Family is to be actively engaged, to be involved, to be in touch with those things, which are most important. Family is to find healing and wholeness and identity in the same source. Jesus looked at those around him and said, "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Those who were idle onlookers, who sought to throw stones, who were simply curious, or maliciously resistant, did not understand "real family". They hadn't a clue.

There were, of course clues all over the place. To not have a clue does not mean that there aren't shreds of evidence. From our post resurrection perspective we can recognize them. What Mark the Evangelist is doing as he organizes his material is to build suspense. Mark presents a process of realization, a gradual unfolding of Jesus as Messiah. Later Biblical scholars refer to this theological and literary device in Mark's Gospel as the "messianic secret". Other writers deal with the situation differently. For example, John, the Evangelist, uses the contrasts of appearance and reality, hidden and revealed, eternal and present to convey the same sense of a growing awareness and perception. What Mark is saying is that healing and wholeness and identity are found in Jesus Christ. Gradually, according to Mark, those around him came to understand what God was doing in the person of Jesus. Mark suggests that it is part of our existential condition to be confused, rebellious, and dense (look at the Genesis story this morning). Through God's activity in our lives and through the power of the Holy Spirit we become "clued in."

You and I know that healing, wholeness and identity are found in Jesus Christ. We receive them through our life in His body, the Church. Our "clues" are the sacraments, especially His body and blood. While my confirmand was, "clueless" regarding the definition of the Trinity, even she was "clued" through baptism and her life within the parish into the basics of a life of faith.

Each of us is at a different point in our faith journey. The "messianic secret" unfolds in our lives at its own pace. My role as a priest is varied; but I see one of its functions to be to walk along with, and to nudge, others on their faith journey. It is my prayer that my young confirmand will find the healing that faith and forgiveness brings. I pray that she will be able to hold her demons (and there will be demons) at bay. I pray that she will find the wholeness, which a life with Christ brings. Such a life is one of faith and joy and purpose. Finally, I pray that she will find her identity in Jesus Christ. By that I mean that she will share with people of all races in the Christian confession of forgiveness, atonement, redemption, resurrection, and eternal life.

Obviously, I pray that all of you will grow in your life of faith. It is vastly important individually, as a group, and for those in the un-churched world outside our Christian body. Christ called the twelve to be disciples. He calls you and me to a life of Christian service and to be apostles to the un-churched world. That is His challenge to us. Those in the secular world may think that they understand Jesus and the promise of Christianity. In reality, they don't have a clue. Amen.



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