1 Cor 7:29-31
by Dr Paulo Ueti, USPG
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Jonah, a story written after the Babylonian exile, reminds us strongly that God shows no partiality regarding people. ALL are part of creation and embraced by God’s love.
During the Babylonian exile, the second Isaiah had initiated an opening up of Israel to the world. Ezra and Nehemiah, on the contrary, imposed an exclusivist religious practice filled with intolerance, violence and hatred. The book of Jonah reacted against this project.
Jonah himself had to wrestle with a forgiving and loving God. The wicked and unfaithful can change and they are loved as well. It is the work of the prophet (the one sent by God) to bear witness, to reach out and take chances to be God’s love and forgiveness all the time. It is necessary to change the system. ALL people put on sackcloth, and this includes the king, who gave up his position to hold fast to the God of Liberation (YHWH). The kind of theology that supports and manufactures exploitative actions and thinking can change into a more connected and caring theology and practice. Convers(act)ion is pivotal in our spirituality.
This is a very prophetic prayer. Choosing a king might have been the “original sin” portrayed well by Gn 3. There are studies showing that Genesis 2-4 was written during the exile period to help people understand why they were in that situation – what led them to it. And the story of the original sin came to exist to offer an explanation: people refused to listen to God and decided to “be like him”. This is exacly what happened when some people were advocating to have a king, ‘like the other nations’. As history showed, and as portrayed in the historical books of the Bible, monarchy in Israel was its downfall. Replacing God for a man (1Samuel 8) was a very wrong decision in the history of Israel. You can find a summary of this process in Ruth 1:1-5.
The psalmist seems to be living in a context of corruption and exploitation, where religion was kidnaped by the political and economical system to favour it. S/he was being threatened and had to affirm her/his faith again to keep hope and to reclaim the true face of God: rock, support, presence, salvation.
We have to choose in which God we trust. The God of Exodus and Jesus or the idols presented nowadays by the dominant system that needs religion to maintain the status quo in its favour? We trust in God the Creator of ALL things and we believe in the interconnectedness of all creation. Let’s pick a side, the side of solidarity (with nature as well). Let us pray together: “Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them”.
The Gospel of Mark, the first of the canonical ones, was written in a period of turmoil in the Roman Empire. The community was under much pressure and devastated, making faith in Jesus to be weakening. They began doubting the value and purpose of that “way” – following Jesus. So, they started questioning again “Who is Jesus?”- considering there were many figures presenting themselves as the Messiah – and “What does it mean to follow him…?”.
The Gospel of Mark is the first attempt to reply to those deep concerns of the community and to provide security and perspective for the ongoing situation. Gospel means “Good News” and the question was/is “what Good News is Jesus, and later the Christian Communities, presenting? After starting by affirming that the καιρὸς, (kairos, the right time, the right opportunity presented) is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is ἐγγίζω (proximity, at hand), the author presents Jesus calling people to follow him. He needs disciples, he can’t do what he was meant to do alone. Community is of essence here. In order to reveal the kingdom (it is already there) it is necessary to walk together and to understand the Gospel/Jesus.
Hello you all. I am Paulo Ueti and I live in a country where Christianity is the majority religion. I also live in a country consumed by denialism and absence of action towards the most vulnerable and the environment. In my country being black is a likely indicator you will have a short life or you will be constantly target and excluded. Racism is structural. I live in a country where being a woman is dangerous, and being married more so. I live in a country where the environment is neither cared about nor protected. Where indigenous and black traditional communities (quilombolas) don’t count. I live in a country where 200,000 people have died because of the inaction of the government regarding COVID and other preventable diseases and the president says “I don’t care, I can’t do anything, I am not a miracle worker despite ‘Messiah’ being my midle name”. And I live in a country where Christianity is officially the majority faith in terms of religious background.
It seems, despite the efforts of Jesus, most of his followers here have failed (or are failing?) to present the Good News of life and solidarity, of care for creation and for each other. In his name many Christians are defending the death penalty and the freedom to have a gun to “protect” themselves, and promoting the view that women should be obedient and stay home serving their husbands, and should pray for their abusers and killers.
It is sad and challenging. This is why it is so important to declare who Jesus is, what he does, to where he calls us and to do what.
The gospel of Mark makes us smile and gives us strength. The Jesus of our faith cares about humanity and all creation, because he is the parable of the Kingdom of God, which is near, you almost can touch it. His “way” attracted many people to him. The women probably were with him from the beginning and men were called to join and many accepted. They chose to join a completely different life style and mindset. They had to work hard together as a community, continually and carefully fine-tuning how they presented the Kingdom of God as near and present.
During this pandemic we are living in, lots of lessons have been learned. We are invited to nourish our capacity for solidarity, to be connected despite the physical distancing, to care for others and for nature in order to have a present and a future, to advocate for public policies that resamble the features of the kingdom of God, that make the kingdom more visible and touchable. We are constantly invited:
- to proclaim and make reality the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
- to make disciples, nurturing (with good food/thinking/examples) the newcomers to our “way”; to convince more people to join this journey for peace and justice; and to teach each other and learn from each other the best practices to express the love of God.
- to keep caring for each other and to do our best to love instad of hate, to connect instead of exclude, to change instead of being trapped by the past.
- to follow Jesus, challenging the unjust structures of our society, of ourselves and of our traditions in order to make the world better and inhabitable again for all creatures, and to struggle against all kinds of violence against nature and fellow human beings, particulary women, children, LGBTQIA+, indigenous and black people.
- to do better and be more participatory in social movements and church initiatives to safeguard the integrity of creation, from where we are and with “whom” we need to decide to walk as partners.
Let’s pay more attention to what it means to “fish people” and be more proactive globally and locally to spread the good news: make the kingdom of God reality here and now. Amém.
Leader (L): Oh God who have chosen be with us as one of us
Community (C): Your help and your tenderness heal our wounds
L – Your kindness and your generosity enrich our poverty
C – Your protection set us free from fear
L – Your strength dynamises and encourages when we fell weak
C – Your generous love satisfies our needs
L – Your richness filled us when we’ve got nothing
C – Calm the thirsty we have on you.
L – Comfort our sadnesses
C – Soften our sufferings
L – Heal our diseases
C – You, who attend the poor’s cry
L – Mother of all us, great on mercy
C – We ask you
L – Drag us all into the living water of our gifts
C – Pour your favours on the people who belong to you
L – Here we are
C – At your presence of generosity
L – Exposed to the winds of your huge kindness
C- -Felt in love with you…
by Dr Paulo Ueti, USPG