Jan. 26, 2017. St. Timothy and St. Titus
GOSPEL. Mark 4:21-25
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
FIRST READING. 2 Tm 1:1-8
I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.
Jesus is continuing to instruct his disciples in private, although at an unspecified point the setting will shift back to the crowds by the sea (see 4:33). He asks a rhetorical question: Is a lamp brought in (literally, “Does the lamp come”) only to be hidden under a bushel basket or a bed?
The obvious answer is: Of course not! The implication is that the lamp is Jesus, who has come into the world to bring humanity the light of revelation (see Luke 2:32; John 1:9; 8:12). Jesus wishes to prevent a mistaken interpretation of his earlier words about the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4 :11). Despite the obscurity of the parables and the difficulties people have in understanding his teaching, his purpose is not to hide the kingdom but to make it known. 4:22
Verse 22 clarifies the point. What is hidden and secret is the mystery of the kingdom that is present in Jesus. It is hidden in the ordinariness of his life (see 6:3), in the apparent simplicity of the parables (4:11), and in the disappointments and hindrances he has encountered (2:7; 3:6, 21-22). But it is hidden only for a time, for the sake of eventually being fully revealed. Just as Jesus’ identity cannot be prematurely publicized, because to do so would lead to a false understanding of his messiahship, so the mystery of the kingdom has to germinate and sprout deep within human hearts before its full splendor can come to light.
On one level this saying alludes to the fact that the time of hiddenness has ended with Jesus’ resurrection. Now the mystery of his messianic identity and mission is fully revealed, and his followers are to take that light into the whole world (see 13:10). How senseless it would be to be given such a bright light only to conceal it under a bushel basket or a bed!
On another level the kingdom is still hidden in the trials and setbacks that accompany the Church’s mission of evangelization. But in the end, all that God wishes to reveal is destined to come to light. 4:23 Jesus stresses the importance of taking time to consider and reflect on this mystery of hiddenness by twice reminding his audience to carefully heed his words. 4:24-25
The second pair of cryptic sayings expands on the consequences of hearing well or poorly. Jesus is telling his audience: You will profit from my teachings in the measure you pay attention to them—and if you do strive to understand, God will give you still more understanding than you could attain by your own efforts. The last saying, which occurs elsewhere in the context of the parable of the talents (Matt 25:29; Luke 19:26), seems to conflict with our idea of fairness, and even other biblical statements about the poor being made rich (Mark 9:35; Luke 1:53; 6:20, 24).
What could it mean here? In this context it signifies that whoever responds to Jesus with openness and a desire to learn will be given even more insight; whoever does not will lose even the little understanding he has. God’s revelation is a gift, but it is a gift that must be freely accepted.
By Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark: Catholic Commentary