He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. Mk 3:7-12
On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. Mk 4:1
The Lectionary this year treats me well. We are reading and praying Mark’s Gospel, the one we used late last year during our 30-Day retreat. This Gospel also happens to be my favorite. It’s a no-nonsense Gospel. It does not get so caught up in the travails of the original community for which it was written. Jesus is on the move all the time, doing what he has come to do: to announce the Kingdom of Godde.
As I read Jose Antonio Pagola, Jesus, an Historical Approximation, during the retreat, I found that the word Kingdom was a direct translation of the Latin word imperium, for (the Roman) empire. Thus, Jesus was placing face to face Godde’s empire and the Roman empire. It was not to everyone’s taste…
When I saw today’s Gospel passage (the first one above), it reminded me of a favorite passage of mine (the second). This thought brought back an experience which happened during the retreat.
As we got to the Second Week of the Exercises and started reading passages from the public life of Jesus, our director asked me, and possibly everyone of us, to find a passage which would make me love Jesus. If among the “menu” he had prepared for us I did not find one item that triggered this emotion and, on the other hand, if I had a favorite passage which could help me fulfill my mission of the day, I was to feel free to go to this favorite passage. It happens to be Mk 4:1 (above).
Some years back, I had already prayed these verses. One of the great gifts of Ignatian spirituality is the Ignatian prayer which allows oneself to enter a passage and become one with the scene, or at least a spectator of the scene. That first time when I prayed it, the scene on the beach with Jesus preaching from the boat to the crowds became incredibly alive for me, and remained a favorite of mine.
So, on that day last November, I returned to the beach and Jesus on the boat. Once again, I found myself to be nine years old. Earlier in the retreat, when time came to pray the Nativity, to my surprise I returned to the days of my early childhood, at the time our mother had left our father, my brother and sister, and myself. In the stable, I helped the maid as she was fussing over Mary giving birth. Mary at one point let me hold baby Jesus who grabbed one of my fingers. When the shepherds came, I noticed among them my father, brother and sister, as they were at the time my mother had gone.
On the beach then, I was nine years old again, a little girl fascinated by this vibrant young man, speaking in the morning sun to a crowd of folks who had come as much for the show as for listening to his teachings. Suddenly, the crowds faded, and only Jesus and I were present. Jesus on the boat and I on the beach, our eyes locked together, our soul talking to each other through our heart. No word was truly exchanged. Just this extraordinary smile of his. I knew from that point on that I was madly in love with the young preacher.
That moment came back to my mind several times later during the retreat: In Gethsemane, when I saw Jesus’ body wracked by his sobbing for his being such a complete failure. Facing the cross, when exhausted by my prayers, I could only accompany Jesus by breathing with him.
I don’t even need to close my eyes now to see Jesus in the boat and to be once again one with Him. I don’t really have words to explain how wonderful it is to be connected this way with Jesus. The marvel of it all is that i just have to think of Jesus on the boat to experience that moment all over again.
I wish I could say that this experience makes me a better person. I have no idea if it does anything else than making me feel on top of the world, connected with Him…
Which passage in the New Testament helps you connect with Jesus?
Photo: On the clouds (found here)