10th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year B

Jesus’ words about a divided kingdom unable to stand can be contrasted with his desire and prayer for unity among his followers.

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First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15

  • This famous passage needs no introduction, but overfamiliarity can cause us to overlook important details. You may want to read over the passage again with a pen, noting down words or phrases that strike you.
  • Notice how matter-of-factly Eve states that the serpent tempted her; what does a talking serpent indicate? The Israelites knew that serpents don’t routinely speak, why is it not considered strange that the serpent speaks in Eden?
  • God asks Adam and Eve questions to which he already knows the answer; what does this say about the nature of repentance, and what lessons does it hold for our celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Psalm: Psalm 129(130)

  • This psalm is a passionate cry for mercy; appropriately following on from the devastation of the Fall which we have just read.
  • The psalmist begins by proclaiming that they are in “the depths” – the nature of that depth is not defined, but we can imagine it as the depths of despair, or frustration, of loneliness, of trial. It is an image of being surrounded and drowning; unable to save oneself in a desperate and urgent situation. Repentance has sometimes been described as sitting in a room that seems normal, until your eyes are opened and you realise it is burning down: in that moment your whole worldview shifts and the urgency of rescue becomes critical. It’s this kind of “depth” that the psalmist is thinking of.
  • Notice how the psalmist uses words like “waiting” and “longing” – they are confident of rescue, they hope in the Lord, but that rescue is not present to them in that moment; it is in the future. How does this affect our lives of prayer and how we view situations in the world that we long for God to intervene in?

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

  • Paul links grace and thanksgiving in this passage. Thanksgiving is a crucial part of a spiritual life: indeed, the word ‘Eucharist’ derives from ‘thanksgiving’. How often, though, do we offer thanks to God for graces received?
  • Is the message around the decaying mortal body mainly for old age, or for those suffering from illnesses? Is there a message in it for everyone?
  • Paul’s confidence in the resurrection is striking. He uses the word “know” at both the beginning and end of the passage. This is stronger than “hope”, this is a conviction to the point of certainty. How confident are we in the resurrection?

Gospel: Mark 3:20-35

  • Mark’s gospel is quite vivid and, at times, blunt: here we are told, for example, that Jesus’ relatives were “convinced he was out of his mind.” There is a wonderful humanity in that simple statement: in the reaction of Jesus’ relatives, but also in the way Jesus lived his life. Can you imagine what in Jesus’ life and ministry would have led his relatives to that conclusion about him?
  • Jesus’ words about a divided kingdom unable to stand can be contrasted to his strong wish and prayer for unity among his followers. How important is unity among Christians, and what can we do to further that cause?
  • This passage is famous for the well-known warning regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Catechism teaches that this sin is final impenitence: the refusal to accept God’s mercy.


What an incredible passage we’ve just heard from Paul’s second letter to the Christians in Corinth. It’s one of my favourite passages in the Bible.

I remember a story of an old man only a couple of days before he died. He was asked how he was feeling.

He replied from memory with these words we’ve just heard, but as he’d memorised them from the King James Version: “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

He was asked if we was experiencing that.

I was so struck that as life ebbed away from his mortal body with each breath, he was experiencing the renewal of his inward self: his soul. And that he was beginning to feel that weight of glory prepared for him on the other side of this life. I trust and believe that he is now enjoying that glory.

I’ve also just returned from a trip to Egypt where I met with Coptic Christians. Less than a decade ago 20 young Egyptian Copts and one man from Ghana, working as construction workers in Libya, were kidnapped and taken to the coast.

They were told to renounce their Christian faith, which they refused to do.
They were all then martyred there on the beach.
Pope Francis, and the head of the Coptic Church, have canonised them as the Martyrs of Libya.

Paul’s words here have comforted martyrs down through the centuries. Their pain is called “light” not to belittle the suffering, but to emphasise the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” that outshines all comparison.

Whether our lives end in the quiet winding down of our mortal bodies as the devout old man’s did, or are brutally cut short in the prime of life as with the Martyrs of Libya, the promise is the same: an eternal weight of glory.

What a promise that is!

This is the gospel, really. Jesus Christ coming into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, dying on the cross, raised on the 3rd day: all to shatter the chains of sin that have bound humanity and to fling open the doors of heaven.

Believing that: knowing and trusting that Jesus has prepared a place in eternal happiness with him, is the only way to make sense of facing death so serenely in old age, or so courageously on a Libyan beach. If the Martyrs of Libya didn’t truly believe that Jesus has done what he said and what the Scriptures bear witness to, why not just renounce it and save their lives?

So, the question is, even though it’s “invisible,” for the moment, do you believe in that exceeding and eternal weight of glory?