The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he…. And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."
Our gospel selections throughout the Easter Season were from the Gospel according to Saint John, a gospel of crisis. Saint John’s Jesus continually challenges his disciples and his contemporaries to accept him as the only begotten Son of God, the Word made flesh. Before his resurrection his most faithful disciples take him at his word despite their incomprehension. His opponents refuse to accept him. There is no middle ground between opponents and disciples; crisis demands an immediate decision.
Like John, the Gospel of Saint Mark challenges its hearers; but, as in today’s story, Mark’s Jesus can recognize someone who is making progress toward faith. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” he says.
This Jewish scribe has the right spirit. He can recognize wisdom and authority; he knows when his challenge has been met and bested.
This story is from the twelfth chapter of Saint Mark and there are only sixteen chapters; we are rapidly approaching the Cenacle, Calvary and the crypt. But even in the heat of conflict, after Jesus’ parable of the killing of the vineyard owner’s son and before his denunciation of the scribes, these honest opponents can recognize their mutual integrity: “Well said!” and “You are not far!” they say.
Cooler heads are calling today for dialogue between conservatives and liberals in government and church. There are good insights and real grievances on all sides and we do well to listen to them.
I find, as I live in a community of Franciscan friars, if I begin counting all I do for the community and then all they do for me, I become suspicious and resentful. But if I first count all they do for me and then count what I do for them, I am grateful. I must enter this conversation aware of my own attitudes.
Jesus, throughout the New Testament, is described as a man who is self-possessed. Even his angry ejection of the merchants from the temple is a prophetic gesture, not an irrational outburst for which he must later apologize. He can loudly denounce the pretentious in one moment; and in the next, quietly admire the humble, as we will hear in Saturday’s gospel. He does not lose his inner calm; he remains always docile in the Holy Spirit.
We must ask him to give us that same Spirit in all our dealings.