Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading: Genesis 3:9-15 Responsorial: Psalm 130:1-8
2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
We are not discouraged. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
If anybody had a right to be discouraged, it was St. Paul. During the course of his ministry, he was beaten, shipwrecked, betrayed, slandered, and imprisoned. Today’s second reading gives us some insight into the way Paul handled all of this. Mind you, Paul was a tough guy by nature, but we can’t think that he was impervious to the stress and strain of the life he had chosen. The key is that he didn’t let discouragement overtake him and rule his life.
Discouragement can make us feel hopeless. It can drain us of all energy and prevent us from keeping up with our everyday tasks. If not dealt with, it is also contagious. It can spread through your whole house. So let’s look at one way we can deal with discouragement.
At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1). Here he was about to face the cross, and yet he spent his last hours on earth helping his friends—by urging them to trust in God. As comforting as these words sound, they also contain a vital strategy: Hold on to your faith! Trust that my Father and I won’t abandon you.
Whenever we face times of discouragement, we can picture Jesus saying to us, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. It’s true that in the world you will have trouble, but never doubt that I have conquered the world” (see John 16:33).
St. Paul, echoing Jesus, assures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Roman 8:38-39). It’s the knowledge of this truth that kept him from giving in to discouragement. This same motto can help us too.
So the next time you start feeling discouraged, think like Paul. Keep telling yourself that God knows the situation. He feels your pain. He is with you. Never forget that nothing can separate you from his love.
“Jesus, help me to hold fast to your promises.”
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion:
1. The first readings describes the familiar story of the consequences of the disobedience of Adam and Eve to God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It begins with these words: After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
- After his disobedience of God’s command, why do you think Adam spoke these words: “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself”? What do they mean to you?
- Why do you think both Adam and Eve refused to accept responsibility for their sins and repent of them, but rather Adam blamed God, and Eve blamed the “serpent”? How do these words apply to us?
2. The Responsorial Psalm opens with these inspiring words: Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.” It ends with these words: For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption and he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
- How would you compare the image of God in this psalm with Adam’s image of God?
- How did these different images affect their contrasting reactions to God’s presence?
- Which of these two image is closer to your own image of the nature of God the Father’s compassion and mercy?
3. The second reading ends with these words: Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
- In the Scriptures above, what are some of the reasons St. Paul gives for not getting “discouraged”?
- What do you think Paul means when he says that “this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal”? How does this apply to you?
4. The Gospel reading opens with these negative reactions to Jesus by his relatives and the scribes: Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”
- Why do you think Jesus’ relatives and the scribes were so critical and negative toward Jesus, in spite of his inspiring words, miracles, and healings?
- Jesus initial response to these criticisms begins with these words: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” What do you think is the meaning behind Jesus’ response?
- How did Mary perfectly fulfill these ending words of the Gospel reading: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”? How does the expression “does the will of God” apply to our own lives?
5. The meditation is a reflection on these words from the second reading: “We are not discouraged” (2 Corinthians 4:16). It goes on to quote these two uplifting scriptures of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1) and “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). The meditation ends with these words: “So the next time you start feeling discouraged, think like Paul. Keep telling yourself that God knows the situation. He feels your pain. He is with you. Never forget that nothing can separate you from his love.”
- The meditation says that it was the knowledge of the truths in these Scriptures that kept Paul from “from giving in to discouragement.” Why would this be so? How would you describe the truths in these Scriptures?
- How can you use the words of Jesus in John 14:1 and 16:33 and St. Paul in Romans 8:38-39 to help you overcome times of discouragement in your life?
6. Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to always have faith in him and his promises, no matter what the circumstances are in your life. Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as the starting point.