Sunday 12 September 2021

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Word for today
The Gospel of Mark 8:27-35

A drawing compass

The compass is an ancient drawing instrument used to inscribe geometrical figures. It is usually made of wood or metal and consists of two legs, generally of equal length, connected by the upper part to a hinge which can be adjusted. The two legs can be equipped at their extremity with different type of tools, typically a spike or suction cup, which fit according to the surface - and the other part is a pencil, a pen, or some other writing tool.
Now let us secure the spike to a fixed point on a paper with the two legs of the drawing compass forming an angle of let’s say 30 degrees. Let’s draw a circle by moving the other leg around while keeping the pencil fixed to the paper. Now let’s widen the angle between the two legs and while keeping the point fixed on the same point we can now draw a larger circle.  If instead we reduce the angle between the two legs, the circle that is drawn decreases proportionally.
Just as it is true that a thirty degree angle between the legs determines the size of the circle, it is also true that from the size of the circle we can deduce the opening used to draw it. The wider the distance between the two legs, the larger the circle that we can draw, and vice versa. Given a circle, it is also possible to calculate its area by multiplying the "constant π" (equal to 3.14) times the radius squared.
Now imagine, by analogy, that the leg provided with the point represents reality as it is, as it actually presents itself that which takes place in front of our eyes every momentof our lives.
Just as the spike is firmly fixed to a chosen spot, in the same way that which is and that happens in life points to the precise present moment ofour lives and never by chance, and there it becomes the axis of every possible movement of life exactly like the spike fixed to the sheet. Now, again by analogy, imagine that the other leg, the one with the writing end, represents the way we write and think of our hopes and expectations in our mind depending on our planning and our prejudices.
Again by analogy, consider the area of the circle as the amount of pain, suffering, sadness, malaise that can be calculated. The leg with the spike is reality, the writing end our expectations, the area of the circle is the amount of suffering and pain.
The larger the angle and the wider the gap between reality and our mental expectations, the larger the circle drawn by the compass of life and the wider the area of pain and suffering. When our mental demands are particularly rigid, they do not predispose us to accept reality, and if reality should actually present itself oddly hostile and difficult, the gap between our mental expectations/demands and what exists in the present becomes wide and inevitably it becomes full of rage, revenge, pain and disease.
It is the distance between the rigidity of our mind and
the not accepted fluidity of the present that generates and produces pain, disease, and fear. The wider the gap, the greater the discrepancy between expectations and what life actually is, the easier it will be to enter into a state of sickness, infirmity and weakness.
But just as the opening, the gap between reality and expectations perfectly reflects the area of pain and suffering, in the same way the area of the circle of pain can be calculated by the habitual diverging mental states of an individual facing reality and the present. Those persons
 who tend to remain for years in a state of mental suffering, distress, and physical discomfort are persons whose compass is always very wide.
If the gap between reality and our mental expectations is always wide and rigid and is never checked or corrected, it is inevitable that those mental structures will suffer from mental disorders which may occur in a variety of forms but which are mainly characterized by obsessive thoughts associated with compulsions or rituals and particular actions to perform, aiming to neutralize the obsession.

At a certain point in His journey, Jesus asks His disciples who they consider Him to be and for a moment Peter adheres to the reality of Jesus, to His glory, which is incomprehensible to his mind, although real and present. Peter adheres and declares Jesus' divinity with a simple as well as beautiful and complete profession of faith: You are the Messiah. A little later, even in the light of this adherence and the disciples' compass, Jesus openly announced His passion and death, and Peter darts away. At the announcement of the Lord's passion, Peter separates, diverges, puts distance beween himself and Jesus. Peter responds according to his mind, which is also our mentality; he opposes, he answers with his compass wide opened. Jesus points to the reality of His passion and resurrection, Peter diverges and draws a huge circle.  The passion and death were not events that Jesus was looking forward to, they were not joyful events, He would have preferred to avoid them. Jesus, who knew the way of Life and of light and knew that it passes through the acceptance of how things are, advises His disciples that His Word revealed to the world will result in a violent reaction on the part of the elderly leaders of the people and of the priests of the temple, and He will suffer fierce persecution by the religious and political power.
Speaking openly about His passion and death, Jesus
points the spike of the compass, the pivot of the knowledge of what is going to happen to Him, the mystery of salvation; it is the pivot  of all of humanity's movements. Jesus certainly is not seeking death, but if that is what happens, He will accept it peacefully as part of His mandate.
Jesus adheres to the Father's will, He accepts it. And in the garden of Olives, when he asked the Father to take that cup from Him, even Jesus drew a circle and suffered, sweat blood, and felt alone. The laws are the same for everyone.
Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. It is splendid example of how the mind opposes reality. The result is separation. Paradoxically, Peter takes Jesus aside, approaches Him, seeking a more intimate contact, but in reality he separates from Jesus, from His truth, His reality. Peter tries to be protective towards Jesus, but he is resisting Jesus, he is separating.
This is the procedure of the mind:  when it does not accept reality it begins to condemn, oppose, separate and destroy, even though, formally, it sometimes appears disguised as a process of protection, care and attention.
Jesus accepts reality, He is not in conflict with it, even if it leads to the passion and death. Jesus does not give up, does not submit to the cruel present, but He accepts, He surrenders, He knows He cannot change the heart of mankind if it does not want to. For the conventional way of thinking, surrender has negative connotations, implying overwhelming annihilation, humiliation, defeat. To our mind surrender means submission, defeat, failure; it means to miserably and passively be resigned to reality. For our mind surrender means to be defeated and overwhelmed by an hostile, adverse present moment. For the Spirit surrendering to the power of the present, of the “right now,”  to the unmistakable truth of reality is the beginning of inner enlightenment, the beginning of every possible victory over evil and a step towards peace and well-being.
Surrendering  to the power of the flow of life is the first step to abandoning onself and inner peace, the end of opposition and separation. Jesus gives in, accepts, but He is not resigned, He does not stop going to Jerusalem, he does not stop talking, announcing. If possible, Jesus avoids dangerous cities and towns, but He does not hide, he does not give up, he does not he does not bend, he does not keep silent. 
Jesus’ surrender is something that is active, it is full of positive actions, of healing, miracles, illuminating words, of days spent with crowds, meetings, dinners and parties, mountain walks and evenings around the campfire along the sea. The yielding that Jesus teaches and feels on his own skin, is the yielding of letting go instead of opposing, it means total union with the present moment, whatever it is, instead of separating from it. The yielding that Jesus teaches us means abandoning our inner resistance to what is, it is ceasing to say no to reality because we would like it otherwise, better, easier or just different. Saying no is opposing, it is blocking all of our emotional energy. Saying no to the present continuously prevents the flow of our creative energy, it prevents the flow of love even toward those we love and want to protect, it prevents intelligence and ingenious, new solutions, it only generates destructive energy and separation.
Jesus summons the crowd and reveals to all men the supreme law in order to avoid pain and suffering, sickness and distress:
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whoever wants to follow Jesus, to follow and love God, to be illuminated and to live a fruitful life, must renounce the usual diverging mentality s/he has built.
Accepting reality immediately frees from anger, fear and pain. Acceptance is not resignation,
it does not mean liking necessarily what is unpleasant or undesirable. The cross which Jesus speaks of is the present which is not always desirable and pleasant,
it may instead appear to us as a cross, that is as something not pleasant, satisfying, attractive. The cross is a clear symbolic description of reality, of the present when we do not like it. Jesus asks us to learn to take up, and receive, not to resist the cross of the present in order to learn how to follow Him with great benefit and joy. It is essential to block, to cancel the resistance caused by the mind. Resistance is our mentality, and it is the mind that creates resistance.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. Here is how to get rid at once of all pain and suffering, weakness and disease. Here is the dominant law written by Mark according to Jesus words.
If as we face reality, we want to save our mental rigidity, our expectations, and we resist what is, it will cost us our lives. Resistance is our mind, it is in the compass of our mind, our mentality, our convictions generated by our prejudices and certainties. When we have to choose if we want to save the resistance of our mind or reality and we choose to save the former, in that very moment we begin to lose our life, and this is clearly seen in the negativity and heaviness of our emotional reactions and by the size of the circle of pain and discomfort in which we live.
When we have to
choose between saving the resistance of our mind or adhering to reality and we choose the latter then life will enter into a state of salvation and real well-being and joy.