This week sees the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the USA – just in case you’d missed the fact. He is of course the first mixed race president, with a diverse almost global heritage. It is also quite striking that his inauguration takes place the day after Martin Luther King Day. There are huge (and one would have to say, almost messianic) expectations being laid on his shoulders from around the world. His inauguration is definitely seen as ‘good news’. His name – ‘Barack’ does mean ‘blessed’ or ‘blessing’ (Swahili/Arabic).
Next week, we really begin to get to grips with Mark’s gospel. It is worth taking the time to sit down a read the gospel in its entirety before turning to look at how we experience Mark’s gospel in the lectionary – its very short, only sixteen chapters and will probably take less than an hour to read. It has a very direct beginning and a most peculiar ending – which most of us tend to miss. But in reading the gospel as a whole, rather than relying on the weekly snapshots in the lectionary, we get a stronger sense of who Mark is and the situation he was writing in and people he was writing for. As Mark was writing for Christians facing terrible persecution in some ways he offers quite a dark gospel filled with moments of conflict and testing. But from the outset, the gospel makes it clear that Jesus really is good news in the darkest of times.
Bringing these two images of ‘good news’ together, leads me to ask how is our faith ‘good news for the whole world’. We can be pretty good at spiritualizing or internalizing the good news bit and of course it does have these dimensions. But its also a good news that demands to be lived and proclaimed in the political arena. We’ve probably all heard the old argument that religion and politics don’t mix – and there are things going on in the world that would seem to support that. However, we can’t be Catholic and Christian without being political. If it is a way of life rather than a leisure pursuit then faith and politics have to mix. So how does our faith affect our politics? Our voting in elections? Do we vote in a way which is good news for all or good news for me (and I’m asking myself that question)?
This does raise some questions for our practice as catechists. How do we make the connection between faith and politics? How do we share a faith that is ‘good news’ both personally and politically?
If you do find time to sit with Mark’s gospel this week, see what you notice and what good news it offers you. And then have a look at the table in the front of the missal which lays out Mark in Ordinary time and notice what is added in from John’s gospel and what is left out of Mark’s.
And do pray for Barack Obama and his family this week as he becomes the 44th President of the United States of America.