Mark: Growing in Faith (Book Two) - Sample Session

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Mark Growing in Faith

Father David P. Reid, Deacon Charles Paolino
BOOK TWO RENEW Scripture Series

Copyright © 2024 by RENEW International

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise without the prior written consent of the publisher.

Unless otherwise indicated, scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States in America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Nihil Obstat

Rev. Msgr. C. Anthony Ziccardi, S.T.D., S.S.L. Censor Librorum


His Eminence Joseph William Cardinal Tobin, Archbishop of Newark

Cover design by Ruth Markworth

Interior design by Kathrine Forster Kuo

ISBN 978-1-62063-210-9

Printed and bound in 2024 in the United States of America.

RENEW International

1232 George Street Plainfield, NJ 07062-1717


About the Authors iv Presenting RENEW International v Abbreviations of Books of the Bible vi Before You Begin vi Introduction vii Session 15: All things are possible for God 1 Session 16: ‘Get up. He is calling you’ 11 Session 17: Hosanna in the Highest 22 Session 18: ‘By what authority?’ 32 Session 19: Jesus Christ is Lord 43 Session 20: ‘Keep awake!’ 52 Session 21: ‘But you will not always have me.’ 63 Session 22: ‘One of you will betray me.’ 75 Session 23: ‘Not what I want, but what you want’ 85 Session 24: ‘I do not know this man’ 95 Session 25: Wishing to satisfy the crowd 105 Session 26: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ 115 Session 27: ‘Go and tell….’ 128 APPENDIX 1: Lectio Divina 137 APPENDIX 2: Ritual for Enthroning the Bible at Home 139 APPENDIX 3: Sunday Readings from the Gospel of Mark 142 Use of this Book for Individual Reflection 144 Instructions for Small-Group Leaders 146 Faith Sharing in a Small Group 148 Resources from RENEW International 152 Contents

15 All things are possible for God


We receive Jesus with the open hearts of children.

Opening Prayer

Pray together:

We place ourselves before you, O Lord, conscious of your overwhelming love that has given us a world of abundance. We pray that all your children may share in it. We thank you for the continuing presence of your Son, our brother Jesus, who shares with us the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

We thank you for our family through whom your love is now extended to us. May we hear your word with untroubled attention so that we may share your love with all who meet us today. Amen.

From Faith to Action

Before continuing, take a few moments to share with the group something of your personal experience of faith since the last session in Book One, including anything that might have resulted from “Invitation to Act.”

Breaking Open God’s Word

Mark 10:1–31 — ‘What must I do?’


Reflect for a moment in silence. What word, phrase, or image from the scripture reading touches your heart or speaks to your life?

Enter into the Biblical Story

As we continue to follow Jesus after the second prediction of the passion, death, and resurrection, he shows what the obstacles are to understanding him as crucified Messiah. In so doing, Jesus continues to correct a mistaken understanding of the kingdom, which is the same as a mistaken understanding of God and God’s plan in the daily lives of disciples. Thus, Mark has assembled his material: marriage, the innocence of children, and the shock and grief of the rich man leading to the question of whom, or what, one worships.

Jesus’ teaching in this passage on divorce and remarriage is both a declaration of the demanding character of discipleship in the kingdom and a comment on the hardness of heart that defies God’s plan for us from the beginning. When the Pharisees ask if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus answers that Moses permitted that for Jews “because of your hardness of heart,” but Jesus adds that God’s will “from the beginning of creation” was that a man and a woman should become “one flesh.” Therefore, Jesus concludes, let no one separate what God has joined (10:2–8). Jesus’ emphasis is not on a concession by Moses but on the eternal and immutable will of God. We read about the concession Jesus refers to in Deuteronomy 24:1–4:

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“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.”

Notice that Moses, in making this regulation, takes the existence of divorce for granted; it was already the custom, and Moses did not abrogate it. In quoting Genesis, Jesus places the divine original intent in opposition to Moses’ toleration of divorce. Allowing divorce even for trivial reasons, becomes an obstacle to the radical character of Jesus’ call to discipleship and the vision of a social order in which people, men and women, are not devalued. Jesus’ conclusion— “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (10:9)—reaches far beyond the legalisms of contractual marriage, the example given, and touches the reality of the kingdom.

The return of the imagery of children at this moment in the narrative underscores how the disciples are to receive the kingdom. Earlier, the question was receiving a child or servant in the name of Jesus, and the depiction of Jesus taking a child into his arms was an illustration of the kingdom principle: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (9:35). With the symbol of a child came the image of receiving. Now, the meaning of the image is different; it deals not with receiving a child but rather with how a child receives—without guile, conditions, or ulterior motives: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (10:15).

As Jesus prepared to leave that region of Judea, “a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (10:17). If the disciples wanted to exclude exorcists and children from their company, this man will exclude himself because he is rich—or, rather, because he values his wealth above all other things—a fact shared only after the discussion has broken down. For all that he had materially, he does not possess the childlike capacity to receive.

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This gift of openness is either not there, underdeveloped, or internally resisted. Why? Because although he uses the word “good” to address Jesus, he does not apply it to God whose generosity he still does not understand, a generosity that cannot be bought, contracted, nor merited. He has learned well the second part of the Ten Commandments, and for that Jesus is appreciative. But what about the first part of the Covenant, the part about God? This rich man does not see that the two cannot be separated, that God is in heaven, as we say, but that God is also present in all of Creation, including in our fellow human beings, whom me must treat with the generosity that God has for us. This man recognizes God, worships God, but does not surrender to God’s will for the kingdom. Jesus can be received only on the goodness of God revealed in the story of the One who led Israel out of Egypt to make the Covenant. The man asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). The man asked for life as gift (not life as livelihood for which one works, see 12:44). Such life only God can give, but he gives it, as Jesus tells Peter, only to those who have given up all to follow him (10:29–30).

We do not know what became of the rich man after this encounter with Jesus, but if he did not reconcile his shock and grief and clung to his possessions, he excluded himself from the kingdom. Jesus makes an important distinction after this conversation, namely that even leaving one’s material wealth and other attachments does not necessarily lead to salvation unless one does it not simply out of self-preservation but rather out of a whole-hearted commitment to Jesus and the gospel (v. 29). Peter and the other disciples, for example, had left behind their livelihoods in order to follow Jesus, but they had not yet taken the leap in which God, and nothing else, was at the center of their lives, every day, every hour.

Even if we are people of modest means, perhaps we, like the disciples, can understand if not sympathize with the reluctance of the rich man. If so, Jesus answers us as he answers those in his company: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible” (v.27). That doesn’t mean that God does it for us. It doesn’t even mean that we literally divest ourselves of all possessions and personal relationships. It means that we make God the center of our lives, not because

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of what we want from God, but because of who God is and what God has done—in creation and in the ministry and sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we can exclude ourselves from the kingdom, we cannot include ourselves on our terms. “Leaving all,” surrendering to God’s will, is a sign that we are claimed, not the reason that we are claimed for God’s kingdom. The claim is received and made operative in us only through the grace of God. Leave, follow, receive—these are the verbs of the kingdom. Be willing to leave all, follow Jesus on the road, and receive God’s grace as with the heart of a child.


If you were to ask Jesus, “What must I do in order to inherit eternal life?” how do you think Jesus would answer?

The Old Testament Witness

Jesus’ declaration that “for God, all things are possible” might have been a revelation to his Jewish disciples, or perhaps they knew it but didn’t apply it to the rich man’s redemption. But God’s omnipotence was already validated—particularly with respect to reclamation— in the religious literature of Israel. The Exodus story,1


1 Most scholars believe that the biblical account of the Exodus has its basis in an historical event that occurred between the thirteenth and twelfth centuries before the birth of Jesus.

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CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE for example, finds the Hebrew people in a seemingly hopeless situation, enslaved by a powerful monarch in a foreign land. Achieving freedom on their own would have been impossible. Pharoah’s stubbornness in this matter was demonstrated as he was unmoved by a series of plagues. The outcome, however, was not up to Pharoah, but to God. The Hebrew people were freed from bondage and dispatched to a land of their own because for God all things are possible.

Again, when forces of the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century B.C. sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and carried off many Jews to exile, it seemed that Israel had been eviscerated, robbed of home, security, hope, and most importantly, the presence of God in their midst in the sanctuary of the Temple. The prophets had warned the exiles to expect their dispersal to be lengthy. However, the Babylonian Empire was overthrown by Persia, whose king, Cyrus, not only sent the Jewish people home but also ordered that the Temple be rebuilt, and the gold and silver utensils taken from the Temple by the Babylonian king be returned. The exiles could not have returned on their own and certainly would not have had the wherewithal to rebuild the Temple. The prophets saw Cyrus as an instrument of the divine and the improbable return as the work of God, for whom all things are possible.

Respond to the Human Experience

Love others as you would have them love you. Jesus loved the rich man, but the rich man could not love as he was loved by Jesus. Jesus gave his all; the man’s riches were his stumbling block, preventing him from doing the same. For this man, Jesus translates love into four steps: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; (1) Go, (2) sell what you own, and (3) give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, (4) come, follow me” (10:21, numbers added).

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Jesus contended that, were the man to follow these steps, his capacity for love would have been awakened, and he would have loved as Jesus loved him. Moses gave concessions, but Jesus will concede nothing when it comes to a hands-on follower.

Does God’s saving love in Jesus mean that if we are willing to begin all over again, so is God? For us, it does. Jesus invited us to throw off whatever has impeded us from accepting, as though with the simplicity of children, his love for us and to return it, not only to him but also to each other, without reservation. God, however, does not need to begin again. God does not divorce. We are the ones who need to begin again—and again, if necessary— and have had to do so from the beginning, as the story of Noah reminds us. For the first time in the Bible we meet the word “covenant” in this story— “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you,” God tells Noah after the flood subsides (Gn 9:9). That’s repair work, reparation, and, with that, the covenant comes into our biblical vocabulary.

That’s the big picture. But is it possible to live what was prescribed from the beginning and not, in face of failure, seek a concession, as Jesus defined Moses’ action? Yes, but then the energy of a love that repairs is the energy of a love that preserves, or is, to use a word often heard, “preventive.” As a priest, my experience is not that of marriage but of vowed religious life.1 The whole purpose of a long preparation to profess vows is based on preventive medicine—through early detection—for the soul.

Jesus is not into endlessly accepting the new normal. He wants us to focus on what preserves a loving relationship. In a world of instant gratification, the way of the cross involved in preservation is a tough claim to make on anyone. Here the community needs to speak clearly about the baptismal call to holiness of life, and the individual needs to decide that constantly moving back the boundaries to accommodate our weaknesses does not make for good spiritual health. Jesus may have bucked standards set externally through laws of pure and impure, clean and unclean, but he set his own boundaries internally and abided by them. Just as in many successful vowed relationships, Jesus faced temptation from the beginning and stayed the course, thus increasingly embracing his vocation.

1 Father David’s experience.

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The author writes that our “world of instant gratification” may prompt folks to seek “concessions,” that is, ways to rationalize not living as Jesus has taught us. How have you experienced this temptation? How have you dealt with it?

Respond to God’s Word

At first glance, the three topics Mark addresses in the passage we’re considering in this session may seem only loosely related, if at all: Jesus’ teaching on the marriage bond; his reference to children as exemplars of discipleship; and his challenge to a rich man who seeks justification. We have seen, though, that a common thread does run through these episodes, and that is unqualified commitment to the kingdom of God. “Unqualified” is the operative word. Commitment to God does not mean commitment when nothing else seems more urgent, more attractive, more lucrative, or more convenient. The commitment expressed in one of the Catholic matrimonial vows applies to one’s relationship with God as well as to a spouse: “…from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” To live in such a commitment requires the mindset of a child whose judgments are not clouded by a lifetime’s accumulation of prejudice, cynicism, pettiness, envy, and greed. In practical terms, it means that we cannot wait for commitment to well up inside of us of its own accord. It means, rather, that we must take time, make time, to examine our lives to determine if our priorities, even

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if they seem as commendable as they did to the rich man who questioned Jesus, are really in order. There is only one standard to measure that by, in the end: Does God come first? In this regard, the story of the rich man is cautionary. He as much as said that God came first in his life, but Jesus showed that that wasn’t true, because the man was not submitting to God’s command that we love our neighbor as God loves us. Finding the truth in our own lives requires open minds and hearts and daily reflection and prayer.

Invitation to Act

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). This session is about living, without compromise, in a loving relationship with God. To what kind of actions does this inspire you?


Write about aspects of the contemporary world that might distract a person from a life centered on God.


Pray for the will to find quiet times and places each day to focus on God’s place in your life.

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During the coming week, and beyond, prayerfully consider whether you could forgo each purchase and, if so, resolve to contribute the approximate cost to assist those who live in poverty. Journal about the impact this practice has on your spiritual life.

This week, I will ….

Closing Prayer

Pray together:

Lord Jesus Christ, we are grateful for the gifts of Creation, the natural world and the products of human ingenuity. May we always use these gifts wisely, never letting them blind us to the generosity of the Creator and never using them as though they were ours alone but rather always thinking first of the common good. We ask this in your name who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Looking Ahead

Prepare for the next faith-sharing meeting by reading:

• Mark 10:32–10:52

• Session 16: ‘Get up. He is calling you’

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