The Gospel of St Mark has many “sandwich” passages.
“Sandwich” stories are a literary technique in which the narration of one story begins, but is interrupted by another story, before finishing the first one.
Some of the examples of these “sandwich stories” are…
In Mk 3: 20-35, we have…
>> Mk 3:20-22: Jesus’ family members set out to seize Him
>Mk 3: 23-30: Jesus speaks to the Pharisees on their accusation of Him
>> Mk 3: 31-35: Jesus family comes to meet Him
In Mk 5: 21-43, we have…
>> Mk 5: 21-24: Jesus is pleaded by Jairus to heal his daughter
> Mk 5: 25-34: The woman suffering from haemorrhage is healed
>> Mk 5: 35-43: Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus
In Mk 6: 7-33, we have…
>> Mk 6: 7-13: The disciples sent on a mission
> Mk 6: 14-29: Herod’s opinion on John the Baptist and the narrative of the beheading.
>> Mk 6: 30-33: The disciples return from the mission
In Mk 14: 1-11, we have…
>> Mk 14: 1-2: The Conspiracy against Jesus
> Mk 14: 3-9: The anointing of Jesus at Bethany
>> Mk 14: 10-11: The conspiracy plan by Judas to betray Jesus
Such kind of “sandwich” layers illustrates points for reflection by showing ..
… similarities and contrasts between the outside and the inside layers.
… the first and the last as “the bread”‘ and the centre one as the “filling” of the sandwich!
Today’s Gospel also follows this “sandwich-story” structure: Mk 11: 12-25
>> Mk 11: 12-14: Jesus cursing the fig tree
> Mk 11: 15-19: Jesus cleansing the Temple
>> Mk 11: 20-24: Jesus’ teaching on the withered fig tree
There are many similarities and contrasts between the “bread” – the outside layers and the “filling” – the inside layers in this ‘sandwich’ passage…
The fig tree represents the people of Israel
The Temple was the symbol of the worship and faith of the people of Israel
Reaction of Jesus is “at the entry”
The fig tree was cursed when “Jesus was nearing”… on His way to Jerusalem
The Temple was cleansed as Jesus “entered” the temple
“Leaves seen, but no fruit”
The fig tree bore only leaves, but no fruits were found on it
The Temple had many activities (leaves) but no faith or religiosity was seen (fruits)
Jesus performs an action of fury and rage
The fig tree is cursed and it withers
The Temple is cursed and cleansed
Some of the key messages of both these stories invite us to reflect on our own life…
1. God’s demand to be fruit-bearing
The fig tree as well as the Temple failed to bear fruits…
>> As Christians, we are expected and demanded by God to bear fruits and be co-operative to the graces that God has blessed us with
2. Importance of repentance and cleansing
The fig tree is judged for its fruitlessness while the Temple is cleansed due to its uncleanness
>> As Christians, we are to repent and cleanse our hearts of all defilements, lethargy and sluggishness and become relevant and effective people of God
3. Harsh consequences are in store for the unfaithful and unfruitful
The fig tree is cursed while the Temple undergoes the wrath of the Zealous Jesus
>> As Christians, we are to realise that strong consequences are for sure, if we fail in our duties and responsibilities
The Gospel of the Day is a strong exhortation by Jesus…
… to become aware of our Christian duties
… the need to be faithful and ever watchful
… and become zealous in bearing fruits for the Kingdom of God.
May we give heed to the warnings and exhortations of the Lord, and build our lives co-operating with the Grace of God…
…so that we become persons of “Faith and Fruitfulness!”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
– Fr Jijo Manjackal msfs