There Can Be Only One!
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 12:35-37
Internet Image from Garci-Aguirre
One of my favorite movies is the 1986, “Highlander.” The film centers on a group of semi-immortals who can only be killed by losing their heads. They sometimes feud with each other, but always defend themselves against a particularly brutal and corrupt warrior called the Kurgan, who is literally out for all their heads. The goal is that the last man standing will receive a prize that will in some way affect all humanity. During an early point in the film, there is an exchange between an older “immortal,” Ramirez, played by Sean Connery, and the young Highlander whom he is mentoring. This exchange sets the stage for the ultimate clash of good versus evil. In the exchange, Connery describes why the Kurgan must not win the feud and why the Highlander must stand his ground to defeat a man so savage.
“Ramirez: The Kurgan. He is the strongest of all the immortals. He's the perfect warrior. If he wins The Prize, mortal man would suffer an eternity of darkness.
The Highlander: How do you fight such a savage?
Ramirez: With heart, faith, and steel. In the end there can be only one.”
Defeating the Savage
There can be only one! Setting aside the flawed theology of the movie; there is a truth buried in this exchange. Satan and the evil that sin inflicts on the world is savage. The prize, every soul, is at jeopardy to suffer an eternity of darkness if we succumb. How do we fight against such a “savage?” First, by donning the armor of God. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians writes,
… stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13–17 NABRE)
Second, we must abandon ourselves to serve the one Lord in our life with a heart filled with grace, a faith firmly rooted in love, and a soul “steeled” by the Sacraments. In the end, there can be only one Lord. Jesus tells us,
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NABRE)
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There Can Be Only One … Lord!
In the Gospel today, Jesus is quoting Psalm 110, which King David composed. In the Psalm, David calls another who is his descendant, “my lord.” This is strange for no father would call his descendent, “lord.” Both the Psalm and the Gospel, proclaim that the Messiah is something far more than any earthly King. In Psalm 110:1, the Lord, Hebrew YHWH, says to David’s lord, Hebrew Adonai, meaning sovereign, that He will sit at YHWH’s right side and rule.
“The LORD [YHWH] says to my [David’s] lord [Adonai]: “Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1 NABRE)
Jesus is reminding all of us that the Messiah is God, both human, descended from David (2 Samuel 7:12–17), and divine, sovereign - Adonai, sitting at the right hand of God. To sit at the “right hand,” is to sit as the same as the other in sovereignty. Jesus is God, one in being with the Blessed Trinity, He is the Lord, both human, descended from David, being like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15) and God. King David is a “type” for all of us who must cede our own will to the Adonai, our sovereign. There can be only one! Deep inside, we all know this.
The Greek word for “Lord” used in the Gospel of Mark is, Kyrios. In the Roman empire, “Kyrios” was the exclusive title for the emperor. The Roman Emperor demanded, and received on the pain of death, absolute obedience from his subjects and held sway in every decision his subjects made. When we call Jesus, Lord, do we really mean it? Does He hold absolute sway in our lives? As Ramirez told the Highlander; “there can be only one.” Jesus is either the Lord of our life guiding all that we do in this world, or we follow another.
We Serve In, With, and Through Love
Earlier in this same chapter in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus answers the question from one of the scribes; “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29–31 NABRE)
When we call Jesus, “Lord,” we must ready ourselves with heart, faith, and steeled with the armor of God, to love God with all our soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor, everyone else, as we love ourselves. We do not serve out of fear, as a slave serves a master. We serve a God who is love, through love, with love. That is what it means to serve the Lord. In this way, we triumph over every attack of the “savage,” who seeks the defeat of love. St Peter warns us,
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NABRE)
Jesus declares today that He is the Messiah. He is Lord, sitting at the right hand of God. There can be only one Lord, one sovereign, Adonai. With all your heart, mind, and soul, who do you choose? As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NABRE)
Garci-Aguirre, Mario. “Holy Foresight.” Holy Foresight, mightywarrior-mightywarrior.blogspot.com/2015/05/holy-foresight.html. Accessed 7 June 2023.
New American Bible. Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.