Daily Gospel Reflection - 16 January 2013
After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.
That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Simon and those with him tracked him down. When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.
A man with a skin disease approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, “If you want, you can make me clean.”
Incensed (or “Filled with compassion”), Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him, and he was clean. Sternly, Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.” Instead, he went out and started talking freely and spreading the news so that Jesus wasn’t able to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, but people came to him from everywhere.
There are about three things that I want to look at here. The first is the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law.
Some of my friends get upset that, after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, “she served them.” They point to patriarchy and the (wrongful) status of women in the Bible. While I generally agree with them (women were treated worse than livestock in a lot of instances), I think they are missing the point here.
The point of the story is not the subjection of women. It’s that Jesus restored her to her full physical status. The point is that she was completely healed. Not partially healed. Not temporarily healed. Totally healed.
And that she was a woman.
Remember, this is the beginning of Mark’s version of the story of Jesus. The healing Jesus provided was not restricted to men. Mark is saying that the marginalized are included in the restoration and reconciliation project of Jesus.
He even says that when the disciples find him when he was praying. Instead of going back with them, Jesus wanted to go in the opposite direction so that he could spread G_d’s Realm. The next healing Mark tells bears this out.
In that story, a man with a skin disease asks if Jesus will to heal him. The opening phrase has been rendered a couple of different ways. The CEB states that Jesus was “incensed.” At first, I wasn’t going to put that. I had the quoted the alternative with a note. But I think that it may actually be more accurate, especially given our discussion about the marginalized.
It’s well known that people with any kind of deformity were outcasts from society because they were “unclean” under the Law of Moses. They most likely lived in their own communities. Since no one would hire them (because that would render the employer and all of the people who came in contact with the outcast “unclean,” too), the outcasts had to beg for food, shelter, etc.
I think that is why Jesus was incensed. Not that the man asked him for healing. But that the man wasn’t seen as a human being. He was seen as a plague, a disease, and his status of being outcast proved it.
Do we get incensed when G_d’s children are considered “unclean” because of an illness or lack of money or the color of their skin? Do we get irritated when we see our brothers and sisters being mistreated because they’re gay or a woman or they have a physical ailment? Do we get infuriated when we see other’s mistreated in our churches?
My daughter recently had an experience where some homeless men came into the parish on a Sunday morning to get out of the cold and wet weather. The parishioners kept squirming in their seats, uncomfortable because of the presence of the homeless men. Instead of being invited to participate, the two men were promptly removed from the service. My daughter was outraged! She quickly gathered her things and left. In an email she sent to the rector, she stated that she would much rather be “counted with the homeless in the cold” than in that parish! She asked what message was the parish trying to send? How would Christ have acted? Not only did she make me and her mother proud, but I believe she showed the love Christ, not only to the homeless, but to the parish as well.
Sometimes, our anger and irritation should be directed at those playing with power and people’s lives “in the name of Christ.” More times than not, the Empirical Religious Business blocks progress being made. I think that’s what incensed Jesus. It should incense us, too.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC