Greetings, SBT Readers!
There is a human hunger for wholeness. Most of the time, we ignore it, push it aside, pretend it's not there; often, we try to dull the ache by over-scheduling ourselves, or by consuming goods, food, alcohol, or by losing ourselves in Netflix or social media. Then, unexpectedly, we can contain it no longer; our vulnerabilities surface, fracturing our facade of being "fine, thank you." All of a sudden, we have to confront our own brokenness -- the emptiness, the hurts, the painful memories, the inner wounds that never healed, the feelings of loneliness...
Illness goes beyond disease as a medical condition. It involves the whole person and, left unchecked, it can destroy us physically and emotionally before any physical symptoms manifest. Like Job, we can lose all hope, seeing life as "drudgery" to be endured rather than as a gift to be celebrated. We obsess over our fears, losses, and disappointments. We live "small," settling for what others expect of us rather than for where inspiration calls us. We remain stuck in the past, unable to envision the future. Yes, like Job we cling to our dung heaps,
incapable of gazing at the stars until we are awakened out of our stupor.
Jesus' mission was to heal the broken-hearted, to open blind eyes to the presence of Mystery, to liberate those imprisoned by fear, to raise the living dead. The crowds pursued him because they experienced that human hunger for wholeness with which so many of us can identify. In his company, they discovered passion, potential, and possibility -- the very gifts that perhaps we ourselves are seeking.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee. MK 1:29-39
If Jesus were in town, how many of us would go in search of him? Donning our masks and carrying an abundant supply of hand sanitizer, many of us would make our way to his door, and wait our turn, pushed and jostled by the non-socially-distanced crowd, hoping for a look, a word, yes, even a touch that would heal us of our infirmities, whatever they happen to be. Some of us would have COVID-19 on our minds, but others might be aching from grief, depression, or from the sting of failure. Then there would be those suffering from cancer or heart issues or from debilitating auto-immune diseases. The broken-hearted would seek entry alongside those who have lost their sense of purpose; the lost and forsaken would mingle with those suffering from chronic illness or confusion. Valiantly, the disciples --themselves masked-- would try to maintain order, but what can Twelve do when the whole town shows up? Everyone is determined to gain entry; no one is willing to step back and risk losing a place in line.
Gradually, the line thins out. Mark doesn't claim that Jesus heals everyone, but that he cures many of the sick, driving out many demons. In amazement, the spectators go home while those who have had their health restored sing muffled hymns through skewed masks. As for Jesus, he rests and then he prays, preparing himself for yet another day of bringing grace to the untouchables, wholeness to the fragmented, and peace to those of little faith.
And what about us? What afflictions drag us down, limit us, block us from serving others and fulfilling our life's purpose?
What attitudes hold us back, rob us of vision, kill our inspiration? What addictions control us, stealing our time and talent as we squander hours in futile pursuits? What fears convince us that we are less than we are, or better than others, or entitled to privilege? What masks do we wear beneath our COVID masks, effectively hiding "the real self" from friends, colleagues, and even our loved ones? What do WE need as we wait outside Jesus' door? Are we seeking healing merely for the symptoms of our malaise or do we wish for a deeper healing, a healing of the heart, perhaps, the breaking down of our egotism, a shift in consciousness, the embracing of a new mission? Do we simply want to feel good and look good, or do we aspire to be disciples -- to serve God and humanity with renewed energy and enthusiasm? In today's Gospel, Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law and she immediately tends to her guests; what will we do if our vitality is restored?