Spirituality of the Readings
He Began to Teach Them
Jesus cured a deaf person this Sunday and the crowds were astonished. (Gospel)
We tend to think that healing people was a main goal in Jesus’ life, and I suppose it was. But consider this: we are only in the seventh chapter out of sixteen in Mark’s gospel, but after this Sunday there are only four more healings by Jesus. Earlier in this gospel (from the first chapter up to here) he worked so many cures that people were mobbing him.
That was the trouble. Jesus was in danger of becoming a famous wonder-worker. He would save people from all their problems—health, poverty, death, well, you name it. He would have Andy Warhol’s famous “fifteen minutes of fame,” but not much more. Does “fame” really reveal God’s love for the world and its peoples? Jesus was after much more.
In Mark’s recounting, he began a new phase of his mission at this point. He turned his face toward Jerusalem. And toward the cross!
Suddenly and without warning, Jesus will say to the disciples, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” (Mk 9:31). What a shocking statement from this supposedly invincible leader and healer. How can death go together with God’s love?
“After his death?”
A human person is created to be loved by God, not just to have life, good health, riches or reputation. These are wonderful, but real life consists of the exchange of love with God and with others. This is a still greater good than mere accomplishments. A relationship, a seeking of the one who is already close, God on earth, Jesus. This intimate relationship will send us out to help heal the world and give God’s love to it.
A man and wife once told me of the death of their tiny son, and how they had prayed so hard for his healing. They thought their prayers were not answered, they told me. And yet, gradually, these people found that God was in fact lovingly present throughout the whole ordeal, that God had been immersed in their son’s life and sorrowful over his death, and that God’s intimate presence was the real meaning of all life. Their sorrow had been cradled in and their son was safe in God’s arms.
For all of us, pretty soon, the suffering world has to be faced in its full suffering self. Jesus moved toward the events that would show God’s solidarity with us in our suffering, our rejections, and even in our deaths—that famous event which each and every one of us will face sooner or later. Beyond cures, which are wonderful yet partial, God gives us deep companionship within each instant of our life.
At Mass this Sunday, let us ask ourselves whether the intimate presence of God is at least part of what we desire in our own lives. Do we sense that Christ is deeply involved with us? Do we let his love flow into us and through us to others, or must it fight its way around us?
Let’s pray to hear, as the deaf man finally did.
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University