Summary: The same divine being who planned out and created the galaxies by an effortless command comes to those who are oppressed with healing, and to the oppressors with rebuke.
Fifth Sunday in Coarse 2021
There is nothing subtle about the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. He introduces us to John the Baptist, then Jesus comes from Nazareth and is baptized. Immediately He is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness and is tempted. He goes to Galilee to begin preaching, chooses His first disciples. Last week He exhibits His authority by preaching even more strongly than Moses, and casts out some demons from a man. This week He heals Simon’s mother-in-law and many others and casts out more demons, then next week He will heal a leper. Bam, bam, bam is revealed the Son of God, and all in forty-five verses. Jesus struck the people of Galilee like a nuclear missile of teaching, preaching and healing. Like nobody else.
Isn’t Jesus like the divine answer to Job’s lament we heard a few minutes ago? I call this passage the testimony of the Eeyore of the OT. Disney describes this cartoon character: “Eeyore is a pessimistic and gloomy old stuffed donkey belonging to Christopher Robin,” added to Milne’s wonderful fictional bear “Winnie the Pooh.” Now our OT Job really goes beyond the comic book donkey. Job is a tragic character, persecuted by Satan with God’s permission. His crops and livestock and caretakers are stolen or slaughtered by evildoers. His children die in a terrible windstorm, and his body is afflicted with what reads like chronic leprosy or at least eczema. But can’t we all in our own lives empathize with the line, “the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to their end without hope.” Haven’t we who have lived forty years or longer had problems that kept us awake most of the night, and pleaded with God most of the day for relief? It is true that human life, though a gift from God, means hard service on earth. But before Our Lord, it also meant anxiety about what would happen to us after our hard service on earth.
Even in OT times, there was a fuzzy notion among God’s people that “life’s a mess and then you die” does not have to be our constant cry. Our psalmist today must have seen or at least had confidence in the saving power of God, because he sings a hymn of praise, telling us that God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their hurts. The same divine being who planned out and created the galaxies by an effortless command comes to those who are oppressed with healing, and to the oppressors with rebuke. Maybe not in this life, but certainly at the judgement.
Modern culture has the same things to offer as ancient culture in the time of St. Paul. What is it? St. John calls it threefold: “concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life.” The first two are also called “eat, drink and be merry,” and in the parlance of the sixties last century, “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.” Whether you have gone that path or not, you probably have a notion that there’s no joy in those things. Pleasure, maybe, fleeting and superficial, but no joy. Thomas Aquinas taught that these three are not causes of joy, but of sin. They are expressions of inordinate self-love. Truly, food and drink and honor and sexual union are good gifts of the Father. But if we hoard them for ourselves, we are short-changing both ourselves and others. The best thing we can do with them is to give them selflessly to another, as Paul did. He made himself like a slave to those he reached, in order to give them the highest good–Jesus Christ.
So let’s imitate Paul as we approach Lent this year. There’s just ten days left for our preparation. Plan out not so much what you are going to give up, as what you are going to share, in time, talents and treasure. Buy or borrow spiritual books to read and start right away. Read at least one Bible chapter daily, but do it slowly, meditating on the scenes from the Bible and applying them to your walk with Christ. And volunteer for some good work, like our prayer ministry, street evangelization, Internet sharing. Share the blessings of the Gospel and of our fellowship with someone you know needs an experience of Christ. Make a positive difference in the lives of your family, of your friends, of the community. But most simply, let Jesus Christ make a positive difference in your own life, and start right away.