February 8, 2009


The fever left her and she waited on them. Mk 2: 31

There are some who would see this as an example of male chauvinism. Why couldn’t Jesus, or at least His disciples, cook their own meal? This interpretation, however, imposes its own preconceptions on the text, & in so doing misses Mark’s point, namely, that once one is touched by our Lord (& in this case is helped up), one cannot help becoming a disciple & serving others. God’s service to her becomes her service to others.

Today’s Gospel might be subtitled “A Day in the Life of Jesus,” for it is filled with several episodes, but that does not mean they are unrelated. Next He exorcises demons & forbids them to speak because they recognized His true identity. Why was Jesus loath to have people know who He really was? Partly because it was dangerous: there were many self-proclaimed messiahs running around & being executed by the Romans.

I suspect a deeper reason was that he wasn’t interested in celebrity status. Although He may call followers, he does not court fans. Being dazzled by the miraculous is insufficient. Fans scream until the next idol comes along, but followers take up the cross. Mark is asking, “What are we: genuine followers or mere fans?”

Again He leaves before dawn to find an isolated place to pray. Fame can go to one’s head, & He needed time out to clarify who He was & discern where His mission was taking Him. He needed to resist the fans to follow something deeper. It takes some quiet prayer time to grasp our identity & mission in life. Mark is asking: do we know where our true identity lies?

Finally, throughout these vignettes, there is the theme of healing, which brings us to the significant difference between curing & healing. Curing means restoring the status quo, returning the body or mind to its condition before the illness threatened our health. Healing, on the other hand, has a spiritual dimension & it can occur even when there is no cure or an incomplete cure. Indeed, the lack of a cure often sparks healing.

The late John Updike, in his poem “Fever,” speaks of a facet of inner healing that may accompany illness: “I have brought back a good message from the land of 102 degrees: God exists.” He concludes his poem with the words, “It is a truth long known, that some secrets are hidden from health.”

Jesus was more interested in healing the soul, in driving out demons, such as thinking you are the center of the universe, collecting things & discarding people, excusing vice & ignoring virtue, having a constricted heart instead of a generous one.

An old prayer puts it this way: “I asked God for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do great things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for. Almost, despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all people, truly blessed.” AMEN!