Saint Vincent Archabbey
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Mark 1: 40.45
This passage continues the narrative of Jesus' mission immediately following his baptism in the Jordan and the call of the first disciples. As beloved Son and Messiah, his mission is to proclaim the good news of the coming of God's kingdom. God's rule over all creation would bring to an end the domination of Satan, characterized by all forms of untruth, violence, sickness, and death. That the power of God's rule is present in Jesus becomes evident to the amazement of the people by his teaching with authority, his healing, and his casting out demons.
This Sunday's gospel tells us of Jesus' cure of a man afflicted with leprosy (a term referring to any repulsive skin disease). A leper comes to Jesus and begs to be cured. Moved with compassion, Jesus touches the untouchable and cures him. He then sends him to a priest so that he can be reinstated into the community. After curing the leper, Jesus had admonished him not to publicize what had happened.
Mark here anticipates a major theme he will develop more explicitly in his gospel: namely, that people, even Peter and the rest of his disciples, will misunderstand Jesus' mission. The theme reflects an aspect of Satan's attempt to entice Jesus to redefine his mission solely to the satisfaction of people's temporal needs, and thereby to become the messiah of his own earthly, political kingdom. The kingdom of Satan would remain essentially intact had Jesus succumbed to that temptation. John's gospel also alludes to Jesus' concern about the mistaken notion people had of his mission: Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone¦ you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled (John 6: 15:26).
Jesus, however, is faithful to his Father's will to the end. Filled with divine compassion, he responds to the temporal needs of people for healing and for food; but ultimately he wants to give the gift of eternal life with God, the only gift that will satisfy the restlessness and the hunger of the human heart.
Since the Church is the means by which Christ extends his mission for the sake of God's kingdom through history, healing will be an essential characteristic of its service. Christians, through the urging of Christ's compassion, must bring healing to the world's sickness, making possible medical care even for the untouchables of our own society. In the Catholic tradition, Christ's compassionate hand touches the sick in a special way through the sacrament of anointing. The Church like Christ will be tempted to reduce the meaning of God's kingdom to the relief of people's obvious and pressing temporal needs. Christ's compassion, however, continues to extend beyond these needs to the deepest human need for personal transformation through communion in eternal, divine life. We can see how Christ's compassionate hand touches the sick in both aspects in the prayers appointed for the administration of the sacrament of anointing. Like Jesus each of us will endure a trial of faith when beset by
suffering and approaching death. Am I really God's beloved daughter? Am I really God's beloved son? Is it death that defines the meaning of human existence? The source of our hope is that we share Christ's own unconquerable hope through the gift of his Spirit. Jesus prayed to be delivered from suffering and death; nevertheless, as things worked out, he trusted in God's love through the experience of his suffering, abandonment, and dying. In our time of trial, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12: 2).
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Modern Gospel: Mark 1:40 - 45
Do we have the boldness to ask God to do great and miraculous things? Some years ago in one of my parish assignments a young parishioner whose husband and children were involved in the parish was involved in a serious automobile accident. I vividly remember standing in the ICU unit with her husband praying for her healing. I prayed with confidence that she would be healed, and returned later with the expectation that her eyes would be open, they weren't, and so I prayed again. The next morning I received the call that she had died. I was devastated.
I had prayed with Faith, why didn't God answer my prayer? A short time later I received a call to anoint an elderly woman who had been in and out of the hospital with a condition that the doctor's said would not improve. When I went into her room, I remember her smiling, thanking me for coming, and telling me that she probably wasn't going to make the night, but she was prepared. She wanted me to pray for a peaceful death. At the end of the anointing of the sick I prayed a spontaneous prayer for her to peacefully enter into eternal life. When I left she thanked me.
A few days later she was discharged later, and lived another three or four years. So I wondered why the person I prayed for to be healed wasn't, and the person I prayed for a happy death continued to live on. These experiences made me a little hesitant to pray boldly for particular intentions. I found myself praying "safe" prayers in which I prayed for a particular intention, but not with that a miracle could happen. It took me awhile to realize that I needed to fully surrender to God's will. The struggle is that we don't always understand God's will, and to surrender ourselves to it is to let go of our will and to accept his will, whatever it might be. It means taking seriously that phrase we say so often in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done" in such a way that we don't lose faith when God's will doesn't match our will. The leper in the Gospel shows us how to surrender.
He had the boldness to directly approach Jesus and in doing so he humbled himself by kneeling down before him. He began is request by acknowledging that he would accept whatever Jesus did, "if you wish" then made his request, "you can make me clean". He believed that Jesus could heal him, he asked Jesus to heal him, but only if it was Jesus' wish. Putting it another way, "Thy will be done.? As we prepare for the observance of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season, it might benefit us to surrender, or to surrender anew, our lives to the Lord.
The surrender that has us being able to sincerely pray, "Thy will be done, or to echo the words of the leper, "if you wish ,you can" and to follow that by boldly and humbly placing our needs before the Lord. Jesus can literally open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and the minds of our ignorance. Jesus can also do this in a figurative way that would allow us to see him, hear him and understand him with our hearts. What is important is to follow the example of the leper and surrender to the will of God so as to be open to however he wills to answer our prayers. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.