Lectionary Reflection for February 8, 2009
- Job 7:1-4, 6-7
- 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
- Mark 1:29-39
Thoughts for your consideration:
The gospel of Mark depicts Jesus getting His public ministry underway in dead earnest. In doing so, Jesus shows it “pays” to be His friend, for He does a special favor for Simon Peter. On Simon’s behalf, He cures his mother-in-law, ill in bed.
Jesus is trying to gain peoples’ attention, so He decides to address a major concern of theirs, which is the presence and power of evil among them. He realizes that most of us first prefer to handle the problems and difficulties of life, before turning our attention to procuring a better life for ourselves. Or, to say it differently, He knows that we are free to achieve the good life only after putting behind us the bad life. So, as He looks over the situation, He realizes that a major instance of evil in peoples’ lives, then as now, is ill health. So He rolls up His sleeves, so to speak, and confronts this evil by curing Simon’s mother-in-law. It worked. By evening, the gospel recounts that word had gotten around, and a large number of townspeople gathered at Peter’s front door, with their infirm and sick. And Jesus proceeded to stymie the inroads of this particular misery among them.
And He did more. He noted another form of evil infesting their lives: demonic possession. Following through on His conviction that eliminating evil is the best way to gain peoples’ attention, He commences to expel the demons from the possessed, further showing His mastery over the forces of evil in their lives.
Only after winning this initial campaign against evil does He commit Himself to the pursuit of the good: His fundamental purpose. In this instance that amounts to time for prayer to His Heavenly Father, and for preaching the Good News He came to proclaim.
It is understandable why Jesus so vigorously engages the power of evil in peoples’ lives: evil is paralyzing and debilitating. We have only to recall Job’s lament in today’s first reading: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?…I have been assigned months of misery.” Job is not a hypochondriac. The poor man has undergone major problems. Evil is no joke.
We also note St. Paul picking up on Jesus’ penchant for preaching as a favored way of promoting goodness, once the ravages of evil in peoples’ lives have been corralled. As he explains to his Corinthian converts: “If I preach the gospel, there is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me…” These are the words we just heard at mass.
These reflections hint at how to go about our own Passionist vocation, whether we be vowed or lay. Given the concern of our Constitutions with the distress (evil) people are suffering, our recent General Chapter (2005) takes its cue from Jesus by surveying the evils facing us, and realizing “…that the power of the Cross offers us the strength to discern and to alleviate the burden of suffering experienced by the poor and the marginalized of our world.” And it then becomes specific by citing “the ecological crisis of the world”. We might recollect too that Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we celebrate this week, had the gift of seeing slavery as the neuralgic evil afflicting the American society of his day, and deciding to put an end to that, before anything else.
We note the linkage the Chapter sees between the cross and the power of discernment. This leads to a focus on the poor and the marginalized. The provincial, Donald Webber, has just circulated remarks of Adolfo Lippi, CP, the scholarly provincial of the (Pieta?) province in Italy, which acknowledge the appropriateness of contemporary Passionists centering their concerns on issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. And, as Jesus before him, he situates the suitability of addressing these issues through our traditional pursuit of our mainline commitments to prayer and preaching.
Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group:
- When in your life have you felt the need for healing or when did your community need healing? How did healing come about?
- How does our nation need healing?
- How are we being called to promote such healing?