Our reading today from Mark’s Gospel is one of those passages that attacks and challenges us from every direction. That’s the way Mark introduces us to Jesus: rapid-fire and with no embellishment, he just presents us with the astonishing facts, one after another. And this passage is so full of the Good News of Jesus Christ that we run the risk of ignoring it all.
It was the Sabbath. Jesus had just come from the synagogue in Capernaum where He had amazed the people with His teaching. And then, right there in the synagogue, He had cast out a demon from a man possessed. As Mark tells us, “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” [Mk 1:28]
Leaving the synagogue Jesus and a few of His disciples enter the home of Peter and Andrew, where Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick. Without any fanfare, Jesus grasps her by the hand, heals her, and helps her to her feet. And what does she do? Restored to health, she serves. Jesus always heals more than the body. When He heals, He restores it all, body, mind and soul. For then we who have been healed can begin to serve, to serve life.
What happens next? Evening comes, and with the darkness come the marginalized: the sick, those plagued by demons – they are brought to Jesus and placed at His feet. Where else could they go? Shunned by the community fearful of their afflictions, they were dependent on their families and the charity of others. Rejected by their fellow man, they felt rejected too by God…until Jesus appears and calls each, touches each, showering them with God’s healing love.
Those who have been healed by Jesus, those who have been touched by the God-man in their midst, they see and experience the Good News first-hand. They see what God intends for those who are excluded and for those who do the excluding. It’s funny, isn’t it? So many of the healed recognize Jesus for Who He is. Later in Mark’s Gospel the blind man shouts, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And the demons, too, recognize Jesus. That demon in the synagogue cried out, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” [Mk 1:24]
Yes, Jesus is known by the rejected and by His enemies. But what about the rest? What about His disciples? What about us?
The disciples loved the publicity Jesus was getting, and hoped to capitalize on it. Their idea of Jesus’ mission was so very different, so very different from God’s plan. Jesus rises early and goes off to pray alone, in silence, to solidify His mission, to join His will to that of the Father. But the disciples want to drag Him away to the adulation of the people…for “Everyone is looking for you.” [Mk 1:37]
Knowing His Father’s will, Jesus ignores them and continues to spread the Good News throughout Galilee. “For this purpose have I come,” [Mk 1:38] He tells the disciples. Like so many of us, the disciples wanted a different Jesus, one who would revel in His successes, one who would accept the adulation and praise of the people. This failure in discipleship, this failure to understand the mission of Jesus Christ, crops up time and again throughout His public ministry.
We too must accept Jesus for who He is, for only then can we imitate Him, doing what He calls us to do. Only then can we rise from our brokenness and begin to serve. Otherwise we’re really no better than the demons, who recognize Jesus but refuse to serve.
What’s your mission? Like Jesus, do you go to the Father in prayer for understanding, to join your will with His? Let today be the beginning of a new awareness by us all that Jesus is with us in our ills and troubles, in our hopes and happiness, so that we, too, can pray, “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.” [Ps 40:8-9]