09 February 2007

Walk while you talk or just shut up

5th Week OT(Fri): Gen 3.1-8 and Mark 7.31-37
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory and Church of the Incarnation


Praedicator primum sibi praedicet!

We are made to become God. But we cannot become God on our own. That which is imperfect cannot bring imperfection to perfection. Only perfection can draw the imperfect to its completion. In other words, if we are going to become God, we must do so with God. This is the lesson Adam and Eve missed when they disobeyed God in the garden and gave in to the serpent’s temptation to become gods without God. They believed the lie that it is possible for that which is incomplete to bring itself to completion. They ended up naked, exiled, in pain, and eventually dead. And yet we are daily tempted to throw our spiritual well-being into the boxing ring of ridiculous theories and practices in order to achieve our perfection without resorting to Perfection Himself.

Daily visited by the serpent, we have our ears tickled by the sibilant promises of obtaining divinity w/o obedience, w/o sacrifice, w/o suffering, w/o our dark nights. We know, however, that to become Christ, we must take up his cross and follow him. The credibility of your witness rests squarely on the degree to which you are willing to surrender your imperfection to His perfecting love, and to the degree to which you are willing to share the good news of his perfecting love by behaving in the world like one who is being polished to reflect the Father’s glory. There is a road to walk, a Way to travel, and there is a difference btw talking about walking that road and getting on your feet and walking it.

Why does Jesus order the healed man to silence if he is trying to spread the Good News? It is highly ironic that Jesus would heal the poor man’s tongue and then tell him not to use it! Why? Here’s my guess: what does this man know about Jesus and his ministry? Little to nothing. He knows that Jesus can heal. He knows that Jesus is compassionate. Jesus heals him and the man becomes a walking, talking witness to the power of the Word Made Flesh. But again, what does the man know? Does he know the source of Jesus’ power? Does he know why Jesus heals? In other words, does he know Jesus at all? Perhaps the worry here is that the man healed and those who saw him healed are not prepared to adequately witness to the fullest knowable truth about who and what Jesus is. What will they tell others about what happened? Will the message of mercy and forgiveness get lost in the drama of the miracle? When does the evangelizing miracle of healing become the circus act, the magician’s trick? And perhaps most importantly, describing a gospel act of healing is not the same as performing one. Jesus knows that his best gospel witnesses can speak the Word and do the Word; they can witness to healing and they can heal. Talking about walking the Way is not the same as walking the Way.

Despite Jesus’ orders to the contrary, those who saw the man healed spread the news around. Perhaps some took the whole gospel with them and converted themselves into servants for love’s sake. Most, I would guess, gossiped about the incident and returned to their lives, letting the miracle’s power dissipate into rumor, conflicting facts, foggy memories. And some few, we know, not only saw and heard the whole gospel that day, but took it in, fed on it, drank from it, lived in it, surrendered themselves to its perfection and grew in obedience. They heard Christ speak to them when he spoke to the deaf man: “Be opened!” And they were. If we will be opened to speaking and doing the Word in the world, then we must surrender to God’s will and obey: hear and comply, listen and do what we are asked to do in Christ’s name.

If you cannot or will not be Christ in the world—healing, feeding, visiting, teaching—then heed his order to be silent about his gospel. Your silence is a better witness than your hypocrisy. When you are ready, however, “Be Opened!”, and join the prophets, preaching the fullness of his Good News.

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