16 January 2013

Grasped and healed

1st Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Mark tells us a deceptively simple story about Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law. I don't mean to say here that Mark is attempting to deceive us with the story, only that the simplicity of the story itself might lead us to overlook the fullest possible meaning of what's going on in the brief exchange btw Jesus and the feverish woman. Buried in the ordinary language of the story is an extraordinary indication of Christ's ultimate purpose. Yes, he's among us to heal. He causes the woman's physical illness to leave her. And yes, he's among us to lift us up. He takes her by the hand and lifts her up from her sick-bed. But “leaving” and “lifting up” are commonplace English verbs used to hint at not-so-commonplace events. The Greek word we translate as “raised up” is ēgeiren. The same word used in several places in the NT to describe Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The Greek word we translate as “left” is aphēken, expired or died. The same word used to say that Jesus' died on the cross. Mark's simple story of the woman's healing could be translated: “Jesus approached, grasped her hand, and resurrected her. Then the fever died.” The purpose of the Christ among us is to bring about the death of death and the resurrection of the body into eternal life. 

In the presence of the Word made flesh, sin and death have no power. The Word was with God at the beginning. God spoke the Word over the void to create everything that is, and through the Word everything that is remains in being. When he say that the Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we mean that he is—embodies, makes real, walks among us—as the fullness of life, of living, the fullness of all existing things. That we get sick, injured, and die is not the natural state of man; that is, from the beginning, we are not created to fall apart and expire. Death is not part of man's original nature. Death entered creation through sin, through disobedience; and dying is a process we begin at birth, a path we must travel in a fallen world. However, in the light of Christ, who is Life, that path does not end in death—not our death anyway. The path ends in the death of death and our resurrection into life eternal. If we live with Christ now, we live with him and in him forever, following behind him in sacrificial love to the Cross, the tomb, and on to the Father's feast in heaven. That's Good News! But it's only part of the Good News. 

If the deceptively simple story of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law reveals a profound truth about the death of death and the resurrection of the body, then it also reveals another profound truth, a another part of the Good News. The disciples tell the Lord about the fevered woman; then, Mark writes, “[Jesus] approached [her], [and] grasped her hand. . .” I hope you really heard that. Christ, who is Life, went to the sick woman, and he grasped her hand. She did not come to him. She did not hold out her hand. She did not beg for healing. Christ went to her. Christ took her hand. He raises her up, and kills her fever. Along our path of dying and death, it is God Himself who comes to us; God Himself who makes the first move; God Himself who reaches out for our hand. All we need do is move toward Him in turn; reach back and grasp His hand. And in grasping His hand, rise and be healed and then give testimony to our healing. Simon's mother-in-law testifies to her recovery by immediately setting about serving her guests. Is there a better way to witness to the power of Life than serving the One who gives you life and died to give you life eternal? 

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1 comment:

  1. Really liked the first paragraph - but you know me and words! Second paragraph was equally interesting, and one of those things that I "know" but don't ever really think about, so, much appreciation for reminding me to think about it. And the third paragraph: "Along our path of dying and death, it is God Himself who comes to us...." Again, something I "know", yet so often in the midst of day-to-day living will forget that I know it, which changes the way I live my daily life.

    This, for me, was a good teaching homily which gave me much needed reminders of things to keep in mind during the daily grind. It is easy for me to get caught up in all the noise and forget these simple truths of my relationship with the One who gives me life and died to give me life eternal.

    Thank you.