The readings for Sunday, February 1, 2009:
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm: Psalm 111
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Gospel: Mark 1:21-28
In this week's Gospel, we see Jesus teaching and healing. I could make the case that this short Gospel sums up the work of Christ. Just add a meal, and we'd have his ministry in this one small capsule of a Gospel.
What does this mean for us as Christians? I have teaching on the brain quite often, since I'm employed by a college, and have been working in the education industry in some form for my whole adult life.
Lately, I also have healing on my mind. This seems to be the season where many of my friends and family face significant health problems. In fact, one of my good friends is undergoing brain surgery even as I write this. I write a bit, trying to forget her ordeal, then I pray for her (and others enduring health crises), then I write some more, and then I pray more fiercely. There are worse ways to spend a morning.
I've always liked the picture of Jesus as teacher and feeder of the flocks. As a Christian, I could emulate that. I know how to do those things. But our culture has turned healing into such a specialized category, requiring years of schooling, that we forget that ordinary people can have an enormous healing effect.
Teaching and feeding, can, of course, provide healing. When I feel despair about the course of my life--when I compare what I've accomplished to what a Martin Luther King accomplished--I sit myself down and I remember all the students whom I've taught. Many of those students wouldn't have stayed in school had they not had a compassionate teacher like me, someone who taught them the basics of English Composition, someone who convinced them that college could be a possibility, even for people who were underprepared. And most of us have experienced the healing power of a good meal savored with friends.
But we can do so much more. We can pray for those who need healing. Even if we can't visit people in the hospital or bring food to families, we can pray.
If we feel brave, we might even try the laying on of hands when we're with the sick. The New Testament tells us of the power of our hands to heal. In some Christian traditions, it's so important that anointing the sick with oil is elevated to a sacrament. Many churches have a service of healing once a month. We can support those churches and not undercut this vital ministry, even if it makes us less than comfortable.
And let us not forget some of the simplest things we can do. We can smile at those we pass in the hallways. It's quite likely that most people we meet are dealing with more than we know, and a smile can go a long way towards healing what is split in the world (to use Gail Godwin's language, from her book Father Melancholy's Daughter).
When my mother-in-law was sick in the hospital, the hospital had us wear visitor stickers on our shirts. Sometimes I would forget that I was wearing mine, and I'd go to the grocery store. I noticed that people treated me more kindly. That sticker showed that I wasn't having a normal day.
We should go through our lives, seeing our fellow humans as wearing similar stickers that show their need for our gentle treatment. Think of what a different world we would inhabit if all people of faith made gentle treatment of their fellow humans a daily practice.
feeling the feelings…
8 months ago