Suffering is universal. It seems built into the very DNA of stuff; the core image of Christ’s preaching, the one that most clearly represents the truth of all reality, is that the grain of wheat has to fall into the earth and die in order to grow. That single reality, the painful cracking-open of things, is part of all reality from the Big Bang forward. Translated into human terms, it is the description of the sickness and death, misfortune, heartbreak, alienation and loss that are part of even the most sheltered and privileged lives. The psalm boasts that God heals the broken-hearted. Like the unheard but reverberant answer to Job’s plaint in the first reading today, the psalm boasts that God “knows the number of the stars, and calls them each by name.” But this isn’t the reason to love God. This may or may not even be true. What is true is that God, who knows the number of the stars, who called forth the light from the darkness, not only heard the anguish of the world, but did not cling onto godliness. God entered into the condition of creation, and chose to live the life that people live, with all its breaking, betrayal, suffering, and death.
And so here comes Jesus, as Jack Miles sees it in his interesting if somehow unsettling book Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, the incarnation of God among us, determined to set aside his “old testament” image and do something completely new. Jesus, the person of life, comes among us as a healer and exorcist. Mark seems to see Jesus as healing for a particular reason: healing for the rebuilding of the community as the dominion of God, rescued from the “strong man”’s house, Satan’s house, the house of Caesar and the temple, and remade into a community of agape and mutual service. What’s not entirely clear, by the time Mark is writing all this down 40 years or so after the death of Jesus, is whether or not anyone was listening. The survival of the Way seems to be in question, with the women leaving the empty tomb and the urging of the angels “saying nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Hearing Peter’s words, voicing the disciple’s greeting upon finding Jesus off by himself when so many are in need of his healing touch, really strikes me: “Everyone is looking for you.” Boy, ain’t that the truth. It’s the one thing we all have in common: we’re hurting, we know it, and we want someone to fix it. But it may be all that we’re left with, with Jesus moving on to the other places, is the stories we hear of others who were touched by him, and feeling the ministrations of people like Simon’s mother-in-law, now restored and back at work, serving the food. Maybe there’s healing in the story itself, and in the hands of those healed by the master. Got a story to tell? Maybe everyone is looking for you.
What we're singing at St. Anne this week:
Gathering: Healer of Our Every Ill, by Marty Haugen.
Psalm 34: Cry of the Poor, by John Foley SJ
Preparation Rite: We Cannot Measure How You Heal, John Bell, arr. Daigle
Communion: Do Not Fear to Hope, by Rory Cooney
Recessional: Healing River Hellerman/Minkoff (the iTunes link is to the Weavers version from 1966; Fred Hellerman was one of the Weavers. Pete Seeger sang “Healing River” at rallies following the firebombing of the Birmingham church where four little girls died in 1963.)
Is not (human) life on earth a drudgery? ...My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.