Love beyond measure – Wednesday, 1st Week in ordinary time – Mk 1:29-39
This eventful Sabbath day saw many miracles beginning with the exorcism of the man in the synagogue who was possessed. Jesus is now in Simon Peter’s house and his mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Make no mistake, fevers at the time of Jesus could not be wished away with a paracetamol. These fevers could often end in death.
Before we move to the miracle and its consequences, a certain contrast and comparison needs to be drawn between the two miracles. The point of contrast and comparison is to highlight the diversity of Jesus’ ministry.
The first miracle was performed for a man; now it is a woman. The first miracle was in a public space; now, in the confines of a home. The first miracle had Jesus only use words and no action; now Jesus takes her by the hand, while He says not a word. The first miracle does not mention the actions of the man after he was healed; Simon’s mother-in-law on the other hand begins to ‘serve them’.
So let’s look at this unnamed woman who we merely know as Simon’s mother-in-law. She has been ‘raised’ and her first instinct is to serve. The response of most people to an act of kindness would be to show kindness back to the person who helped them. No one would have faulted Simon’s mother-in-law if she served only Jesus; after all He worked the miracle for her. But the Gospel tells us that she ‘served them.’
Hands Free – Tuesday, 1st week in ordinary time – Mk 1:21-28
The first day of Jesus’ pastoral ministry was both busy and eventful. Perhaps the sleepy village of Capernaum had never experienced a Sabbath such as this. Capernaum is where Peter came from, and it is here that Jesus made His de facto headquarters while in Galilee.
The village of Capernaum sits on the banks of lake Galilee and was established in the second century. Capernaum, which means village of Nahum (the prophet) is also known as the ‘brown hill’ because it is built from black volcanic basalt rock. It had a population of one thousand five hundred residents and was a fishing village. The ruins of this village exist even today along with the synagogue.
Jesus enters the synagogue whose Sabbath services consisted of prayers, scripture reading and a teaching. One did not have to be ordained to conduct services, and so any one with sufficient learning could be invited to teach. The Gospels record that there was something different about the teaching of Jesus, for they recognised a ‘new teaching with authority.’
To understand what this new teaching with authority (exousiais) was, one needs to understand how the religious leaders of the time taught. These ‘teachers’ were originally merely scribes, who by virtue of their education began to take on the job of being self-appointed religious teachers.
In teaching others, they either referred to the scriptures or to some other Jewish rabbi. Jesus needs no reference for He is ‘the’ authority. The word authority comes from the verb exesti, meaning “it is free” or “it is permitted.” In other words Jesus’ teaching does not need any approval, for He teaches with sovereign freedom.
Swipe right for Jesus – Monday, 1st Week in ordinary time – Mk 1:14-20
The Gospel of Mark records the first homily that Jesus preached and it was all of eighteen words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus pulls back no punches. He is not here to win a popularity contest for the religious. His message is short, direct and hard hitting.
To most religious leaders, such a homily would only serve to drive away a congregation. As St. Paul says, ‘congregations have ‘itchy ears’ and sadly these are pandered to.’ Yet the Lord has a method to what might seem like madness.
The world was in need of a Messiah, not a magician or a great king. It was in need of one who would free them from their sins. Sin cannot be washed away unless it is preceded by sincere repentance. The word ‘repentance’ in Greek, translates loosely as putting on a new mind, a new way of thinking. Jesus’ first homily was a radical demand – change your mind and change your heart and then the Gospel comes alive.
The Gospel records two callings. The first was to all and it was a call to repentance. The second was also vocational (from the Latin, vocare=to call) but deeply personal. Both have a sense of urgency (Euthus in Greek), especially the call to all, because the “time is fulfilled”.
The time that harkens back to the prophecy of Isaiah, has now come to pass with the coming of Jesus. The call of the disciples is equally urgent as the kingdom of God is at hand and ministry must now be set in motion. The response of the first four disciples chosen by Jesus along the shores of this harp shaped Lake of Galilee, was also immediate. The Gospel uses the word “immediate” each time in response to the brothers who left their profession and their family to follow Jesus.
Simple Truths- If you’re too busy judging you can’t be loving.
So here is a simple truth, the more you love someone the less you judge them; the more you judge them, the less you love. Now just for second, think of the person in your life that you once loved or someone whose very name now makes your skin crawl. Ask yourself, ‘why do I not love them as I once did or why do I hate them so much?’
Truth be told, the ONLY thing that crosses your mind right now is how much you dislike them and are unable to think of a single nice thing about them, because all you end up doing is judging the other FIRST. There is no room for anything in YOUR mind but hate. The problem ironically is not so much with them as much as it is in your head. Hate consumes you to such an extent that there is no time to even grant them an ounce of goodness, and in the bargain you become a prisoner of negativity.
The first time I met Fr. Agnelo Gracias (now Bishop) was when I was interviewed as a candidate for the seminary way back in 1991. Fr. Agnelo was the Rector of St. Pius X College and I was all of twenty one year’s old, fresh out of my course in Hotel Management. In his typical style, he took me for a cup of tea and then when I was a bit relaxed, he began the interview. I recall the meeting as a bit comical, for he punctuated every line with the words, “good good.” It was hard to supress a smile if not control my laughter. It was always a double assertion of the word good and if he was super happy, the ‘good’ knew no end.
At first I used to think that these repeated assertions of the word ‘good’ were a little annoying. How can anything and everything be good? But Fr Agnelo never had the time to judge people, for he always loved first. The repeated assertions of the word ‘good’ had now become a way of life for him; everything he saw was good and anyone whom he came across was first loved. It’s almost like he had no time to judge; the goodness was all he saw in the other.
Simple Truths – Stop showing them the finger
I am not sure if this is an Indian phenomenon or just plain universal. Somehow we seem to have grown up with this ‘blame the whole world syndrome’. Nothing deters us from finding a finger to poke at someone else. God is the usual suspect but if that does not assuage our frustrations then any and every living being can be a good substitute, to say nothing of the ridiculous compulsion to blame that which is inanimate.
Let me illustrate this with something that most Indians would identify with, if not actively participated in. Little children always fall, either because they are still discovering the joys of two feet and their ability to traverse ground they were once forced to crawl on, or they just seem to be like a yo-yo with two feet. In any case, they are bound to fall.
Better sense has taught us to be silent to a child’s initial shock when they fall and not to contribute to it by transmitting our own fears. Gentle concern in a soft non agitated voice is more helpful than a hyper agitated adult attempting to calm a now bawling child who has inadvertently discovered that his or her pain and shock has more attention value than they first thought it had. The voice decimals are needless and pointless.
This brings me to the matter at hand (even though we are discussing feet). Now that the child has stumbled and fallen and the noise of the super agitated adult has sufficiently mixed with the distraught child, a solution to the matter at hand needs to be found. Here is where the child learns perhaps one of its first and worst ways of dealing with challenging situations.