Sunday, September 9, 2012

Will we Walk?

Readings for Sunday, September 9/ 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 35:4-7
Psalm 146:7-10
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37

The beauty is in the detail. If most of you are like me, it’s easy to hear a story and in our head think “Oh, I know that one!” and miss the fine details sprinkled all throughout it. While the stories are certainly helpful and formative, the real riches of the scriptures are in the details. Today’s passage from Mark’s gospel is interesting in that it begins by noting the Our Lord went from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon. For those of us unfamiliar with the layout of Israel this is easily passed over to get to what we perceive as more important things. It is worth noting though because Sidon is north of Tyre, when the Sea of Galilee is the opposite direction. For us it would be like going from Gramercy/Paulina to Thibodaux by way of Hammond. This small detail though is quite intentional from the Lord’s perspective.

Remember the last time we saw Our Lord in that area of Sidon and the Decapolis, just two chapters earlier. He cast out unclean spirits into a herd of swine and the people begged him to leave. They sent Him away rather than seek His healing. This time, as we hear, He receives a much warmer reception. But the fact that He intentionally went there rather than straight to the Sea of Galilee seems to speak of the reality that God never quits trying to draw us closer. Though we may fight against Him or even ask Him to get out of our lives at some points, He is always willing to come back in hopes that we’ll receive Him where before we rejected Him.

This sets the background of the rest of the story then because it is a story of coming back to God when one has been away. Even the man who is healed by the Lord helps us to understand something of the mission Jesus is on. Mark describes the man as having a speech impediment. That particular phrase is used only one other time in the whole Bible and it is in the passage we read from Isaiah today, a passage which had an emphasis on bringing the exiled Jewish people back to the Lord in Jerusalem and the signs that would accompany this return to God; signs such as the deaf hearing and the mute speaking. Mark is pointing out by his words that the Lord Jesus is accomplishing this work before our very eyes!

Going even further, we are shown not only the Christ is here to bring us back into a right relationship with God, He shows us how it happens. By taking the man aside from the crowd Jesus is honoring the reality that each of us is unique. Rather than being considered just as one of many things to accomplish, He shows that God works with each of us individually, in our own way, in our own time as we are able to receive Him. The physical touch of Christ is His acknowledgment that we are in need of physical, visible reminders of our renewal in the Lord. And the lifting of His eyes to Heaven helps to remind us that it is not a simple human person who has helped us, but God Himself.

We can take this story and simply lump it in with the many other healings that Jesus did in His ministry two thousand years ago. Or we can look at the details and find something much more incredible to contemplate – the reality that just as our God called the Jewish people back to Himself after they strayed, He does the same to us. It’s not just a story about a man who was healed two thousand years ago or a people brought home 2500 years ago. It’s a story about us. You and me, and how God is coming to us again today to take us aside for a moment to continue the healing He longs to effect within us.

So as we sit here for a moment in this sacred liturgy, this time set aside to worship our God, the Lord comes to us as He came to the deaf and mute man and takes our hand to lead us to find peace. The question is this: Are we willing to walk with Him?