Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; I Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; M<ark 6:53-56
Today’s Gospel narrates a series of healings that inaugurates Jesus’ ministry. I’ve often heard this text described as a demonstration of Jesus’ power over disease and demons revealing who he is, a persuasive announcement of the Kingdom of God.
If this is a persuasive revelation of who Jesus is, why is it so easily forgotten, even half way through the Gospel? Why, from start to finish, do his closest disciples fail to get the message? Why doesn’t Jesus stay in Capernaum, own what he’s done and firm up his influence?
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, after healings and miracles, Jesus will deflect attention from himself; he’ll forbid demons to call him “Son of God”, just as he’ll discourage a leper from announcing his cure or the healed demoniac from becoming his follower. Do you remember what he said to the rich young man who addressed him as “good Master”? “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.”
In effect, Jesus is challenging the social system of his time, the dependence of individuals, from beggars to princes, on power-brokers who could make or break their future. Our reading from the Book of Job describes well that miserable existence with no place for hope, just good luck.
When Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you”, is he announcing a kingdom of empowerment? Will self-help, connecting us to our inner resources, save us? Isn’t that still depending on power? That strategy only relocates the power.
Valuable as empowerment may be in social situations, it cannot characterize the Kingdom of God and I think Saint Mark is making that point very clearly. How is Jesus recognized here? By his power? Or is it the faith of those who seek his saving touch? If it is their faith, then it is their vulnerability that announces the Kingdom of God.
Isn’t Mark’s Gospel inviting us to own our wounds, our diseases, our demons, our doubts, our failures–rather than our strengths and virtues–to discover that open door allowing God to enter?
Vulnerability means “wound-ability”; every wound opens us up. Dependence on power can’t open us up. Power protects and barricades. In this Gospel, from its first word to its last, doesn’t God arrive not as intrusive power but as an invited guest who would join us in our poverty and break bread with us?