5 Epiphany, February 4

Isa. 40:21-31Ps. 147:1-12, 21c1 Cor. 9:16-23Mark 1:29-39

“He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up” (Mark 1:31). “And he cured many who were sick … and cast out many demons” (Mark 1:34). The Lord lifts up those on a bed of sickness while driving out the cause of disease. He is a loving physician and a surgeon’s knife; he makes whole by exorcising everything contrary to the perfect will of perfect love.

Rightly discerning the word of truth, this message must be attenuated for the chronically and seriously ill, the disabled, and the dying. The Good News is not good news if it implies that there are those whom God willfully and hatefully ignores. Suffering is a great mystery, present everywhere in Scripture and never adequately explained. Everyone suffers, everyone dies. Healing is a mystery too, a working of grace in ways seen and unseen. Indeed, many great saints had moral and physical defects, and yet they were chosen vessels in their generation. In one sense, frailty is the lot of mortal being, and yet mortality is taken up into immortality and life, namely Jesus Christ our Lord. There are ways to say this with sensitivity and love, with theological acumen and deep compassion. In the secrecy of Christ, the ill are being raised and the cause of all disorder cast out, but this is not yet fully realized. We wait and keep vigil in love.

Jesus heals in this way. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (Isa. 40:29). “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). “He lifts up the downtrodden” (Ps. 147:6). In countless ways, Jesus puts his hand into the hands of those who suffer, and he alone, in the hidden mystery of divine power, raises them up. He heals also by a kind of judgment. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The truth that sets us free is the One who sees our condition exactly as it is, and yet, in all love and mercy, “casts the wicked to the ground,” that is, the inner demons that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God (Ps. 147:6). Jesus is a loving hand and a sharp word. We and even nature need his saving work.

The Lord, while healing us, confers on us a ministry of binding wounds. We heal with love, and with love oppose anything or anyone that corrupts and destroys the creatures of God. We are also the ones being healed, being touched, being raised, being set free by the eternal Son of the Everlasting Father. And we imitate Jesus in yet another way. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). He rests in the bosom of the Father and their shared love. He sees the dome of heaven and he numbers and names the stars. He is silence and awareness. This too is a Christian vocation, to sit in the early hours before dawn welcoming the rising sun, a sign of the true and everlasting light. “Now the night is over … banish our weakness, health and wholeness sending; bring us to heaven, where thy saints united joy without ending” (1982 Hymnal, No. 1).

We keep watch with Jesus, staying close to his heart and his home in the desert. We heal and are healed by him. We are delivered from demons and given power to cast them down. Healing, deliverance, and stillness are the work of Christ for us and in us.

Look It Up
Read Mark 1:30.

Think About It
Saying nothing, he took her hand, and lifted her up.

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