In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:12-15) Jesus goes into the desert. It was the place where he came to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of Satan. This was the time of preparation for his public ministry.
In our busy lives we have so many competing voices from the time we get up in the morning up until the time we go to bed at night. The image of the desert in our Gospel today invites us to reflect on the question what space do I create to listen to the voice of God in my life? Like Jesus we have a divine calling. God has a plan for our lives but if we don’t create the space so that can God can speak to the depths of our hearts we may never discover what his will for us is. The Season of Lent is a time where we encouraged to set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God, a time to say yes to God and no to Satan as Jesus did.
During our masses on Ash Wednesday mass I spoke about being ambassadors for Christ which was taken from the second reading of that day ( 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2). Lent is a time where we can ask ourselves how well do I represent Christ in my life? How does it translate in regards to my relationship with God and others? The spiritual disciplines of praying, fasting and almsgiving are good things to do but the end goal must be so that they help us grow in our love of God and others. These can never be ends in themselves. In the Gospel on Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) Jesus criticises the Scribes and Pharisees because they used the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to represent themselves. The heart of sin lies in when we turn away from seeking to glorify God in our lives and seek our own self-glorification. This is why creating that space in our lives is so critical. When we do this we give ourselves time and distance to critically evaluate our lives and ask ourselves “why do we do the things we do?” It is in the silence of our hearts that we gain the wisdom to know what things in our lives we should say yes and no to.
During his time in the desert Jesus proved that his love for his Father was stronger than anything else.
Jesus in the desert is our model during Lent. Do we love God enough to resist anything that might separate ourselves from him? Out of the many competing voices in our lives do we put God’s word first?
Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island of Molokai in the nineteenth century. At that time he encountered many who were suffering from leprosy. A cure had yet to be discovered. When he visited the leper colony at Molokai he was shocked and questioned God’s existence. He met people who were still able to breathe, think and remember but their bodies were badly disfigured. Robert Louis Stevenson would have probably given in to depression except for the fact that he had met Fr. Damien De Veuster and had seen him at work on the island. He was touched by his compassion and rightly predicted that one day Fr. Damien would be made a Saint in the Church. Fr Damien carried on his work regardless despite the fact that it put him at odds with the authorities.
In the Old Testament (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46) people with leprosy were declared unclean and had to live outside the community. This remained up until and including the time of Jesus. Therefore the man with leprosy who approaches Jesus in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:39-45) violated the religious customs of his day by approaching a person who was clean. The man’s request was certainly a confident one. He believed that Jesus could heal him if he wanted to. However his words could also be interpreted as a challenge to Jesus to see how far he was willing to extend himself in order to heal someone. By using touch to heal the man Jesus also violated social norms. This is an important sign in the depth of Jesus’ compassion for the man. His actions here may also explain why Jesus subsequently found it so difficult to move around freely.
As a Church we want to care for those who are neglected by the majority. The challenge is giving into the temptation of avoiding any possible repercussions. This either results in us either failing to take any action at all or limiting our action to something that only looks good for the sake of appearances. The stance that Jesus takes tells us if we really want to heal others then we must be willing to allow ourselves to be touched by them even if it means putting ourselves at odds with others? Fr. Damien was willing to take the risk. Are we?
The people who nobody wanted were very dear to the heart of Jesus. If Jesus was here today who would he reach out to? I believe it would be prisoners and their families, the elderly who receive no visitors, prostitutes, victims of AIDS and those who are homeless, to name just a few. We are called to follow the example of Jesus and reach out to the ‘”lepers” of today’s world.
I hope this finds you have had a good week. I arrived last Monday afternoon.
First of all I would like to say just how pleased I am to come to St Joseph’s Malvern to serve you as your Parish Priest. My hope is to be the best servant leader I can be. It will take me some time but I look forward to meeting you all and getting to know each one of you personally.
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-29) offers us plenty to reflect upon. We hear how Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and helps her up. She then recommences her duties in serving people. This is just another example of how Jesus heals and enables people. This raising of Simon’s mother-in-law is a precursor to Jesus’ own story where he will rise up from the dead.
I believe this story invites us to reflect upon our own relationships with others whether at home, school, the workplace and generally our interaction with others in a social setting. In our words and in our actions do we enable others and raise them up? Just as importantly in what ways do we fail to do this? I think we also need to ask these same questions together as a parish family.
There are two hopes that I hold as I commence my ministry here. Firstly, that our parish is a place of welcome. This means that each person who comes to our church or our parish office feels that they matter. Secondly ,that as a parish family we particularly keep looking out for those who are most vulnerable in our community and work out ways of how we can reach out to them. The way that Jesus met the Simon’s mother-in-law in this Sunday’s Gospel is the way he encountered everyone. No one is excluded from the invitation to be a part of his kingdom. It is an ideal I hope we are able to keep before ourselves as well.