Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39
In Africa, even here in the Philippines, those holders of PhD are causing confusion. We address them as doctors and when simple village folks in Africa hear it, they flock to them with all their health problems. These “doctors” find themselves in a serious predicament as they try to explain that even though they are called doctors they do not cure the sick. Nobody seems to give a satisfactory answer to the question of the village folks: “If they do not cure the sick, why do people call them doctors?”
Jesus finds Himself in a similar predicament in today’s gospel. He comes as the Savior of the world and yet He heals. Like for example, in the synagogue he heals a man with an unclean spirit. And then He goes to Peter’s house and heals his mother in-law who has a fever. They bring to Him all who were sick or possessed with demons and He cures many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. But in the very early in the morning he escapes to a quiet spot to pray. Before He can finish His morning prayers His disciples hunt him down and inform Him that an even larger crowd has gathered with their sick and infirm and that everyone is looking for Him. I am expecting Jesus to heal those sick people but He does not. You would expect Jesus to say, “Great, now we are in business. He rather says, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do,” (Mark 1:38).
But what Jesus really comes to do? Jesus, being spiritually-minded person, refuses to limit His ministry to one place or to encourage the belief of a coming worldly Kingdom of God, responding to Simon, He said: “Let us go the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And Jesus travels throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message of the spiritual Kingdom of God in the synagogues and cast out demons. So Jesus came to do three major things in His ministry as examples in our lives: He heals, He prays and He preaches.
Jesus comes to heal. Jesus is concerned with the problem of suffering in all its forms because He cures people who are afflicted in various ways. Even Himself has to undergo terrible sufferings. He did not use His power to prevent them. But where in the Bible that we can read about Jesus getting sick? We know Him as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh but nowhere in the gospels can we find Him suffering from a headache, fever, diarrhea and other diseases and sickness. It seems that all the sufferings of Jesus where those inflicted on Him from the outside like: ridicule, insult, persecution, cruelty of His enemies and the unfaithfulness of His friends but never bring about by internal organic illness.
For us, we are called to heal although we are not doctors. We can heal ourselves with the help of God. A concrete example is this. Brian Cavanaugh narrates the therapeutic formula of Dr, Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist. Dr. Menninger once gave a lecture on mental health and answered questions. “What would you advise a person to do,” asked one man, “if that person felt nervous breakdown coming one?”
Most people expected the doctor to reply: ‘Consult a psychiatrist.” To their astonishment he replied: “Lock up your house, go across the highway, find someone in need and do something to help that person.”
Jesus comes to pray. We are told in the gospel that in the morning, he rose and went out to a lonely place and there he prays. Simon Peter and those who were with Him follow Him and they find Him and say to Him that everyone is searching for Him (vv. 33-37). One reason why Jesus does pray can be to renew and recharge Himself spiritually. It is because healing drained Jesus of power. That is why we need to do what Jesus does. We need to recharge ourselves spiritually. We can pause momentarily during the course of our day to get in touch with ourselves and to listen to God’s voice in our heart. Let us stop for a moment of what we are doing, pause, check our situation and prepare to do the wise thing.
A concrete example is this: I read something how we can pray with our fingers. The thumb is the finger closest to our hearts, reminding us to pray for our families and loved ones. The pointing finger reminds us to pray for those who point and lead like: the Pope, the bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, parents and teachers. The middle finger is the biggest and tallest finger reminding us to pray for our leaders and those who govern us. The ring finger is the weakest finger, reminding us to pray for those who are weak like: the sick, the poor, the lost, the dependents and sinners. Finally is the small finger, which reminds us to pray for the children and all the “little ones” in the world today.
Jesus comes to preach. He comes to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to invite all humankind in order to let God reign as king in their hearts and in their lives, to reconcile us with God and with one another. Much of the sickness, poverty and suffering that exist in our world are traceable to the state of disharmony or sin that separates us from God and from one another. By healing this root cause of all our problems, we find ourselves in a position to receive God’s abundant blessings in all areas of our lives, spiritual as well as physical, moral as well as material, social as well psychological. But to try to seek physical healing and material well-being without first making peace with God is to miss the point.
At the end let us reflect on what Pope John Paul II in his ad limina address to U.S. Bishops last December 3, 1983: “Only a worshipping and praying Church can show herself sufficiently sensitive to the needs of the sick, the suffering, the lonely especially in the great urban centers and the poor everywhere. The Church as a community of service has first to feel the weight of the burden carried by many individuals and families and then strive to help alleviate these burdens…… In prayer the Church is confirmed in her solidarity with the weak who are oppressed, the vulnerable who are manipulated, the children who are exploited and everyone who is in any way discriminated against.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B