I’m finding myself exhausted and exhilarated at the same time with the Gospels we have reflected on over the last three weeks. The healing stories of Jesus in the early chapters of Mark’s gospel seem almost unlimited. People bring to Jesus an endless line of people who are broken and the medical condition of many of these people is certainly not light. Today’s gospel is no different. Even in a new region, Jesus is identified and a whole new group of people are in need of his healing energy. How does Jesus respond? He responds with generosity and compassion. It seems there is no limit to Jesus’ resourcefulness and his ability to restore.
And yet the church pairs today’s Gospel with the the Old Testament reading of Solomon dedicating the new temple and the Spirit of the Lord filling and occupying this dwelling. This is a public communal display, a regal, majestic, ritual. It is history in the making. Recall where this story begins. It was David saying here I am in this luxury palace while the Lord God dwells in a tent. So David decides to build a dwelling that is befitting for the Lord God. And the Lord humorously asks him, You are going to build me a house? Of course David dies before this happens leaving his son Solomon the task of finishing his father’s desire. Completely as a side note; How do you ask God to move into a building? The thought of this reminds me of when I was a child and we built a little dog house for the puppy and the puppy didn’t really like his new house. Yet Solomon’s desire and effort doesn’t get rejected by the Holy One. On the contrary, God honors the work and dedication and the Glory of the Lord fills the Temple. It must have been a celebrated day for the people of Jerusalem.
This reading leaves me reflecting on how we make items, events, places, special, significant, even holy or sacred. As a priest, I’m frequently asked to bless rosaries, religious items and houses. Bishops bless churches, altars and significant sacramental items. Yet beyond the ecclesial structures we all have certain days that are special: anniversaries, birthdays, graduations… We have sentimental items which connect us back to loving relationships. We have objects such as wedding rings, which represent something so much more valuable than the object. Perhaps we have china that is only used on special days thus stating today is a very special day. Some of us have holy cards of people who have died that throwing them out would just feel wrong. There are places which are special to us as well. Perhaps it was an event that happened at that place or a feeling we have when we enter a place. Regardless, part of being human is having the capacity to say certain places, events, items are special. And when they transcend the human circle these things even become sacred. With this in mind, the more we bring God into our lives the number of items, events and places which are special even sacred escalates. I honestly couldn’t even begin to make a list of the holy places, people, events, or items which are sacred to me.
Invert this. Instead of us trying to bring God into our realm, the incarnation is about God coming to us and suddenly we find Jesus who says, there really is something good about humanity. Human life matters. So in Mark’s gospel, when Jesus never seems to tire of healing the broken, each person Jesus encounters is a sacred encounter. Each person Jesus heals is a sacred encounter. Restoring people again to a place where God would intend them to be restores human dignity and is a sacred encounter. Each person Jesus speaks to in any teaching is an encounter with the divine one of God and thus a sacred encounter.
And if I may take this one step further. This is never a show for Jesus. He never needs attention, nor does he act like raising someone from the dead is more exhausting than curing a simple headache. Because it is not about comparisons; it is not about him. He teaches and heals to reveal the Father and the love God has for us. While some people in the Gospel stories may be bringing their loved ones to Jesus wondering if he has the ability to heal them, for Jesus it is not about his power or his giftedness. It is about revealing the love of his father. It’s all about proclaiming how much the Father loves and cares for us. And in doing so, it is all sacred.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.