The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
February 11th, 2018 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Mark 1:40-45
A certain president created a stir when he claimed that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever. Apparently, he enjoyed popularity. As it seems, many do. Today’s gospel suggests that Jesus was ambivalent about popularity. Of course, he wanted to communicate a message from God, but not all the time. We might ask, “Why not? Isn’t that part of why he came to dwell among us? To tell us the truth about God and to show us how to live as disciples of the truth”?
In today’s gospel Mark describes Jesus healing a leper. Such a wonderful act would impress people. Leprosy was a dreaded disease at that time. Its victims were known in the locales where they lived. Their condition was visible and feared. Lepers were not allowed to live near others. They were forced to live outside the towns and villages and if anyone got close to them, they were told to ring a bell that would warn people of their presence. If someone healed a leper, they would immediately attract attention. So why did Jesus tell the healed leper to keep it quiet? Allow it to be something between just the two of them.
Well, the gospel lets us know that the leper thought otherwise and told everyone he met what Jesus had done. And yes, that ignited immediate interest in this miracle man. Jesus took off for the hills. He was not interested in courting that kind of popularity.
He was not in the business of entertainment. He did not want the cheers of the crowd. He wouldn’t have cared how many followed him in Twitter. Rather, he sought followers who would do what he did. Help people who were starving for food and for respect. He wanted to help people to live better lives with hearts filled with gratitude and love.
I sometimes wonder how Pope Francis really feels when he is asked to appear before adoring crowds. My guess is that he would have much the same feeling that Jesus did when the masses pursued him. Why did you come here, he might ask? To be entertained? To be made to feel good inside? Maybe to get a selfie with me?
Christ came to teach us the way to the deep truth of our lives. He asked that we follow him. To where? Well, one place would be to the cross. Think about it. That might not be what some in the crowd wanted to hear. Do we?
©David M. Thomas, PhD