Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 1:29-39, Cycle B
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is presented as one who acts rather than as one who speaks. The lengthy discourses in Matthew, for example, are missing in Mark. This is in keeping with the biblical conviction that actions speak louder than words. It is the interventions of God in human history, at the Exodus of Israel and then in the definitive Exodus of the Resurrection of Jesus, that contain the essential source of biblical revelation. This reminds us also that we must personally participate in some way in those events of liberation in order to receive the salvation promised by the Bible.
In today’s gospel, Mark draws our attention particularly to those who were possessed by demons. Whatever their malady may have been, it represented the sad condition that existed before God brought a light-filled, harmonious world out of the original darkness and chaos. Jesus continues this creative work and the demons, as contemporary agents of the old chaos, instinctively recognize him as their adversary.
It is poignant to see how Jesus is already beginning to disappoint his disciples. They cannot wait for him to raise the flag of rebellion and to use his power to drive out the Roman occupiers of their land. But he goes off instead to a quiet place to commune with his heavenly Father. He has come to preach the good news of salvation through the power of love and sacrifice, rather than through the military power and domination that they seek.
We need not look far to find the reality of chaos and dissention in our world today. The ancient Hebrews saw in the original chaos an aggressive force that was constantly trying to take back the creation that God had brought forth. Their imagery may have been primitive, but their perception was very accurate. In fact, the forces of chaos seem at times to have the upper hand today, as nations are consumed by ethnic hatred, communities are divided by strife and families are often torn apart by sibling rivalries. Sometimes the chaos enters our own psyches as we struggle to see the meaning in our lives.
God is fully aware of these troubles and he has sent Jesus to give us the wisdom, which alone can bring us peace and happiness. This is the unlikely, but only truly valid, wisdom of loving concern. Jesus not only taught this wisdom but he lived it fully as he gave his life for us.
We, like the disciples, are all for making war to achieve our purposes, but Jesus goes away to pray. This does not mean that we should not strive to achieve legitimate objectives but it does mean that, ultimately, it is only prayerful attention to the Lord and sincere love of others that will heal the beautiful world that God has entrusted to us and bring the peace and harmony that Jesus came to offer us. For God certainly wishes, once again, to look at our world and be able to recognize, as he did at the beginning, that It is “very good” (Gen 1:31).
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.