Saturday, 27 June 2009

Two different ways of approaching Jesus (Mk 5:21-43)

The gospel this week is again from Mark (5:21-43). Fr. John Harris wrote a reflection earlier in the week and pointed out the difference  how the two people make the approach to Jesus. Fr. John is dwelling on the different ways in which people approach Jesus, while having the same aim of meeting Him and receiving His healing, He also dwells on the two aspect of our own relation with Jesus and I will try and dwell a bit on this to continue the theme of previous weeks.

Our life as Christians has different aspects. We have the public aspect, the communal aspect, but also the private aspect. The synagogue official, Jarius, comes openly to Jesus, he throws himself at His feet and asked Him publicly to come and heal his daughter, while the woman comes up behind him to secretly touch His garment.

First we will look at the public aspect as the synagogue official ask Jesus to heal his daughter. What exactly the reaction of the crowed at that time is we do not know, although later it become clear, but we do know that there was a large following. This in a way can be seen as our communal aspect of our lives. There is the large group gathering together around Jesus, and this is what we do for example when we gather for mass on Sunday.

However, just this is not enough. What is the reason the large crowd gathers around Jesus? Earlier in the chapter we read that the people on the other shore, although pagans,  asked him to leave. They saw he had curred the demoniac, but because it resulted in a big economic loss they did not want to have anything to do with Jesus. Having Him so near did not suit them.

What is the reason for the crowd here to follow him? We do know that "the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Mat 7:28-29 RSV) in other accounts, but we also hear Jesus say "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." (Joh 6:26 RSV)

When Jesus comes to the house in spite of the news that the little girl has died, the people laugh at Him when He says "Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." (Mar 5:39 RSV) They do not belief or trust in His power to do something supernatural, they might like His teaching possibly as it suits, them being the lower classes of society and possible the "buzz" of all that is happening, but they do not perceive or belief in the "mystery" that He really is.

This is where it becomes important to realize that there is the need for the second aspects of our Christian lives, which is the reality of our inward dispositions towards Jesus. The woman, anonymous, only wants to touch the fringe of Jesus' garment. That only is enough she beliefs to heal her of the illness which has tormented her for twelve years. She does not dare to approach Him publicly, but approaches Him in secrety and in trust.

And Jesus knows it: "and Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd" (Mar 5:30 RSV) and "he looked around to see who had done it" (Mar 5:32 RSV) Subsequent she comes forward, trembling in fear, but Jesus says to her: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Mar 5:34 RSV), go in the peace of God.

Our relation with God is not either public or private, but both. We come to Him in our public worship, we go to Mass, we substantially receive Him in our lives through the Eucharist and we invite Him to be with us and to heal us. But there is also the private part, "when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret" (Mat 6:6 RSV) This, possibly the more intimate part, is where we put our full trust in God as did the woman who touched Jesus' garment. We notice the peace and healing that flows forth from this relation with Him, as He gives it to us as He did with the woman (cf. Mk 5:34).

Maybe one aspect is the expression of our faith, the other a silent disposition. It is in the lifting up of our hearts to God continually during our day, to continually pray as we need to do: "And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray"  (Luk 18:1 RSV) and as St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to "pray constantly" (1Th 5:17 RSV). With practice, our disposition can always be towards God, our hearts constantly lifted up in a search for His love. Our private disposition will then flows into the more public action, and will make it come further to live....

On a practical level everybody has His own ways of praying, but an example of trying to always pray is for example to make a habit of saying the Rosary, even if it is just unconscious. There are very small rosary beads to help in this...


Anonymous said...

Brother Luke.
Thank you for all of your word and video.
One comment: running through your reflections is an inadvertent latent Jansennism. You make the spiritual life in Christ sound like one perpetual endurance test which is achieved , not by grace, but by the human will. Grace builds on does not destroy it! May I humbly suggest you go gently into the way of Christ...let him work, and we, like Mary can only humbly say: 'Do whatever He tells you'. Your brothers, de Suso and Eckdardt, will be good and sure guides here.
I wish you well in your Summer School.
Go gently and enjoy life!
frater thomas

Bro. Luuk Dominiek Jansen OP said...

Dear frater Thomas,

Well, apparently I have to review my writing, as how you describe my spirituality is exactly the opposite of what I try to convey... and so possibly I should reconsider if I am suitable for it. I am usually blamed for tending to much toward the other side, but that being in my life, not in writing.

It is true, I do belief that we need to work at our spiritual life, and I think that makes sense. If we had to do nothing then why does not everybody in a Saint. "I stand at the door and knock...", we need to open the door, and we need to make ourself available to God, we need to accept the gift of His grace, He will not force it upon us.

Also, I feel a need to try and explain our spiritual life in a a balanced way. As in my view the grace of God works silently, and we need to recognize that, we have to be patient. A lot of young people have a disconnect with the Church I feel because Jesus is not relevant to their lives.

The difficulties in modern society is that people are usually expecting instant results. I try to explain that we need to keep discipline in making ourself available to the Lord and not give up if we don't get an instant spiritual satisfaction... I guess I try to comfort those who are struggling that it is normal before we start to understand and experience the great love God has for us!


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