6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46     1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1    Mark 1:40-45

Heal the leperIn the much acclaimed 1970 Musical, ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ the character of Jesus is rightly portrayed as one who ‘took the world by storm’.  Our world continues to seek and recognise heroes and models in life and philosophy and religions!  Celebrities, acclaimed and self-proclaimed, abound. But the Jesus of the Gospels seems to abhor such a way of exalting people and certainly wants to avoid putting Himself on a pedestal or in the limelight.

In the first Chapter of St Mark’ gospel, as ‘his reputation rapidly spread’, Jesus wanted to move on ‘to the neighbouring country towns’.  When He is told that ‘everybody is looking for you! He asks ‘Let us go elsewhere’.  They wanted to publicise the miracles and healings but were instructed by Jesus ‘to say nothing to anyone’.  

This style of Jesus is a far-cry from some of the so-called preachers of American TV Gospel channels who want to draw on people’s curiosity and greed for riches and luxury and the fantastical. They preach and sell ‘healthy living’, inner satisfaction and ‘a-la-carte’ religion which suits their life-style with little thought of social conscience or anything that challenges their comfort.

So, Saint Mark portrays Jesus as shunning publicity. It has become known as ‘messianic secrecy’ – ‘say nothing to anyone, but go to the priest!’ It seems that Mark wanted to move his readers away from the adulation of a miracle-worker and towards a deeper appreciation of the suffering Servant of God and his Cross. Too much emphasis on the miracles would only obscure the place of the Cross.

Even in our sophisticated society today we know that people will go in busloads for the prospect of a ‘moving statue’ or of ‘magical mittens’ or candles which seem to have more drawing power than the sacraments or sacramentals. Pious practices and popular devotions are often seen like ‘request programmes on the radio’ and God can be reduced to the ‘Almighty Aspirin’. This is a misunderstanding of the healing ministry of Jesus. The disciples were given an example by Jesus as to what to do when in need of encouragement and assurance and healing; ‘he went off to a lonely place and prayed there’.

The urgency of this first Chapter of Mark’s gospel is put into perspective by this very insight:  ‘He went off to a lonely place to pray’.  Jesus came to do the will of the Father and became obedient to the Father. That submitting to the Father was the grace that helped him to endure suffering, to overcome opposition, to have strength for the mission. It was found in a quiet place. The leper who had been healed by Jesus was told to keep it quiet but he disregarded the request of Jesus. He was given another grace – the strength to proclaim the wonders of the Lord.

As we move into the Season of Lent we would do well to ponder the teaching of Saint Mark in this first Chapter of his Gospel. Go to a lonely, quiet, silent place!  Feel the presence of the Lord there. Seek the Lord’s healing with Faith. Proclaim Him as Lord!