Mark 1:40-45 Msg:
40 A leper came to him, begging on his knees, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”
41-45 Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy. Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: “Say nothing to anyone. Take the offering for cleansing that Moses prescribed and present yourself to the priest. This will validate your healing to the people.” But as soon as the man was out of earshot, he told everyone he met what had happened, spreading the news all over town. So Jesus kept to out-of-the-way places, no longer able to move freely in and out of the city. But people found him, and came from all over.
A local business owner hereabouts had this habit of replying, “Fine thanks and you?” whenever you said “Hello”. The how-are-you-I’m-good-and-you-I’m-fine social ritual we employ was so ingrained she was a step ahead of the actual conversation! The French have gone even further – they’ve boiled it down to its very basics, using “Ça va?” as both question and answer.
In a sense today’s reading in Mark reminds me of this exchange. We often ask each other how we are without any real expectation of honesty. Here this man told Jesus, “If you want, you could heal me.” But how many people who didn’t care enough to see him healed, how many people who thought he deserved his illness lurk behind his statement? Perhaps that’s why Jesus was so emotional – he saw this man’s history. He saw all the “I’m-fine-thanks-and-you’s?” this man had heard in his life as people scurried past, too preoccupied or self-righteous or apathetic to see the world of pain unsaid.
Unlike them, Jesus wanted this leprous man to be well. “I do choose,” he tells him. To me that sums up the character of Jesus: patient, loving, fierce, he always chose to tarry a while with people, to break bread with them, to speak with them, to listen, to heal, to touch. Jesus doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would hurry past a conversation with a curt “I’m fine thanks, how are you?”
It seems to me that our entire life consists of a single choice: between a short “Ça va? Ça va!”, or the much messier pause that Jesus employed, whether it was by wells or at dinner tables or in the temple or by the sea shore. This man who realised how short his ministry would be never acted like it. And him, the Son of God! Are our human schedules really comparable? Or was he onto something we’ve come to lose as we cross streets to avoid conversations?
Dearest Father, Brother, Friend, this week help me to choose as you did – to choose people, to see them as you see them, to realise that your grace for me is really grace for them, too. Amen.
Have a good week,