Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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February 14, 2021
A BROKEN HEART OF CARE
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The opening verses of Mark’s Gospel introduce us to the “power” of Jesus which is no less than his “authority” over demons, nature, the human heart, and the world. The temptation is to think of authority as power over people for the benefit of one’s self. Jesus, however, thinks of his authority not in terms of coercive power but self-giving service (see Mark 10: 41-45). The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel introduces the odd feature of the “secret” as Jesus instructs those who witness his power to “tell no one.” He refuses to use his power to accumulate wealth or reward of any kind for himself. This attitude defines the mission of Jesus and anyone who would be his follower.
Mark 1: 40-45 presents us with powerful and important teachings. There is more here than information. We see the Master at work hoping we will be inspired and transformed by his example of humility, courage, and openness to others.
After spending time in prayer (Mark 1: 35), Jesus decides to leave his hometown venturing out into a greater world of need and uncertainty. Capernaum would have given him fame, shelter, and security. His popularity would insure his well-being and success. He leaves his success behind and journeys down a road to meet a man who will cause the heart of Jesus to break.
The man suffers from a dreaded skin disease rendering him unclean and unfit for normal society. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t meet someone who is outcast. Sometimes we ourselves feel like outsiders in our own homes, towns, places of worship, or simply walking down a street. We long to be loved, welcomed, embraced.
The nameless man with his dreaded disease falls at the feet of Jesus who does not run away in horror. The man makes a request of Jesus, a request we would expect. What is unique about this encounter is how the nameless frames his request, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” All of us have the power to do something. The crucial question is, “Do we want to do what we have the power to do?” Jesus responds affirmatively by embracing his friend with his arms. Jesus has touched the untouchable declaring, “I do want to, be clean!”
Verse 41 is key to appreciating the power and wisdom of this episode. Mark informs us, “the heart of Jesus was broken with compassion.” Long before Jesus cleansed the man by embracing him, Jesus felt the alienation, hardship, and isolation afflicting the man for so long. Jesus allowed himself to be immersed in the treacherous waters of the plight of the man. The “miracle” is not so much in the cleansing as in the caring, broken-heart of Jesus.
We might never perform the miracles we so desire but others may recognize in us the miracle that truly matters: a broken-heart of care. Sometimes all we can do is care. Our broken-heart testifies to how much we care. For many, our care is the miracle, our embrace is the healing, and our brokenness is the openness others long to receive.
Blessings to you Holy Community for your heart of caring love.