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    211 Avenue O South
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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Feb. 15, 2015

It’s worth noting: We’ve spent five weeks already in chapter one of Mark’s gospel. So far, Jesus cast out a man’s demon, healed a woman’s fever, and then took on a whole village’s suffering. Now Jesus is confronted by a leper, or at least a man who endures an ailment disfiguring enough to make people afraid of catching what he’s got. This fellow suffers in two directions: physically and also socially. Science tells us that skin is the largest organ of the body. It’s also the only organ people can see. So unlike a heart condition or stomach ailment, when your skin is sick, it’s pretty obvious.

Everything happens with Mark’s usual imperative. The leper wastes no time making his request known, and Jesus responds immediately. The language is strongly emotional: the Greek words imply that Jesus feels both compassion and anger regarding this man’s predicament. Since Mark is the earliest record we have of the Jesus story, people must have remembered that Jesus wasn’t just a blasé fixer or cerebral point-maker in his dealings with human pain. He feels it, and he’s offended by it. This isn’t the way things should be in the Kingdom he is announcing.

Today we hear a lot about “compassion fatigue.” So much global suffering gets reported that we can’t seem to care about it anymore. We get all those solicitations with pictures of needy children, and we avert our eyes because there’s just so much of it. Human history is always one more war, one more conflict, one more ethnic/racial/ religious group abandoning their homes and running for their lives. There’s always another epidemic, another famine, a flood or drought or hurricane or earthquake. We send our dollars. But it seems like our best efforts slip into a black hole of need. It’s easy to get discouraged and to want to change the channel on the world’s everlasting lament.

There’s no evidence Jesus ever experiences compassion fatigue. On the cross, struggling for each breath, Jesus takes pity on the thief next to him who shows remorse, and heals him with words of forgiveness. He looks out from that same cross and sees people screaming for his blood and feels that same pity, asking God’s forgiveness for them too. There seems to be no end to the capacity of genuine love to care and respond to the world’s need. So one more leper, one more blind man, one more grieving mother, one more sick daughter—and Jesus still sees the misery of each one and wills the end of their suffering at once. So let’s not lose heart. Ash Wednesday is this week. It’s another opportunity to peel the calluses off our love, and to begin again. Hope to see you there

– Alice Camille

Bulletin – Feb 15, 2015



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