Approaching, Grasping, Lifting Up

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February 4, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

February 4, 2018
Mark 1:29-39
Fr. George Smiga

The evangelist Mark can be quite succinct. Whereas other evangelists will take a few paragraphs or even a whole chapter to tell a story, Mark can do it in a few words. Mark shows this ability in today’s gospel where Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law with three words. When he hears that she is sick he approaches her, grasps her by the hand, and lifts her up. Three words: approaching, grasping, lifting. And when he does this, she is cured of her fever. Although brief, Mark’s approach is nevertheless profound. In fact one could say that he has outlined the entire Christian life in these three words.

What does it mean to be a disciple? It means that there are moments in our lives when Christ approaches us, grasps us, and lifts us up. What do we mean by lifting up? Look at Peter’s mother-in-law. With her fever, she should have stayed in bed. But Jesus lifts her up so that she can provide for the people in her house. She does this immediately. As soon as she is lifted up she begins to serve others. So being lifted up is a call to service. This then is the pattern of the Christian life. Christ approaches us, touches us, and calls us to serve.

When did Christ approach you? Was it when you were a child and saw your parents praying? Was it when you were in college and struggled with the meaning of life? Was it when you were in difficulty and had nowhere else to turn? How did Christ touch you? Was it through the smile of the person you grew to love? Was it in the experience of finding consolation in the loss of someone who was close to you? Was it in your awareness of the poverty and violence that cripple our world? Whenever Christ approached you, however Christ touched you, he then called you to serve. We know this is true because this is what we do. We serve our families. We serve our friends. We serve those in need. But here is the important thing to remember about Mark’s gospel passage. The three words that Mark gives us must be kept together. Because if we try to serve without remembering Jesus’ approach and Jesus’ touch, that service can seem an imposition and can become a burden.

We’re always trying to serve our families, but that can at times be difficult. When your children do not listen or disappoint you, when your spouse does not understand you, it is easy to say, “What am I doing this for?” It is then that you need to connect your present service to the approach and the touch of Jesus. If you remember the joy and love that you felt as you first committed yourself to your spouse on your wedding day, if you remember the wonder that you felt as you first held a son or daughter in your arms, then you can understand how your service to them today is connected to a much larger love. We serve our friends, and we serve our country. Yet when our friends slight us or hurt us, when our country seems to forget its obligation to care for the poor and the disenfranchised, we can say, “What’s the use of even trying?” It is then that we need to remember how Christ touched us in the gift of our friend, the years that we have spent together, the experiences we have shared. It is then that we need to remember the blessing of being born in this country and having the freedom that it offers. Remembering Jesus’s touch will give us new energy and the will to serve.

A disciple is one whom Jesus has approached, touched and lifted up. But these three actions must be kept together. Because the one who approaches us and touches us is the source of our power, and it is only through him that we will find the strength to serve.

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