When we think of power, we’re inclined to think of waring armies rather than trusting souls. We think of brute strength and endless resources of money and machinery that bully and force people into allegiance. Today’s scripture reminds us that we have it all wrong. Love and compassion are the real signs of power.
Jesus knew about power, where it is and where it is not. Over against the steady steamrolling of humanity caused by the raw force of Roman arms, Jesus located the source of power in the will of God. Jesus looked deeply into the human heart and brought God’s compassionate power to bear.
The Gospel of Mark 1:29-39 records the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law. When this happened the floodgates flew wide open and surprising new things began to happen. The Evangelist writes breath-takingly of Jesus’ compassion that spread like wild fire throughout occupied and weary Galilee. The “whole town” gathered at the door when Jesus was calmly visiting with Peter and his family. Suddenly, all kinds of people came with all manner of ills. At the time of Jesus, people interpreted some illnesses as possession by demons, and references of this find their way into today’s reading. The point is that Jesus cured people of their maladies, rendered evil powerless, and set them free.
In Jesus’ touch, we learn that God’s power is the reverse of our human expectations. The full force of God’s power is brought into play when we see Jesus in the faces of the lowly and needful ones. So much for a remote and vengeful God. So much for God thundering down vengeance from afar.
In Jesus we see that God wills our happiness and wants us to be healed. Sometimes our dreams seem to go off in fruitless directions like plants out of place, like unruly children, like un-channeled streams. We tend to tap into the wrong force of power. We are easily distracted and choose manipulation rather than tender, loving care. We choose to charge ahead when we would do better standing still, face-to-face with our God in the silence of our hearts.
We would do better to be alert to the grace of the present moment, to accept the healing power of the Lord who cured Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law.
May the healing power of God who is loving and compassionate come into your lives.
Fr. Hugh Duffy