Monday, January 16, 2012

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany Year B

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany Year B
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Isaiah 40: 21-31; Psalm 147: 1-12,21; I Corinthians 9: 16-23; Mark 1: 29-39

This stirring passage from Isaiah makes a sweeping claim: the Holy One created all that exists, remains deeply engaged and will guarantee not only creation's survival, but its flourishing. This knowledge reinvigorates all who admit it-- "those who wait on the Lord." Even those who are world weary will rediscover enthusiasm for life. Singing this hymn reminds those who sing it that God's investment in creation is inexhaustible and renews the dis-spirited.

"It is good to sing hymns to our God," the psalmist begins. The stanzas of the hymn he composes recall God as builder, healer, the One who maintains the universe, and, just as importantly, the One who brings justice. Those who sing this hymn "long for God's kindness."

Paul forgoes any privileges that might accrue to him because of his work and status in the early church. He also explains how he has used different his unique status as a scholar trained in Torah and a Roman citizen to appeal to diverse constituencies. He has made these choices so that he can freely share the good news with anyone, at any place, at any time.

Mark offers a narrative that shows exactly how Jesus' influence/impact spread. He heals one person, the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Word spreads and the neighbors show up at the front door with their needs. Jesus heals and performs exorcisms freely to "many." The next day, before everyone else is up, Jesus went alone to pray. The first four followers go looking for him to tell him even more have shown up. But Jesus says they must move on to the more towns and villages so he can benefit even more people.

Generosity, inexhaustible generosity. Eagerness to share. Rushing from person to person, house to house, town to town, responding to needs expressed and needs even before they are expressed. Giving with no preconditions, indiscriminately. Giving not as a gesture, but more like uncontrollable compulsion! If Jesus is the mirror of God, as his followers find, then Jesus has the same traits of God and the same impact on people.

Given the thrust of Jean-Luc Marion's work, his regard for "miracle" should not come as a surprise.

Marion sees that each of us is a "gifted" person who engages daily with other "gifted" persons. The gift is life itself! We understand ourselves, each other and all existence best if we admit/acknowledge that there is more in each of us than we can understand, manage or certainly classify. Indeed, some of our experiences of the sheer abundance of life are so singular we use the only word that seems appropriate-- "miracle."

Responding to Marion's work, Emmanuel Falque, professor of philosophy at Instiut Catholique in Paris quotes Marion and then continues: "' [T]he miracle will no longer bear
on a physical event, but on my consciousness itself.' (Marion, "A Diue, rien d'impossible," p. 49) The true miracle, according to Marion, is in this way a miracle of my consciousness, a lived experience in the conversion of my way of looking at things rather than in the things themselves." (Kevin Hart, ed, Counter-Experience: Reading Jean-Luc Marion, p.192)

  Each gospel has its own organizing theme and Mark's gospel distinctly sounds its theme right at the beginning of the narrative: the singular trait of God, which Jesus also showed spectacularly, is generosity, indiscriminate generosity to the point of changing people's lives. We know Jesus is of God because we are told wherever he has been there are always people left who look at life in a completely new way. The best word they can find to describe their life-changing experience is "miracle."  Just as the text of Isaiah testifies that God, who is "unsearchable," can be known as "Creator," "healer," and the One who "sustains," so Mark's Jesus is introduced as a "healer"  and one who has power over all other powers. 

This experience is not prone to prose but to poetry and to song. Isaiah says (sings) that singing this song revives even the most world weary person you know (yourself ?). The psalmist (147: 1-12,21) offers some stanzas for those who "long for God's kindness." His song is about God as the always reliable builder, healer, maintainer and bringer of justice.