Monday, March 31, 2014 – Week of 4 Lent, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
I begin every single week with the intention to scale back, downsize, and otherwise get my life into a more manageable container. And yet, here I find myself on one more Monday, wondering why things still feel so difficult to control. It’s both comforting and disconcerting to see in today’s gospel all of the failed attempts that Jesus made to keep a lid on his own ministry.
Jesus seems determined to restrict scale of his work, reserving his healing ministry for some people and not others. When a Gentile woman begs him to heal her daughter, he explains that his first priority is to care for people in his own ethnic group: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The woman boldly challenges Jesus, demanding her share in the “food.” Jesus then breaks out of his neatly contained sphere and heals this woman’s daughter.
In his encounter with a deaf man who had speech impediments, Jesus also tries to keep his work load manageable. Jesus takes this man “aside in private, away from the crowd,” perhaps so Jesus can heal him and yet keep the miracle quiet. Jesus opens the man’s ears and releases his tongue so that he can hear and speak, but Jesus tries to seal this miracle in a container. He orders his disciples to tell no one about this healing . . . and yet “the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” Jesus’ efforts at containment backfire.
As a matter of fact, the very words that Jesus uses to heal the deaf man work against all of Jesus’ attempts to contain his field of ministry and his reputation as a healer. Jesus says, “Ephphatha,” or “Be opened.” It’s actually quite absurd of Jesus to release someone’s tongue from a speech impediment and then expect people to keep their mouths shut about it! Jesus’ work of crossing ethnic and social boundaries–opening hearts and minds and mouths–resists all efforts at containment. Any attempts to restrict or control the work of Jesus will just end in self-defeat, because the work of Jesus is not to contain but to open.
Of course, part of our own experience as human beings is to recognize our own limits. But insofar as our lives participate in the work that Jesus sets in motion, we will probably find it hard to keep a lid on things for long. Perhaps we should just get used to it and be opened!
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.