13TH JANUARY 2022
1SAMUEL 4:1-11 PSALM 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25 MARK 1:40-45
IF YOU CANNOT BE ANGRY AT WHAT IS EVIL, YOU CANNOT LOVE WHAT IS GOOD.
Today’s Gospel reading tells us that Jesus was moved by pity. Other Bible translations says that he was moved by compassion and this pity or compassion is also mentioned in Mark 6:34 when Jesus saw a large crowd and his heart was filled with pity because the crowd was like sheep without a shepherd. It is clear that Jesus knew the situation of the crowd and that is why he immediately started to teach them. It is the pity that he had that made him give them the direction to follow on matters of faith.
This pity or compassion is also mentioned in Mark 9:22 when Jesus meets the father of a boy who had an evil spirit that made him foam at his mouth and his body would stiffen; the disciples of Jesus were unable to remove the evil spirit out of the boy and the father tells Jesus, “Have pity on us and help us, if you possibly can,” and indeed out of pity Jesus helps them by driving out the evil spirit.It is the same pity that makes Jesus heal the leper in today’s Gospel reading.
The word pity is used to show that you are disappointed about something and you wish things could happen differently. This definition therefore means that Jesus was disappointed with the leper’s condition and wished that he could not be in that situation. Jesus does not remain at the level of feeling pity for the leper but he puts that pity into action. In other words Jesus is angry with the leper’s situation because it is a situation that is unfair, cruel and unacceptable. Why? In those days, lepers were discriminated against by being prevented from physically mingling with other people; it means that they could not go to the synagogue or to the market or to any other place. They had a very difficult life and to add salt to the injury, they were thought to have sinned thus making them have leprosy as a punishment from God.
If Jesus is moved with pity or with anger, then we learn that the intensity of his emotion is not directed to the leper but to the powers that hold people in thrall, totally controlling them. These powers are expressed in all sorts of way – through illness, of course, but in the systems and manners and values that humans have developed to cope with a world subject to powers other than God.
This anger by Jesus against such powers is also well seen in Mark 8:33, when Peter, though having made the right confession about Jesus, is rebuked by Jesus for trying to impose his own understanding of Messiah on Jesus. Peter’s misconception is linked to Satan, as are those demons whom Jesus throw out repeatedly.
We learn from Jesus that if you cannot be angry at what is evil, then you cannot love what is good. It is unfortunate that sometimes we are not moved by pity or anger even in situations that calls us to have those emotions so as to change situations we do not like. Lack of pity or anger in such situations leads to indifference and intolerance and ignorance and this an affront to our faith.
What areas in our society need us to be moved by pity or anger? The leper asked Jesus “If you will, you can make me clean,” and Jesus moved with pity replies “I will, be clean”. From this reply, what is it that prevents us from willing to stretch out our hand and touching modern day leprosy so as to make others clean and acceptable in our society?