Today we complete Chapter One of Mark.
It concludes with yet another sign of goodness, one that not only confronts the power of physical evil but also is prepared to confront the ritual laws that isolated the leper and controlled the actions of anyone who wished to help. This chapter lays the foundation for the Good News and offers reasons for those who accept the gift of faith in Jesus to act.
One could posit that this incident has inspired followers of Jesus down the centuries to establish hospitals, nursing stations, clinics and the like; to bring healing and wholeness to those suffering and ostracised by diseases. We think of recent people like Damien of Molokai, Teresa of Calcutta and those who first took in the HIV sufferers. In the long history of faithful people, John of God and Camillus of Lellis either founded institutes or reformed existing hospitals to do what Jesus did in today’s gospel reading…not simply to cure, nor restore individuals to the community, but to stretch out the hand and touch.
How grateful are we in Australia for the extraordinary work pioneered by saintly women whose legacy includes hospitals in every state that have helped to create a wonderful health system.
We can say that at this point in Mark, the reader has been given ample grounds to give a proper response to the Good News. Opposition will come in the following chapters (but we take a break and steel ourselves for the annual call of the Lenten season) and we will deal with that challenge many weeks from now.
In the short term, our task is to ask ourselves: is my faith confident to tackle, confront and surmount the power of evil today? That power was evident in Jesus’ time…on one level, hospitals and their ilk are a legacy of ‘stretching out his hand and touching.’
What will ours be?