If you had to summarize the point of the Christian life, it would be in a relationship with Jesus. We are disciples of Jesus because we have encountered Him, he has somehow come into our lives and said to us "follow me," and those words rang with something deeper and more beautiful than we have ever known. We hear it in our ears and yet it at the same time hits us hard in the gut and in a subtle way moves our heart gently to a huge change.
The Gospel of Mark that we are hearing speaks of Jesus' encounters with individuals in a special way. The language would have made clear sense to the Christian communities it was written from and read in. It is said with some certainty that Mark was written in or near Rome around 60-65ad. This would be the time that Peter was arrested and crucified, so Mark, who had worked alongside Saint Paul as well, was probably transcribing and organizing Peter's eyewitness account. However, Peter and Mark naturally would have focused on things that connected to their faith community. So today's Gospel is st th same time an eyewitness account, an interpretation on that account, and a sort of specific story tailored to the persecuted Christians of Rome and beyond.
So why all this information? Because I've been in a teacher-mode way more often than I am used to! No, just kidding. It's because Jesus' encounter had some details in it that still make sense to us today if we think about it properly.
First, Jesus takes the man outside away from everyone and everything. He separated him so it is practically just the two of them. For Mark's era, when Christisnity was illegal and thought a type of revolution against the pagan culture, the church could only gather in private. People had to meet Jesus away from the crowd. Think even today of the monastery and th convent, where men & women flee from the world to encounter Jesus in a radical way, forever. Certainly today in our post-Christian culture, we do not meet Jesus openly and easily on the city streets of Chicago or Indianapolis, but if we do, he sort of draws us away to encounter us more deeply. How often do we spend time in silence, away from the crowds, on purpose, with the goal of meeting Jesus there? Do we sacrifice time to pray every day?
Th second detail about this one-on-one encounter is that Jesus heals this man in a very gritty way. This is the God who simply said "let there be light" and there was. But here he takes the man's arm, walks out, cries out to God, puts his fingers in his ears and spits & touches his tongue. For Mark's community, they would have known and seen how Gos was transforming the lives of Christian after Christian: in the grittiness of the sacraments. God uses still these very real tangible ways to heal us. In every single Mass, in every single Confession, we are encountering Jesus. He desires to take us into the silence and heal us. Do we follow Him? Do we meet Him regularly?
Thirdly, where we meet Jesus is in the Church. When Christ takes the man from th me crowd, this is a symbol of the Church community. The word for "church" in Greek literally means "the group called out," meaning the people called out of the ordinary ways of the world to be different and separate, to be holy. Jesus in a sense takes this man to church, he calls him away to be separate and to encounter Him there. It is still the same today as it was in 65ad.
As we come before Jesus today, let us beg Him to heal us in the grittiness of the Sacraments of His Church and stay a community called out, separate, and holy that continues to welcome new members to find Christ here.