By Canon Gerry Conroy
Mark’s Gospel begins the story of Jesus’ ministry with a day in the life of Jesus. He enters a synagogue on the Sabbath and begins teaching, but the story quickly develops into a day of miracle cures. I suppose there is enough sickness and illness in the world for Jesus to have spent each and every day of his life curing people of their ailments. When you are ill, it is difficult to concentrate on anything else. Getting your health back is the first priority and everything else can be relegated to the back burner. Mark tells us everyone was looking for Jesus, but after spending the night in prayer, he decided it was time to move on because importantly in prayer he had found a perspective on what was happening that he didn’t get from those around him. The next day everyone was looking for him; presumably they were bringing more sick for healing; he could have spent the next day and the next healing people, but there was something important for him to do that prayer had shown him.
It’s much the same with this pandemic. Getting the vaccine out, cutting down the transmission of the disease is the main priority. We recognise other things going on as important, but they are all having to take second place. Everyone is aware that there is trouble looming in terms of the economy and family finances, the education of young people and their prospects for the future, there are concerns about the mental and emotional health of people, all items which are starting to receive more news time, but it is still hard to look beyond the pressing physical side of the pandemic.
Even if the government’s main priority has to be dealing with controlling the spread of the virus, we as individuals have to take responsibility for other aspects as much as we can. We have to take responsibility not only for our physical well-being but also for our emotional and mental health and we have to pay attention to our spiritual well-being as well because all of our concerns everything we do, all our plans for the future, all our fears for the future, our joys and hopes, our tears and despair are ultimately pointless and doomed to destruction unless we open our lives to God and the promise of eternal life he gives.
Christ walked away from all those people who were looking for him that day, looking for a physical cure because he stubbornly proclaimed a happiness of a different order. He told us that this happiness we look for, this physical well-being we want for ourselves and our families is not the ultimate hope that is ours and if we make it out to be that, then we are heading for eternal ruin.
Christ went on to heal other people of their ailments, but he always pointed them to something more. So too Christianity stubbornly insists that only the love of God for His own sake will save us in the end.
Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton