“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Hero′di-ans against him, how to destroy him.” –Mark 3:1-6
I write here an awful lot about healing and freedom. Being free from sin, vices, and other chains that hold me captive is a struggle for me. It is a struggle for all of us. In many ways, the desire to be free and the struggle of trying to live an authentically free life is the lifelong battle for the Christian. We know who our savior is, we know he offers us relationship with him and likewise desires our freedom, but it takes an awful long time – a lifetime, in fact – for the goal to be reached. This doesn’t mean we can be indifferent about it or that there aren’t real things we can do to help on our journey toward greater freedom in Christ.
Some points to consider from the gospel passage for today:
- The Pharisees watched Jesus to see what he would do, hoping there’d be a reason to condemn him. How do we approach the Lord? Are we skeptical of him, believing that somehow he is at our service? Am I looking to condemn him? What do I expect from him: healing or condemnation?
- To the man with the withered hand, Jesus very simply says, “come here.” Lots of times in the course of our pain, especially with struggles of identity, self-worth, purpose, etc we can convince ourselves that we don’t really matter to anybody. “Nobody notices me.” “Nothing I can do for this community/person/family/project is going to be worthwhile.” A priest at the college seminary always used to say, “There’s no worse place to be than to feel like you’re a dud.” Even the people whom we revere as the most “put together” feel this way at times, sometimes more than anyone. But Jesus, God himself, says simply, “come here.” And in that statement, he says it all: “you are good. you are good enough. come here. rest with me.”I think here of Chris Tomlin’s song, “Good Good Father.” Check it out if you’ve never heard it.
The refrain goes like this:
“You’re a good, good father.
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s you are
and I’m loved by you,
it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”
God could write this song, but the other way:
“You’re a good, good son.
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
and I’m in love with you,
you’re made by me, you’re made by me, you’re made by me.”
- Then Jesus tells the man, “stretch out your hand.” What did Jesus do when he told the man to “come here?” Certainly he didn’t just let him stand there as he spoke to the Pharisees. He embraced him, he touched the man’s hand. So by the time Jesus tells him to stretch out the hand, something that would have been impossible until only moments ago, the healing has already begun. But the healing could not be completed without the man’s cooperation with Christ and his desire for the man to be healed.So it is with us. Remember, “God calls man first.” (CCC 2567) Anything we do, even the very first thing we do, to foster a relationship with God is already a response to his prompting.
Still, can you imagine how painful it must have been to stretch out that hand? But the presence of Jesus and his comforting call to “come here” have helped the man not to be dismayed by the pain and choose the path to healing, of stretching out his hand.
During one of his talks last semester, the rector at Mundelein said something that has stuck with me: “Specificity is the path to healing.” I can go around and around my head about what’s bothering me for days and days and eventually it will all blend together and I can’t remember what I’m upset about or why.
Stretch out what’s withered. Lay it all out there. In prayer, first of all, which is the safest place on earth. We can literally say anything we want and be assured that only love is looking back at us. But find someone else, too! A friend, a parent, someone you trust to receive what you’re saying and to receive you as you in that moment of weakness and who will be able to lift you up in prayer and in encouragement.
Put the pain into words. Stop “feeling” for a sec and refocus; think, “What am I feeling? How did I get here?”
“Come here.” “Stretch out your hand.”
And hear him sing to you in your pain, “you are good.”