Independence is a Myth

Well, the good news or the bad news first? Well, as it is said, when it comes to the Gospel, if we don’t know the bad news, the good news is no news at all. But you never let evil have the first or the last say.

So the good news first: Jesus knows our weaknesses better than we do. And He knows what we need for healing more than we do. And not only does he want to be with us and for us to be with Him more than we do, He’s doing something about it. If I’ve learned nothing else from this year and a half of pandemic, it’s that God wants us to be here more than we do. He wants us to be reconciled to Him more than we do. This is not something He does reluctantly, but with the full desire of His Sacred heart.

The readings from this last Sunday cry out God’s closeness to us. Jesus groans before He heals the deaf and mute man in Mark’s Gospel. This is the only time this happens. This is the only time in all of the Gospels that this word is used. St. Paul uses it a few times in his letters. Once to the Romans, to talk about about how we are groaning as we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:); and twice again in 2 Corinthians 5:2,4 to describe our groaning as we await new bodies and new life with the resurrection from the dead. So for Paul, this is the kind of groaning, a cry we can’t hold in, like a mother giving birth, as we look at the corruption and desperation of a dying world and we wait for healing and new life. So Jesus joins in that groaning with us. He is closer to our end for healing than we think.

And that Jesus uses the word ephphatha is telling. This is an Aramaic word, which is the language Jesus would have used in His daily life. It was not first and foremost the language of liturgy or business, but of family and friendship. Now Mark only uses Aramaic in his Gospel about five times, only twice for healings. And both of those healings—now for the deaf and mute man, and in chapter five for the raising of Jairus’ daughter (talitha koum)—Jesus is away from the crowds, in a moment of intimacy with the people who need healing. But it’s not some magic words that bring the healing; it’s the closeness, the intimacy of Jesus.

So that’s the good news. Are you ready? There’s more than enough bad news these days. What do we choose from? We can’t keep quiet any more. We groan with the groan of Jesus. We cry out that He be close, that He be the only one who can do something about it. How about that our Catholic President just blatantly denied a truth taught in the Catechism (and science!) about the beginning of life at conception, and is actively looking to protect abortion in Texas? Or how about some social media posts about the efficacy of aborting children with Down Syndrome, and how behind we are as a nation compared to others when it comes to how many such children we murder in the womb. This is ghoulish from political commentator Richard Hanania: “You can’t screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% Of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted. If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome, and similar numbers for other disabilities”; implying here that we would be look down upon for letting such children live. We can’t be silent about this.

In fact, Pope Francis himself has said, “Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court, or kill you.”

Yet, how do we best defend the unborn against abortion. We groan with the groan of Jesus and expect His closeness. We refuse to remain silent. But more importantly than anything else, we love and care for those whom the rest of the world rejects. I’ve been so moved by the story of Catholic journalist and canon lawyer, JD Flynn. Few voices have been so eloquent about caring for children with Down syndrome. He and his wife have adopted a son and a daughter, and have been transformed by the chance to love. Writing about his son and daughter:

I have realized they are not unique because they suffer. They are unique because they do not hide suffering well. It does not occur to them that suffering might be secret or a source of shame. I mask anxiety with a veneer of confident affability. I know how to make it seem I am doing better than I am. I have picked up the idea that I should project strength, independence, and poise. My children have no such pretenses. They are exposed and vulnerable, and they challenge me to live that way. It rarely makes me comfortable. But I have found it often leads to real intimacy and authentic friendship. My children do not exist to teach me lessons, but they have. They have taught me that it is a gift to spend time in the company of someone, with no thought given to the passage of time or the tasks to be completed. They have taught me that independence is a myth and interdependence a strength. They have taught me that love comes from seeing a person as they are not from technocratic assessments of what they can do. They have taught me that our lives are made meaningful in love. //JD Flynn, America Magazine, 19 November, 2020

There is no place we come closer to the groaning of Jesus and His own closeness to us than in the Eucharist. Should we find ourselves deaf to the cries of those around us or to God’s own Word, or should we find ourselves unable to speak out against the horrors of the culture of death and for the dignity of all life from conception to natural death, then Jesus in Eucharist is the only place where we will find the healing we and the world need.

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