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Yearning for a new way will not produce it.
Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old, all the while
declaring that you want something new.
The old will defy the new;
The Old will deny the new;
The old will decry the new.
There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.
-Neale Donald Walsch
Our culture is based upon the myth that we are free. And yet we really aren’t. We consistently are tempted to give it away, to swear allegiance, to give our lives to other things, people and forces. We live in captivity to our vices, our dysfunctions, our passions, our hungers, and thirsts. It’s not bad or good, it just is. It’s what it means to be human.
Today’s section is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus: the victory of God over the forces that diminish life. It’s not just preaching about God’s love and desire for us, it’s the actual re-creating and doing of it. Jesus heals and makes whole. Freeing a man from an unclean spirit, Peter’s mother-in-law from a paralyzing fever, and a man cut off from his community due to the life-destroying isolation of leprosy. Mark uses the same language to describe all three healings, as acts of re-creation in God’s image, a restoration to the wholeness that God intends for us and for us to live together.
In Greek and Hebrew, the words “unclean spirit” can also be translated as “impure, or contaminated breath.” It harkens back to the breath (spirit – same word) that God breathes into the first humans in the creation story of Genesis 2. What makes humans human is being created in the image of God, being completed with the breath that is from God, the same purity of spirit. In each of these healings, the afflicted person is less than what God intended. Their breath, spirit, has been contaminated, deformed, made captive. The person is no longer how God intended and created the person to be. Healing and preaching are thus the same thing for Jesus – an act of restoration and recreation, reminding us of who and how we are made. Of how we are to live and love rooted in the image of God which is our intended state – one of wholeness, love, justice, and peace – summed up within the notion of “clean” “pure” and “whole.” It’s what Jesus longs for us to know. What he tells the leprous man he wants him to live. It’s what Jesus frees these folks – and us – to know and re-become.
At New Year’s we often talk of making resolutions to improve ourselves, to focus ourselves, to free ourselves from bad habits. But God’s victory isn’t just to make us better, it’s to make us new, to restore us to the glorious beauty with which God created us, and intends us to know, live and share together.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation •