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Archive for February 18th, 2019


Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html

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