This blog provides a meditation on the daily readings of the reformed Churches along with a headline from world news:
Nepalese man takes bath in holy water he believes will cure desease
King James Version (KJV)
7 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
1 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
These two stories are intended by Luke to illustrate the authority of Jesus. In the first however, he not only shows the authority of Jesus to restore health, but also the nature of the authority. What startles Jesus is the deep understanding of the centurion, “I am am set under authority, with soldiers under me…” Jesus too is under authority, a crucial agent in the chain of God’s command. Because he speaks for God, he commands obedience. Jesus, as a human being issues the divine command for life to conquer illness, and as we see in the second story, death itself. I’ve used the authorised version because it makes it clear that Jesus commands the boy to do what God will command him to do after his own death, “Arise!”
Rather than argue about whether Jesus could raise the dead, readers of the gospel are meant to see themselves as authorised by Jesus to take personal responsibility for God’s command for life to flourish. In the face of everything that diminishes life and tries to extinguish it, Jesus’ disciples have to find a way of issuing the divine command, “Arise!” This is the truth of Liberation Theology that the thuggish Pope John-Paul the Second tried to conceal and left the blood of slaughtered Jesuits on his holy hands. Yes, perhaps those priests didn’t need to use Marxist analysis to understand the crushing poverty of their people, but they did accept their duty to speak God’s command, “Arise!” even in the face of threats from dictators to their own lives. They told poor people that God wanted them to refuse to be less than men and women, refuse to accept starvation, deprivation, and premature death; to trust in Jesus’ non-violent ways in the face of government terror; to believe enough in God’s love to stand on their own feet. This was in many parts of South America a great movement of the Holy Spirit. And the man above all who could have protected them with his Papal authority, abandoned them because he had trivial objections to their theology and didn’t like their independence.
Now a new pope comes with a new interpretation of God’s message to the poor, but if it simply consists in an irrelevant reproduction of St. Francis, it will not measure up to the poverty which is now facing so many Europeans as well as millions on other continents. God is on the side of life; he opposes disease and death; he tells those faced with death and even the dead themselves to arise. And he delegates responsibility for this command to his Son Jesus and all who trust in him.