“preaching the good news and expelling demons”
Occasionally, as I am surfing through the TV channels, I pause a few minutes to watch a well known healing evangelist. He seems like a nice enough guy. There have been some reports that he makes too much money and that some of his claimed miracles are not genuine. I don’t know about all that. I do enjoy listening to the singing and watching the people. They close their eyes and many start to cry. When someone is brought to the stage to report a healing the entire audience shouts and applauds. I once saw a group of nuns on the stage. The healer prayed for “these sweet sisters” and they fell, almost gracefully, to the stage floor.
I am not excessively cynical of such shows. I myself have participated in Healing Masses, laying hands on the sick. I hope some of the people went away healed. I worried about that. I did not want someone already suffering to suffer more, feeling as though they were not good enough to receive a gift from God. Some I know were not healed. I think, though, it was enough for many that someone would touch them and spend a few moments with them in their pain. The worst part of sickness is feeling alone in it. The best gift we can offer is our presence.
But still I wonder if the TV healing evangelist has it right. Are great crowds lined up, pleading to be healed, what it is all about? Jesus wondered about it too, that first night after his healing ministry began. The whole town it seemed had gathered outside Simon’s house. They lined up, waiting to be healed by the new miracle worker. Jesus was so troubled by this experience that he preferred to go back out to the wilderness place, the place where he first encountered the devil. He needed to rethink his ministry. What was he going to be all about? Was he meant to be a miracle worker or was this only a part of his overall purpose and destiny?
The next day his disciples came looking for him. They were all excited because their leader was such an apparent success and this so early in his endeavors. They wanted to bring him back to Capernaum where the town was waiting for the next big miracle service. The disciples thought it would be neat to sit on stage next to their rising star. But Jesus must have discerned otherwise. He went out to the place of his first temptation to test what he was presently feeling inside. Was he being tempted again? Tempted to do something good but miss out on the best? Tempted to focus his ministry too narrowly? Tempted to rise to power by popular demand? Jesus decided to move on. There were people in the next village who needed to hear the good news. There were demons throughout the whole of Galilee who had to be expelled. Along the way more people would be healed. They were healed because this is a sign of the dawning kingdom. They were healed because God does care about our pain. But the healing was always done along the way. It was never to be the main focus — the stage event. The main event was preaching the good news and expelling demons and then calling people to choose between the two, to choose the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Darkness. Jesus continued this plan of action all the way to the cross where the good news was fully demonstrated and evil was totally vanquished.
I hope my TV healing evangelist is moving on too. I hope good and evil are being contrasted and that people are being called to choose. I hope his ministry includes a cross. And if people are healed along the way, then I guess it’s O.K. to shout and applaud.
Fifth Sunday of the Year Jb 7: 1-7; I Cor 9: 16-23; Mk 1; 29-39
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.