Another week of 2021 has passed. We are still cringing from the raid on the Capitol building last Wednesday and the promise of more of the same to come if the insurgents have their way. Hopefully, things will calm down somewhat, but there’s no cast-in-stone guarantee. It seems almost humorous that we were so eager to see the beginning of 2021 and a rising hope of things getting better. So far, we’re still waiting for the better. Oh, well, change comes slowly, no matter how much we wish it to be otherwise.
Reading the gospel for Saturday’s Daily Office, it seems Jesus may have been getting the same kind of vibes from the time, place, and religious-governmental groups of his day. The first part (23-28) tells of the hungry disciples walking through some cornfields on the sabbath. As they walked, they broke off some heads of grain to eat. Simultaneously, the Pharisees began to question Jesus as to why his disciples were disobeying the sabbath law regarding doing no work on that day. Jesus reminded them that the great David and his men had once eaten the bread of the Presence from the house of God. Jesus considered that supplying food for hungry people was more important than making them wait until the sabbath was over to eat. “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath,” (27b) he told them. Caring for the hungry was more crucial than merely rigorously following the law.
The second story speaks of Jesus entering the synagogue and meeting a man with a withered hand. A withered or missing hand was a serious matter. Each hand had a specific function to perform; one was for eating (usually done with the right hand), while the other was used for personal hygiene only. The Pharisees who had followed him were waiting to see what Jesus would do. Jesus called the disabled man to him before turning to the Pharisees, asking, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” It wasn’t a question the Pharisees wanted to answer. Jesus then healed the man’s hand as the Pharisees scuttled out to meet with the Herodians and form a conspiracy to destroy Jesus.
The stories reminded me of some things that we’ve been going through for some time. More people have been going hungry, homeless, sick, and held back. In contrast, others have gathered together to conspire against those who have tried to help the less fortunate. The rich have gotten richer while the middle class has shrunk, and the group called lower-income have grown larger and larger in numbers. It doesn’t seem like things have changed all that much, have they?
Seeing pictures of guards and police battered by fire extinguishers, sticks, flagstaffs and other implements, office doors breached, and personal and governmental property carted away makes me wonder. If Jesus had been standing in the Capitol, would the mob, especially those who claimed to be “Christians,” have been so full of hatred that they would have attacked him too? Would they even have noticed he was there? Jesus was ruthlessly beaten himself before his crucifixion and didn’t fight back. I feel, though, had he seen been there in the Capitol building, he would have done what he could to save and comfort the victims off the crowd’s wrath or even submitted himself to the mob’s anger to save others. Maybe he would have stood with Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, diverting the rioters away from the Senate, undoubtedly saving many from injury or worse.
Undoubtedly, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were convinced of their own rightness and righteousness. I’m sure they were confident they were doing the right thing in God’s eyes. I wish I could feel the rioters in DC had the same motivation rather than just fighting to preserve a status quo against those who are not of a certain race, color, creed, ethnicity, orientation, and political persuasion.
Perhaps looking at the Markan stories through the lenses of what life was like then and comparing it to what I see now makes me draw the comparisons I make, unfair though they might be. I hope that those who seek to live as Jesus taught will continue in that mission of living. I also hope that those who sought to do evil and damage might see what their actions have brought about and repent. Maybe then we can join in reconciliation and unity to bring about the Kingdom of God.
I can dream that this happens, as well as hope and pray that it does. I know for sure that I’m praying for a peaceful week, a safe transition, and the beginning of a new period of kindness, love, and helpfulness.
I’m putting in prayers for safety, sensibility, and also for those impacted by the violence we’ve seen. I will remember those who have been affected by the pandemic and its offshoots, and for those who help the rest of us stay safe and healthy, even at the risk of their lives.