Epiphany VI (February 12, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Cor. 9:24-27; II Kings 5:1-14; Ps. 30; Mk. 1:40-45
This week we said good bye to our North American guests after an 8-day whirlwind tour of Jordan, Iraq and Palestine-Israel. It is always inspiring to visit with MCC partners and hear how they are working for justice and to build capacity in their communities.
MCC sent a delegation of Iraqi civil society leaders to Washington, D.C., Feb. 3-12, in collaboration with 3P Human Security. The group met with U.S. policymakers, bringing the voices and values of grassroots organizations from across Iraq.
It is a time of great uncertainty for many across the region as Syria slides toward civil war, with government and anti-government clashes increasing. On Friday, 28 persons were killed in Aleppo, which has previously been spared from major violence. Increasing numbers of Syrian refugees are fleeing to Jordan and other bordering countries. By some estimates, nearly 20,000 Syrian refugees are now in Jordan and local aide agencies are scrambling to provide assistance.
Growing talk of military strikes against Iran – and speculation about what form retaliation would take – add to the sense of unease. Meanwhile, domestic situations inside Israel and Iran pose their own challenges. Labor strikes in Israel threaten to shut down airports, seaports, rail services and banks; and in a highly-unusual move in Iran, the parliament summoned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning.
The Common Lectionary readings for this week reflect on the cycle of proclaiming good news and healing. In some cases proclaiming the good news points the path to healing. In other cases, healing is the reason for proclaiming good news.
In the Old Testament reading, Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army, suffers from leprosy. Three servants point him to the way of healing. An Israelite slave girl tells Naaman’s wife that he can go to the prophet Elisha in Israel and find healing. Naaman travels to Israel where Elisha’s servant tells Naaman to bathe 7 times in the Jordan River — a request that Naaman considers to be beneath his dignity. But Naaman’s own servant convinces him to follow Elisha’s advice. When he humbles himself and dips in the Jordan River, Naaman is healed (II Kings 5-1-14).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus also heals a man with leprosy. In spite of the fact that Jesus tells the man not to announce the news of his healing, he “went out and began to proclaim it freely,” thus preventing Jesus from traveling openly. (Mk. 1:40-45).
“O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me,” the psalmist proclaims (Ps. 30:2). Like the joyful leper who Jesus healed, the psalmist declares, “You have turned my mourning into dancing, you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.” (Ps. 30:11-12a)
In the Epistle reading, Paul adds a twist to the cycle of healing and proclamation. He punishes or disciplines his body in order that he may continue to proclaim the good news as well as live it out in his own life. (I Cor. 9:24-27)
It is a time of intense discontent and conflict in this region. Much is in need of healing. While many resort to violence and force as the tools for “managing” conflict, MCC partners and other civil society leaders are proclaiming a new way forward. In this new paradigm, leaders listen to and respect the voices of ordinary people; they provide basic services to all who are in need; they act justly for the benefit of the most vulnerable people.