Mark, 7, 24 – 37 no. 22 Oct 20

A most interesting story in Mark’s Gospel is the account in which Jesus cures a daughter who had an unclean spirit. Unlike the bulk of the Gospel, this cure takes place outside the recognized boundaries of Israel and is performed for a Greek at the request of a Greek. Indeed, the story tells us that Jesus is near Tyre of Phoenicia; rare is Jesus outside Israel in his public life! Actually, Luke will not place him outside Israel at all. What we have here is a cure story, but, as usual, accompanied by something more than an expression of healing power. The focus of the story is the interplay between Jesus and the mother of the possessed daughter. Jesus is clear about his understanding of the mission his Father has given him: to preach repentance to his people, Israel. The woman, though not Israelite, makes one think of the entire plan of God for all creation: that we all share in His goodness. As the OT indicates (with its beginning with Adam rather than with Abraham), God wants all people to share in the wonderful goods of creation. Jesus’ willingness to share his power with the non-Jew is recognition of the thrust of the heart of God towards all people, especially those in need; it is only right, Jesus says, that he share with others what appears to be his power given for the sake of Israel. When all is said and done, we have not only an opening to the Gentile world in this story, but repeated again, a clear expression of the power of Jesus over the demon world. To the preceding miraculous cure story Mark adds the cure of a deaf man with a speech impediment; we are again in an area outside the formal boundaries of Israel. Without direct expressions, we sense that Jesus’ mission is to include more than Israel; he is circling around the outer rim of the Sea of Galilee, from west to east, arriving in the area called the Decapolis (’Ten Cities’). This story is remarkable for its attention to the detail of how Jesus touched the man’s ears and using his own spittle, touched the man’s tongue, and finally called out "Be opened!" His call is a command to perfect what would remain, without Jesus, very imperfect. That Jesus works this wonder to the astonishment of all is underlined by the words of the crowd, a quotation almost like sayings about God in the OT and applicable to previous healings by Jesus: "He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the mute speak". Upon seeing the ill Gentile, Jesus intends to heal, but he does it apart from the crowds who brought the man to him. Too, he asks that they not talk about this miracle. Often in this Gospel we have heard Jesus ask that word not spread about his miracles, and his request is often ignored. For some reason Mark makes ’keeping secret the powers of Jesus’ a secret; not that he is unwilling to recount the use of these powers, but there seems to be something about them that might lead to misunderstanding. Only when the life of Jesus is complete will we begin to understand how these powers, and the person who wields them, should be interpreted. We can conclude with a note that every Gospel writer knows that among the number of obligatory topics that of Jesus’ relations with Gentiles must be addressed. Each writer does this in his own way; Luke is the most extreme, eliminating Jesus’ dealing with even a few Gentiles and adding an entire book (Acts) to treat this reality. John Kilgallen, SJ
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