Saturday, January 15, 2011

Doctor, Doctor

Jesus uses a beautiful image in today's Gospel (Mark 2: 13-17), that of a doctor. The scribes who saw Him eating with "many tax collectors and sinners" questioned His disciples about this. Before they could answer, Jesus gives the beautiful line "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do."
In stating this obvious fact, Jesus places His ministry (and consequently, that of His followers) squarely in the camp of taking care of those who were not perfect. In fact, even though the Law prohibited people from associating with "sinners", Jesus ministered to them in an intense way. "I did not come to call the righteous but sinners”, He told them. And it certainly is a good thing.
Now, I do not imagine there are many people who do not consider themselves sinners in one way or another. (Although you would be surprised by the number of people who start confessing their sins with "Well, Father, I really don't have any sins to confess.") And there is a good reason for not putting ourselves in the way of temptation by hanging around people who do bad things. But we have to be careful and not make the mistake of thinking that God does not love them, or loves them less than us. Especially as a priest, I have an obligation to try and help those whom society rejects as unsuitable - those who would be considered today's equivalent of "tax collectors". As uncomfortable as I may be with what they do, I have an obligation to reveal the beauty of God's love and mercy to them. And I have to do it in the same way Jesus did, by gently loving them myself. It is a challenge at times, to be sure, but as a follower of Christ I can do no less.
This day we will all encounter many people. How will we react to them? If they have a physical ailment or disability, what will we think? Will we consider them to be less important or worthy than ourselves, simply because of that illness? And if we think they are a great "sinner", what will do? Will our reaction be like that of Jesus? Will we love them or will we condemn them?
Maybe next time we pray, instead of calling out "my God, my God", we should cry out "Doctor, Doctor"! Perhaps that will help us realize that we are all in need of the Divine Physician.

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