The Word of Life who overcomes divisions

Ash Wednesday is this week–just two days away. While I’m giving some thought to how I will live Lent 2012, I will regret taking a break from the vibrant details of Jesus’ life that we’ve been reading in the daily and Sunday passages from the Gospel according to Mark. In the past two weeks, I feel that I have been allowed to “zoom in” close to Jesus as the Word of Life who overcomes the blockages of sin, who steps over hurtful divisions and, in doing so, dissolves them. Jesus constantly crosses the division between “insider” and “outcast”–from the Gerasene demoniac whom no one could even approach (Mk. 5:1-20), to the leper whom Jesus chose to heal by touch against the societal and religious customs of the day (Mk. 1: 40-45), to the healing of the deaf-mute (Mk. 7:31-37) so that he could once again communicate with his fellow human beings.

For me, Jesus’ miracles have always been about Jesus’ compassion, goodness, and desire to save us. But these days I am struck by the desire of Jesus to bring us into communion and his will to dissolve the barriers that we put up out of fear, out of the need for security, and sometimes out of sinful selfishness–barriers that we think we need to protect ourselves, but that are actually destructive to others.

Jesus’ communication is so powerful because his gestures and words can actually bring about the unity and healing that he speaks. But the way we communicate, with our words and silences, can also be healing and unifying. Communication which leads to a greater understanding heals misunderstandings; a compassionate silence can offer someone support in a difficult moment; a timely smile can bring a sense of companionship that can ease another’s suffering.

Reflecting on these passages from Mark have brought to my mind a wonderful book that I have used for Lent twice: Out of Eden: 7 Ways God Restores Blocked Communication by Paul A. Soukup, SJ. Based on Lent’s Sunday readings for Year A and the readings used for the Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), these profound reflections foster honest and healing communication, modeled on God’s communication with us. Even though this is Year B, I highly recommend this easy read because it brings the reader on a wonderful journey of deeper communication with God and others. It’s also great for a book group, with discussion and reflection questions. One of my favorite features of the book is the prayer at the end of each chapter which asks the Lord for the grace to live the kind of communication we have just reflected on.

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