Mark 1: 29-39
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38 He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
We are each many things to many people. To one a colleague, to another a parent, to yet another a child and to many, a friend. We move through life with multiple identities, sometimes shaking one off as we assume a new role or start a new job. For me, a transformative and somewhat painful process began in 2005, as I ceased to be a manager in the field of education, moved to the university sector and took up study again. Later, another identity, as I began to discern God’s call to ministry. At the heart, I’m a child of God, but these external changes also have the power to bring transformation to the innermost being, just as changes to the heart affect outward behaviour.
Those Jesus touched had perhaps waited a long time for recognition or explanation. Quite probably their hope of healing had all but faded. Who knows what inward transformations occurred when Jesus made them whole, many suffering mental health problems?
Though our knowledge base in this medical field is far greater than in New Testament times, ironically we are still distressingly short of resources of every kind with which to address people’s needs, and there remains much more to explore and understand.
For those suffering poor mental health today, the need for welcome, friendship and meaningful relationship is the same as for anybody else. For all of us, suffering the frailties common to our humanity, seeking to understand who we are and more about how and why we suffer, with the goal of accepting all people as God’s children, would do much to reduce exclusion and isolation.
The issue is simple: what do I desire for my loved one who is depressed or who has an anxiety disorder? Acceptance, understanding, and loving care. Then that’s the way I should respond to all.
“To the lost Christ shows his face;
To the unloved he gives his embrace;
To those who cry in pain or embrace,
Christ makes, with his friends, a touching place.”
(© The Iona Community)
Lord, examine me
And if there are poor attitudes within
Towards those who are different in any way,
Or towards those I don’t understand,
Then take me and shape me
So that I may be as Christ to them.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.