Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Some thoughts on context:

The citation above is from Matthew 8:17, and is the origin of today's Gospel Alleluia verse. The editors of our lectionary wanted to put today's readings from 2 Samuel and the Gospel of Saint Mark in the context of these important words. Saint Matthew, observing Jesus' ministry of healing, recalled Isaiah 53:4, "Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured." -- which, in its turn, evokes the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53):
He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.
These "Suffering Servant" songs are solemnly read each year during Holy Week. Our translation of Isaiah says he "bore" and "endured" while Matthew suggests he "took away," or perhaps "bore away" our infirmities and diseases. As Savior he does both: choosing to be human he bears our human frailty; as God he carries it away. 
This expression contextualizes today's readings from 2 Samuel and Mark 5, throwing a new light upon them. To understand anything, we have to understand its context. No one wonders about an easy chair in the living room, we understand why it's there. But we might wonder what it's doing on an ice floe in the Arctic Circle. That certainly requires some explanation.  
Saint Matthew was thinking about the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 when he told us about Jesus' ministry of healing. Stories of Jesus' ministry might be old news, things that happened in the ancient, irrelevant past, until they're place in the context of Isaiah 53. Hearing of Jesus' compassionate response to the menstruous woman who touched him and to the dead little girl, Isaiah 53 reminds us of the price Jesus will pay for his kindness.  
Then we should look at the story of David's war with his son Absalom, and his grief at the young man's death. David's descendant, Jesus, was pierced for the sins of his ancestor and bore his grief. He bore the punishment that makes David whole, by his wounds the Shepherd King was healed.

Without the context of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, we have no hope for the meaning, value or purpose of human life. The full scope of our sinful world in all its dimensions of space and time is healed by the one who bore our infirmities. All the tragedies of human history -- from the murder of Abel to the Shoah to  American racism -- are justified by his death and resurrection. 
Does God have that much authority; and has it been given to Jesus? I've often heard people say, "I'm going to have some questions for the Lord when I come before him!" 
Yes, we all have questions, and our faith assures us, in the Light of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, "All things will be well; and all manner of things will be well."

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.