Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on whether believing in Christ promises riches, glory and freedom from pain.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time and send us a comment . Please read Mark 1.40-45.

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/12/2012The 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 1.40-45.
    Where there is misery, the Messiah is.
Some think that “Where the Messiah is, there is no misery,” but this passage from St. Mark today tells us, “Where there is misery, there the Messiah is.”
My friends, I want to tell you something that is scandalous.  I want to tell you something that is just contrary to what we want to believe in America.  I want to topple down what some of us have been taught since we were knee high to a grasshopper.  And that one thing is this: Christians don’t sin, don’t get sick and are never poor.  The prosperity Gospel is just a fallacy that we want to be true so that we can pretend that we don’t really need to depend upon a Messiah.
     On the contrary, Christians can and do get sick.  Christians can and do die of disease.  Christians can be alcoholics, gamblers, unstable, psychotic, bankrupt, adulterers and so forth.  Christians can lose everything in a bad business deal or in a fire.  Bad things can happen to us as Christians.  So, I am sorry, but the idea that being a Christian is just peachy all the time is a lie.  If life was always wonderful for those who have faith, then why would we have a book in the Bible called “Lamentations?”
It is false to think that “Where the Messiah is there is no misery” because that is just not true.
Pastors, priests and ministers walk through their days encountering people in nursing homes who once were able to express their love for their loved ones, but now, we don’t even know if they can understand what is being said to them.  Pastors, priests and ministers encounter people who were the icon of effervescent life, but now seem to be an empty glass.  Pastors, priests and ministers encounter people whose marriages are falling apart–or never really were together.  All of them have one thing in common: they are Christians.
They are all people who are going through things that are not acceptable in our “fix it now” society.  They are people whose value of life is questioned. They are people who are seen as outcasts, inconvenient, “a problem”, or just overall “not wanted.”  Many times these people are spurned because there is this popular belief that “Where the Messiah is, there is no misery.”
     In our passage today, Jesus shows us that, contrary to popular belief, “Where there is misery, there the Messiah is.”  It is a huge difference in perspective.  Here Jesus encounters a leper.  Lepers were considered socially, economically and religiously unclean.  They could not do anything with the rest of the world.  
Lepers were supposed to walk around town crying out “unclean, unclean” so that people could get sufficiently far enough away from them.  They could not hold jobs and needed to beg because of their illness.  They could not take part in worship because they were unclean. They could not have friendships with anyone who was not a leper themselves.  Jesus shows us that “he had compassion on” the leper.  He crossed that divide, because nothing could make the perfect God-man unclean.  He crossed over that line and loved the one who was in misery because “Where there is misery, there the Messiah is.”
     Some people may ask, “But, why does this have to be?  What is it that makes all this sickness and evil in the world?”  Sickness and evil come from the disobedience of humanity–but I am not contradicting myself.  Let me explain by an example.
Let’s say you have a company that is running just fine.  The Chief Executive Officer knows what they are doing.  They are pointing things in the right direction and things are growing.  Then all of a sudden something happens to the CEO.  He or she has a mid-life crisis and starts to forget who they are.  Everyone goes along and does what he or she says because that person is the CEO even though the decisions are not sound.  Eventually, because of his or her maladjusted behavior, the company goes down the tubes.  It is like this with our understanding of evil.
     We believe that in the beginning, humanity was put here in Eden to live in perfect communion with God and to perfectly rule over all the earth.  When humanity decided that it was going to do things its own way, that is, when Eve and Adam decided that the “fruit was good to eat,” even though God told them otherwise, the whole thing went to pot.  We, who were put over all the earth, who are smart enough to do things that animals just can’t do, we rule the earth.  But we do it with avarice and greed, licentiousness and immorality.  When we fell from Eden, the whole universe fell.  Think of it, we even have garbage out in space!  Evil was unleashed in the order of the cosmos by our first disobedience.  Disease and natural disasters were soon to follow.  Whatever we have touched has had a horrible dark side to it–pollution, exploitation, bankruptcy, displacement and disenfranchisement.  It is into this world, the one corrupted and never perfect, that the perfect Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.  The Christ comes and where there is misery, the Messiah is.
     When I envision the church, I see people who are not perfect, but are in love with the Lord.  I see people who would rather be doing other things, but do what the Lord needs to have done.  I see a people who know that even though we messed up badly, the Messiah comes to the midst of our misery to cross the divide and include us in his Kingdom.  I don’t want us to be a community of perfect people. I want us to be a community of less than perfect people who love perfectly those who have been perpetually unloved.
The message of the passage from the Gospel of St. Mark today is that the Messiah goes where there is misery and heals it.  Those who follow the Christ must do likewise.  It is not enough to have ourselves healed.  Like the leper we are compelled to go into the world and proclaim the healing power of the Lord of the universe.  It is in our houses of worship at the Eucharist that the oneness of the Body of Christ is shown.  It is in our houses of worship whether white or black, rich or poor, sane or mentally ill, healthy or sick that we come together in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.
     He can and does heal us of the separation between us and God.  He heals us of our impurity so that no matter what the world may use to separate us or others, it is no longer an issue where Jesus is worshiped.  It is no longer an issue because we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  We are all being healed of our sinful separation from God.  If the Lord wills it he may heal our physical bodies so that we can testify to his goodness.  Or, he may heal us through our death from some disease or other thing so that we can be with Him forever and ever.  In the Lord there is life and togetherness.  There is the transformation of imperfect humans so that they do things that unite and cause celebration in the Lord.
Through him, with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit we are all yours, Father Almighty, now and forever.  Amen.
So, when I was a pastor, I used to offer people the anointing with oil that had been blessed to heal their sicknesses when these Scriptures for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary time were read.  I encourage you to go to your church, ask your priest, your pastor or your minister to be anointed or to confess your sins.  Go and be healed, because it is not “Where the Messiah is there is no suffering.”  It is, “Where there is suffering, there the Messiah is.”  Amen?  Amen.
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