I see you. I see a human leaning into their humanity. I see you. Sitting across from me he was holding in his hands the paperwork I felt my life depended on, and I was more nervous than ever. It took me four months to write these pages, and it all came down to this interview. I see you, he said, but I don't understand why I don't see that person sitting across from me. My heart sank. All the moisture in my mouth had just evaporated, my voice went hoarse, and it felt like I was just kicked in the chest. What do you mean, I asked in panic. The person you are in front of me is not the person you write about in this application, he said. So tell me what you’re so afraid of me seeing in you because thats what will make or break this conversation. This was one of my regional accessors at the national level of our church who was listening with me for a vocation to the priesthood at a weekend retreat for those being sent by their bishop for discernment before going to seminary. I sat across this wonderful human in my last of three interviews wondering like the actors in our gospel this morning where this person got the authority from to say these things. I was trying to find all the language I could to explain away their concerns, but no words came out. I was trying to stage manage my image to fit what I felt they wanted in a priest, and instead what I recieved was a freedom from my own spirits of scarcity, fear, and an unreconciled sense of self. In this conversation, like many we have with friends and loved ones, I was fully seen for what I am, a gift of God, and set free to live that truth with the tenacity Jesus has in his teaching this morning.
The shock of today's Gospel is a real world experience of having our ideas of everyday life being thrown upside down. In the time of Jesus there would be been an identifiable system of teachers. There are, within our circles, those people that we automatically go to for help with questions, and in Jesus’ time that would have revolved around the synagogue. Here we are, within this firm hierarchy of teachers, and in walks this brash young new guy named Jesus to tell us what is really going on. Imagine someone coming in right now, mid sermon, and stepping up here- opening the gospels, and preaching with such resolution that we are both offended and amazed about where they came from. None of us expect to have our lives interrupted by a preacher, and yet this is exactly what Jesus came to do this morning. You see this story in Mark is the very first act in Jesus’ ministry, and it is a witness to truth that even the spirits inside the unclean man respond to in fear and unease. As followers of jesus we again lean into what it means for Jesus to be seen and known in the world we live, indeed- that is the point of the season of Epiphany we celebrate between Christmas and Lent. How are we seen?
I see you, said jesus to the unclean spirit, now get out of there, and it left him immediately. The idea of being seen is an incredibly risky one because it suggest vulnerability. As humans we possess millions of ways in which we cover for our shortcomings. We love nothing more than to keep people away and out of our most intimate secrets, and sometimes that is even about keeping God out too. To be seen means sitting across from another and being held accountable. Being seen is about allowing the windows of our soul to open up to let God in, the God who through Jesus healed the unclean spirits from this man not by his authority alone- but by God’s authority. This authority, given to Jesus at his baptism as God’s beloved, seeks out the places in which we are not whole or healthy and sits with us saying “I see you,” but can we see Jesus?
Notice in the gospel how Jesus moves into healing with an authority which is beyond him, rather than an authority from him. For generations christians have used the veil of healing as a weapon against others. The LGBTQ+ community is still prayed for their deliverance from evil, often being subjected to repeated exorcisms and corrective therapy in the name of Christian health. Friends of other faiths have been force baptized over the generations for their own salvation and healing. Notice were the authority comes from in these healings, they come from us rather than God. They are about helping us feel more comfortable in our beliefs because we are all the same now, we can understand the stranger better when they act like us. Yet Christ comes to us and sees us for who we imperfectly are, unique gifts of God, just like he did for all the disciples. Even the fishers Simon and Andrew, who immediately preceded our gospel this morning, recognize the authority which Christ brings to their lives. This is a pattern in Christs ministry, he is the one we have been waiting for. By the very fact that he lives, are we able to face another day. By his life, we are set free to be truly who God made us to be.
So why does any of this matter? It matters because you and I matter. We matter to a God so desperate to be close to use that he came in human form at Christmas to live as one of us, to feel our pain, to feel our brokenness, and to redeem it. The authority to heal is not ours, it's Gods. It is not a weapon but rather a balm for us to receive. The Authority to heal from our Gospel this morning is about us opening ourselves up, even into the deepest darkness of our lives, and asking God to help us in those places. When my interviewer asked me why I lied to him over the span of the conversation, it was never about him- it was about God. It was about sitting in that temple with Jesus and having my unclean spirits, the parts of myself that I was afraid to show, called out from me and sent away so that I can be set free. We all have unclean spirits, from our jobs, to our finances, to our love lives, to a worry that we aren't enough, God offers us healing with an authority which can see, know, and call out those places in our lives to make us whole. This wholeness is the practiced, taught, and received in what it is to be church, be baptized, to be human, which is encountered every sunday here in the Eucharist. Offering our whole selves in the money, bread, and wine, we also come with our imperfect selves. In our Eucharistic life together we seek wholeness through receiving wholeness through the sacrament, to be made one with God again.
I want to suggest two ways we can continue this work of being authentically seen and made whole together through encounter with Jesus:
- Pray with me over lent in one of the programs we are offering this year. Either the Rosary or Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John. Dig down with me in our faith through prayer to listen for the places of encounter and transformation in which God comes close to us everyday. Pray with me.
- Offer with me, every sunday, those places which we are afraid to admit out loud. During our confession, say silently to yourself “jesus, I am afraid/need help in ________, come sit with me in it.” Try it. We all have places in our lives that challenge us, offer them to God, and invite Jesus into those places to set you free.
The authority to heal comes from the recognition of who it is that heals us. We do not heal ourselves, Jesus does, and in willingness to be seen totally we begin to be set free for the life God created us for. Christ is calling to you, Christ see’s you, Christ comes into the temple of our hearts this morning and calls out our spirits. How will you respond?