Monday, February 9, 2009

In The Beginning God Created . . . And Wherever He Went, He Healed.

A Reading from the Book of Genesis
Chapter I

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. 3 And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. 4 And God saw the light and it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 And God said: 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 And God said: 'Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.' And it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said: 'Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.' And it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.' And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

Today’s First Reading is one of the most familiar in the entire Bible. I have chosen today not to paraphrase it, but to present it in full, in the translation at , the Mamre Institute in Jerusalem. It is, of course, a mythical account, in both proper sense of that word, a story told to illustrate a truth that goes beyond understanding, and a story of an event to which there are no eye-witnesses. Even understanding that its meaning is metaphorical rather than historical, it is a majestic and poetic account of God’s dominion over the created universe.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Chapter 6

53When they had crossed over, Jesus and his disciples landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Wherever Jesus went, people would gather around him. They would sit for hours on end on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Gennesaret). They would bring the halt and the lame, the sick, both of body and of spirit, and he would heal them.

From some perspectives, it might seem that the story in Mark’s gospel of Jesus healing the sick is far removed from the poetic depiction of the creation of the universe in Genesis. Then again, the two accounts are more closely related than we might perceive at first glance. In Genesis, God makes the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. God creates life, and sustains his creatures in life. In Mark, we see Jesus revealing God’s love for his people as he goes about bringing health to those who are sick, and even those who touched the fringes of his cloak were cured. This is the wondrous mystery at the heart of Christianity: Why did God create the universe and all that is in it? Why did God choose to take on human form and human flesh in the Incarnation? The answer is given to us by Saint Augustine: God created us, and the universe in which we live, for the purpose of redeeming us.

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