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Doing the Greater Good

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When I was first ordained there was a divorced woman in the parish named Gretchen. She had just gotten remarried in court without a Church annulment. But she continued to come up to receive communion every Sunday. 

I could see that this really bothered the pastor because he hesitated for a few moments every time Gretchen was in his line for communion. He was a real stickler for observing the rule that said a person should not take communion if they were remarried without getting a Church annulment. I knew he wanted to talk to her about this. 

Late one afternoon I saw Gretchen go into the pastor’s office for a long talk. At supper that night I piped up and asked him: “Well, was last Sunday Gretchen’s last communion, at least until she gets her annulment from the Church?”

“No, I sat down with her with an open mind,” he said. “I wanted to hear where she was coming from. She said she now has a new husband and three small children to raise. She felt she needed Jesus to be close to her now more than ever in her life. So I told her she was doing the right thing and she should keep going to communion.” 

I was only 28 years old at the time. I was fortunate to learn early what religion and life itself were all about – DOING THE GREATER GOOD. I learned what Jesus’ life was all about – DOING THE GREATER GOOD.

Today’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) is the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel. We see Jesus just beginning his public life at the age of 30. He stands up to preach at the synagogue in Capernaum for the first time. No doubt he had butterflies in his stomach. He hardly had begun preaching when a man possessed by an unclean spirit begins shouting out at him. 

Jewish law said that when you were near a person with an unclean spirit, you had to immediately get away or you too would be considered unclean. But Jesus holds his ground and does not move. Jesus shouts out, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit leaves the man. 

This was forbidden by Jewish law. No matter how sick the person was, you were forbidden to heal them on the Sabbath. So begins the public life of Jesus Christ – always DOING THE GREATER GOOD. Jesus always responded to human need, even if it meant breaking the law, even if it led to his death upon the cross.  


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