Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Genesis 44:18-34, 1 Corinthians 7:25-31, Mark 5:21-43
During pre-flight safety instructions, attendants tell us that in an emergency we should put on our own oxygen masks before helping others. As Christians we learn to put others before ourselves. We love to repeat stories like the one about Mother Theresa, who suffered deformed feet because she always picked for herself the worst shoes out of the donations. Some of us are taught to be ashamed of asking for prayers for ourselves. Are self-mutilation and shame really part of the “good news” of the gospel?
A crowd was following Jesus to the house of Jairus, whose daughter was ill. Along the way a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years pushed her way forward to touch his cloak. According to the religious voices of the time, her gender and affliction made her too unclean to touch him. When he asked who in the crowd had touched him, she bravely confessed. Someone less merciful could have demanded her punishment. Instead her faith healed her immediately, and Christ bade her “go in peace.”
Despite the interruption, Jesus was able to travel on and heal Jairus’s daughter. We need to stop treating grace as if: a) there’s a limited supply to be doled out to the most worthy, b) it’s for other people but not ourselves, and c) it’s for ourselves but not other people. If the woman had not acted on her own behalf, she might have spent the rest of her life miserable and shunned; instead she became a powerful witness for Christ.
Without doubt we are called to sacrifice our wealth, time, reputation, and even safety if it means staying true to our faith and loving our neighbor, but putting others before ourselves does not equal pointless humiliation or self-destruction. Christ brings healing, not damage; hope, not shame. If the shoes that fit you poorly could fit someone else well, your show of piety harms two people and helps no one. If you don’t put on your own mask first, you won’t be alive to help anyone else. It’s OK to push forward once in a while; Christ also wants you to “go in peace.”
Comfort: God loves you just as much as he loves everyone else.
Challenge: Learn to be fine with loving yourself as God loves you, and understand how this can be compatible with a life of service.
Prayer: God of grace, thank you for your steadfast love. I know I can serve you best when I accept all the love you have to offer me. Please help me understand how your love for me can help me love and serve my neighbor. Amen.
Discussion: Many people find this Mother Theresa story inspirational. What’s your take on it, especially if it’s different from the one in this post?
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