For What Purpose Have I Come?

Job laments that he, a ruler who enslaved people in misery, is himself now “a slave,” in “misery.” Job’s fellow rulers, still enslaving people in misery, visit him with the purpose of determining his sin that resulted in his deserved misery and isolation. Jesus knows no person deserves misery but healing and not isolation but unity. Jesus extends both to Peter’s ill mother-in law. He “grasped her hand,… the fever left,” and she joined them. Jesus does the same for others, “the whole town was gathered” around him. He then travels “throughout the whole of Galilee” to heal and unify. “For this purpose have I come.”

Dom Helder Camara (1909–1999) whose birthday is celebrated today originally thought his purpose was not to heal but to rule and not to unify but to isolate. Camara was a young priest in Brazil involved in a movement inspired by fascism. Members believed God privileged some to rule over others who deserved their Job-like misery and isolation in favelas, or ghettos. As a priest, Camara starts out like the privileged Job, unaware he too will soon be in misery. But he is not condemned to it by the Lord. He is enlightened to it by Jesus. Camara’s appointment as bishop has him traveling ‘throughout the of whole Brazil.’ He is put in touch with people enslaved in misery. Camara’s presumed purpose to rule ebbed as his need to be healed flowed. His presumed purpose to isolate ebbed too as he realized he had been isolating himself from the people. The healing and unity that flowed in his connections meant the “whole town was gathered” around him. The gatherings taught him the people’s purpose was not to rule but to heal the division of rulers and those they enslaved in misery. He was taught the people’s purpose was not to isolate but to unify all people around the powerful agency of community. The healing and unity Camara received from the people moved him to became their public advocate. As the people grew more unified as healers of personal and social misery, they were charged by the fascist rulers as harming unity and deserving of worse misery. Unchecked censure and intimidation escalated to torture, rape, and murder. The military went on a 21 year reign of terror. The people did their best to witness healing and unity. Many did not survive, Camara was one who did. Unfortunately, fascist rulers, not held accountable for their sins, continued to rule over and isolate Camara and other disciples. The rulers used less lethal weapons but continued their fight to prevent their ruling and isolating system from becoming a healing and unified community. One simple but effective weapon, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Ruling fascists, across time and place, use the weapon of ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ name calling to hinder the people’s unity and healing. They thus also hinder Jesus’ purpose in the world. Fascist name callers twist Jesus’ purpose to be their purpose, a privileged ruler who isolates a deserving few, them, from the misery deserved by sinners. Fascists are like Job’s friends, purposeful in charging others with sins of destruction and disunity. At the same time, they are equally purposeful in refusing accountability for their sins of destruction and disunity. They call themselves ‘Christians,’ privileged to rule over people who deserve misery and isolation. These ‘Christians’ are purposefully ignorant of Jesus and include Kirk Cameron, “socialism and communism are knocking on our doors… disguised in the costumes of public health and social justice.” They also include socialized medicine recipient Mike Pence, who believes the human right to health care “will set us on a path to socialized medicine” and “decline.” Also, pro-Trump QAnon politician Marjorie Taylor Greene who posed with an AR-15 pointed at pictures of universal health care advocates including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Green claims it’s time for “strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart”. These fascist rulers and their minions purposefully rule rather than heal and purposely divide rather than unify. They purposefully ignore Jesus’ purpose.

“The capitalist empires, with their affirmations of sacrifice for the free world, of defence of private enterprise, of safeguarding order from subversion and chaos, are in fact defending their political prestige and economic interests… The (communist) empires… demand blind obedience to the party… like the fascist dictatorships of the extreme right.” “Let us be Christians not only in name, but by our lives.”  (Dom Helder Camara)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, unified we are healers.

Question: For what purpose have I come?

February 7, 2021         Gospel Mark 1:29-39    Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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