Friday, May 6, 2011

Make your living among the dead.

A life lesson from a green bottle fly.

"A man with leprosy came to Him [Jesus] and begged Him on his knees. 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' He said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured." (Mark 1:40-41)

This passage in Mark comes after the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's account. Jesus has just spoken about fulfilling the Law and here He is seen touching a leper--a violation of the Law. Mark 1:30-34 tells us that Jesus has healed Peter's mother-in-law as well as many sick and demon possessed. Yet here we have a conversation between a man cast off from society and the Son of God, who not only heals the man but also has compassion for him. Jesus did not come to guarantee the Pharisees a place in Heaven; He came that all may be forgiven. He came not for the living but for the dead.

The green bottle fly is also familiar with death. In fact, it makes its living among the dead, usually the first living organisms to arrive at freshly killed meat. Their bodies are metallic, they're bigger than a common housefly, and the one I met was on a mission. It was scuttling up the trunk of a tree, unfazed by my camera and even my finger along its hairy little body. The fly was alone and unaffected in its quest by my presence. 

To be honest, the idea of writing about an insect that feeds off of dead meat--much less a carnivorous fly--seemed unappealing. But I realized that our calling on this earth, like the fly, is to dwell among the dead.  Just as we are to die daily to ourselves, we are called to enter back into the cave and proclaim "Awake O sleepers!" It is easy to be attracted to passive monasticism, idealizing life in a secluded, cloistered environment safe from the world. Yet we are not called to safety! As witnesses of the Good News of Christ (that we may finally gain full life and freedom) we are expected to extend our hand to the dead with compassion and say, "Be clean!"

Do you make your living among the dead, or are you seeking "the good life" that falsely promises protection with its isolation? We must be bold to enter into the places the world criticizes the Church for abandoning. Be the first to arrive and be bold to speak life into the places of decay. And if the Lord has already placed you there, rejoice and daily ask Him to renew your love for the valley.

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