During Mass last night, I tried really hard to focus all my attention on the priest, the liturgical readings, and the homily. My concentration was interrupted, however, by the smell of someone’s flatulence.
Yes, someone farted at Mass.
At it wasn’t one of those farts that dissipates after a minute; this fart lingered for the entire friggin’ service!
Conveniently, the homily was about dealing with suffering….
The reading was from Mark, 8:22-26. Jesus arrives at the town of Bethsaida, (which I mistakenly read as Bethesda, Maryland), and some of the townspeople bring Jesus a blind man.
What does Jesus do?
He rubs spit on the guy’s eyes!
Pretty gross. But the blind man was able to see a little better.
Jesus does it again, and then the blind man’s sight is fully restored.
The priest gave a fantastic homily about the passage with an interpretation that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.
For a long time the Church struggled with how to interpret Jesus’ divinity. He was God, but was he also human? Was Jesus like a superhero? After all, he did have special healing powers and could perform miracles. He didn’t shoot webs from his hands but he did do some pretty awesome things (like turn water into wine).
The way you interpret Jesus’ divinity will change the way you relate to him. If he is indeed pure God or superhero, it would be easy to dismiss our aspirations to be more like him.
We would use our lack of “superpowers” as an excuse to not improve ourselves. We’d say something like “well Jesus wasn’t really human so he can’t possibly know what I’m going through.”
The Church eventually decided that Jesus was human in all ways except for sin. This means he was morally pure, but he suffered like humans suffer. He felt pain, he got tired, he felt hunger, and he even got annoyed with people every now and then.
Because he was human, Jesus wasn’t afraid of “getting his hands dirty.” He rubbed spit in a blind man’s eyes, which is a very intimate (and kind of gross) act.
He walked among the people; he wasn’t some abstract, conceptual God that lived in the clouds.
Jesus embraced the messiness of human life, and for that reason, salvation can be found through the messiness.
We should embrace all the suffering and confusion and difficulty we go through because that is what makes life beautiful.
Suffering is inevitable, but it also offers us opportunities for growth and love and goodness.
This interpretation is not so different from the Stoics teachings on suffering. While you can’t control your external circumstances, you can control how you perceive them and the actions you take in response to them. It’s still possible to live a virtuous and tranquil life even when you are going through difficult times.
I’m going to remember this homily the next time I am suffering, like when I have to sit through a smell and farty mass.