“In 1859, a French acrobat named Charles Blondin crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Blondin was an amazing acrobat, but he didn’t do it just one time. Blondin crossed Niagara Falls, that 1100 foot gorge between Canada and the United States, multiple times doing a number of theatrical variations. Blondin went across blind-folded. He went across on stilts, on a sack, carrying a man on his back, at one time even pushing a wheelbarrow. People were amazed at what Blondin could do, but as he came across the gorge close to one side pushing the wheelbarrow, the crowd began to cheer louder and louder. They were amazed at Blondin’s work and what he was able to do on the tightrope. As Blondin got to the other side he asked this question as the crowd was cheering, ‘Now who would like to sit in the wheelbarrow and ride back to the other side?’ Of course the crowd fell silent. There was a matter of trust with Charles Blondin to a point and we see proof of that until he asked that question.
Today’s Gospel from Mark describes what some believe as a typical day in Jesus’ ministry. He was in the synagogue in Capernaum, a small fishing village on the sea of Galilee, and that’s where Jesus’ ministry happened for a while and after teaching in the synagogue an astonishing thing happens: a man with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. The spirit is fearful of Jesus and actually the spirit seems to understand Jesus’ identity better than Jesus’ own disciples. Jesus’ ability to drive out demons shows his power of evil and in the pre scientific age of Jesus’ time all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil. Possessions by unclean spirits could mean what we consider today as a mental illness or a way of describing certain physical ailments. There were a lot of healers in Jesus’ time, exorcists who would try to heal, but Jesus healed with a unique authority connecting healing and that healing activity with the words of his teaching. Yet we can really miss the point of Mark’s Gospel if we try to explain away the healing works of Jesus. The crowds see Jesus’ curing of the possessed man as further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching and Jesus impressed the crowds through his words which were manifested with his deeds and in now way should he be compared to Jesus, but like the acrobat Charles Blondin, many still doubted Jesus for who he was. They saw the miracles that he performed. They saw him chase out the demons, but he was challenged by the pharisees and many of course knowing that Jesus was the God-man still walked away from him and from his teaching and our challenge can be to put our total trust in Jesus to know that he is truly there for us knowing that he is the great healer, the divine physician and that can certainly be a challenge for us sometimes because we may ask for something of God or ask for something in our prayer life and those prayers don’t seem to be answered. We wonder if Jesus is really listening to our petitions and it can be a challenge, but we have to trust regardless of how challenging that may be at times.
As we prepare to come forward for communion in just a few moments this evening to receive his precious body and blood, it’s important for us to know that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. He truly is the bread of life and my prayer for us that we may all learn to trust in Jesus completely knowing that his love for us is something that is beyond all comprehension. His love for us, if we imagined the billions of gallons of water flowing over Niagara Falls and if we compare that to God’s love for us it would seem like but a drop of water in a sink compared to his overwhelming love for us. His love for us in unending and his love for us is unconditional.”