Mark 8:22-26, Wednesday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time
Jesus knew the law very well. He knew it since he was 12. So, he was well aware that he was committing a triple whammy of impurities that day. Whammy #1: he talked to a blind man, whom the law considered unclean. Then, he touched him by taking his hand to lead him — whammy #2. As if that weren’t enough dirt, Jesus spits on his finger and slathers the spittle on the man’s eyes — whammy #3. Too much impurity and too much touching between two men. And Jesus knew this was more than any self-respecting Jew could take. But that’s what I so love about our Lord. He wasn’t prissy about purity. He wasn’t homophobic. And he thought nothing of using his own bodily resources to channel healing. Talk about a real man. Talk about a real, deep-down loving man.
If you haven’t read Gary Chapman’s book, I’m sure you’ve heard of his “five love languages.” As an 81-year-old pastor and spiritual director, Chapman figures that from the many ways we express love, we could actually distill 5 chief ways, or what he calls “languages,” of loving, namely: (1) giving gifts, (2) spending quality time, (3) saying words of affirmation, (4) doing acts of service, and (5) physical touch. The way we give love, Chapman observes, is the way we also most often want to receive love. We wouldn’t reject other ways of loving, no. But, Chapman says, the love language we “speak” is also the
very language that gratifies us when it is “spoken” to us.
I told my class last week, “You know what, guys — because most of them are studying to become priests — we, in religious life, we love to learn new languages: Spanish, French, Italian, and now that Latin is back, and I don’t know why — we’re eager to learn even a dead language!” Then, I said, “But when it comes to the love languages, when it comes to mastering even just one love language — we stammer, stumble, sputter. Not only are many of us inept at ‘speaking’ even one love language, we even have greater difficulty ‘hearing’ the love language people ‘speak’ to us in. And yet, we sound like experts at love when we deliver our sermons.”
Jesus was fluent in all love languages. He turned water into wine — his gift to the married couple — and multiplied bread and fish — his gift to the hungry. He spent quality time with tax collectors and prostitutes whom he wanted to bring back around by sharing meals with them. Crowds of people wouldn’t have gravitated towards him if they didn’t feel soothed and gladdened by his words of affirmation. He healed them, exorcised them, forgave sinners, even raised the dead — his acts of service. Finally, like we read today, he also touched — and very abashedly. But, while Jesus was fluent in all the love languages, the religious authorities stammered, stumbled, and sputtered along them. But they spoke a strange language, though, because their nouns were mostly in the first-person.
What is your love language? Do you speak it fluently? Have you ever been misunderstood because of your love language? What love language makes you feel uneasy when it’s spoken to you? Why so? What is God’s love language with you? If Chapman’s theory is correct, might God’s love language to you be the very one he would be delighted you “speak” to him in?
Finally, if you’re still not fluent in any of the love languages — if, after all these years, you stammer, stumble, and sputter with speaking or responding to even just one love language (especially among the religious here) . . . honest question: How do you and Jesus understand each other?
*image from the Internet