At our family’s 2020 Christmas lunch I had been lamenting the state of the world (Covid-19, social injustice, narcissism, etc.) and my perceived impotence as an aging middle aged and middle class man to do anything about it. My eldest confronted me with the reality that I was not powerless and can in small ways take actions that make a difference. Then she put to me the confronting question ‘are you a grown up or a given up?’
As a younger man I had a passionate commitment to the reign of God and the common good. There was an active immediacy to my life which has been somewhat corroded by the passage of years and life’s incompleteness and disappointments. Her question jolted my middle aged cynicism and ennui and I realised … in part … I am ‘a given up’.
I share this story because I think Mark’s Gospel is asking the same confronting question of us. In today’s reading Jesus first heals Simon Peter’s mother in law suffering from fever, that evening at sunset he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. The following morning Jesus attempts to get some down time for prayer. The Gospel reports that ‘Simon and his companions hunted for him’. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ And on they went proclaiming the message about the reign of God. There’s a breathless pursuit of the reign of God and the common good and a pervasive hope and immediacy in today’s reading in which we are invited to participate.
We can too easily allow life’s incompleteness and disappointments to corrode our hopes, beliefs and actions and we can give up. Grown-ups however express disappointment, get some perspective, practice acceptance and then continue to pursue the reign of God and the common good. The good news is that grown-ups are often psychologically, spiritually and physically healthier than given ups.
So, I put the question … ‘are we grown-ups or given ups?’ Today’s reading invites us to be grown-ups.