Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 7:24-30)
The story is told of President Abraham Lincoln taking a walk in the woods one night weighing a difficult decision. A group of Union soldiers were to be executed for falling asleep on duty unless he gave them a pardon. Along the path Lincoln met an adolescent on the ground crying. The lad had run away from home after his father in a rage killed his dog. The father had learnt that his other son was to be executed for cowardice and couldn’t control his anger. Lincoln counseled the boy to go home and forgive his father; meanwhile, he said, he would do some forgiving himself. The President also gave the boy his card with a note saying that he might visit him at the White House anytime. The boy went home and made up with his father. When he found out that his brother’s crime was falling asleep on duty, he went straight to the White House and took a seat outside President Lincoln’s office. At the end of the day, the boy gave the President’s secretary the card he had received and told him he had an important matter to discuss with Mr. Lincoln. The boy was shown in, told Lincoln what happened to his brother, and heard the President promise to add his brother’s name to the list of those soldiers who would be receiving Presidential pardons. Like Jesus in today’s gospel, Abraham Lincoln had the fortitude to change his mind when he realized that there is a better way to accomplish his purpose than he had previously considered.
In this Gospel according to Mark Jesus continually retreats to rest and pray. Almost always, however, people feeling desperate need manage to find him. In today’s passage a pagan woman requests Jesus to drive away the demon that is menacing her daughter. Seeing his mission as reuniting the sons and daughters of Israel, Jesus initially rejects her plea. Then he shows himself capable of moving beyond his self-imposed limits when the woman expresses her humble faith.
Abraham Lincoln has often been compared to Jesus. Most dramatically, he was killed on Good Friday after devoting himself for the good of the people. Lincoln himself governed the country with an unequalled sense of the gospel in mind and heart. It is appropriate for us Americans to especially remember him one day every year. It is even more essential that we consult the gospel every day of the year to give sure direction to our lives.