Today’s Saturday Spiritual Supplement involves a passage from the bible. One of my favorites: the man with the withered hand in Mark 3. Here’s the passage for you:
Jesus again entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they were silent. He look around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
We are going to read the passage meditatively. I learned this many years ago under the gentle spirit of my spiritual director, Sister Marie, who is a Jesuit. If I remember right, I think she called it praying imagination. This is what she taught me:
1. Get into a meditative posture… somewhere comfortable, quiet and alone.
2. Read the passage slowly. Don’t try to analyze it. Just read it like a story. Peacefully. Maybe you can read it three times.
3. Put down the passage and just imagine the story. Live the story in your mind. Like a movie. Just let the story happen in your imagination.
4. Now… and this is important… where do you find yourself in the story? Are you just observing? Are you the man with the withered hand? Are you Jesus? Are you in the crowd? Are you one of the Pharisees? One of the Herodians? Maybe you can’t get into it at all. That’s just as valuable. Where are you in the story. Observe. Don’t try to put yourself anywhere. Just simply observe.
5. Live in this for a while. Just rest in it. Imagine it. Over and over again. What happens? How is it just like the passage? Why won’t you deviate? How does it deviate? Why did you change it? What surprises are there? What feelings do you feel? What thoughts come to mind?
6. Now write your findings. Write everything as if you’re writing a dream you had the night before, with all your thoughts, feelings and observations. Everything.
7. Sometimes people like to imagine themselves in every character. Play each character’s role and go through the exercise again for each one.
This exercise provides a way to open your heart and mind. It can help unlock your feelings. For example:
If you are the man with the withered hand, how do you feel? What about your life feels withered? Are you being watched by people because of your struggle? How long have you struggled with this withered part of your life? Do you feel judged? And so on.
Or if you are in the crowd, what are your observations? Are you skeptical that the man’s condition can ever change? He’s been like that for years. Are you excited to see the establishment challenged and proven wrong? Are you jealous the man is being helped and you are not?
Or are you one of the Pharisees? Maybe you’re a legalistic one who is nervous when rules are being broken and bent or stretched. Or maybe you’re an open-minded one and you hope the man gets healed but you feel so much pressure from your peers that you have to abide by the rules. Are you angry the man gets healed? Or silently happy?
Maybe you’re Jesus. Maybe you love helping people. Maybe you love helping people regardless of what the rules are. Maybe you love challenging the authorities. Maybe you like not following the rules. Do you like breaking the rules, especially when they prevent you from being truly you?
Anyway, you get the idea. Try it. Maybe you’d like to share.
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