Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. Mark 1: 30-31
Fr. Tim Eden nurses a grudge against Mark. In the beautiful Mystical Rose Oratory that celebrates a woman known by many wonderful names, Fr. Tim rightly asked: “Why didn’t Mark give us the name of Peter’s mother-in-law? Or Peter’s wife? Why do these women remain nameless?” Forget the demons that this same reading tells us were cast out that day. Far more pressing for Fr. Tim is the issue of naming the women.
Look, he says: upon being made well, the response of Peter’s mother-in-law is to get up and serve those around her. This is “authentic discipleship” and we should be wise enough to know it when we see it.In the midst of the Komen Foundation brouhaha, Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney’s declaration that he is “not concerned with the very poor” and the attacks on President Obama for his healthcare initiatives, this attention to women as individuals to be named and remembered was wonderful to hear.
Like Peter’s wife and mother-in-law, the poor have names too and it is too easy to speak of them as a nameless, faceless group whose needs may or may not be met depending on the whims of politicians or religious leaders. At a time when the debate about universal healthcare and especially about making it available to the poor is being clouded by accusations of what government is “forcing” religious institutions to do, we risk losing track of the fact that the politics of healthcare is ultimately very personal. Each of makes decisions about living and dying that are governed by who we are, where we are, what resources we have and what choices are available to us. In the area of healthcare–as in education, employment, housing and food–the poor have very few options. Providing an umbrella of healthcare to as many as possible that allows them to make the best choices they can in the light of their conscience and their beliefs in the circumstances in which they find themselves because of the lottery of life, is something we should all welcome.
We need to know the poor by name. Waging a battle that attacks a broad public policy effort to systemically provide the services on which their very lives might depend is not an act of “authentic discipleship.” It is an act of condescension and a distraction. We would do better to raise our voices to assert life-affirming principles not just in the area of reproductive healthcare but across the board in the area of gun control, the death penalty, war, free speech and the whole panoply of laws within which Catholics and Catholic institutions provide services institutionally that sometimes run counter to deeply held beliefs.