COOK: The millstone necklace

October 12, 2021

The Gospels highlight many profound and personal encounters with people ensconced in what we call dysfunctional situations.
There are many shades of dysfunction in the world, such as the type we live in that we do not create (like dysfunctional families). There are also the “corporate” dysfunctions that we create by constructing various rules that we impose upon others.
In the Gospels, we see this by reading the healing stories as Jesus attempts to teach His followers how to move beyond the daily corporate dysfunction that people had to live within.
When Jesus teaches His followers, either by word or example, He not only displays healing and faith of people, but He is showing the causes of what creates dysfunction. Some of these causes highlighted in the Gospels come in the form of control, jealously and power. Unfortunately, these vices still aid in breeding corporate dysfunction today. These three vices act like great millstones that we wear around our necks, preventing us from looking up and seeing the Kingdom that Jesus desires for us.
Take, for example, the healing on the Sabbath in the third chapter of Mark. The Pharisees were so consumed with holding onto their millstones that they “immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him to put Him to death” (Mk 3:6). What exactly did Jesus do to cause such jealously and rage? He healed someone and broke a Sabbath rule. You see, the action of Jesus was not only a personal act of faith and healing but an act of restoring the Sabbath and rescuing it from corporate dysfunction.
Today in our divided world, I am challenged to look at our own corporate realities: Our businesses, universities and even our churches. How many people walk through life with what we view as imperfections, not worthy of Jesus’s healing touch unless they follow all the rules? Are we tempted to construct our own Sabbath rules and become enraged at others when we feel the loss of control or desire power? Surely not I, Lord!
Next time the feeling of one of these vices creeps up on you, imagine what would happen if our Lord entered the room. Which one of your rules would He break? What divisions or attitudes would He restore or normalize to make you or another whole?
Jesus fully understands that change is challenging for us. We like things our way, and we like to hold onto what is ours and our way of doing things. He recognizes it is hard to give up the vices we inscribe on the millstones that we wear. After all, He suffered greatly and died because He threatened a particular way of doing things.
He did something new and bold by reaching out to and healing the unwanted and calling back the ones who strayed. Thankfully Jesus is also patient and gives us every opportunity to remove the heavy millstone necklaces and let go of the corporate dysfunction that we create. 

Father Ray Cook, OMI, is the director of Campus Ministry at Rice University.