People who suffer from schizophrenia often report hearing voices in their head, which sometimes direct them to harm themselves or others. It can be a frightening disease. Some doctors today say that the man who shouted at Jesus in a synagogue may have suffered from this awful illness.
Jesus didn’t ignore the shouts that interrupted his homily. He didn’t tell the man the voices were imaginary, nor admonish him to just get a grip on himself. Instead, Jesus acknowledged the reality of the voices, and demanded they leave the man alone.
Warring “voices” within all of us are real, like the cartoon angel and devil perched on our shoulders whispering opposing advice. We commonly describe being “torn” about a decision. Jesus himself had just come out of the desert where he’d been sorely tempted by choices he ultimately refused. What we might hope to be our touchstone, Christianity itself, speaks with discordant tongues, with different traditions describing God and Christian values in radically divergent ways.
Psychology today holds that the wisest among us are those who can identify the competing “voices” that still speak to us, so we can thoughtfully choose to live from our most mature and loving selves, which church people would hope to be consistent with the Spirit of Steadfast Love.
In this time, for what might we and our nation seek healing? What voices would need to be called out? Are we willing to bear the pain of the process? For the man in the synagogue, the untrue voices violently convulsed him as they left, but then he was healed.