04 February 20185 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 1:29-39

Michael Deacy was famous for giving away much money to the poor over fifty years as a priest. Any tale would touch him. He was the easiest mark in Manhattan. He had holes in his pockets. You always needed his money more. Jesus for him was the inhale and giving the exhale. Mike was Jesus' kind of guy. Are we? Today's miracle occurred on a Saturday. Since Jesus was a Jew, He had spent the whole morning in the synagogue at worship. Do you worship weekly? If no, Christ says to you, "Gimmeabreak." The miracle site was Caphernaum. It is near the Lake of Galilee. The ruins still exist. You may walk among them and imagine the house where Christ slept and ate. The Teacher loved Caphernaum more than Nazareth. One should not be surprised. His home boys tried to kill Him. Neighbors like those no one needs. Since Caphernaum was Peter's hometown, he wisely invited his new Employer home for brunch - Bloody Marys, ziti, fresh lobster a la Caphernaum, etc. "Some of Christ's closest moments with His disciples were spent over food." (AU) Incidentally, one suspects Peter's house was a welcoming home. Is ours? Even before the Master finishes His cappucino, cheeky Peter presents the bill. "My mother-in-law is ill."

This was the first time in the five thousand years of recorded history that a son-in-law wished his wife's mother long life. And Jesus was the first to quip, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Notice Peter had no hesitation in asking Jesus for a cure. He knew He was an easy mark. Why then do we drag our feet in bringing our needs to the Christ? The sickness was probably malaria. The Gospel speaks of a fever. Caphernaum was near swamps. Mosquitoes flying into town for a meal carried the virus as so much extra baggage. The Nazarene put down His cup and went over to the hammock. The rest is history. The cure was immediate. The woman leaped out of the hammock like a young girl. She served the dessert - creamy cheese cake and freshly brewed cappucino. She was the first mother-in-law in history who felt she owed her son-in-law something. Never would she say, "Behind every successful husband stands a surprised mother-in-law." If bad new travels fast, so also happily does good. Mark sums up the case succinctly, "The whole town came crowding round the door." The cool-hand Jesus moved among them and cured their sick. The Teacher was big at touching people, especially the ill. Mark's word picture allows us to see the running sores, smell the foul odors of the ill, and hear their horrible groans. This was a scene made for the genius of Rembrandt. His sick are painted in dark colors and Jesus the barefoot physician is bathed in bright light.

Check his famous 100 Guilders sketch. Jesus got to bed late. He had to be exhausted. To catch a breeze He slept on Peter's roof covered with makeshift mosquito netting. As He fell asleep, He wondered why He and the Father had created bothersome mosquitoes in the first place. Sunday AM mobs were all over Peter's freshly sown lawn. His wife's roses were history. The crowd wanted more miracles. But the Master had left before dawn. He was not into show business. In the divine economy, the cures of yesterday were not to be repeated the next day for reasons best known to Himself. Prodded by his mother-in-law, Peter formed a posse and gave chase. They found Him in a lonely place praying. Somebody has said, "Through prayer Jesus gained what people sought from Him." Should we pray more? Peter rudely shouted, "Everybody is looking for you. Time Magazine wants to make you Man of the Year. 60 Minutes called. The New York Times wants to interview you." But such was not His plan. Like Robert Frost, Christ had miles to go and promises to keep before He would sleep. He got off His knees, brushed the grass from that famous seamless garment, and moved out to the next town. Peter followed. There are lessons one can draw from this account. Perhaps the paramount one is the willingness of the Christ to give to the needy. Father Michael Deacy was an authentic imitator. Will anyone say that of us? Deacy had learned well the insight of CH Lorimar. "It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good to check up once in awhile and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy." 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Jesus Heals

It is important that we know his name. His name is Vinicio Riva. Knowing his name keeps us from focusing on his ailment. He is not a disease. He is a person. So, who is Vinicio Riva? Vinicio is a 53 year old man from the Northern Italian town of Vincenza who suffers from a non-infectious genetic disease, neurofibromatosis type 1. It has left him completely covered from head to toe with growths, swellings and itchy sores. Vinicio's condition, has resulted in many people pushing him to the fringe of society. He has been told not to sit by people on a bus. He can only do the most menial work. Vinicio traveled with members of his family and others from North Italy to Rome. They secured tickets to the Papal audience. When the Swiss Guard saw him, they ushered him to the front row. Pope Francis came in, gave his talk, then went down to greet some of the infirm. He saw Vinicio and walked over to him. The Pope then kissed the sores on this poor man's face. Vinicio, the outcast, has now become a celebrity. More than that, his value has been affirmed by the Pope himself. And Jesus heals. Scores of people pushed against Jesus. They wanted to be healed. Jesus knew that sickness was not part of the Father's plan.

These people were suffering the result of man's choosing death over life, choosing to push God aside in favor of the material world. They were innocent as individuals, but they all suffered from mankind's guilt. Jesus' heart went out to them. He hurt for them. He healed them. One of the Lord's new disciples, Simon Peter, had sickness in his family. His mother-in-law was suffering from a fever. That might not seem like much to us, but in those days the infection that caused the fever would often kill the person . Jesus raised her up; the fever left her, and she served the Lord. Here are two more scenes from the Gospels, two of many that I could present. A man is sitting under a tree, a fig tree. His name is Nathaniel. Perhaps, he is contemplating the world and his own insignificance. Perhaps he is suffering from his lack of self-worth. Then Jesus calls him. Nathaniel becomes someone, a disciple, then an apostle. He goes to Jesus and proclaims him to be the Son of God. Jesus has healed him.

Young people and all of us who have bouts of suffering from low self-esteem, we need to go to Jesus. He sees us for whom we are, a daughter, a son of God. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. With our eyes focused on the Lord, we are healed of our own self doubts. The second scene from the Gospel is the one about Zacchaeus. You know his story. Zacchaeus was that diminutive tax collector, scorned by Jewish society. He heard a commotion. Jesus was walking down the road with his disciples. Hundreds of people were crowding around him. To get a better look, Zacchaeus climbed a tree. Jesus saw Zacchaeus, saw how the tax collector's sins were destroying him, and, with all those people around, all those people who wanted a second of His attention, Jesus announced that he would stay that night in Zacchaeus' house. Zacchaeus renounced his former life and promised to repay all he had defrauded. Jesus healed. What sins do we have that Jesus will not heal?

Pope Francis reminds us that God refuses to run out of mercy. It is we who shut his mercy off from our lives. Jesus heals. We depend on the expertise of our medical people. Doctors and dentists, nurses and all those in the medical field spend many years learning their professions. Then they spend a great deal of time developing their skills. We sometimes take them for granted. They are not just medical people. They are the healing hands of Christ. But doctors are limited in what they can do. That brings me to this scene. Parents sit by their child's bed in the hospital. Nothing in life could be worse. Their child is dying. They are praying for a cure. But through it all, they place their complete trust in Jesus. And they know that no matter what happens, their child will remain in Jesus' hands. In this way, Jesus heals them. Many of us have also been very sick. We have wondered if this is it. Will this ailment take us, now or eventually? The human part of us is afraid.

But the spiritual part of us reminds us that the One who sweat blood as his death approached knows how we feel. And we also trust in Him. And Jesus heals. Jesus heals. He heals the pain not just of the people of the past, but the pain of the people of today. Some receive physical healing immediately. Others receive healing in stages. Some receive a clear miracle. All who call out to the Lord are healed. Some are healed physically. Some are healed emotionally, able to accept their condition in life. All receive spiritual healing as they unite their pain to the Cross of Christ. We who carry Christ within us, carry within us the one who heals. If we believe in Him, if we trust in Him, then we refuse to join Job's cry of despair. We recognize that Christ is present when we need Him the most, healing our internal and our external turmoil. We need to remember, we are not alone. Jesus is always with us. He is there to protect us from the doubts and despair that plagued Job. He is there to give us the courage to walk with Him over the threshold to a new life. In essence, we are all Vinicio Riva. We may not have his external scars, but we all have scars. Jesus sees our scars. He is not repulsed by them. He embraces our scars in an infinitely greater way than Pope Francis embraced Vinicio's scars. He embraces us. He heals us. Jesus heals.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic Mark 1: 29–39

Gospel Summary
In Mark's gospel, Jesus is presented as one who acts rather than as one who speaks. The lengthy discourses in Matthew, for example, are missing in Mark. This is in keeping with the biblical conviction that actions speak louder than words. It is the interventions of God in human history, at the Exodus of Israel and then in the definitive Exodus of the Resurrection of Jesus, that contain the essential source of biblical revelation. This reminds us also that we must personally participate in some way in those events of liberation in order to receive the salvation promised by the Bible. In today's gospel, Mark draws our attention particularly to those who were possessed by demons. Whatever their malady may have been, it represented the sad condition that existed before God brought a light-filled, harmonious world out of the original darkness and chaos. Jesus continues this creative work and the demons, as contemporary agents of the old chaos, instinctively recognize him as their adversary.

It is poignant to see how Jesus is already beginning to disappoint his disciples. They cannot wait for him to raise the flag of rebellion and to use his power to drive out the Roman occupiers of their land. But he goes off instead to a quiet place to commune with his heavenly Father. He has come to preach the good news of salvation through the power of love and sacrifice, rather than through the military power and domination that they seek. Life Implications We need not look far to find the reality of chaos and dissention in our world today. The ancient Hebrews saw in the original chaos an aggressive force that was constantly trying to take back the creation that God had brought forth. Their imagery may have been primitive, but their perception was very accurate. In fact, the forces of chaos seem at times to have the upper hand today, as nations are consumed by ethnic hatred, communities are divided by strife and families are often torn apart by sibling rivalries. Sometimes the chaos enters our own psyches as we struggle to see the meaning in our lives. God is fully aware of these troubles and he has sent Jesus to give us the wisdom, which alone can bring us peace and happiness. This is the unlikely, but only truly valid, wisdom of loving concern. Jesus not only taught this wisdom but he lived it fully as he gave his life for us. We, like the disciples, are all for making war to achieve our purposes, but Jesus goes away to pray. This does not mean that we should not strive to achieve legitimate objectives but it does mean that, ultimately, it is only prayerful attention to the Lord and sincere love of others that will heal the beautiful world that God has entrusted to us and bring the peace and harmony that Jesus came to offer us. For God certainly wishes, once again, to look at our world and be able to recognize, as he did at the beginning, that It is "very good" (Genesis 1: 31). Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Modern Lectionary 74

"Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? My days … come to an end without hope" (Job 7:1, 6). At mass today we are confronted with an age-old problem that has faced every generation of human beings: that of what often seems to be the pointless struggle of life. This "drudgery" can take the form of chronic illness, family alienation, economic hardship, or a combination of many subtle factors that add up to a crushing burden. The Church has actually chosen a rather "mild" passage of Job struggle to cite this Sunday: his life entailed vastly greater suffering than what we hear of in this brief excerpt.

Elsewhere those who attend mass and follow the scripture readings encounter some of his graver travails and also hear the great theophany at the end of this long book, when God reveals himself, rebukes Job (and confirms his innocence at the same time) and then restores him to an even greater status and wealth than he enjoyed before his "drudgery" struck. This is the sort of outcome of our drudgery or suffering that we all would like to experience: that God might swoop in and make it all well, healing us on account of our faith in him. This is what many people long for, and quite understandably: if one is bearing a heavy burden of suffering, it is only natural to hope for relief and restoration here and now. Job had to wait some time before his vindication came about, but it did in fact come about.

The Psalmist reflects the sentiment of those who find such consolation in the present life, exclaiming: "Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted" (Ps 147:3a). When, however, our drudgery is not healed when we pray for relief, or our time of suffering seems to come "to an end without hope" as Job said, then we are left wondering where God is, just as Job did in the early days of his straits. Sometimes the joy of recovery and healing never arrives, and life for these people becomes like an eternal Holy Saturday—waiting for God, and waiting for a new dawn of hope, of reconciliation, of mercy, or of justice. This is where we need to turn to the gospel reading and find the message that Jesus brings through his very person and mission which completes the divine response to drudgery and suffering that was partially answered in Job’s day. In the gospel we see that while Jesus healed many people of afflictions he did not heal all of them: "He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons" (Mark 1:33).

He then continued on his way: "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come" (Mark 1:38). This can seem confounding until we see that Jesus did not magically dismiss all suffering from human life, rather, he took suffering upon himself, even the ultimate suffering of death, and he did so for our sake, so that by joining together with him in baptism and in all the suffering of the present life we may have the hope of being united with him just as surely in his resurrection. Jesus doesn’t make suffering go away—he, God, feels its sting himself. This is something that Job could not have fathomed and many people today find unbelievable. But one who truly loves another is capable of enduring even grave suffering for the sake of the beloved. Let us rejoice today that our God loves us so much "that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (John 3:16). That is a true cause for rejoicing, and finding a deeper point in our daily sufferings. Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week we observed how the Gospel readings for these two Sundays form one single unit and describe a typical day in the life of Jesus as he begins to carry out his public ministry. This typical day was a very busy one beginning with teaching in the Synagogue and then casting out unclean spirits. Now our text today tells us that Jesus moves from the Synagogue in Capernaum to the home of Andrew and Peter where he heals Peter's mother-in-law before going on to bring healing to many more needy people. We can only imagine the effect that this had on the people of the neighbourhood, many of whom would have been suffering from illnesses or afflictions of one kind or another. The members of the rather rudimentary medical profession in those days would have been able to do very little to ameliorate the condition of those suffering from infirmities that in our modern age are easily treated by antibiotics or simple surgery. So, when a healer like Jesus comes along we understand how the people from all around would have flocked to him in search of healing. But, of course, while Jesus never turned anyone away he could not heal every single sufferer living in the Palestine of his day. Not only that, but we realise that he did not heal some people who were very close to him. For example, he must have let his own foster father, Joseph, get ill and die. Also, we realise too that all the people that Jesus did actually heal would get sick once again and eventually die.

This leads us to consider the whole question of sickness and what it means. Jesus healed the people for two reasons; first because he had compassion for them and secondly because it enabled the people to see that he truly was the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, and so helped them to believe in him. In the first reading today, Job despairs and believes that his life is no more than pressed service and that, while on the one hand, it seems to drag very slowly, on the other hand, it passes swifter than a weaver's shuttle. He finds that in the midst of all his considerable afflictions his life lacks meaning and purpose and he wonders whether he is not just God's plaything. In the face of a great deal of suffering and pain you can imagine that many people might feel the very same as Job. Some people believe that sickness is a punishment for sinful actions. However, to think like this is to misunderstand God because God does not punish us as we would punish other people for their misdeeds. God is not a High Court Judge whose job is to adequately punish those who seriously infringe the law. No, our God is a God of love whose ultimate concern is our salvation. We know that sickness is an evil and is a consequence of the presence of sin in the world but we Christians also know that sickness is not caused by God. The most we can say is that God allows it. And he would not allow it unless he knew that a great deal of good can arise from sickness which is patiently borne. In fact, the purpose of sickness is to help us to grow closer to God. Very often when we are enjoying good health and all is going well in our lives we find that we forget all about God. But when we suffer illness we find ourselves reminded that we are mortal beings and that our life will eventually come to an end. Frequently it is at this point that we then turn to God, repent of our sins, and seek a renewed closeness with him.

Another consequence of sickness is that it brings us closer to our brothers and sisters in the human family. Those who find themselves having to care for us begin to exercise compassion and their love for us deepens. Caring for another person who is seriously ill is rarely easy, but it untaps in us an enormous well-spring of compassion and concern. In the newspapers recently, we have heard that because of improved testing during pregnancy Downs Syndrome is now more easily detected and this has resulted in a great increase in such babies being aborted. In Iceland, apparently, Downs Syndrome has been almost completely eradicated and in Denmark 98% of Downs babies are aborted. Yet if you speak to the parents of a child with Downs Syndrome they will tell you how loving and life-enhancing their children are. They will tell you about the great joy they have brought to the family despite their need for a lot of extra care and attention. The same goes for children born with a whole range of other handicaps. We are coming up to the World Day of Prayer for the Sick which falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11th February; though this year because that day is a Sunday we will celebrate the feast on the Monday.

We will be offering in our Church the Sacrament of the Sick after mass on that day as well as after Sunday Mass in the Royal Hospital and also with the sick who get visited each First Friday. It is important to remember all those who are sick in our daily prayers and to extend to them our compassion and support. You will notice that the sick are always remembered in the Prayers of Intercession at each Mass. Out of compassion Jesus healed the sick but he did not eradicate sickness from the world. Instead he helps us to understand that borne patiently sickness is able to yield a precious fruit. Sickness is able to bring us closer to God. And this works both ways, our illnesses help us to appreciate God better and bring us closer to him in prayer. But also, just as with Jesus in the Gospels, the Lord seems to favour the sick and pours out his healing love on all those who suffer. In illness we feel particularly close to Jesus because we are able to identify with the sufferings he bore on our behalf on the Cross of Calvary. It is important to have a Crucifix in the bedroom for this very reason. In times of serious illness, we can look at the Crucifix and consciously unite our sufferings with those of Christ. It is at these moments that we realise that our own trials are our personal contribution to the salvation Christ won for us. So, we Christians reject the notion that suffering and illness are always a bad thing. While, naturally enough, we do our best to avoid pain when we discover that it is inevitable we make the choice to embrace it, to unite it with the sufferings of Christ and offer it to God as our small part in the salvation of the world.

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