7 February 20215 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: The Pillars of Safety.

I have served the Diocese for the last 38 years and have been an incardinated Diocesan priest for 35 years. Before this I was a member of a religious congregation, the Salesians of St. John Bosco. I was attracted to the Salesians because I wanted to be a priest and to work with youth. Priesthood for me has always been first in my life. Because of this I could not remain a Salesian, but I still carry much of my Salesian training with me. Part of that training is continual exposure to the Salesian’s founder, St. John Bosco.

Last Sunday the Salesians celebrated the Feast of St. John Bosco, or Don Bosco as he was called in his day in Italy. He lived in the north of Italy, in Turin, during the nineteenth century. This was a time of great turmoil. Up to that point, Italy was not a unified country, but a group of independent city-states and regions, or provinces governed by foreign powers such as Austria, Spain and France. During the nineteenth century, a great effort was made to cast off foreign rule and to unite the provinces into one country. A large and important part of Italy, including Rome, was governed by the Church and known as the Papal States. By 1870, the Vatican ceded all control of its territories to the united Italy, keeping only the one square mile now called the Vatican State. The desire to eliminate Vatican control led to a great deal of anti-clericalism. Added to this turmoil, a heretical group called the Waldensians were attacking Catholics in Northern Italy. Outside of Italy, there was turmoil throughout the world, including the American Civil War and revolutions in Latin America, all creating difficult situations for the Church. To many, the Church appeared to be in chaos. 

This was the state of the Church that St. John Bosco served. God often communicated to Don Bosco through dreams. Don Bosco had a dream about the chaos of his times. This was his most important dream and also his best known dream. The dream contained a message that Don Bosco was told to relay to the Holy Father, Pope Pius IX.

In the dream Don Bosco saw a ship on the sea battling heavy waves and a fierce wind. It was a hurricane. Several times, the ship almost capsized, but its captain kept it afloat. As Don Bosco looked at the ship, he realized that the captain was Pius IX and the ship was the Church. Suddenly Don Bosco found himself on the ship. It was terrifying. Waves kept crashing over the ship. It could not hold out much longer. Soon it would break apart, or capsize, or simply sink. But off in the distance, Don Bosco could see a safe harbor and calm water. At the entrance to the harbor there were two huge pillars. To get to the harbor, the Pope had to negotiate the ship between these pillars. As the ship drew closer to the pillars, the Pope could make out something on top of each pillar. On one pillar there was the Blessed Sacrament. On the second pillar, there was the Mary, the Mother of God. St. John Bosco explained to the Pope that he can get the Church through the chaos and turmoil by emphasizing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Don Bosco’s advice was for more than the Holy Father. It was for all of us.

Like Job in the first reading, we all come upon times of chaos, times of stress. There are so many aspects to life for which there are no solutions. People have lost a loved one. Who has a solution to make the pain go away? Some members of our parish have chronically ill children. Parents are exhausted as their hearts are being torn to pieces. In some families, alcohol, drugs, psychological problems, or infidelity have broken up a marriage and a home. How can the family return to its state before it was devastated? It cannot. There is no solution. Chronic sickness and pain become the focus of a person's mind. How can he or she make believe it is not there?They cannot. Like Job we all experience what he called months of misery and nights of terror. Perhaps, we do not suffer to the extent that Job suffered, but life brings with it many challenges, including challenges to our faith that God will get us through the crisis.

The Lord is aware of our difficulties. He sees our turmoil. He wants to heal us, just as he healed all those people in the today’s Gospel. He will help us pilot our ship through the chaos to the safe harbor. However, as in Don Bosco’s dream, the Lord shows us that the way to the safe harbor is through our Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary.

We need the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. We need to feed on His flesh and drink His blood, as He tells us to do in the sixth chapter of John. We need the spiritual strength of the Eucharist to help us meet the challenges of life. We need to receive communion at least once a week. If we can, we should receive communion more often, daily if possible.

And we need to have a deep devotion to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin. She is, as Pope Francis calls her, the one who untangles knots. She cares for us with a mother’s love and continually intercedes with her son for us. She will not stop asking for help for her children. We say the rosary, and should say it daily, because we trust her to bring our needs to her Son.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes upon Simon Peter's mother in law in bed with a terrible fever. She, like all of us, are important to the Lord. He has work for her. He reaches out to her, cures her, and she waits on the disciples. Then Jesus comes upon many people suffering the results of evil in our world, for all pain and suffering and death is due to mankind's original and continual turning away from the Lord of Life. He sees these poor people reaching out to Him, and He reaches out to them.

Today all of us are told that when we are suffering, in any manner whatsoever, we must trust in the presence of God. We believe that He is with us through all the turmoil. We believe that he cries out with us sharing our pain. He gives us the gift of the Eucharist and the gift of His Mother, to guide us from the chaos into the calm 


Today we ask God, "When the difficulties of our human condition weigh heavily upon us, dear Lord and Divine Lover, help us pray."

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Ordinary Time

We have all seen and heard one time or another, even if only on television, a Scottish bagpiper standing on the battlements of a castle late in the evening or walking on a moor at dusk playing a lament on the pipes. Beautiful though it is, usually once was enough! But seriously, the bagpipes seem to be able to play the lament better than almost any other instrument. It is surely something to do with the Scottish landscape and the Scottish temperament. The absolute dependence on the harsh hills and the even harsher sea is certainly part of it.

There is also the long history of struggle against the English and the landlords; going through the lost cause of the Jacobite’s and culminating in the brutality of the Highland clearances. From all this comes the lament; that type of tune which conveys the experience of loss, grief and tragedy more poignantly than any other.

What we have in the first reading today is nothing short of a lament. Job is alone, he has lost everything. He feels he is being unjustly punished by God because he has done nothing wrong. We can easily identify with Job in his lament. We have all experienced loss. We have all questioned the suffering of the innocent. And none of us can understand why suffering appears to be inflicted on those who are closest to God. But the lament is not a song of despair. Although Job says that he has left his hope behind he is still speaking to God. He might be complaining, but it is God to whom he is complaining. His lament is a prayer.

The bagpiper’s lament is tragic but it has an incomparable beauty and the beauty indicates that there is something beyond, something higher, something nobler. The piper might lament and express grief on behalf of his people and their history but he does it with music and in such a way that he demonstrates that their human spirit is not broken. There is a touch of defiance there, a refusal to be cowed, a hint in the background that there will be a victory in the future even if it is a long, long way off.

God does not cause suffering. If this were the case the people most angry with God would be those who are in the final stages of a terminal and painful illness. But this is far from the case, you only have to visit a hospice or a cancer ward and you will find it is full of people with great tranquillity and faith in God.

God alleviates suffering. Look at Jesus, by his very presence he brings healing to Simon’s mother-in-law. On every page of the Gospels you find him healing the sick and casting out demons. And it is one of the duties of every follower of Christ: to bring healing, to do what we can to alleviate suffering. And certainly we try very hard to avoid ever causing hurt to another human being.

As we have said God alleviates suffering, however, God does not abolish suffering; instead he enters into it. This is one of the really great mysteries in the true sense of the word. Not a mystery in that we don’t know the answer. But a mystery in the sense that we are dealing with a truth which is very profound and which cannot be fully understood by means of human reason alone. However, the mysteries of God, of which this mystery of suffering is one of the most important, will be fully revealed to us at the end of time.

Jesus himself suffers. He suffers with us. Through his wounds we are healed; healed from all that afflicts us; all that holds us back, whether it be sickness or sin or any other impairment. Through his suffering Jesus identifies closely with us. Even the fact that after that long night of healing Jesus goes out in the early morning and went to a lonely place to pray shows that the suffering he witnessed the night before affected him deeply. And later in the morning when the disciples disturbed him, he immediately decided to set off on another great round of teaching, healing and casting out devils.

We cannot even begin to imagine the depth of communion between the Father and the Son, in those times of prayer when Jesus went off to be alone. But surely we can surmise that he prayed about the sufferings of those poor people whom he had healed, as well as the sufferings of humanity in the past and into the future. Jesus heals but he does not destroy all sickness, all hurts, all sin, all pain. What he does do is something even greater: he saves us from death. He leads us to eternal life. He returns us to the blessed state of union with God from which we sprang. And Jesus is with us on our road through life. He accompanies us, just as we followers chose to accompany him.

The word went occurs four times in this Gospel reading and countless more times in Mark’s very dynamic Gospel. Jesus is always on the way; and where is he going? He is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die for our sake. We are his followers; what else should we do but go with him, accompany him on the road to Calvary; there to suffer and die and then to rise with him.

As we have said, the lament is not without hope. God is with us. Jesus has won the victory. The travail is worthwhile.

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