Sunday, February 08, 2009

Homily 5th Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B. It's a bit of a short one this week.

Our world is so full of suffering that all of us, to one degree or another, can identify with Job’s cries today. “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?” he asks with despair. We strive to grow in holiness only to fall to sin time and time again. We work so hard, day in and day out for money to support our families, only to have it taken from us. We raise our children the best way we can only to see them leave the faith. We exercise and eat healthy foods only to be stricken with a debilitating disease. Even our nights provide no rest. “The night drags on,” Job laments, “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” Surrounded by sin and death we are tempted to utter again with Job “I shall not see happiness again.” What’s the use?

My dear brothers and sisters, if you have uttered these words before, I am here today to tell you that there is indeed hope. That you will see happiness again for happiness is your destiny, the very thing for which you were created. This happiness is found in the Word of God, Jesus Christ the Lord. And perfect happiness will be found in Eternity with Him.

Notice how our readings today bring together the trials and sufferings of life with the preaching of the Word of God. We have in the same Mass the despairing cries of Job alongside St. Paul’s zeal for preaching. And we find Our Lord “preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” I believe this is to remind us that the Word of God is inextricably linked to every aspect of the healing ministry of the Church, physical and spiritual. There is much wisdom in this; we must not take it for granted.

In Masses where the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is celebrated, readings from Scripture are there. In the celebration of this sacrament in a hospital, readings from Scripture are there. In Visits to the Sick with Holy Communion, readings from Scripture are there. Even in the beginning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – when the greatest sickness of all, sin, is healed – the priest is encouraged to read some passages from Scripture. The Church, you see, is not a haven for the perfect and healthy; it is a hospital for sinners. Our Lord is the Divine Physician and His Word is our medicine for everlasting life. After all, the word “doctor” comes from the Latin word docere, which means “to teach.” And in our Responsorial Psalm we sang, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Remembering then how necessarily linked the Word of God is with both physical and spiritual healing, we are given both a consolation and a challenge. How often, when we suffer, do we look to everything but the Word of God for relief? In a world that has no tolerance for suffering and refuses to find meaning and redemption in it, we are tempted to turn to Christ, if we turn to Him at all, only when all other avenues have been exhausted. We try all the latest medications and remedies. Or we medicate ourselves through impulsive buying or thrill-seeking or lustful passions or simple denial. St. Paul captures beautifully in our Gospel what is at the root of all of these: “Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” Men seek happiness and relief from their suffering in a myriad of ways but, actually, “Everyone is looking for you.” Although in the midst of our trials, our Lord may seem to be “off to a deserted place” he is always very near. When we are tempted to look to worldly things to find what only He can provide, we must remember that he is truly found in His Eternal Word. This then is our consolation and challenge.

Perhaps today you yourself are suffering even while you listen to me. Or perhaps a friend or a relative or a coworker you know is suffering today. St. Paul challenges us with full zeal and piety: “If I preach the gospel,” he says, “this is not reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Woe to us as well if you or I fail to preach the Good News to those who are sick in body or soul, if we fail to give them this greatest of medicines. St. Mark likewise challenges us but in a subtler way. He says that Simon, Andrew, James, and John “immediately told [Jesus]” about Simon’s mother-in-law who lay sick with a fever. We must not hesitate to tell our Lord in prayer about our own trials or those of our relatives and friends.

We see that upon hearing their petition “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” Furthermore, St. Mark continues, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” Perhaps you, or someone you know, are looking in all the wrong places for the comfort we can only find in Jesus. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are possessed by the demons of addiction or despair. Today let us resolve, if we have yet to do so, to gently take them by the hand and bring them to Jesus. If we have already begun this journey, let us resolve to persevere for as our Lord himself said, he wishes to “preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” We need only to “gather at the door.”

1 comment:

phatcatholic said...

That's good, dude.