February 4, 2018 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 JB 7:1-4, 6-7

Responsorial Psalm PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

  1. (cf. 3a) Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Reading 2 1 COR 9:16-19, 22-23

Alleluia MT 8:17

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Christ took away our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:29-39

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Homily—February 3 & 4, 2018  


Job sounds rather depressed.   Life is a drudgery for Job, he has months of misery and troubled nights.  He will not see happiness again is his prediction.   

For the first time in his life, instead of seeing things from the vantage point of someone who has everything, he was forced to see life from the perspective of people who suffer.  He heard his friends theologize, asserting that God blesses the good and punished the wicked, but their arguments did not hold water.   Job has come up against the hardest question a believer can face:  Is it possible to praise God from the depths of misery?

For the moment, Job seems to just sit in his gloom.  But in reality, he is complaining, and that is a sign of life.  When Job cries out to God, he is making the only act of faith he is capable of at that moment.  His complaint prepares him for the revelation he will eventually receive.   When God answered him, there were no excuses, just the reminder that Job is not God, that he cannot comprehend God’s ways.

Job’s unearned loss taught him that one’s lot in life doesn’t depend on righteousness or what one deserves.  Job began to reassess the very meaning of life, and it was coming up short.  The symbol of his salvation is his return to prosperity.  He will never again equate material well-being with being loved by God.

God certainly loves us in good times and in bad.   I was 27 when my father died of cancer but my youngest brother was only 13.   My mother died of cancer 13 years ago today/yesterday at the age of 80.   My brother-in-law died of esophageal cancer at the age of 65.   Another brother-in-law fell from a scaffold last September 1 and continues to work toward recovery.   Deacon Dave continues to work toward recovery from the car accident that occurred in September of 2016—almost 17 months ago.   People fall and get sick and have other accidents that shed a whole new viewpoint to life after an ambulance ride or helicopter ride or both.   These events challenge not only the individual but also their families, friends and caregivers.  What about the father who recently listened to the testimony of his three gymnastic daughters about the harm done by the doctor who abused them.   Sometimes we have to cry out to God in our complaining.   Job recovered from his ordeal and many others have done so too.

Jesus, in the Gospel reading from Mark, “immediately” responds to the illness of Simon’s mother-in-law by grasping her hand and “raising her up.”  In so doing he gives tangible evidence that with his coming the reign of God is already breaking into human history.  Now we know that Simon (Peter) had a wife; and the extended family including at least his brother and his mother-in-law, lived under the same roof.  We may or may not have that experience in our lives.  

This particular home must have been a welcoming place.  Not only was it the location of such an extended family, but James and John were also with them that day.  And by evening it seemed the entire town was at the door?  Jesus cured many of the townspeople before leaving early the next day.

After Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law she immediately gets up and serves them.   She is full of gratitude for what Jesus has done for her.

From its beginning, Jesus’ mission was the conquest of death.  The understanding of death in Jesus day, gave an importance to his healing ministry that we might not understand today.  Death was God’s great enemy.  It was a thing with intellect and will.  It stalked creation, hungering for the breath in every living throat.  Death took advantage of every calamity and conflict to snatch away the gift of life that God had shared with creation.  Death had servants that prowled the world.   Things like slavery, illness, demonic possession, war and oppression were the physical signs that death’s servants were at work.  This is the reality Job laments in our first reading.  Although he is alive, he already feels the grip of death closing around him as one calamity after another strikes his family.

This is the context, then, for the many miraculous healings Jesus performs in the opening chapters of Mark’s Gospel.  From the first moment of his ministry Jesus was locked in battle with death.  As he drove away demons and freed people from illness, he proved that the good news he preached was true, that it was at last the time of fulfillment, that God’s kingdom was indeed at hand.

A prominent 20th-century businessman by the name of William Batten wrote:  “When I hear my friends say they hope their children don’t have to experience the hardships they went through, I don’t agree.  Those hardships made us what we are.  You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.”  Struggle in service of the Gospel is a privilege that should call forth our thanks.

The people I admire the most are those who have had to deal with difficulties and challenges but continue to be faithful and full of gratitude despite the sacrifices they have made for God and for all of humanity.

Have you ever experienced suffering or adversity that, in hindsight, can be seen as a time of grace and growth?