After reading the passion, we can see the cruelty and evil that is in the world come out. Even today we see harsh and even cruel punishment. Torture and even death still today are used to intimidate and control. Christ came with a message opposite to humanity’s dark side so to speak, preaching God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. His message endured, but the battle rages on between good and evil. So often the question is asked “why is there evil in the world?” yet do we ever ask what we do to prevent it. As we enter our holy days, let us remember that yes the Lord suffered, and died. Also that he was Human and divine. Yet his death and resurrection remain a mystery that will be revealed at our own death and rising. Today, I urge you to focus on the reading of the passion the you have previously heard and below is the link to the reading itself.
Jeremiah today straight out tells the people the old covenant is not working and that God is going to give them a new covenant. This new covenant will be different, there will be no temple and it will be written on the heart of each believer, not centered on a place or persons. In John today, we see Jesus say that his dieing by being lifted up for all of us is the new covenant. His life, his death, his suffering is all for the glory of God and the institution of the beginning of new covenant which we come to know as the church. But remember, our church is not a building,or a place, but within our hearts, within our communities. Jesus and his church is present when we gather in his name. The sacrifice of the new covenant was done once for all, but we continue that sacrifice when we celebrate the Eucharist. Christ’s Body and Blood becomes present for us to consume on the table we use to prepare for it. As we prepare for Easter, it good that we recall God has given us a new law, a new covenant. But it is also a responsibility. We are accountable for that law written on our hearts, a law of love, mercy and, yes, even forgiveness. It is a law Christ understands because he was like us as a human being, except for sin,and as divine he shares in God’s patience and love. So, we are called to look out for each other and to care. We must take to heart the words we say each Sunday “ Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
Over the years we have learned that living in the middle east, the culture was tribal and family centered. A person’s home town was like an anchor or stake that centered or protected a person in a world where a single or unattached person was seen to be in danger. We see today in the gospel and from the last few weeks, that Jesus has left Nazareth. He has encountered John the Baptist(and been baptized, but not in Mark’s gospel) and now we see Mark say the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. In Mark, there is kind of urgency for Jesus to get to the desert. It is as if in those forty days, Jesus was communing and preparing with a different family. Spiritually he was preparing his ministry, being attended by the angels and in his new family meeting Satan and what that entailed. Perhaps, his first encounter with Satan away from the protection of his earthly family. But with his time of preparation done and John having been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee and began to preach: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As we ponder that today, I would like to say we all have busy schedules and not a whole lot of time for lent. But most of you have smart phone and tablets or computers and email. I would suggest for lent that you can get the daily Mass readings for lent in an email every day simply by signing up at the catholic bishops site on-line. It is free and you can read it where ever you read your email. In this way you can receive a thought each day as Easter approaches. The link is below.
As you might know, the middle east is very tribal and thus very family and community centered. In Jesus’ time, it also meant extended families. So in a village or town, there might be a large extended family. To declare someone unclean, was a banishment from community and led to a life of solitude and loneliness. The skin diseases mention, have come to be translated as leprosy. But in actuality it is not referring to the disease we call leprosy or Hansen’s disease. But the point of today’s gospel is that the leper actually went against the laws of Leviticus and approached Jesus. He approached and asked for healing. Jesus had pity on him and reached out and touched him and mindful of the law, told him to go and see the priests. Jesus’ touch was a healing of body and spirit. It was a welcome to return to his community, his family and friends. This, I think, makes clear that we are are not meant to be alone and pushed aside and be alone. As Christians we choose to be in a community and be welcomed into a social and spiritual life. The joy of the good news should have us reaching out to others.
In the gospel, we see Jesus leave the Synagogue and go to Peter’s house. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever and Jesus heals her and helps her up. She then waits on Jesus and his disciples. After sundown when the sabbath ends, the sick from the town start to come to Jesus to be healed. The following morning, Jesus arose early and set out alone in the desert. Later when his disciples caught up, he said it was time to move on. He said he had not come to heal, but to teach the word of God. So he continued on. Jesus, more than any of us was aware of a mission, of a reason he was here. Unlike ourselves, he avoided distractions and continued his journey. His life, his service, his love left much for his disciples and followers who followed and came after him to do and imitate. His journey was to give his message to the whole world and so it has been for his followers. But the world today is not perfect, nor has it been in any century. The twentieth century, the last one, was filled with war and ugliness that people could impose on their peers. Violence, and war seems to be a part of what people are. But why? People are kind and loving with their own, why not beyond the family and the boundaries of town and country. Jesus taught who was our neighbor, and ultimately our neighbor is the one who can express love and care for others. Everything we do for a neighbor, a brother or sister, we do for a loving, unifying reason. More
than anything, we are called to reach out to the Jobs of this world. Even in our time there are those filled with despair and the drudgery of daily life. They need our support and help. We should reach out and offer a hand, a word, some solace. After all, we all have a bad time a some point or another. None of us can do it alone without God’s help and those around us.
5th Sunday Ordinary time, 2-4-18
Job7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147: 1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, is credited as one of the main points of emergence for the feminist movement. She encouraged many other women to enter professional jobs and employment in business, industry and government.
It was a seismic shift for the American culture which produced a broad range of response. Some screamed that a mother taking young children to day care was an evil rejection of nature and responsibility. Some demanded that all women must be employed to find their dignity and purpose. Women had to find a balance between the extremes of being limited in their options or trying to lead both the life of a corporate leader and the mom who did everything.
So today we hear the story of Simon/ Peter’s mother-in-law. It tells us that Peter is not the simple fisherman. He has a wife. There is no mention of children, but the idea of Peter, Jr., drifts thru our minds. Is this a peaceful house or is the mother-in-law having some kind of stress reaction to Peter’s coming into the house with a bunch of hungry men? We could construct lots of different scenarios, but this is a reading from the Gospel of Mark, and Mark tells his stories in a straightforward way. We will not be graced with more details.
However, we do know that Jesus is “immediately” told that Mrs. Peter’s mother is sick with a fever. Here we meet the first problem with culture. We shrug, and say, “So?” Put her in the car, take her down to the Minute clinic, get her some antibiotics and she’ll be fine by tomorrow, right? Wrong, of course. This is 30 AD. No car, no urgent care, no diagnosis, no pharmaceuticals. Just fear of what might be wrong, fear of long term disabling decline.
And Jesus “grasped her hand and helped her up”. The fever was gone and “she waited on them”. Under our liberated breath, we mutter, “Couldn’t they have just gone to the store or drive thru and gotten something to eat? Did he heal her just so she could fix them dinner?”
Well, as harsh as it sounds, it is a reasonable question. Why did Jesus heal this woman? And knowing that a horde of people who were physically and psychologically sick were about to gather outside the house, why would Jesus submit this woman to having “the whole town gathered at her door”? To find the answer, we must put on the brakes, back up, and reset the clock. One of the least productive things we can do to a good Bible story is to interpret it in the light of today instead of understanding what was happening in that day, in time past. That is how to understanding what Jesus’ intent was with the Mother-in-law, and with us.
In that day, a woman worked from sun up to sun set to feed and clothe the family. From growing the food to preparing it to keeping the fire going to hauling water, to raising sheep for wool, weaving cloth, sewing clothing, washing – you get the idea, sort of. I doubt if any of us have ever had to create food, clothing, and shelter, everything, from scratch. It is over-whelming to a 21st century suburban middle class American when you think about it.
The point is that women then had no other options available to them. And did you miss the fact that Peter’s mother-in-law would be a widow, or she would not be living in his house? She was totally dependent on her family, and without them she would die, quite literally, of starvation or lack of shelter. In exchange for life itself, she is more than eager to take on the tasks of the household and take pride in using all those skills she learned through the years.
But she was sick, and suddenly not an asset but a burden. She was terrified. Was Jesus restoring her to health for his convenience? No! Not at all. He restored her to her place in society, a place where her dignity was secure and she could be admired for her skills. She was freed to be able to provide hospitality to her guests and the community; she was eager to share this with the whole village. She, an older woman, was the center of a miracle, the first sick person to be healed by Jesus, the example that everyone would remember. She was no longer just a widow whose prime had passed; now, she was someone.
Jesus continued to cure, to heal, to restore the sick to their places of wholeness. That is an idea that transcends culture and time. In our day, being productive in a job offers people independence and a boost to self-image. When someone is released to go back to work after an injury or illness, once again enjoy their place in society and feel they are “part of life”.
The same is true for spiritual healing. In fact, we could talk about Jesus’ time on earth by thinking about redemption and restoration. His death on the cross was a “one-time forever victory” which redeemed everyone. He “saved” us and opened a way to God’s love and forgiveness. His teaching and actions restored us to how God created us to be, and he commanded us to continue that restoration with others.
It is the first responsibility of the Church to share the message of the Good News of Easter with people. Discipleship begins when people discover the freeing power of redemption, by being re-connected with God’s forgiveness. Worship and prayer are not an obligation; instead, worship & prayer are the natural language of those who are redeemed.
The second responsibility of the Church, that is us, is the work of restoring the sick, the addicted, the poor, the marginalized, the lost, to wholeness. We call that outreach, or mission. Restoration is also called the “coming of the kingdom”. If “saving the world” is redemption, then “changing the world” is restoration. Deep love and dynamic caring are not a social norm; instead they are the natural behavior of the restored.
Those are big ideas, but crucial ideas to the growth and success of Holy Trinity and any Christian community. I will be sharing concrete and practical information about them with you in the weeks ahead. So, remember what Jesus did after he healed this widow – he prayed. Please pray for our church that it may be a place of redemption and restoration.