Breaking Open the Word

February 7, 2021

 

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Introduction

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Today’s readings from the Book of Job and the Gospel of Mark form a natural progression for the supernatural life.  Our Old reading shows Job in utter misery.  Despite the judgments rendered by his friends, Job is not a sinner.  His suffering and bad fortune bring him to his knees, crying out to God for justice.  Job remains firm in his conviction that he did not cause his own suffering, so it must come from the hand of God.  He believes that he will not again experience happiness in his life.

 

Today’s Gospel illustrates how human suffering can be overcome by the power of God.  Still early in his public ministry, Jesus is already known for healing the sick and casting out demons.  These two symbols of sin and Satan are what “infect” the life of every human.  But Jesus has the power to both “heal” and “cure” us of what robs us of eternal joy.  When we are “helped up” by Jesus, and cured of the fever known as sin, our response must be, like Simon’s mother-in-law, to serve others.  Thus, the progression from sin and misery to salvation in Jesus, to service as his disciple brings us into the supernatural company of the saints.

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Gospel Explained

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Today’s Gospel is the second of a three-week sequence where Mark presents Jesus as not the kingly Messiah that was expected, but the Messiah who was both Teacher and Healer.  Jesus taught so that those who listened could see life in a whole new way.  Jesus, as an extension of God the Father, always had compassion for human suffering.

 

There is a close connection between Jesus’ power to cast out demons and his ability to heal sickness.  Healing and exorcism are signs of salvation.  Healing restores that which was not whole.  Healing returns our life to its original harmony with our Creator.  Salvation restores life and implies victory over death.

 

Jesus’ healing power, especially to the Jews of that time, was not only an historical reality but also a symbolic action.  To the Hebrew mind-set, miracles were not proof of God’s sovereignty.  The Jews passionately believed that God created the world and could intervene in it if God so chose.  God’s sovereignty over the world is proven by the way in which God controls the destinies of nations – especially Israel.  The true miracle of the Exodus was not that God parted the Red Sea, but that God freed the people out of bondage.  Similarly, the miracles of Jesus prove his lordship, or authority because they challenge the religious and political powers and structures that oppress, exclude, and enslave.

 

Jesus’ ministry of healing reinforces his constant emphasis on compassion.  Jesus was deeply moved when he encountered people in need of healing.  Jesus was so concerned with restoring people to health and wholeness that he broke the “law of the Sabbath” and rebuked those who would prevent his healing actions as a show of their power over him.

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Today’s Theme:

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The world is broken.  Suffering pervades every part of our culture.  Suffering can befall us in two ways.  Suffering can come as result of our bad choices, which we know as sin.  Suffering can also come through powers beyond our control, but mysteriously allowed by God.  But, through our faith in Jesus, we have access to His healing power.  Jesus became one of us to offer us salvation and eternal happiness.  Jesus wants every one of us to be healed.  Jesus was present to and personally healed those that sought after Him during his public ministry.  Jesus offers us his spiritual presence and personal healing when we seek Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of Holy Anointing.  

 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is our opportunity to seek out Jesus to heal us of our sinful personal choices.  Through the priest, Jesus is present to us and shows his compassion by forgiving us.  When we receive absolution and perform our penance, we are restored to wholeness.  Given this new life and freedom from sin, we are sent out to provide compassion and forgiveness to others.  While we don’t possess the power of Jesus, we are called to be the “Heart of Jesus” to others.

 

Suffering that comes to us other than the result of our personal choices also requires healing.  Suffering can come from physical sources like illness and disease, mental sources like mental health issues that are every bit as painful even if no physical symptoms are present, or emotional sources such as the traumatic life events or unreasonable environmental stress. 

 

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is our opportunity to have Jesus present with us and ease our suffering through the anointing our body, mind, and heart.  This anointing frees us from the bondage that suffering brings and restores us to wholeness in body and spirit.  For many years, tradition held that the Sacrament of Anointing was only available as “last rites” when we were close to death.  Today’s understanding better unites us with those who were physically healed by Jesus in person.  

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Theme in Our Life

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Salvation in Jesus Christ is not just a promise for life after death.  Jesus has already suffered, died, and rose from the dead to offer us that salvation. But Salvation in Christ is also meant to impact today, and every day of our life on earth.  Like those who sought Jesus to be healed, we too need to make that choice to seek His healing power. 

 

But Jesus is not a vending machine or a drive-thru window that we only visit when we have a specific thirst or hunger.  Jesus is more than just a physician or counselor that can help us be healed.  Jesus is the only Love that will never fail us.  Jesus is the only one whose presence can fill that longing for peace and love deep in our heart and soul.  We need to gain access to Jesus daily.  Jesus showed us how.  We hear in today’s Gospel, “Rising very early before dawn, he left 
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  As Jesus sought the Father in prayer, we gain access to the Holy Trinity through prayer.

 

It is prayer that helps us overcome our weakness and seek the healing power of Jesus.  It is prayer that helps us turn to Jesus and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It is prayer that will help us know when to turn to Jesus and seek the His healing power in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

 

We are meant to be in “communion” with Jesus throughout our life.  When our daily life starts to separate us from Jesus, either by sin or other circumstances, our Catholic faith gives us the power to be healed, to become whole again, and have new life in Christ once more.  Our salvation is an on-going process, not a one-time event.  That is why Jesus formed the Catholic Church through the Apostles and gave us the sacraments of healing to tap into when we are in need.

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Preparing for Sunday

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Consider the following questions:

  1. What part of your life needs healing so that you can be “whole” again?

  2. How do you seek Jesus and his healing power?

  3. What are the things that have failed to give us the peace and lasting love that we so desire?

 

 

Let us pray:  

Father,

Watch over your family

and keep us safe in your care, 

For all our hope is in you.

Grant this through our Lord, 

Jesus Christ, your Son, 

Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever and ever.

Amen.

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