Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday word, 05 Feb 2012

Ongoing Restoration
5th Sunday of the Year B (05 Feb 2012)
Jb 7. 1-4, 6-7; Ps 147; 1Co 9. 16-19, 22-23; Mk 1. 29-39
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Scripture, spirituality and service paint large, living frescoes in which we can see ourselves, find ourselves as well as deeper meaning for our lives. Today’s readings offer a living fresco. Scripture is God’s story among us in Jesus by Holy Spirit. Spirituality allows us to find ourselves in Jesus’ story. Service is our response to and with Jesus.  I will begin with Jesus then return to him to end this homily.

When Jesus began his ministry in Mark’s gospel, Jesus healed. “We’ve heard that before, and we know that!” some will say. Correct you are! However, to attempt to heal—especially for professional physicians of Jesus’ day—was risky business, and not for what we may think. Ancient Mediterranean, professional physicians were reluctant to heal people because if they failed, they could be put to death. (Put to death makes today’s malpractice suits seem tame.) Rather than attempt to heal, ancient physicians preferred to talk about illnesses, after the fashion of philosopher-healers.1
People turned to folk-healers, who were willing to treat with means at their disposal. Learning that helped me appreciate more why people sought Jesus. The healing people sought exceeded their cures because illness had social consequences, namely, separation from or even shunning by the community.
Jesus, who addressed those in need of healing, did not stop at curing; Jesus restored sick-marginalized people to their places, status and roles in society. That restoration exceeded curing illness and helped make people and society whole.
The effects of being sick-marginalized—I don’t know one word to describe it—were well expressed by Job, and we can identify with him. Illness of every sort leaves us listless so that the most routine task becomes drudgery. Time drags, and we feel it masters us rather than we it: a slave who longs for the shade and a hireling who waits for his wages illustrated what it feels like when time drags. We can quickly paint scenes from our restlessness when, like Job, happiness seems far away.
We long to negotiate our restlessness in all our limitations. Our lives, too, need healing. As witnesses to Jesus today we do not only see and seek his cures. To seek only cures misses Jesus’ mission. We witnesses to Jesus today dispose ourselves to trust the words and ways of Jesus, especially when evidence mocks Jesus and his ways and tempts us to do the same. For the nearness of restlessness and the distance of happiness conspire and tempt us to live without hope.
The temptation is strong when things do not unfold as we’d like. St. Paul reminded us that witnesses to Jesus today don’t always give their testimony willingly. It isn’t always convenient. Yet,
Christian stewardship overcomes inertia and obstacles and moves forward. In our ways as parents, children, students, employees and employers, we know that from experience.
So it is with giving witness to Jesus. Witness, testimony, evangelizing begin with personal relationships with Jesus. Personal relationships with Jesus function like fuel and fire: they move us beyond ourselves, and they provide spark to our words and especially to our deeds.
Peter’s mother-in-law embodied such fuel and fire. She rose from bed, which echoed Jesus’ rising from death in this First Gospel; her waiting on Jesus and his disciples isn’t about subservience. She reclaimed her role in home and society, which is what Jesus healing her accomplished.
What sort of healing do we need? Are we aware that we need healing? Is our trust in Jesus strong and determined? Do we turn to Jesus quickly in our weakness? 
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Compose yourself in the Trinity. Bask in our Triune God.
  • Ask Peter’s mother-in-law to present you to Jesus to speak with him. Before you speak notice how you feel at that moment.
  • Then tell Jesus how you want to trust him, and tell him what prevents you: am I lazy? Do I feel lost? Am I tempted?—and the like.
  • Welcome Jesus into your weakness and ask Jesus to touch your weakness and heal you to put it into perspective; to learn how you can use it in his service; and to know how your weakness draws you closer to him and to others.
  • Close saying slowing the Lords’ Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we may recognize more clearly how God’s life and love is more than sufficient each day. 

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. John J. Pilch, “Social Healing.”
Wiki-imagex of Jesus healing Peter's mohter-in-law and of sparks on water are in the public domain.  

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