Lent 1 - B: Temptation - Repent & Believe

Fr. Tony Kadavil:



Readings


First Reading: Genesis 9: 8-15
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3: 18-22
Gospel: Mark 1: 12-15

Anecdotes

1) “Baptize the entire Ford Motor Plant!” Henry Ford: You might have heard the story of the machinist who worked years ago at the original Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit, Michigan. Over a period of years he had “borrowed” from the factory various car parts and tools which he hadn’t bothered to return. While the management never condoned this practice, nothing was ever done about it. In time, however the “forgetful” machinist experienced a Christian conversion and was baptized. More importantly, the man took his baptism seriously and became a devout believer. The very morning after his baptism, the machinist arrived at work with his pickup truck loaded with all the parts and tools he had taken from the Ford Company over the years. He went to his foreman and explained that he never really meant to steal them and asked to be forgiven. The foreman was so astonished and impressed by this act that he cabled Henry Ford himself, contacting the auto magnate while he was away visiting a European Ford plant. In his telegram the foreman described the entire event in great detail. Ford immediately cabled back this striking two-line response: “Dam up the Detroit River. Baptize the entire Plant!” Our readings for this First Sunday in Lent focus on the effect our baptism should have on our lives, especially during the Lenten season.



2) Danger of raising a tiger and an alligator as pets: Antoine Yates lived in New York City in a multistoried apartment. For some inexplicable reason he brought home a two month-old tiger cub and later a young alligator. It’s not clear where he found them and how he reared them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What had been a little tiger cub became a 500 pound Bengal tiger, and the little alligator a frightening monster. The police got a distress call from Yates about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted the police to the possibility a “wild animal” in his apartment. A fourth-floor resident informed them that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. The police officer peered through a hole drilled into the wall of Yates’ apartment and saw the huge cat prowling around in the room. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and the use of a dart gun by a veterinary doctor to bring the tiger under control. When finally they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying unconscious atop some newspapers. A big alligator was nearby guarding his unconscious friend. Both animals were trapped and relocated to shelters. His own wild pets tried to kill Yates. That is what happens to those who habitually entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires.



Introduction


The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to “repentance,” a type of conversion. Repentance leads us to reorder our priorities and change our values, ideals and ambitions, with the help of fasting, prayer and mortification. Hence, the Church ordains fasting and abstaining on assigned days of Lent. All Lenten observances are also intended to lead us to our annual solemn renewal of baptismal vows on Holy Saturday. Through baptism we are called to live justly, to love God with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to build the kingdom of God by our acts of charity. That is why the three readings chosen for today refer to baptism directly or indirectly. The first reading describes how Noah’s family was saved from the waters of the deluge by God’s special providence and how God made His first ‘friendship covenant’ with mankind. Noah’s rescue from the flood symbolizes how we are saved through the water of baptism which cleanses us of sin and makes us one with Christ. Today's psalm is an exquisite penitential prayer, humbly acknowledging human insufficiency and our radical dependence upon God and His mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist lists some of the characteristics of the life resulting from this repentance: truth, compassion, love, kindness, goodness, uprightness, humility and justice. In the second reading Peter shows us how Noah’s episode prefigured baptism. In the gospel, we are told how Jesus, immediately after His baptism, faced and defeated the tempter, prepared by His forty days of prayer and penance in the desert.


First reading, Genesis 9:8-15


 


According to the biblical story, God’s covenant with Noah after the Deluge was the first covenant made by God with mankind after the fall of Adam and Eve. This covenant declared that God is in a providential relationship with all of natural creation, and will be so down through the ages. The story of the great Deluge in the book of Genesis was also intended to remind people of their present covenant with the Lord and to reinforce their commitment to it. It tells us how man irrevocably broke the original covenant God had made with Adam and Eve and how the merciful God found Noah and his family with whom to renew the covenant. The covenant with Noah was very simple. It consisted mainly of God’s promise to care for the earth and not to destroy it again by a flood. Through the sign of the covenant, the rainbow, God promised Noah that he would love and care for Noah’s descendants and for the earth that they would inhabit. The rainbow often gives the impression of linking heaven and earth, the effect of the first covenant. The sign of the rainbow may help us to understand better the pivotal place of Jesus in salvation history. Like the rainbow, he is the link between God and humankind, between heaven and earth. The story of Noah’s being saved from the waters became a negative symbol of Baptism. Through Baptism we become incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, the living Christian community. Through our life in and with our Christian community in our parish, we learn how to live out our commitment to Jesus. We get support in living that life from the community of which we are a part. We learn to grow into a people who are whole and complete, in union and harmony with our God, with others and with ourselves. And that is salvation. It begins here and now and Lent is the time for us to strengthen and renew that process in our own lives.


 


Second Reading, 1 Peter 3:18-22:



Lent is the beginning of the season that culminates in our solemn remembering of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection ("Christ died for sins,"), and in the joyful baptism and/or confirmation of new members. Lent is, thus, the season of self-examination. All three elements are packed into this second reading from the letter of Peter. This letter was addressed to the persecuted Christians and was intended to bolster their faith. The author reminded his readers of their place in the larger history of God's providence, in order to help them see their present sufferings in a larger context. St. Peter reminded his readers that an outward sign of the Covenant God made with his people through Jesus was baptism. Baptism not only removes Original Sin but is also our birth into Christ, the way we become adopted children of God, heirs of heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter pointed out that the waters of baptism were an antitype of the waters of the flood. The floodwaters destroyed almost all the people except Noah's family. The waters of Baptism, on the other hand, are the cleansing agent that saves all. Using already traditional formulas of faith, Peter affirmed that in the paschal mystery Jesus had made possible for all humankind a right relationship with God (justification) and life in the Holy Spirit (sanctification). The odd picture of Christ going "to preach to the spirits in prison" ("He descended into hell," in the Apostles’ creed), probably refers to the risen Christ making known to imprisoned souls his victory over sin and death. (The New American Bible-1970 edition).



Exegesis


The context



All the synoptic gospels agree that Jesus experienced a period of temptation. Hebrews 4:15 also testifies to Jesus' temptation episode. While Matthew and Luke give graphic descriptions of Jesus’ temptations in the desert at the completion of his forty days of fasting and prayer following his baptism in the River Jordan, Mark just reports that the Spirit led Jesus to the desert and he was tempted by Satan. The desert was the place where ancient Israel in Moses’ time was tested for 40 years. The 40 days of Jesus’ fasting may also recall the 40-day fasts undertaken by Moses (Deut 9:18) and Elijah (1 Kgs 19:8). Mark does not mention that Christ fasted for the forty days and nights but the "desert" seems to imply this. Nor does Mark specify the various "temptations" as Matthew and Luke do. The temptations described by Matthew and Luke and hinted at by Mark refer probably to the main temptation Jesus faced during his public life, namely, the temptation to become a political messiah of power and fame according to the Jewish expectation, using his divine power, and to avoid suffering and death. The temptation Jesus faced and defeated helps us to understand both the conflicts that were in Jesus' own life and those which will be found in our lives, too. Instead of yielding to the temptation, Jesus said a firm “Yes!” to his Father's plan, even when it came to giving over his life.


Why was Jesus tempted after his baptism?



The author of Hebrews uses the temptation narrative to show that the incarnate Son of God wanted to experience human life to the full, with the exception of sin. Since temptation and how we respond to it are integral parts of our lives, Jesus experienced them also. The Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus’ temptations are described after his baptism to teach us why we are tempted and how we should conquer temptations. Baptism and Confirmation give us the weapons we need to do battle with Satan. God never tempts people beyond their strength. But He permits us to be tempted. Why? Here are the five reasons given by the Fathers: i) so that we can learn by experience that we are indeed stronger than the tempter; ii) so that we may not become conceited over having God’s gifts; iii) so that the devil may receive proof that we have completely renounced him; iv) so that by the struggle we may become even stronger; and v) so that we may realize how precious is the grace we have received.


“Repent and believe in the good news of God’s kingdom.” Mark here gives us the first public words of Jesus, his Messianic mission’s basic keynote speech, which summarizes the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. This basic statement has four specific messages:


1) “The time is fulfilled.” The good news Jesus announced is that God is already working here among us, so close to us that we can reach out and touch Him in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But we will be able to experience the God in Jesus only if we undergo a complete change in our value system and priorities by means of true repentance. Jesus announces that "the time has come,” meaning that the long-expected "Kingdom of God" is present in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.


2) “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” The Kingdom announced by Jesus and brought to earth by him is not a place, still less “Heaven,” but the loving power and rule of God, to which we are all invited to submit ourselves. It has arrived in the person of Jesus, our King and Lord. The presence of this loving power of a merciful and forgiving God is evident in the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. The presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus is revealed also by the liberation of people from destructive forces in their lives, by the bringing back of the rejected and the outcast, by the forgiveness and reconciliation given to repentant sinners and finally by the supreme act of self-giving love of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.



3) “Repent.” In this statement Jesus is not asking his audience to do or not to do something to shape their future in heaven. He is concerned with the here and now. Repentance, (metanoia) is a change of mind and heart, a lifelong process of transformation.


4) “Believe in the gospel.” Truly believing demands of us a total commitment to the way of life presented in the Gospel and a sharing of its vision of life, though we arrive at this totality only gradually, by successive conversions. Lent provides us with these conversion experiences.



Life messages :


1) We need to make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer: Formerly, the six weeks of Lent meant a time of severe penance as a way of purifying ourselves from our sinful habits and getting ready to celebrate the Paschal mystery (the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ), with a renewed commitment to follow Christ. Now the Church demands fasting and abstaining only on specified days of Lent, and leaves the practice of penance during Lent to the good will and generosity of individual Christians. Lent should be for us a time for personal reflection on where we stand as Christians and how well we are accepting the gospel challenges in thought, word and deed. It is also a time for us to assess our relationships with our family, friends, working colleagues and the other people we encounter, especially in our parish. We should examine what positive contributions we are able to make to other people's lives and what we can do in the community to help eradicate the abuses which are part of our society.


2) We need to convert Lent into a time for spiritual growth and Christian maturation by:


a) participating in the Mass daily or a few days in the week;


b) setting aside some part of my day for personal prayer;


c) reading some Scripture, alone or, better still, with others;


d) setting aside some money that I might spend on myself for meals, entertainment or clothes and giving it to an organization which takes care of the less fortunate in our society;


e) abstaining from smoking, alcohol and other evil addictions;


f) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in Lent and participating in the “Stations of the Cross” on Fridays;


g) visiting the sick and those in nursing homes and doing some acts of charity, kindness and mercy every day in the Lent.


3) We need to use Lent as a time to fight daily against the evil within us and around us:


Repenting and fighting against temptations and evil is a lifetime's task. Jesus did not overcome Satan in the wilderness; he achieved that only in his death. Lent reminds us that we have to take up the fight each day against evil within us and around us, and never give up. Jesus has given the assurance that the Holy Spirit is with us empowering us so that final victory will be ours through Jesus Christ.



Additional Anecdotes


1) “I only want to get my nose in:” An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will make shift to shove in his whole body.”


2) “’Run, D.J., run!’” William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks, some of which have been pretty gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy's face as he said, "Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me." "Oh, really," asked the reporter, "And what did God say?" "He said, 'Run, D.J., run!'" the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).]


There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, "Run, Jim, run!" Or "Run, Sally, Run!" Particularly is this a valuable message when we are tempted by the devil.



3) "What did you miss the most?” After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, "What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn't mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six months long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O'Brien. Byrd asked, "Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?" Jack answered without any hesitation, "Temptation." Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through.


4) “Get behind me Satan.” Experiencing martial problems a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work. Within a week things where getting back to normal in their household. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store, and his wife, who was chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions, ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, “Get behind me Satan” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did I heard a response!” “Yah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well, I heard him say, “It looks better from the back than it does from the front!” (Sent by Deacon Gary)


 


5) Conversion of Piri Thomas: Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, and an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called 'the thin kid.' So he waited. After he thought 'the thin kid' was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: "I told God what was in my heart... I talked to him plain...I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments... I felt like I could even cry...." After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said "Amen." It was 'the thin kid.’ The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. "Good night, Chico," he said. "I'm thinking that God is always with us -it's just that we aren't with him." -This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, "Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!"


 


6) A box of enchanted Turkish Delight. In C. S. Lewis' book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the wicked queen entices the boy, Edmund, with a box of enchanted Turkish Delight. Each piece is sweet and delicious, and Edmund has never tasted anything better. There is only one problem. The more he eats of this enchanted Turkish Delight, the more he wants. He doesn't know that this is the wicked queen's plan. The more he eats, the more he will want, and thus he will eat and eat until it kills him. The candy will never satisfy his hunger; it will never fill him up...it will simply kill him. (Rev. John Lestock) Lewis is giving us a metaphor for sin. This is how sin is. It never satisfies; it only enslaves.


 


7) “You knew what I was when you picked me up:" An old Indian legend sums up our situation: Many years ago, Indian braves would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. “I will test myself against that mountain,” he thought. He put on his buffalo hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the pinnacle. When he reached the top, he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke.” I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here, and there is no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley" "No," said the youth. "I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." "Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you." The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down gently. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leaped, biting him on the leg. "But you promised," cried the youth." “You knew what I was when you picked me up," said the snake as it slithered away. (Guideposts, July, 1988). That is a powerful little parable. The snake could be drugs or alcohol or extramarital sex or greed or any of a host of other attractions forbidden by God and our good sense. The best protection we have is in avoidance.


 


8) “Then I can go live with my sister." A married couple had lived together for twenty-five years in what outwardly seemed like a reasonably good union. The husband was a good provider. The wife was a good housekeeper. They went to Church together every Sunday and prayed together every night before they retired. But they did have one problem that seemed insurmountable. They could not have a conversation that didn't end up in an argument. Finally, the wife decided she'd had enough, but because of her religious scruples, divorce was out of the question. She had a better idea, however. One night as the couple settled down for their nightly prayers, she said to her husband, "We must put an end to this terrible situation we're in. We can't go on like this anymore. Since today is the first day of Lent, why don't we pray that things will change. Let's pray that the Lord will call one of us home to Him. Then I can go live with my sister."


 


9) Carnivorous plant- Sundew: In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the "sundew." It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. Temptations do the same. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992).


 


10) “So no one will know." In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, "There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know." "You say that no one will know," Yang Zhen replied, "but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know, too." Wang Mi was ashamed, and backed down. Subsequently, Yang Zhen's integrity won increasing recognition, and he rose to a high post in the central government. Human nature is weak, and we tend to yield to temptation when we think nobody can see us.


 


11) "Are you trying to break this bridge?" As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break." In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren't designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn't. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991).


 


12) Trapping ring-tailed monkeys: Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it's simple. They've been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can't get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. The devil uses the same trick on human beings by exploiting our weaknesses.


 


13) "Don't swim in that canal." Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. "Son," ordered a father, "Don't swim in that canal." "OK, Dad," he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening. "Where have you been?" demanded the father. "Swimming in the canal," answered the boy. "Didn't I tell you not to swim there?" asked the father. "Yes, Sir," answered the boy. "Why did you?" he asked. "Well, Dad," he explained, "I had my bathing suit with me, and I couldn't resist the temptation." "Why did you take your bathing suit with you?" he questioned. "So I'd be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted," he replied.


 


Too many of us expect to sin and prepare to do so. The remedy for such dangerous action is found in Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Whenever we play with temptation, it is easy to drift into great danger.



Jokes


1) Devil is your dad: Two boys were walking home from church and sharing their reflection on the lesson. They had been studying the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Little Peter said to his friend John, “Do you believe that stuff about the devil? Do you think there really is a devil?” John looked at him and said, “Naah, it’s just like Santa Claus — it’s your dad.”


 


2) Temptations: real or imaginary? The drunk was floundering down the alley carrying a box with holes on the side. He bumped into a friend who asked, “What do you have in there, pal?” “A mongoose.” “What for?” “Well, you know how drunk I can get. When I get drunk I see snakes, and I’m scared to death of snakes. That’s why I got this mongoose, for protection.” “But,” the friend said, “you idiot! Those are imaginary snakes.” “That’s okay,” said the drunk, showing his friend the interior of the box, “So is the mongoose.”







SYNOPSIS FOR LENT I (FEBRUARY 26) ON MK 1: 12-15



Introduction

The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to metanoia or “repentance” by the reordering of their priorities and the changing of their values, ideals and ambitions, through fasting, prayer and self control. Since by baptism we share the death and resurrection of Jesus, today’s readings refer to baptism directly or indirectly.

Scripture Lessons

The first reading tells us how man irrevocably broke the original covenant God had made with Adam and Eve and how the merciful God selected Noah and his family to renew the covenant. Noah’s rescue from the flood symbolizes how we are saved through the water of baptism which cleanses us of sin and makes us one with Christ. Today's responsorial psalm is an exquisite penitential prayer, humbly acknowledging human insufficiency and our radical dependence upon God and His mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist lists some of the characteristics of the life resulting from this repentance: truth, compassion, love, kindness, goodness, uprightness, humility and justice. In the second reading, St. Peter reminds his readers that an outward sign of the New Covenant that God made with his people through Jesus is baptism which makes us adopted children of God, heirs of heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter shows us how Noah’s episode prefigured baptism. In the gospel, we are told how Jesus, immediately after his baptism, faced and defeated the tempter, prepared by his forty days of prayer and penance in the desert. It also tells us how Jesus started preaching his messianic mission, "The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent. Believe in the Gospel."

Life Messages


We need to:


1) Make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer: Besides fasting and abstaining on the days appointed, we should use Lent as a time for personal reflection on how we are accepting the gospel challenges in thought, word and deed. It is also a time to assess our relationships with our family, friends, working colleagues and the other people we encounter, especially those of our parish.


2) Convert Lent into a time for spiritual growth and Christian maturity by:


a) participating in the Mass daily or a few days in the week;


b) setting aside some part of my day for personal prayer;


c) reading some Scripture, alone or with others.


d) setting aside some money that I might spend on myself for meals, entertainment or clothes to give to an organization which cares for the poor in our society;


e) abstaining from smoking, alcohol and other evil addictions;


f) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in Lent and participating in the “Stations of the Cross” on Fridays;


g) visiting the sick and those in nursing homes and doing some acts of charity, kindness and mercy daily.


3) Use Lent to fight daily against the evil within us and around us by practicing self-control, relying on the power of prayer and Scripture.


Labels: Sunday Homilies




 




Homily for the First Sunday of Year C


 


by Fr. Tommy Lane


 


Once when I was on retreat in a monastery in Ireland I greeted one of the monks, “How are you, Father?” He replied, “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” It sounds funny but it expresses a truth about all of us, “there is still a bit of the devil in us” because we have not yet fully overcome sin. Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the devil, and Lent is a time for us to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us by overcoming sin in our lives.


 


Whenever we sin we have forgotten who we are and what God has done for us. Remembering who we are and what God has done for us helps us to keep away from sin. The first reading today contains a creed in which the Old Testament Jews remembered who they were and what God had done for them by bringing them out of Egypt to Canaan:


 


My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt…there he became a nation great, strong and numerous…When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, we cried to the Lord…He brought us out of Egypt…bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26:5-9)


 


The Israelites sinned when they forgot what God had done for them. In fact, we could say that the great sin of the Old Testament was forgetting the greatest miracle of the Old Testament - the Exodus - and as a result falling into sin. Whenever we sin we forget the central belief of our creed, that Jesus died and rose for us. Lent is a time when we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus so that by remembering we may overcome sin, and when we celebrate the central belief of our creed – the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night- we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Just as Jesus overcame Satan during the forty days in the desert we want to overcome Satan in our lives.


 


We overcome Satan by putting God first in our lives in every way. The three quotations from Deuteronomy cited by Jesus when talking with Satan in the Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) remind us of putting God first in everything.


 


“One does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”)


 


“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”


 


“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”


 


When we put God first in everything and live by the word of the Lord instead of living from the bread of the world then we


 


Fast from fear; Feast on Faith
Fast from despair; Feed on hope.
Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience.
Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking.
Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness.
Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal.
Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.



(adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward)


 


When we live from the bread of the world by not putting God first we sin and can never hope to be happy because sin always leaves us guilty. In the words of the poem just quoted, sin brings us fear, despair, depressing news, discontent, anger and worry, negative thinking, bitterness, words that wound. But when we overcome sin, then in the words of the poem we live on faith, hope, prayer, gratitude, patience, positive thinking, love and forgiveness, words that heal, joy and humor.


 


The words of the monk to me when I was on retreat are true of all of us, there is still a bit of the devil in us. During Lent we remember Jesus in the desert overcoming Satan and we too want to overcome Satan in our lives so that when we celebrate the central belief of our creed - the resurrection of Jesus – during the Easter Vigil, we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Therefore during Lent we


 


Fast from fear; Feast on Faith
Fast from despair; Feed on hope.
Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience.
Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking.
Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness.
Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal.
Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.
(adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward)


 


“One does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”)


 


“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”


 


“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”


Labels: Sunday Homilies




 




HOMILY FOR O.T.
VII SUNDAY HOMILY (FEBRUARY 19, 2012)

Readings

First Reading: Isaiah 43: 18-19,21-22, 24-25
Second Reading: II Corinthians 1:18-22
Gospel: Mark 2: 1-12
Anecdotes

Dr. Murray‘s faith in action: Secular magazines have begun
to notice that faith can make a difference in people's lives. For example,
Family Circle carried a story recently about Dr. Joseph E. Murray. Dr. Murray
performed the first successful human organ transplant operation on December 23,
1954. Dr. Murray devoted himself to unlocking the secrets of successful organ
transplantation after serving as an Army surgeon in World War II. In addition
to perfecting organ transplantation techniques, Dr. Murray has also spent part
of his career performing plastic surgery on those with facial deformities. He
has traveled around the world, offering his services as a plastic surgeon in
some of the poorest nations. In 1990, Dr. Murray was recognized for his work
and awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. An observant Catholic, Dr. Murray
begins each morning with the prayer that "all my acts are consistent with
being the creature of a loving Creator." ("The Transplant Pioneer:
Dr. Murray's Miracles" by Bette-Jane Raphael, August 10, 2004, pp. 62-65.)
According to Family Circle Joseph Murray's faith impacted complete strangers.
Today’s gospel tells us how the faith of his friends brought healing to the
paralytic man.

# 2: What would we do without friends? You will remember Jackie
Robinson as the first black man to play Major League baseball. In his first
season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced venom nearly everywhere he
traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the
bases, brutal epithets were written on cards and spoken from the opposing
dugouts. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach.
During one game in Boston, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak.
To make matters worse, Robinson committed an error and stood at second base
humiliated while the fans hurled insults at him. Another Dodger, a Southern
white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called timeout. He walked from his
position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds
looking on, he put his arm around Robinson's shoulder. The fans grew quiet.
Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. What would
we do without friends and family members who care and who under-gird us with
strength when we need it? No, they cannot perform a miracle and make us well
again when we are sick. No, they cannot bring back a loved one who has passed
away. But friends can offer a ministry of presence. They can be there when we
need them, and that means a lot. This cripple could not have received healing
without the faith of his friends.

Introduction
The central theme of today’s three readings is found in the
following words of the first reading: “Thus says Yahweh:… see, I am doing
something new!” We learn we have to look beyond the boundaries of our religious
experience to appreciate the healing and forgiving operation of our God in
newer and newer ways. In the first reading, Isaiah advises the exiles in
Babylon to believe that their God will forgive their sins, liberate them from
the paralysis of despair and return them to their homeland in ways that will be
different from those their ancestors experienced under Moses, commemorated
yearly at Passover. God was preparing them for the “new” things they’d never
seen or heard before. Today's psalm, "Lord, heal my soul, for I have
sinned against you,” fills in what is absent in our first reading giving us
something new, namely, a confession of sin and an appeal for forgiveness. In
the second reading, Paul invited the Corinthians to an experience of newness in
their following of Christ. They were to say “yes” to God’s will, just as Jesus
had done and as Paul was trying his best to do. The gospel shares the same
message through the reaction of the crowd to the newness they were finding in
the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus: "They were all astounded and
glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.'” Beyond showing
his authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons
and over sickness, in today’s gospel we see Jesus demonstrating a new form of
authority – his authority to forgive sins. The healing episode presents Jesus
as the embodiment of God, sent to save us, restore us and make us new.

First reading, Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25

The newness of what Jesus is doing, including the forgiving
of sins, the preaching and the healing, is previewed in the passage from Isaiah
we read today, in which God promises "something new." The middle
section of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, is addressed to the Jews who have been
permitted to return home after their prophesied “70 years’ exile” in Babylon,
encouraging the returnees with words of hope and consolation. He tells the Jews
that the exile in Babylon has been God’s punishment for their disobedience and
idolatry. However, he assures them of God’s mercy. According to Jewish
theology, only God can forgive sins. Hence God says, “It is I, I, who wipe
out...your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” By absolving them of their
sins God makes them into a new people -- a people of hope. Besides, God wants
to use them to get His message to the whole world. Through this reading, God
reminds us that the only sins of which we are still guilty are the sins of
which we have not yet repented. God never looks at our past but only at our
present situation, our present relationship with him.

Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 1:18-22

St. Paul wrote this second letter, probably either from
Ephesus or from Philippi, to his Corinthian converts toward the end of his
third missionary journey (53-57 AD). Paul's calling as an apostle was difficult
and challenging. He enjoyed the love of the Christian community in Corinth. But
these people, with their Greek philosophical speculations and low morals did
not make Paul's life easy. There were a few among his converts who were
belittling Paul and boasting of their own superiority. Paul’s cancellation of
his promised second visit to Corinth because of his other apostolic duties also
made some Corinthians very critical of him. They accused him of being
unreliable. But Paul turned the situation into an occasion for a profound
teaching. He told them that in the most important matters he had been, and was
being, completely reliable. For example, he had proclaimed to them Jesus Christ
who embodied the faithfulness of God by His unconditional “yes” to God’s will.
In Jesus, God had said, “So be it,” fulfilling all His promises made throughout
salvation history. Paul's principal purpose in these verses from his letter was
to prove to the converts of Corinth that he was faithful in every way to his
office as preacher of the Gospel of Christ. We, too, are to keep saying an
unconditional “Yes” to God, just as Jesus always said “Yes” to his Father. The
risen Jesus is the “yes” to everything God has ever promised. This means that
we, the “other Christs” (anointed by God, like Jesus), are constantly called
upon to say “yes” to whatever God is doing in our lives and say “yes” to
whatever God wants us to do for His glory and for the salvation of souls.



Exegesis

The context:

Today's gospel is the last in a series of five healing
stories. Today’s gospel passage actually consists of two stories. The first
story is a healing narrative, in which Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed
man to health. The second is a debate between Jesus and the scribes about his
power to forgive sins. The first story demonstrates the power of faith, and in
this particular case we learn what others can do for us if they are persons of
faith. As soon as Jesus had returned to Capernaum after a preaching tour of
Galilee, the crowds gathered in and around the house where he was staying so
that there was no room to get in or out. Four men carrying their paralyzed
friend tried in vain to enter through the crowd. Here is the wonderful picture
of a man who was saved by the faith of his friends. His friends were men who
had trusting faith in the healing power of Jesus and they were men with
initiative, tenacity and creativity. The Palestinian house was flat-roofed with
a very slight tilt to allow the rain water to run off. The roof was composed of
wooden beams laid from wall to wall at short distances apart. The space between
the beams was filled with close packed twigs, compacted with mortar and then
marled over. It was the easiest thing in the world to take out the packing
between two beams. The men carried their friend to the roof of the house, made
a hole in the roof, and lowered him down in his mat to the spot right in front
of Jesus. Luke tells us that there were in the crowd Pharisees and Doctors of
the Law from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem. This was probably a delegation sent
to check out Jesus the new preacher and to report back to the Sanhedrin.

Jewish concept of sin and sickness:

Many kinds of sickness were seen by the Jews as punishment
for one’s personal sin or the sins of one’s parents. This man's paralysis was
probably seen by the people around as a punishment for some sin in his own life
or in that of his parents. It was a common belief that no sickness could be
cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason Jesus had first to convince the
paralyzed man that his sins had been forgiven. Modern medicine believes in
psychosomatic diseases and healing: that the mind influences the physical
condition of the body, and that a person can never have a healthy body if his
mind is not in a healthy condition. We know that there is a reciprocal
influence between our physical and spiritual condition. Many sicknesses are the
result of stress or an imbalance in our relationships with others, our work
and/or our environment. Once Jesus granted the paralytic the forgiveness of
God, the man knew that God was no longer his enemy, and he was ready to receive
the cure which followed.

The Pharisees thought this healing was blasphemous:

It was the manner of the cure which scandalized the Scribes
and the Pharisees. By forgiving sin, they thought Jesus had blasphemed,
insulted God, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. Jesus
insisted that if he healed the man, then his enemies must recognize his authority
to forgive sin, and consequently his divinity. These Scribes and Pharisees
believed that no one could get up and walk unless his sins were forgiven. If
Jesus were able to make this man get up and walk, it would be visible proof
that the man's sins were forgiven, and that Jesus' claim to divinity was true.
So Jesus demonstrated that he was able to bring forgiveness to a man's soul and
health to his body. This healing demonstrates the fact that we can never be
right physically until we are right spiritually, that health in body and peace
with God go hand in hand. The healing of the paralytic is but one of the many
proofs of his divinity which Christ gave to his disciples and it was in fact
the principal charge on which his enemies had him crucified.




A man saved by the faith of his friends




This passage is unique among all of the reports of Jesus'
healing ministry because the faith of the paralytic is not expressed. Rather,
it is the faith of the friends who have brought the paralytic to Jesus that is
highlighted. It is the faith of the community being exercised on behalf of an
individual. Here is a man who is saved by the eager and expectant faith of his
friends. It still happens today. For example, there are many who are saved by
the faith of their parents. When Augustine was living a reckless and immoral
life, his devout mother came to ask the help of her saintly bishop Ambrose.
"It is impossible," he assured her, "that the child of such
prayers and tears should perish." Many of us would gladly bear witness
that we owe all that we are to the faith of godly parents. There are also those
who are daily saved by the faith of those who love them. Many of us avoid evil
ways so that we may not cause pain and sorrow in the hearts of our parents and
dear ones.

Life messages :




1) We are called to intercede for others and bring them to
Christ: The dramatic role played by the friends of the paralyzed man in the
healing story reminds us of the need for, and power of, intercession for
others. The actions of the four men were prayers, expressing faith, hope and
love. Do we recognize the power of the collective faith and prayers of our
community? Most congregations and individuals pray regularly for people who
need healing. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are
ill or in special need. There are many among us who need a healing community, a
group of faith-filled friends, a fellowship to carry them for a while - to
carry them to the One who has the power to heal and forgive, to the One who
speaks the truth, to the One who can bring justice and restore that which has
been lost. Healing, forgiveness, justice, restoration –- these require friends,
a family, brothers and sisters, people who will not give up, just like the four
who brought the paralytic to Jesus and who did not give up, but instead, made a
hole in the roof of the house so that the one in need might meet the healer.

2) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives. The
heart of the Christian faith is the "forgiveness of sins." In the Creed
we say, “I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." God not only
forgives our sins, He blots them out and does not remember them. Forgiveness is
the power to liberate a person from past sin and restore to that individual a
sense of self-worth. We all need forgiveness. While we have the power to
forgive others, we need to be forgiven ourselves by the One who has the
authority to forgive. In Jesus, we see this authority, the same authority He
gave to his Church. In the confessional, the sinner encounters the same Christ
that the paralytic met centuries ago in that house in Palestine. Today’s gospel
gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament
of Reconciliation and to hear from the priest Jesus’ words to the paralytic:
“Your sins are forgiven.” The Gospel also instructs us to forgive others their
sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily sins every day of
our lives. Thus, let us become an assembly of the “forgiving forgiven,” a
community liberated from the anger, fear, hatred, resentment, disappointment
and sadness that paralyze our spiritual life.

3) We need to repent of our sins and ask God’s forgiveness
before receiving Holy Communion. That is why we express our need for God’s
forgiveness in a variety of ways during the Holy Mass. At the beginning of Mass
there is short moment of silence, an invitation to call to mind one's sins. It
is not an in-depth examination of conscience, but merely a recalling of our
most notable failures during the past week or the past twenty-four hours. “I
made a stupid, cutting remark. I drank to excess. I chose my own comfort
instead of reaching out to someone….” The Scripture readings and the homily
often provide us with a closer examination of our life. In the Nicene Creed we
say, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins; in the Apostles’ Creed
we say, I believe in … the forgiveness of sins.” God’s pardon is not something
we necessarily feel emotionally; it is something we believe because of our
faith in Jesus. At the most solemn moment of the Mass, the priest speaks Jesus’
words: that his blood would “be poured out for you and for many for the
forgiveness of sins.” In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father to forgive us our
trespasses in the measure that we forgive those who trespass against us. Before
receiving Communion we confess our utter unworthiness to receive God, and we
pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; only say the
word and my soul shall be healed.” We should receive the sacrament of
reconciliation before receiving Jesus in Holy Communion if we are in mortal
sin.

Additional Anecdotes




1) Why should the paralytic go home with his old mat? One of
the most powerful depictions of our reluctance to forgive ourselves is given in
the Hollywood film, The Mission. The main character, Robert De Niro, kills his
brother and makes a living by capturing and selling Indian slaves. He reaches a
point, however, where he experiences deep sorrow and true repentance for the
life he has lived and receives his priest’s assurances in the sacrament of
reconciliation that God has forgiven him. But he cannot break free of his guilt
until he finds the grace to forgive himself. He devises a penance for himself.
He puts all his armor and weapons -- the reminders of his old life -- in a huge
net and drags this net through forests, rivers and finally up the steep cliffs
of a mountain on his way to the Indians he has once enslaved. It seems to us
like a terrible and unnecessary punishment. But, when the Indians see his
suffering, they accept his sorrow and forgive him. Then he forgives himself and
cries aloud. Not until then is he free. For the De Niro character, his strange
penance was a demonstration of his deep contrition to those he had brutalized. Perhaps,
that is what the command: “Take up your mat and walk” in today’s gospel means.
It is a way in which a man who has been forgiven by God finds his way to
acceptance and service of others. The mat might have helped him to forgive
himself and to remember the loving and forgiving God every remaining day of his
life.

2) “I am a Christian, and this was a demonstration that
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Back in October or early November, of 1986,
the New York marathon was run through the boroughs of that great city. Over
50,000 participated, but only 19,413 actually finished the race. One man in
that race, who finished dead last, is a picture for us as we think about
audacious faith. His name is Bob Wieland, and it took him four days and two
hours and seventeen minutes to complete the marathon. But when he finished,
even though he finished dead last, he wound up being first in many hearts
because you see, Bob Wieland did that marathon without any legs at all!
“Without any legs at all,” you say, “well, how in the world did he do that?”
And I’ll tell you. He did it on his hands, swinging his torso forward about a
yard at a time on his powerful arms, at an average speed of about one mile per
hour! He had to stop several times because his arms got so tired. But just as
soon as they were rested, off he’d go again heaving his torso forward a yard at
a time and at a pace of one mile an hour. Finally, four days and two hours and
seventeen minutes later he completed the race covering the 26 miles and 385
yards. He said to one of the reporters, “I am a Christian, and this was a
demonstration that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will always overcome the
impossible!” (Norman Neaves, “Do Not Surrender Your Hope!”)That’s it, isn’t it?
The kind of audacious faith demonstrated by the four friends of the paralytic
in today’s gospel never says, “We cannot,” or “Impossible.”

3) “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office
tomorrow at noon.” There is a beautiful story by Ernest Hemingway about the
power of unconditional forgiveness. In a little village in Spain, a rich father
and his teenaged son argue, and say things they should never have said. The
son, named Paco, runs away to the big city of Madrid. Weeks go by, then months,
and the father comes to regret his anger. He rehearses, over and over again in
his mind, the apology he will offer to his son when he returns. Yet Paco does
not come back. The father begins to fear he has lost his son forever. Finally,
the father devises a plan. He travels to the city and places a classified ad in
the most widely circulated newspaper: Dear Paco, Meet me in front of the
newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.”
Now, "Paco" is a very common name in Spain - like "John" or
"Jim" in our country. By twelve o'clock the next day, as the story
goes, Paco is waiting outside the newspaper building; he and his father have a
joyful reunion. Yet along with the son, there are 800 other men named Paco,
gathered there, every last one of them hoping it was his father who had taken
out the ad. This story shows the power of forgiveness. In today’s gospel, Jesus
uses this forgiveness factor for the miraculous healing of the paralytic man:
"My child, your sins are forgiven...Rise up and walk."

4) Paralyzing effect of guilt: In the 1890s, the editor of
the Oxford English Dictionary, James Murray, put out a plea for people of
learning to collaborate with him on researching the dictionary. Thousands of
people from across Great Britain offered their help in extensively researching
the meaning and earliest usage of almost every word in the English language.
Dr. Murray's most helpful collaborator was a doctor from Crowthorne, Mr. W.C.
Minor. Dr. Minor was amazingly well-read, and contributed in-depth research on
hundreds of words. Many times, Dr. Murray suggested that he and Dr. Minor meet,
but Dr. Minor turned down every invitation. Finally, Dr. Murray decided to
travel to Crowthorne and introduce himself to his most helpful contributor. But
when he arrived at Dr. Minor's address, he discovered that his friend was a
long-time inmate at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Dr. Minor had been
confined there for the preceding 25 years as a result of having committed a
bizarre murder. Late one night in 1872 in London, Dr. Minor had shot and killed
a man named George Merritt, a common laborer and the father of seven children.
Minor had never met Merritt before, and there seemed to be no reason for the
cold-blooded killing. Londoners were outraged. But the London courts discovered
during Minor's trial that he was truly insane. As they discovered, in Dr.
Minor's sadly twisted mind, he had killed in self-defense. He was sure that
George Merritt was the "vengeful Irishman" who had haunted him for so
many years because while he was in the army as a field surgeon his fellow
officer put a permanent scar on the cheek of a young Irish recruit for
deserting his post during the Civil War. At his trial, W. C. Minor was found to
be insane. The brilliant man who contributed enormously to our understanding of
the history of the English language spent most of the rest of his life locked
away in an insane asylum. ("The Strange Case of the Surgeon at
Crowthorne," Simon Winchester, Smithsonian, September 1998, pp. 88-99).
Guilt has the power to destroy. That is why confession and forgiveness have
played such an important role in the history of Christian faith. The paralyzed
man in today’s gospel may have had such a guilt feeling.
5) "Lord I can do nothing! Will You take care of me?”
Many of you know the story of retail genius, J. C. Penney. In the early years
of the Great Depression Penney lost a large part of his fortune and the fruits
of thirty years of hard work. He suffered a nervous breakdown. In the hospital,
which he could ill afford, the 58-year-old businessman confronted his deepest
fears and questioned his most dearly held values. He described later the
turning point: "One night I became possessed of the strange idea that the
end of life had come for me, and that before morning I would be gone. I took a
sedative, and went to sleep at nine o'clock. After an hour I awoke, still with
the conviction that this was the last night on earth for me. I got up, wrote
farewell letters to my family, returned to bed, and again fell asleep. To my
surprise I was still alive the following morning. Feeling restless and
apprehensive, I dressed and went downstairs to the dining room, intending to
have breakfast. The place had not yet been opened. I wandered disconsolately
down the corridor. Presently the sound of singing led me to the chapel, where a
small group of people was engaged in an early morning prayer meeting. They were
singing the old, familiar hymn: ‘Be not dismayed whatever betide, God will take
care of you.’ Slipping inside, I sat down in one of the back seats. Someone
read a passage of Scripture, which was followed by a prayer. Silently, yet in
agony of spirit, I cried: "Lord I can do nothing! Will You take care of
me?” Something I can only explain as a miracle happened to me in that quiet
chapel. An appalling weight was lifted from my spirit, and I passed from
darkness to light. I had entered the room paralyzed in spirit, and helplessly
adrift. I left it with an exhilarating sense of relief from the thought of
impending death and a reborn hope in life." [Peter Hay, The Book of
Business Anecdotes (New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1988), pp. 269-270.]
J. C. Penney had walked out of the City of Regret – not of his own power, but
by the grace of God. Like the man who was lowered through a roof long ago,
Penney found deliverance and a new life. That new life is available today to
all who would trust in Jesus. Our emotions can cripple us. Guilt is one of the
most destructive of emotions. Hear the words of Jesus to the paralyzed man in
today’s gospel: "Your sins are forgiven."




6) If even one person had expressed concern for him,.. There
was an interesting article in People magazine recently. It was about a young
man, eighteen-year-old Kevin Hines, who, in September of 2000, decided to give
up his fight with depression by jumping off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
As he paced and cried along the bridge sidewalk, Kevin looked for someone who
would talk him out of his crazy decision. If even one person had expressed
concern for him, then Kevin was prepared to back down. But not one passerby
gave Kevin a second glance, with one exception--a tourist asked him to take her
picture. Not one person, including the tourist, cared enough to try to
intervene to keep him from killing himself. Finally, Kevin Hines climbed up on
the guard rail and threw himself 220 feet into the waters below. Miraculously,
he survived his jump, although he suffered serious injuries. While recovering
from his injuries, Hines received some encouraging advice from a visiting
priest. He said to Kevin, "You are a miracle. Now go out and save
lives." Today, according to People magazine, Kevin Hines has gone back to
school and is working to put the priest's words into action in his life and in
the lives of others. The story had a happy ending. Thank God. But it is
sobering to read that Kevin would not have jumped if only one person had reached
out to him. What would have happened if you had been on the bridge that day?
Would you have intervened to try to save Kevin, or would you have simply passed
him by? Today’s gospel describes how friends of the paralytic brought him to
Jesus the healer.

7) "Well, because Mom did it that way." Remember
the classic story about the young man who found his new wife in the kitchen
preparing a roast for dinner. Very carefully, she cut the roast in half. Then,
very conscientiously, she put half in one pan and the other half in another pan
and then put them in the oven.
Puzzled, her husband asked why she had cut the roast in half
and put the halves in separate pans. "I've always done it that way,"
she answered. "But why?" persisted the husband. "Well, because
Mom did it that way." The husband picked up the phone and called her
mother and asked her why she always cut the roast in half and baked the halves
in two separate pans. She said, "Because Gramma did it that way."
When they asked Gramma why she did that, she said it was because she didn't
have a pan big enough to hold the roast. Now, this is a light illustration of a
very significant point, namely, that we can get so locked into certain ways of
doing things, that we fail to consider whether they are right or wrong or
whether they make sense. That's what happened to the Pharisees. They had gotten
so accustomed to doing things a certain way, that they were not open to any new
way, even though it made sense. They couldn't understand the common sense of
Jesus in helping this man because their common practice was not to help people
on the Sabbath Day. Blinded by the Law, we can miss the chance to love. Blinded
by the common practice, we miss the common sense.

8) "I wonder what Jesus would have made of it".
Tony Blair was the first Prime Minister of England since Gladstone, to read the
Bible habitually. When asked about his faith Blair said, "As a private
individual, I find prayer a source of solace and I read the Gospels. They are
compelling texts, and a most extraordinary expression of sensitive human
values. I also read the Old Testament, which is detailed and vivid." In
1996, Blair was asked by Cardinal Basil Hume, the head of the Roman Catholic
Church in England and Wales, not to take communion at his family's church. For
a time Blair had been receiving communion at St. Joan of Arc church in
Islington, but when a new priest came there were, coincidentally, guidelines in
England and Wales concerning who could and who could not receive communion.
Blair was an Anglican and wished to remain so, yet he worshiped with his
Catholic wife in her church with their children. "My wife is Catholic, my
kids are brought up as Catholics," Blair once explained. "I have gone
to Mass with them for years because I believe it's important for a family to
worship together. I wouldn't want to go to an Anglican or Protestant church
when my wife and kids are going to a Catholic one." Blair had no choice
but to accept the Cardinal's ruling, but made it plain that he did not agree
with it. He wrote back to say he would refrain from receiving communion if it
really caused a problem for the Catholic Church. But, he added, "I wonder
what Jesus would have made of it". (03-28-2001, pp 7. Independent John
Rentoul, Blair Part 2 - The Battle For Power: A twist of faith). But Tony’
Blair’s faith was so strong that he finally joined the Catholic Church. Today’s
gospel describes the faith of the friends of the paralytic man in the healing
power of Jesus.

9) Once the lights went out and cigarette smoke filled the
auditorium she began to be paralyzed. The famous Scottish Bible scholar William
Barclay recalls the case of a girl who played the piano in a movie theatre in
the days of the silent films. Normally she was quite well, but once the lights
went out and cigarette smoke filled the auditorium she began to be paralyzed.
She fought against it as long as she could, but at last the paralysis became
permanent and something had to be done. Examination revealed no physical cause
whatever. Under hypnosis it was discovered that when she was very young, only a
few weeks old, she had been lying in one of those elaborate old-fashioned cribs
with an arch of lace over it. Her mother had bent over her smoking a cigarette.
The lace had caught fire. It was immediately extinguished and no physical harm
had come to her but her sub-conscious mind was remembering the terror. The dark
plus the smell of the cigarette smoke in the cinema acted on the unconscious
mind and paralyzed her body - and she did not know why. The Fear Factor is more
than a television show. The man in today’s gospel story may well have been
paralyzed because consciously or unconsciously he agreed that he was a sinner,
and the thought of being a sinner brought the illness which he believed was the
inevitable consequence of sin. The first thing that Jesus said to him was,
"Child, God is not angry with you. It is all right."

10) Sue Ann has become obsessed with guilt feelings. The
heartwarming film Paradise tells the story of a young boy named Billy who is
left for the summer with a couple – Jake and Sue Ann - who happen to be friends
of his mother. He soon discovers that his new family friends are really
wonderful people who treat him like their own son. But he also notices that
something is wrong in the mutual relationship of the couple. There is no
expression of affection between them and Jake’s anger toward Sue Ann is barely
disguised. Little Billy can't understand why such attractive couple don't seem
to care for each other. Eventually we are told in the flash back that Jake and
Sue Ann had lost a child a few years past from crib death and that Sue Ann has
blamed herself ever since. Her penance has been to refuse to allow herself to
feel forgiven. It has all but killed her relationship with Jake because, refusing
to open herself to love, Sue Ann is unable to respond with any kind of
affection to her husband. Jake has tried everything a man of his ability could
possibly do. He has been patient. He has reassured Sue Ann that he does not
blame her for their son’s death. He has given her all the time anyone should
need to work through the understandable sense of grief. But, Sue Ann has become
obsessed with guilt. Her guilt has become a self-inflicted wound that she
refuses to let heal; and Jake’s frustration and desperation at being unable to
help her has turned to deep anger and, eventually, to bitterness. Sometimes the
most massive chains in which we feel bound are the ones we have fashioned for
ourselves. What does it take before we can become liberated toward the love
that has already forgiven us? Even though God forgives us freely, we must still
ask for and receive the grace to forgive ourselves. Although it probably sounds
like heresy to say, there are some things God will not do for us. One of them
is finding the perfect penance for a debt that only we can pay back. Does not
Jesus’ command to the paralytic after healing him, “pick up your mat and walk”
sound like such a penance?

11) "Lord, give me the strength and courage to cross
this river." Three men came upon a fiercely raging river which they
absolutely had to cross. But they were scared to death and didn't know what to
do. So the first man prayed, "Lord, give me the strength and courage to
cross this river." And poof, God gave him huge arms and strong legs, and
he swam across that river in one hour. The second man prayed too. "Lord,
please give me the courage and ability to cross this river." Poof! God
gave him a rowboat and he rowed across in half an hour. The third man was so
scared that he couldn't move. So he prayed fervently, "Lord, please give
me the strength and wisdom to cross this river." Poof! God turned him into
a woman, and she asked a local woman if there were a bridge nearby. She found
the bridge and walked across it in five minutes! At times we all get paralyzed
and just can't move. Sometimes it's fear of the unknown that freezes us in
place. Sometimes it's grief that plunges us into darkness so deep that we can't
think. Sometimes it's the memory of past failures that makes our heart shrink and
turn into itself. Sometimes it's anger or an old grievance that steals life and
energy from us and leaves us dead in the water. Whatever its cause, spiritual
paralysis is something everyone experiences at some time in life. And that's
why Sunday's gospel has such a valuable lesson for us. The paralyzed man needed
healing, in body and spirit.

Jokes

1) Third grader confessions. Three small boys went to
confession. The first told the priest, "I threw Peanuts in the lake."
The second confessed the same crime. When the third came in, the priest said,
"I suppose you threw peanuts in the lake too." The boy answered,
"No, no, Father, I am Peanuts."

SYNOPSIS OF O.T. VII SUNDAYHOMILY ON MK 2: 1-12

Introduction

The central message of today’s scripture readings is that
God acts in newer ways in different times and situations. That is why He heals
in newer ways and forgives sins in newer ways.

Scripture Lessons

In the first reading, Isaiah advises the exiles in Babylon
to believe that their God will forgive their sins, liberate them from the
paralysis of despair caused by the Babylonian exile and return them to their
homeland in new ways that will be different from those their ancestors
experienced under Moses and commemorated yearly at Passover. The prophet also
assures them that God is preparing them for “new” things they’ve never seen or
heard before. Today's psalm, "Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against
you,” introduces a new condition for reconciliation with God, namely, a
confession of sin and an appeal for forgiveness. In the second reading, Paul
invites the Corinthians to the experience of newness in their following of
Christ which they will find by saying “yes” to God’s will, just as Jesus did
and as Paul himself tried his best to do. The gospel shares the same message of
novelty in the reaction of the crowd to the newness they were finding in the
preaching and healing ministry of Jesus: "They were all astounded and
glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.'” Beyond showing
his authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons
and over sickness, in today’s gospel we see Jesus demonstrating a new form of authority
– his authority to forgive sins. This healing episode presents Jesus as the
Incarnation of a merciful and forgiving God, come to save us, restore us and
make us new. The healing of the paralytic, described in today’s gospel,
demonstrates the power of faith, and in this particular case we learn what
others can do for us if they are persons of faith. This is the story of a man
who was healed through the faith-filled actions of his eager, confident
friends.

Life Messages

1) We need to intercede for others and to bring them to
Christ. Most congregations and individuals pray regularly for people who need
healing. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are ill or
in special need. There are many among us who need a healing community, a group
of faith-filled friends to carry them to Christ, the healer who forgives sins.

2) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives.
Today’s gospel gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in
the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to hear from the priest Jesus’ words to the
paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven.” We should repent of our sins and ask God’s
forgiveness before receiving Holy Communion. The gospel also instructs us to
forgive others their sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily
sins every day we live.


Labels: Sunday Homilies




 




HOMILY FOR O.T. V SUNDAY HOMILY (FEBRUARY 5, 2012)

MARK 1: 29-39Readings First Reading: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23Gospel: Mark 1: 29-39

Anecdotes 1) “It must be Peter’s mother in law!”: There is the funny story about a woman listening to her pastor preach a Sunday morning sermon about Simon Peter's wife's mother, ill with a fever. Since it was a boring sermon the woman left the Church after the Mass, feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Consequently, she decided to go to Church again that day, out in the country where she had grown up. When she arrived, she discovered to her dismay that her pastor had been invited to be the substitute priest and again, during the Mass he preached on the gospel of the day about Peter's mother-in-law being ill with a fever. Believing that there was still time to redeem the day, the woman decided to go to the hospital chapel in the evening. As you may have guessed, her pastor was assigned to say the evening Mass there and he preached the same sermon on Peter's wife's mother and her fever. Next morning, the woman was on a bus riding downtown and, wonder of wonders, her pastor boarded that bus and sat down beside her. An ambulance raced by with sirens roaring. In order to make conversation, the pastor said, "Well, I wonder who it is?" "It must certainly be Peter's mother-in-law," she replied. "She was sick all day yesterday." (Millenium Edition of Preaching) 2) Stop blaming others and start doing good: There is an old and funny little anecdote that goes something like this. An elderly man who was quite ill said to his wife, "You know, Sarah, you’ve always been with me – through the good and the bad. Like the time I lost my job – you were right there by my side. And when the war came and I enlisted – you became a nurse so that you could be with me. Then I was wounded and you were there, Sarah, right by my side. Then the Depression hit and we had nothing – but you were there with me. And now here I am, sick as a dog, and, as always, you’re right beside me. You know something, Sarah -- you’re bad luck!" There is a part of us that is tempted to look for somebody to blame for all the things that go wrong in our lives. More often than not, we blame the very people we once looked up to for an answer. Today’s first reading from the book of Job is a futile attempt to answer the perennial question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The gospel shows us how Jesus kept himself busy alleviating the pain and suffering around Galilee by his preaching and healing ministry rather than by pondering on universal solutions for the problem of worldwide evil. 3) “I can't handle it any more!" : There is a story about a couple who had been married for more than thirty years. One evening, when the husband returned from work, he found his wife packing. "What in the world are you doing?" he asked. "I can't handle it any more," she replied. "I'm tired of all the bickering and arguing and complaining that's been going on between us all these years, I'm leaving." Whereupon, the startled husband suddenly dashed to the bedroom, pulled a suitcase out of the closet, filled it with his belongings and ran after his wife, saying, "I can't handle it any more either. I'm going with you!" Today’s first reading tells the story of a man named Job who is at a point in his life where he can't handle it anymore. He expresses himself as a man without hope. In Chapter Seven he complains that life is a "drudgery" ... that his eyes "will never see joy again" ... he can but "lament the bitterness of his soul" (Jb. 7:1, 7, 11). (Millennium edition of Preaching)IntroductionThe readings today challenge us to go courageously beyond people’s expectations by doing good as Jesus did, instead of brooding over pain and suffering in the world that we cannot end. They invite us to explore the importance of work in our lives and to learn a lesson in work ethics from Job, Paul and Jesus. While the gospel presents Jesus enthusiastically preparing for his second day’s missionary work, the first reading details Job’s attitude in striking contrast to Jesus’. In the midst of his long suffering, Job spoke of the tedium and futility of life. Job's words describe the miseries of human existence. Eventually, Job arrived at a place in his life where, in trust and in faith, he surrendered himself, his suffering, his work and everything he had had and had lost to the greater wisdom of God (Job 42:1-6). The second reading, on the other hand, presents Paul as a true and dynamic follower of Jesus, ready to do something extra for his Lord. Paul’s conviction about the good news and his commitment to Christ were so intense that preaching the gospel had become a compulsion for him. Knowing that he had been called to do more than just preach the Gospel, he resolved to preach it without recompense. Pointing out the spontaneous response of Peter’s mother-in-law after she had been healed by Jesus – namely, "waiting on them at table"-- today’s gospel teaches us that true discipleship means getting involved in giving selfless service to others. Jesus finished the first day of his public ministry at Capernaum on a Sabbath day. During the day, he had taken part in the synagogue worship, taught with authority, exorcised a demon and healed Simon’s mother-in-law. After all that, in the evening, he “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and drove out many demons.” Thus, Jesus spent himself and most of his time ministering to the needs of others, giving healing, forgiveness and new beginning to many. Yet, he was well aware that even the most important work has to be continually refueled and evaluated before God his Father. Hence, Jesus rose early the next morning and went off "to a deserted place" to pray in order to assess his work for his Father’s glory and to recharge his spiritual batteries. First Reading, Job 7:1-4, 6-7: The book of Job is a long didactic poem intended to refute the ancient Jewish belief that God rewards the good in this life and punishes the wicked. The book describes God’s permitting Satan to test the commitment of His servant Job. A prosperous and God-fearing man, Job, suddenly experienced the successive, catastrophic losses of wealth, family and health. The only explanation the author offers for God’s permitting the innocent Job to suffer these losses is that He had allowed Satan to test Job’s trusting commitment and fidelity in God, even under extreme pressure. Only in the light of Christ's sufferings and cruel execution, can we see the value of suffering in this life. Job’s detailed account of the miseries of human existence contrasts with Jesus’ work of healing as described in the gospel. In this passage, Job claims that the entire human condition is sad and hopeless, comparing himself to a farm laborer who is forced to do degrading work for wages that barely keep him alive and who yearns for relief from the scorching sun. There is no peace, Job says, even in sleep! Instead, there is only a restless expectation of a return to toil at dawn. But continued suffering, monotony and isolation make Job aware of the emptiness of life without God and the hope of ultimate union with God. Of course Job is right. Left to our own resources, we cannot escape the ultimate meaninglessness of life. Fleeting joys are obliterated by suffering and inevitable death. We are reassured however that God gives life a purpose. He permits pain in order to serve His saving will and to teach us appreciate His gift of life in fullness. The good news we proclaim is that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has joined us to Himself now and forever. Job eventually realizes that those who choose to give themselves to God will find that life has meaning. Modern psychology teaches us that it is only our totally free actions that bring us real fulfillment in life. If our life is filled with drudgery and our days are without hope, it may be because we have never dared go beyond the security of other people's approval and acceptance. Jesus shows us that we can reach perfection only by allowing the risk of suffering into our lives.Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23: Corinth was a center of philosophical and religious ferment, filled with new and bizarre ideas. There were many in Corinth who considered Christianity to be merely one of many cults, this one initiated by a Jewish teacher named Jesus of Nazareth. They also knew that Paul was a former persecutor of Christians. So in Chapter nine of this letter Paul explained his authorization to preach the good news of Jesus to the Corinthians. He exercised his authority modestly, making himself "a slave to all" and affirming that he had “no reason to boast.” His preaching ministry went beyond what Jesus demanded. First, Paul made no use of his Gospel-given right to accept support from the community. He gave up rights and privileges, which he had the right to claim, in order to give himself fully to the spreading of the gospel. He was determined to be seen as free from any desire for personal praise or gain. Paul emphasized that giving up his legitimate rights for the sake of a higher ideal gave him true freedom. Additionally, he achieved a share in the blessing of the gospel by accepting poverty for its sake. Paul thus encouraged his Corinthian converts to be ready always to forgo their own rights when the spiritual welfare of a neighbor was at stake. Paul’s freedom to serve was rooted in the free choices he had made as a preacher of the Gospel. The purpose of his ministry was not to gain personal profit, but to draw people closer to God.ExegesisUnrestricted preaching and healing ministry of Jesus: Capernaum was a small port town located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, mostly serving fisherman and the fishing industry. The Sea of Galilee (or the Lake of Tiberius, or the Lake of Gennesaret), is a freshwater lake, 13 miles long at its longest, and 8 miles wide at its widest, with a maximum depth of a hundred and fifty feet. It is surrounded by small mountains. In Mark's gospel, Jesus had just finished the first day of his Capernaum ministry. He had exorcised a demon and eased the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law. That night, he "cured many who were sick with various diseases, and drove out many demons." Whether the people whom Jesus healed were really possessed by the devil or not, they were mentally disturbed. Jesus worked miracles as signs that God’s healing love was at work in the world. His disciples were excited at seeing their master becoming a local hero and attracting huge crowds, like John the Baptist. They felt that this would increase their reputation and prosperity. So, when they found Jesus the next day, very early in the morning, at prayer in a deserted place, they suggested that he return to the place where he had been so successful. Jesus’ answer, "Let us move on to the neighboring villages, so that I may proclaim the good news there also,” shows that his mission had an entirely different objective from the one his disciples expected. Jesus gave importance to preaching and teaching: Jesus had no interest in being the center of attraction, of being popular, of being “successful.” He simply wanted to be where he could tend to the needs of the people. He came to bring spiritual salvation and blessing to all people. That is why, for the remaining two years of his life, he went from town to town preaching the kingdom of God. He used his energies to bring healing and wholeness into the lives of the people. Jesus' purpose was to teach, to serve, to give, and to share. Since nobody can be saved who has not first believed (Mark 16:16), it is the first task of priests, as co-workers of the bishops, to preach the Gospel of God to all men (2 Corinthians 11:7). In the Church of God, all of us should listen devoutly to the preaching of the Gospel, and we all should feel a responsibility to spread the Gospel by our words and actions. It is the responsibility of the hierarchy of the Church to teach the Gospel authentically--on the authority of Christ. By leaving the relative safety and security of Capernaum and going to other towns and villages, Jesus risked opposition and even death. It is precisely by going beyond what people expected of him that Jesus accomplished his saving mission. If, as Christ’s disciples, we are tempted to use only a part of our gifts, we may hesitate to take risks for Christ, lest this create problems for us. Jesus shows us that we reach perfection only by allowing the element of risk into our lives.Jesus recharged his spiritual batteries every day: Jesus was convinced that if he were going to spend himself for others by his preaching and healing ministry, he would repeatedly have to summon spiritual reinforcements. He knew that he could not live without prayer, because his teaching and healing ministry drained him of power. For example, after describing how the woman who had touched Jesus’ garment was instantly healed, Mark remarks: “Jesus knew that power had gone out of him” (5: 30). The “deserted place” to which Jesus went to pray was not actually a desert. Rather, it was a place where he he could be free from distractions -- a place where he could give himself unreservedly to prayer. He went there, not so much to escape the pressures of life, as to refresh himself for further service. Jesus' prayer is a prayer of perfect praise and thanksgiving to the Father; it is a prayer of petition for himself and for us; and it also a model for the prayer of His disciples. Our daily activities drain us also of our spiritual power and vitality. Our mission of bearing witness to God requires spiritual energy which comes to us through daily anointing by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we, too, need to be recharged spiritually and rejuvenated every day by prayer – listening to God and talking to Him.Life messages :1) We need to be instruments for Jesus’ healing. Bringing healing and wholeness is Jesus’ ministry even today. We all need the healing of our minds, our memories and our broken relationships. Jesus now uses counselors, doctors, friends or even strangers in His healing ministry. Let us look at today's Gospel and identify with the mother-in-law of Peter. Let us ask for the ordinary healing we need in our own lives. When we are healed, let us not forget to thank Jesus for his goodness, mercy, and compassion, by turning to serve others. Our own healing process is completed only when we are ready to help others in their needs and to focus on things outside ourselves. Let us also be instruments for Jesus’ healing by visiting the sick and praying for their healing. But let us remember that we need the Lord’s strength, not only to make ourselves and others well, but to make ourselves and others whole. 2) We need to live for others as Jesus did: Jesus was a man for others, sharing what he had with others. In his life there was time for prayer, time for healing and time for reconciliation. Let us take up this challenge by sharing love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness with others. Instead of considering life as dull and boring let us live our lives as Jesus did, full of dynamism and zeal for the glory of God.Additional Anecdotes1) “A Million Little Pieces”: The controversial best seller which was later proved to be a “fake-memoir” of the recovering addict hero James Frey begins with a challenging anecdote as its preface: The Young Man came to the Old Man seeking counsel. “I broke something, Old Man.” “How badly is it broken?” “Into a million little pieces.” “I’m afraid I can’t help you.” “Why not?” “There is nothing I can do. “ “Why can’t it be fixed?” “Because it’s broken beyond repair. It’s in a million little pieces.” Doesn't that sound like what Job says in chapter 7: 1-4, 6-7 in today’s first reading when his life was broken into a million little pieces? But today’s gospel (Mark 1: 29-39), gives us the assurance and proof that nothing in our lives is beyond repair for Jesus, the healing savior.2) Experience the healing touch of God. Most of us are familiar with Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in southern France built at the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a saintly young woman named Bernadette a century and a half ago. Pilgrims today continue to throng to the shrine, hoping to be cured of their ailments. Over the decades, thousands have left behind their crutches and braces as silent witnesses to the Lord’s power to make them well. This sort of thing is, of course, nothing new. From Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Guadalupe (Mexico), Medjugorje (Yugoslavia), to the holy sites in our own land, pilgrims throughout the ages have made their way to sacred temples, grottoes, and hillsides in the hope of finding healing and strength. Some dismiss such journeys of faith as childish piety, inappropriate in an age of therapeutic advances such as our own. But healing is an essential element of the Gospel message. Surely, Jesus, whose Sabbath day preaching and healing ministry are described in today’s gospel, will not disappoint us today when we are assembled around the altar seeking his power, healing and favor in our own lives.3) "You're so kind.” A few years ago in Sweden, a nurse working in a government hospital was assigned to an elderly woman patient. This patient was a tough case. She had not spoken a word in three years. The other nurses disliked her and tried to avoid her as much as they could. Basically, they ignored her. But the new nurse decided to try "unconditional love." The elderly woman patient rocked all day in a rocking chair. So one day the nurse pulled up a rocking chair beside the lady and just rocked along with her and loved her. Occasionally, the nurse would reach over and gently touch and pat the hand of the elderly woman. After just a few days of this, the patient suddenly opened her eyes and turned and said to the nurse, "You're so kind." The next day she talked some more and incredibly two weeks later, the lady was well enough to leave the hospital and go home! Of course, it doesn't always work like that, but studies are accumulating which show without question that love has healing power. Today’s gospel describes how Jesus demonstrated the love and mercy of God his Father for His children by his teaching and healing ministry. 4) Healing love of Jesus: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. Her 1844 volume Poems made her one of the most popular writers in the country at the time and inspired Robert Browning to write to her, telling her how much he loved her work. Elizabeth had become an invalid and had suffered for many years, unable even to lift her head from her pillow. But then one day she was visited by Robert Browning. It was love at first sight. In just one visit, he brought her so much joy and happiness that she lifted her head. On his second visit, she sat up in bed. On the third visit, they started dating and soon got married! Love can heal us physically. No wonder, as today’s gospel tells us, people were healed by coming into physical contact with Jesus. He was love incarnate... and that's what he is calling us to be today: Love made flesh; Love personified; Love lived out. This is the first point. Love can heal our bodies. Love can heal physically. 5) Crumbled and dirty $20 bill: A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a crisp new $20 bill. There were 200 people in the room. The speaker asked them, "How many of you would like to have this $20 bill?" Hands went up all over the room. Then the speaker said, "I'm going to give this $20 bill to one of you, but first let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up... and then he held it up and said, "Who wants it now?" Hand went up everywhere. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and stepped on it and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up and held it up for all to see. It was crumpled and smudged and dirty, and he said, "Who wants it now?" Still hands went up all over the place. Then the speaker said, "My friend, you have just learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. No matter how smudged and rumpled it became, it was still worth $20." Many times in our lives, we get knocked around... dropped, crumpled, smudged, and ground into the dirt... by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. And sometimes we feel as though we are worthless and used up and of no account. But no matter what has happened... or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. Do you feel spiritually sick this morning? Do you have a fevered soul right now? The doctor is in the house! Jesus Christ is the Great Physician... and just as His love healed Simon's mother-in-law, even so, His love can heal you, help you, cure you, redeem you, save you. In gratitude, you will want to serve, to help others. You will want to pass that love on to everybody you meet. 6) Happiness begins with a touch “a touch of the Master's hand. W. E. Sangster was once asked if he would find time to cheer up a young man who was recuperating from a nervous breakdown. Sangster promised to do his best. He sought the young man out and began to try to help him, but it was hard work. "This is a gray world," the young man said. "I see no purpose in it. It is dull, meaningless and evil. Its pleasures soon pass. Its pains endure. I seriously ask myself the question: 'Is life worth living?'" Sangster saw him once or twice a week for nearly two months. Every conversation was the same “nothing seemed to improve. Then something happened to that young man. He fell in love. Head over heels in love! On the day his engagement was announced he came to see Sangster and began the conversation with words something like this: "This is a lovely world. Come out into the garden and listen to that little bird singing fit to burst its heart. Isn't it a glorious morning? How good it is to be alive!" That young man did not will himself to that change of attitude. It was not a choice he made. Something happened to him within. He fell in love. So it is when we experience Christ's presence in our lives. The world seems to change. But it isn't the world at all. We are changed by a touch – the Master’s touch which healed people as described in today’s gospel. 7) “What would you like for Christmas?" Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus put his priorities in order by starting every day in prayer. Gorman Williams spent most of his life as a missionary to India. In 1945, he purchased tickets for a long-awaited vacation back in the United States. But a few days before he was to leave, he heard about some Jews who had escaped the wrath of the Nazis. They had traveled by boat to India seeking refuge. Since it was a time of global war, the Indian government denied their request to immigrate. They were granted permission to stay for a short time in the lofts of the buildings near the dock. Their living conditions were wretched. But it was better than being sent to a concentration camp in Germany. It was Christmas Eve when Gorman Williams heard about the plight of these Jews. Immediately he went to the dock, entered the first building and called out, "Merry Christmas! What would you like for Christmas?" The response was slow. "We're Jewish," someone called out. "I know," Williams said, "but what would you like for Christmas?" The weary Jews, fearful for their very lives, replied, "We would like some German pastries." At that point Gorman Williams sold his ticket to the United States and purchased more German pastries than anyone had ever seen. He brought lots and lots of them and carried them in large baskets. Later he told this story to a group of students. One brash, judgmental young man reprimanded him. "You shouldn't have done that," he said, "they were not even Christians." "No they weren't," the wise missionary quietly replied, "but I am." Gorman Williams had his priorities in order. [Nell W. Mohney, Don’t Put a Period Where God Puts A Comma, (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1993), pp. 21-22.] 8) Miraculous healing: One of my all-time favorite church magazine cartoons pictures a physician in his office, speaking with his bookkeeper. The subject of their conversation is a patient's bill, which apparently had been in the accounts receivable file for a long, long time. The bookkeeper says to the doctor, "He says that since you told him his recovery was a miracle, he sent his check to the church." Today’s gospel passage from Mark touches on the subject of miraculous healing.9) Don’t forget your primary objective: Charles R. Swindoll, in his book Dropping Your Guard tells of Flight 401 bound for Miami from New York City with a load of holiday passengers. As the huge aircraft approached the Miami Airport for its landing, a light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to come on. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked out the light failure. Their question was this, had the landing gear actually not deployed or was it just the light bulb that was defective? To begin with, the flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn't budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out...and then another. By and by, if you can believe it, all eyes were on the little light bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket. No one noticed that the plane was losing altitude. Finally, it dropped right into a swamp. Many were killed in that plane crash. While an experienced crew of highly-paid and seasoned pilots messed around with a seventy-five-cent light bulb, an entire airplane and many of its passengers were lost. The crew momentarily forgot the most basic of all rules of the air -- "Don't forget to fly the airplane!" The same thing can happen to the local church. The church can have so many activities, programs, projects, committee meetings, banquets, and community involvements -- so many wheels spinning without really accomplishing anything of eternal significance -- that the congregation forgets its primary objective. So what is Jesus' goal? Jesus says it is to preach. “That is why I have come, to preach! There may be some healings along the way. Simon, I have come to preach the kingdom of God and we must go elsewhere.”10) "Every one is searching for you.” I read recently about a woman named Laura. Laura first attended Mass at age five. Her mom had recently become a Catholic. When Laura inquired about the church, her mom said, “This is where Jesus lives.” At the end of the service, Laura said, “I want to see Jesus.” Her mom tried to explain that Jesus was there in spirit not body, but the five year old didn’t get it. Finally, her mom said, “That’s enough, Laura, let’s go home.” Laura resisted. Mom insisted. Then Laura bolted across the aisle and bear hugged a marble post. She yelled out, for all to hear, “I’m not leaving till I see Jesus!” Her mother was humiliated. The more she asserted, the louder Laura protested. Finally the priest came over, bent down, took Laura by the hand, and gently led her to the tabernacle and told her that Jesus is inside. After a couple of minutes Laura re¬turned happily to her mom, content to go home. That was twenty years ago. Today people who know her call Laura by her proper name, Sister Laura. She became a nun! In that role she has excelled in school and thrived as a servant to others. I guess we’d have to concede that somehow in the Sacrament that day long ago, little Laura “saw Jesus.” [Jim Cathcart, The Acorn Principle (NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), pp. 153-154).] I personally believe that everyone is looking for Jesus in his or her own way. We have what French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Blaise Pascal called a “God-shaped void” within our souls. We try to fill it with all kinds of inappropriate and ineffective substitutes –power, wealth, sex, drugs – but nothing on this earth can suffice. As St. Augustine said so beautifully, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” All people, everywhere, need what only Christ can offer them.11) Look at life through the eyes of Jesus. Pastor Edward Markquart of Seattle tells about hearing a former NFL football coach, Sam Ratigliano, speak one time at a banquet. Pastor Markquart assumed he was going to hear one of those “jocks for Jesus,” banquet speeches in which he would be told how Jesus had helped this NFL coach win so many victories. Instead, Sam Ratigliano told how he and his wife were driving one evening with their two-year-old daughter in the back seat. Suddenly a car was upon them; there was an accident; their car rolled over; the child was thrown out; and was pinned underneath the car. Markquart with his cynical attitude expected the NFL coach to say something like, “I found enormous strength in myself, picked up the back bumper of the car one inch, just enough for my wife to get her safely out.” Ratigliano then went on to tell how he and his wife grieved so deeply for so long over the death of their little girl. It was an awful time for them, the most difficult time in their marriage. Time went on, and they got pregnant again, finally, an answer to prayer, and that baby was about to be delivered . . . and it was stillborn. So here they were at this banquet, says Ed Markquart, and Sam Ratigliano went on to say: “God has called me to be his servant in my turf, the National Football League. He rules over all aspects of my life, when winning or losing, in triumphs and tragedies. How about you? Where is your turf? Does God rule you there in your turf, in your situation? Not just when you’re winning, but when you are losing? Not just during the triumphs but during the tragedies of your life? Does God rule you then?” (http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_b_christ_the_king.htm.) Here was a professional football coach who had learned to look at life through the eyes of Jesus.12) The best organized, but the least efficient: A German soldier was wounded. He was given leave for two weeks and ordered to go to the military hospital in his home town for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, "For the slightly wounded," and the other, "For the seriously wounded." He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, "For wounded officers" and the other, "For wounded enlisted men." He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, "For party members" and the other, "For non-party members." He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street. When the soldier returned home after getting his wounds bandaged in a private hospital, his mother asked him, "How did you get along at the hospital?" "Well, mom," he replied, "to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me -- but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!" The soldier’s comment describes many churches in our day: well organized, but accomplishing little. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus and his disciples were not “organized,” but were able to accomplish great things.Jokes1) Humor in our healing ministry: “Laugh and the world laughs with you.” “Laughter is music of the spheres, language of the gods.” And it's fine medicine. Laughter exercises the face, shoulders, diaphragm, and abdomen. The breathing deepens, the heart rate rises, and the blood is more oxygenated. Endorphins are released, pain thresholds are raised, and some studies suggest that even immune systems are boosted. Norman Cousins, in Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, tried laughter therapy, and found that ten minutes of hearty laughter could give him two hours of pain-free sleep. When you laugh, others laugh too. Laughter is a contagious, highly effective, totally organic medicine. It has no side effects, and no one is allergic to it. Did you have your dose of laughter today? Jesus may have burst into hearty laughter when he watched Zacchaeus climb down from the sycamore tree. Perhaps he also had at least a mischievous smile when Peter started sinking in his attempt to walk on water. Then why don’t we too have a hearty laugh in the worshipping community in the real presence of our Lord? SYNOPSIS OF O.T. IV (B)SUNDAY HOMILY ON MK 1: 21-28IntroductionThe challenge offered by today’s scripture readings is to go courageously beyond people’s expectations by doing good as Jesus did. The readings also invite us to explore the importance of work in our lives and to learn a lesson in work ethics from Job, Paul and Jesus.

Scripture Lessons

While the gospel presents Jesus enthusiastically preparing for his second day’s preaching and healing ministry, the first reading details Job’s attitude in striking contrast to Jesus’. Job complains of the tedium and futility of life and the miseries of human existence. But eventually Job surrenders himself, his suffering, his work and everything he had had and had lost to the greater wisdom of God (Job 42:1-6). The psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm sings praises to God because He is busy full-time in gathering Israel from their captivity, in healing the broken hearted and bandaging their wounds, in controlling the universe, in sustaining the lowly and in punishing the wicked. The second reading presents Paul as a true and dynamic follower of Jesus, ready to do something extra for his Lord by preaching the gospel without recompense. Pointing out the spontaneous response of Peter’s mother-in-law after she had been healed by Jesus, today’s gospel teaches us that true discipleship means getting involved in giving selfless service to others. During the Sabbath day, Jesus took part in the synagogue worship, taught with authority, exorcised a demon, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and, in the evening, “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and drove out many demons.” Thus, Jesus spent himself and most of his time ministering to the needs of others, giving healing, forgiveness and new beginning to many. Yet, Jesus rose early the next morning and went off "to a deserted place" to pray, in order to assess his work before God his Father and to recharge his spiritual batteries.

Life Messages

1) We need to be instruments for Jesus’ healing. Bringing healing and wholeness is Jesus’ ministry even today. We all need healing of our minds, our memories and our broken relationships. But Jesus now uses counselors, doctors, friends or even strangers in his healing ministry. Let us ask for the ordinary healing we need in our own lives. When we are healed, let us not forget to thank Jesus for his goodness, mercy, and compassion, by turning to serve others. Our own healing process is completed only when we are ready to help others in their needs and to focus on things outside ourselves. Let us also be instruments for Jesus’ healing by visiting the sick and praying for their healing. But let us remember that we need the Lord’s strength not only to make ourselves and others well, but to make us and others whole.

2) We need to live for others as Jesus did: Jesus was a man for others, sharing what he had with others. In his life there was time for prayer, time for healing and time for reconciliation. Let us take up this challenge by sharing love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness with others. Instead of considering life as dull and boring, let us live our lives as Jesus did, full of dynamism and zeal for the glory of God.