5 Sunday B: Mission - Action and Contemplation


Jesus' mission is Church's mission: Preaching, teaching and healing. That's why we have churches, schools and hospitals. These ministries seem to be our primary mission. This might get us busy, tired, stressed and can get us out of our wits. That's when we need that space to recharge our spirits and bodies. That's what the Lord did. However, he doesn't seem to complain when "they" came to "disturb" him out of his "space". For Jesus the "action-contemplation" space was seamlessly woven into his mission-presence space.

-Tony Kayala, c.s.c.

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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration


Today we recall that Jesus ‘went all through Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out devils.’ We gather at his table now because we acknowledge him to be the One who brings us healing, who has conquered evil, and who gives us life and hope. 

Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
 

Today’s gospel passage is in three sections:
– verses 29 – 31: Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law;
– verses 32-34: a general statement on Jesus’ ministry of healing;
– verses 35 – 39: Jesus chooses to expand his ministry to neighboring towns.

We can take one section at a time, on its own; or we can try to discern a movement flowing through the entire passage – this is the approach I propose. The passage then reveals a new dimension of Jesus’ ministry, the general outlines of which are drawn in these first Sundays of Ordinary time.
On the Third Sunday, Jesus announced the overall goal of his ministry – the kingdom of God. The Fourth Sunday (Mark 1:21-28) showed that his ministry is a ministry of casting out unclean spirits with authority. On this Fifth Sunday, we get the further insight that Jesus will always be restless, he will never “have somewhere where he can lay his head.” He will always be on the lookout for new areas where his gospel needs to be preached.
This has also been the mark of Jesus’ followers. In every age and culture, the Church has had its “missionaries”, men and women of generous spirit, happy and successful where they were, who realized that the gospel was not being preached among cultures, ethnic groups or social classes which were neglected by society and by the Church. They stepped out courageously and moved into these “neighboring country towns” so that the gospel of God’s love could be “preached there too.”  Paul and Barnabas were the first. They left the prosperous community of Antioch to bring the good news to the Greek cities of Asia Minor. One thousand years later, St Francis of Assisi turned his back on his noble and wealthy family and lived as a brother among the poorest people of his area. In our time, Mother Teresa, comfortable and successful in a well established religious order, decided to move out and found a new community entirely dedicated to the dying on the streets of Calcutta.

In the secular world too, all great people come to the time when they must step out into an area their movement has neglected up to now. Nelson Mandela, for example, decided at some point in his life that he would work for reconciliation with his oppressors. People have given up successful careers in law, medicine, finance, education or management to work for the advancement of neglected communities.

It happens to all of us, at one time or another, that we find the courage to break new ground, to be reconciled with someone who had hurt our family, to move into some field where our services are needed. This passage celebrates such moments of grace
– in the life of Jesus and in our lives.

In recent years, our Church has often made similar moves in many countries. It has given up its prestige and influence, risked losing the patronage of the wealthy and the powerful, and stood at the side of the oppressed, “preaching there too.”
It would be good to spend some time with the expression “because that is why I came.” Like so many phrases in the Bible, it is brief and seemingly simple, but it can transform our consciousness radically. When the Church neglects  the marginalized it is always because it has forgotten the reason “why it came”.

The gospel passage reminds us that we will not take bold new decisions unless we are inwardly free, as Jesus was. It also teaches us the secret of his inner freedom – his regular, deep, personal prayer, the fact that he would “leave the house and go off to a lonely place to pray there” – another haunting little phrase. 

Prayer Reflection

Lord, answering your call is often difficult.
Sometimes we are discouraged by our failures,
but at other times it is success that prevents us.
Like Jesus, we must go against those who admire us and the work we are doing.
They want us to continue where we are,
they remind us of the good we do for people,
as friends, teachers, doctors, nurses or counsellors,
how we take them by the hand and help them,
so that the fever leaves them and they can wait on us.
They point out the people bringing to us all who are sick,
and those who are possessed by devils,
so that it feels as if the whole town is there crowding round the door or our house.

We ourselves are pained to leave the many who are suffering from diseases
of one kind or another,
or who need devils to be cast out.
Teach us to follow the example of Jesus;
remind us that if we want to do your will
we must learn to get up in the morning, long before dawn,
and leave our house to go off to a lonely place and pray there,
so that when others come in search of us saying, “Everybody is looking for you,”
like Jesus, we will be free enough to choose what we know is right for us.
We will go to neighboring regions where no one else has gone,
relate to those we have been keeping at arm’s length,
so that we can bring the good news of your love there too,
remembering that this is why we have come into the world.

Lord, forgive us, your church, that we have become complacent, that we are content to congratulate ourselves at whole towns crowding round our doors.
We pray that we will never lose the missionary spirit of Jesus,
so that, just as he went through all Galilee,
the church too will go through all areas of society and all cultures,
preaching your love wherever people are gathered,
and casting out every kind of evil spirit.

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Comments on Gospel: Mk 1:29-39

In this passage we see the beginnings of the public itinerant ministry in Galilee. However, there are one or two points of interest. First, there is the combination of the public with the private. Jesus heals both in public, and in the private space of the house of Simon and Andrew. We hear of Jesus being in the public gaze of healing — ‘after sunset’ which we would express as ‘doing overtime’ — and then he is away in a private space in prayer and then back immediately to another public space to preach.

Second, it is interesting that the first private healing is of someone with fever — fever brought a dread to people in the ancient world that we cannot grasp (Luke in his version of this story links fever with demonic possession), and so being able to cure fever, and do it quickly, is a sign of heavenly power. The theme of the speed of the healing is expressed by the fact that Peter’s wife’s mother was ill with fever one moment, and the next was able to be up and about serving them.

At the outset of the ministry Mark wants to present Jesus as the one who brings healing and deliverance; now in this passage comes the additional task of preaching. But all the time, only the demons know his true identity, but he has such power over them that he can even keep them from speaking and spreading this news. Here we are getting our first glimpses of the Messianic Secret that is such a key theme in Mark’s theology. 

Homily Notes

1. It is often the case that we perform actions in the liturgy while hardly ever thinking why we bother. Often when people are asked, for example, why we bring Communion to the sick, the only answer is that the priest wants it done, so because the minister likes to help out the priest, he or she does it. Even worse occurs, however, when people think up their own rationale for actions without recourse to the fundamental rationale of Christian liturgy. That process was, and still is, the great factor leading to deformities in the liturgy over time, such as the enormous deformities in the liturgy of the Eucharist that were corrected after Vatican II. People often wonder why there was need for such a radical break with the 1950s: the answer is that the extent of the surgery was adapted to the extent of the cancer! But such confusions do not just happen in the past, but all the time. Ask your Eucharistic Ministers why they bring Communion to the housebound, and you might get some theological surprises! I did so and got this morsel of confusion: if the sick can get Communion on the days they cannot get to Mass, but ideally should, they build up less ‘trouble’ with God. Unpicking this, it was clear that this well-educated minister was not confusing ‘not being able to get to Mass’ with sin (or what old textbooks called ‘material sin’), but did think that God was running a merit / demerit system as a basis of salvation. Coupled with this was a notion that celebrations of the Eucharist were really there as a way of producing Holy Communion: so if the sick person could get the result without watching the preparation, then all was well! This is reminiscent of the eighteenth-century casuists’ question: why should bishops (presiding, not celebrating) be required by law to sit through long ceremonies when they had more important things to do, could they not just be given communion by their chaplains? Answer: Bishops and kings have to sit through the ceremonies on Sundays prior to receiving Communion as an act of penance! So the special minister I spoke to was the unwitting inheritor of a long tradition of teaching that we would all now rather forget.

2. Hence, it is a good idea to use the homily sometimes to reflect on just why we are doing what we are doing, and today’s gospel with its links to Jesus entering houses, healing, and eating makes this a good day to reflect on the links between the celebration of the Eucharist and care of the sick in the community.

3. A simple explanation would include these elements:

• We gather each week to become one people as brothers and sisters in Christ
• When we gather for the Eucharist we become the Body of Christ: Jesus is the head of this body, we are the trunk and arms and legs.
• We show we are one body by having shares of one loaf and drinking from one cup.
• The cup of blessing which we bless, is a participation in the blood of Christ.
• The loaf which we break, is a participation in the body of Christ.
• Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
• But we recall that there are sisters and brothers in this community who cannot gather with us because they are sick or housebound.
• So we bring them a share of our one loaf, the portion carried to them by the Minister of the Eucharist.
• Then through that sharing, they become one with the rest of us and with Christ.
• The Ministers carrying portions of our loaf to the sick and housebound of the community are forming the links and sinews of the Christ’s body.

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Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
We continue reading from the first chapter of Mark and its emphasis on Jesus as the one who inaugurates the kingdom of God. Now it is his healing ministry that highlights God’s triumph over the powers of darkness. This is dramatically symbolised in the fact that it is after sunset on the Sabbath that the people come crowding around the door. During the Sabbath they were not allowed to bring their loved ones to him as this would be considered work, but now they flock to him in search of his healing compassion. As before, Jesus does not permit the demons to speak and here an important theme of the gospel is being alluded to. People have definite expectations of what a Messiah should be, and what Jesus is offering will be different and so he refuses to allow a mistaken notion of his purpose to develop. Rather he commits himself to his task by taking time out to pray alone and then continuing his mission of proclaiming the kingdom. 

Reflection 

The friends who came to comfort Job in his suffering were no comfort at all because they only offered him platitudes derived from poor doctrine. Job, for his part, insisted there must be more to God than what he was being told and it was this determination to really know God that brought him to the experience outlined in the final chapters of the book (38-42). Sometimes, in order to feel secure and certain, religious people can speak of God in ways which are only a demonstration of their ignorance and fear. As Jesus showed, God will be better known through love in action than through any statement of doctrine.

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.     Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

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." (Millennium 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 spent himself in 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 anymore!":

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 anymore," 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 
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2.     The Connections: 

The blessed bathrobe

A woman was diagnosed with cancer.  Despite being well off financially, she always had a feeling of emptiness.  Seeking to fill that void, she amassed more and more things -- books and magazines, art and collectibles, even more and more people.  But the more she accumulated, the less time she had to enjoy them all, to appreciate them all, to know them all.  Her motto had become “Have everything, experience nothing.” 

That began to change with a bathrobe, one of the few things she took with her to the hospital for her cancer surgery.  Every morning she would put it on and took comfort in how soft it was and enjoyed its beautiful color, its warmth, the way it moved around her when she moved. 

She later told her doctor, “One morning as I was putting it on I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  I know it sounds funny, but I felt so lucky just to have it.  But the odd part is that it wasn’t new.  I had owned it and worn it now and then for quite a few years.  Possibly because it was one of five bathrobes in my closet, I had never really seen it before.” 

When she completed her chemotherapy, she held a huge garage sale and sold more than half the things she owned.  Her friends thought she had gone “chemo-crazy,” but getting rid of so many possessions brought a new joy and appreciation to her life.  Until her illness, she had no idea what was in her closets or on her bookshelves, she didn't know half the people whose telephone numbers she had in her address book. 

But the fewer things she has she now enjoys; she has fewer but much deeper friendships.  Having and experiencing, she discovered, are very different. 

[Adapted from My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.] 

In today’s Gospel, Mark includes the short but important detail that Jesus, in the midst of his demanding preaching and healing, seeks out a “deserted,” out-of-the-way place to pray.  We all need that deserted place in which we reconnect with God and the things of the heart.  That “deserted” place may be a set time for prayer every day, a walk in the woods, a quiet corner of the house or apartment, or even a bathrobe -- whatever keeps us aware of God's presence in our life and renews within us a sense of gratitude for the blessings of that presence. 

THE WORD:

Throughout his Gospel, Mark portrays Jesus as somewhat uncomfortable with his growing renown as a miracle worker.  He clearly values time away from the crows to be alone to pray -- even though that time is cut short by the needs of those around him. 

Jesus works miracles not out of any need of his own for the adulation of the masses but out of an extraordinary sense of compassion, a deep love for his brothers and sisters, especially those in crisis or pain.  The miracles he works are not to solicit acclaim for himself but to awaken faith and trust in the Word of God, to restore in humankind God's vision of a world united as brothers and sisters under his providence ("that is what I have come to do").  Jesus’ compassion for those who come to him breaks down stereotypes and defenses that divide, segregate and marginalize people; his ministry is not to restore bodies to health but to restore spirits to wholeness. 

HOMILY POINTS:

The word Gospel means “good news.”  It is a story that ends not in death but life; it is centered not in humiliating sorrow but in liberating joy; it does not demand blind adherence to laws and rituals but invites us to welcome the Spirit of compassion and love into our lives.  The Gospel of Jesus is about the re-creation and transformation that are possible through reconciliation, justice, mercy and community. 

Like Jesus’ rising before dawn and going to a deserted place, we too need that “deserted,” “out of the way” place to re-connect with God, to rediscover God’s presence in our life, to find within ourselves again a sense of gratitude for the blessings of that presence. 

Jesus does not perform miracles to dazzle the crowds and glory in their acclaim but to awaken his hearers’ faith and trust in the word of God, to restore all of humanity to God's vision of one world in which all men and women love and respect one another as brothers and sisters under the Father's loving providence.   
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3.     Fr. Munachi Ezougu 

PhD holders are causing confusion in Africa. People call them doctors and when simple village folks hear it, they flock to them with all their health problems. These “doctors” find themselves in a serious predicament as they try to explain that even though they are called doctors they do not cure the sick. Nobody seems to give a satisfactory answer to the question of the village folks: “If they do not cure the sick, why do people call them doctors?” 

In today’s gospel, Jesus finds himself in a similar predicament. Jesus came as saviour of the world. The prophet Isaiah had said of him that by his bruises we are healed and made whole (Isaiah 53:4). True to type, in the synagogue he heals a man with an unclean spirit. From the synagogue he goes to Peter’s house and heals his mother in-law who has a fever. “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.... And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mark 1:32-34). Then, very early in the morning he escapes to a quiet spot to pray. Before he could finish his morning prayers his disciples hunt him down and inform him that an even larger crowd has gathered with their sick and infirm and that everyone is looking for him. You would expect Jesus to say, “Great, now we are in business. Now they are coming. Our strategy is working.” But what does he say? He says no, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (Mark 1:38). 

Excuse me! Proclaim the message? What message is greater that healing the sick and restoring to them their human dignity that has been disfigured by sickness and poverty? Isn’t that essentially what Jesus came for? Well, not exactly. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). This good news is spiritual and material just as the human person is soul and body. But when it comes to order of priority, the spiritual comes first, then the material. This order is brought out in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). 
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4. Fr. Jude Botelho:

We are familiar with the story of Job, part of which is contained in the first reading of today. Job’s story was a pitiable one: He was deprived of family, lacked worldly possessions, was racked by physical pain and suffered mental anguish. Job put himself the question: “Why should God allow these misfortunes to come upon me?” Job moans his lot: “Is life worth living?” He compares his life to a slave, whose life is one long drudgery; he feels helpless and hopeless like a workman who has to work for no wages; His life is one long bore, he waits for the end which will not come. Job though steadfast and loyal was impatient. His human friends had failed to explain life and he felt that his divine friend would not come either. Is there any hope for the depressed? Our Christian perspective adds a new dimension. Truly, if death is the end of it all, life does not make sense!

The healing in giving
He stood on the steel bridge-fifty feet above the swirling river. He lit his last cigarette –before making his escape. There was no other way out. He had tried everything: orgies of sensuality, travel excitement, drink and drugs. And now the last failure: marriage. No woman could stand him after a few months. He demanded too much and gave nothing. The river was the best place for him. A shabby man passed by, saw him standing in the shadow and said, “Got a dime for a cup of coffee, Mister?” The other smiled in the darkness. A dime! “Sure, I’ve got a dime, buddy. I’ve got more than a dime.” He took out a wallet. “Here take it all.” There was about $100 in the wallet, he took it out and thrust it towards the tramp. “What’s the idea?” asked the tramp. “It’s all right. I won’t need it where I am going.” He glanced down towards the river. The tramp took the bills, and stood holding them uncertainly for a moment. Then he said, “No, you don’t mister. I may be a beggar, but I’m no coward; and I won’t take money from one either. Take your filthy money with you –into the river. He threw the bills over the rails and they fluttered and scattered as they drifted slowly down towards the dark river. “So long, coward.” said the tramp and he walked off. The ‘coward’ gasped. Suddenly, he wanted the tramp to have the money he had thrown away. He wanted to give – and couldn’t! To give! That was it! He never had tried that before. To give –and be happy… He took one last look at the river and turned from it and followed the tramp….
Christopher Notes

The gospel story begins with Jesus going with his disciples James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. He has barely entered when they confide to him their worries and concerns, petty though they may seem. Simon’s mother-in-law has gone to bed with a fever. Jesus did not hesitate, he went straight away to her bed, took her by the hand and the fever left her and she began to wait on them. Jesus’ present healing involves only a gesture – he grasped her hand and helped her up. That healing action of Jesus was enough to set the town on fire, and by evening everyone who was sick or afflicted in any way was at Simon’s doorstep. Whenever people hear of a healer there are hordes of people who seek the magical touch. What’s wrong in seeking a miracle? If we can get instant relief from our misery why not try the charm, the magical ritual, the holy sanctuary? After all does not God want us to be healed? The Gospel tells us the crowds kept increasing, they wanted more miracles. By morning there were crowds milling around waiting for Jesus but he was nowhere to be found, he disappeared. The apostles could not understand. This was the moment Jesus should have capitalized on his popularity, yet he disappeared and when they found him, he was alone by himself praying. By refusing to be what the people wanted him to be: a magical Saviour, Jesus was making a point, that good health does not necessarily enhance the quality of life, and ill-health does not necessarily detract from it. Rather than carry on with the healing, Jesus insisted on leaving the crowds and heading off to other places to preach the good news. We can imagine it was hard for Jesus to leave the people yet that was the Father’s will revealed to him in prayer, and that is what he did. He had come not to do what the people wanted him to do but to do the Father’s will. Suffering, a deep part of human existence, and essential part of estrangement from God, was also a means of purification and return to God. Jesus did not ignore pain, but did not seek to avoid it either.

Broken to become beautiful!
At the Royal Palace of Tehran in Iran, you can see one of the most beautiful mosaic works in the world.  The ceilings and walls flash like diamonds with multifaceted reflections. Originally, when the palace was designed, the architect specified huge sheets of mirrors on the walls. When the first shipment arrived from Paris, they found to their horror that the mirrors were shattered.  The contractor threw them in the trash and brought the sad news to the architect. Amazingly, the architect ordered all of the broken pieces collected, then smashed them into tiny pieces and glued them to the walls to become a mosaic of silvery, shimmering, mirrored bits of glass. Broken to become beautiful! It's possible to turn your scars into stars. It's possible to be better because of brokenness. Never underestimate God's power to repair and restore.
Robert Schuller

Pause and be still
The musician Andre Kostelanetz once visited the French artist Henri Matisse. When Kostelanetz got to Matisse’s home, his nerves were frayed and he was exhausted. Matisse noticed this and said to him good-humouredly, “My friend you must find the artichokes in your life.” With that he took Kostelanetz outside to his garden. When they came to a patch of artichokes, Matisse stopped. He told Kostelanetz that every morning after he has worked for a while, he comes out to his patch of artichokes to pause and be still. He just stands there looking at the artichokes. Matisse then added: “Though I have painted over 200 canvasses, I always find new combination of colours and fantastic patterns. No one is allowed to disturb me in this ritual. It gives me fresh inspiration, relaxation, and a new perspective towards my work.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Finding our strength and power in God
There was a man who was in the habit of going off by himself into a remote wood. One day a friend curious to know what he was up to, followed him. When he caught up with him, he found him sitting quietly on a log. “What are you doing?” he asked the man. “I’m praying,” came the reply. “But why come to this remote spot to pray?” “Because I feel close to God here.”  “But isn’t God to be found everywhere, and isn’t God the same everywhere? “God is, but I am not.” – While it is true that we can find God and pray to God anywhere and everywhere –in the kitchen, in the street, in the car, in the farmland, in the workshop –still, it’s a good idea to have a special place to which we can withdraw from time to time – the shore, the park, the mountains, the church, or whatever. In such places God seems to be nearer and more friendly. The whole atmosphere seems to be more pervaded with the divine presence. And in such places we are different too. We are calmer, quieter, more relaxed, and thus more open to what God is offering us at all times and in all places.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies

Reaching out makes us reach within

Late one December night on the cancer ward the halls were quiet and solemn, the patients were asleep and most of the visitors were gone. The nurses were gathered about the nurse's station preparing for shift change. Sarah, one of the nurses, was especially tired, having worked seven straight 12 hour days. The kids had needs, her husband had been laid off, and the house payment was due. PING. PING. PING. Sarah angrily looked at the call light box. The patient was a seventy-year-old woman. Sarah had been to her room at the end of the hall at least fifteen times. Angrily she started down the hall. On her way, she suddenly stopped. She stood motionless as a soft voice wafted out of room 235.
"And then one day I'll cross the river;
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives."
Tears welled up in her eyes as she listened and thought about the young woman in that room -- a thirty-five year old mother of two with cancer, with only a week to live, perhaps days. Sarah stood there, with tears in her eyes, remembering how this young terminal woman had such peace. The patient would speak to everyone who came into her room and she would smile even in her pain and took the time to share her faith and let people know the reason for her peace was a faith in God. All the nurses who had been around her commented on her strength and how they had felt peace and calm after talking with this exceptional young woman.
"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know who holds the future,
Life is worth all the living, just because He lives."
Sarah started down the hall to answer the call light, but she was no longer going to check on some pestering old woman. She was going to the room of a patient, a person, a fellow human in need. Sarah left work with a new outlook on life. She had a rekindling of the spirit of service that had motivated her to become a nurse. Those fires had almost died, but for a young terminal woman who had the desire to be of service to her fellow man even unto death. This is a reminder to us that the reason that we are on this earth at all is to be of service to each other. Christ said it best when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brother."
Author unknown

May we let his presence within transform us and the world around!

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5.     Sermons.com 

The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field. "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that." 

Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how the experience had contributed to his philosophy in life. "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss the things in life, that my uncle had missed." 

Frank Lloyd Wright saw in those tracks what his uncle could not: It is easy to let the demands of life keep us from the joys of living.

We all recognize that any goal in life worth achieving demands a great deal of our energy. If you are a doctor you must spend vast hours alone and in residency studying the human body. The life of your patient demands it. If you are a teacher you must live in the library researching and preparing for your lecture. The mind of your student demands it. If you are a carpenter you must patiently measure the building before you drive the first nail. The integrity of the structure depends on it. If you are a mother you must sacrifice your life for another. Your children require it. 

We could not live if we did not set goals and work to fulfill them. No sane person would argue otherwise. But here’s what young Wright discovered at the tender age of 9, and what some don’t learn until 59: The objective in life is not the goal but the journey on the way to the goal. The whole city had gathered around the door, pressing in to see Jesus. The demands on him were already piling up. He cured many, cast out demons, and taught constantly. And his disciples didn’t help matters. When he left in the morning early to pray, they went searching for him. And when they found him they said, “What are you doing, everyone is searching for you?”  

How do we enjoy the journey when everyone and everything is searching for you, wanting a piece of you, and demanding your time?
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Even if you are not a “senior” -- whether you’re in prepubescence, adolescence, middlescence, elderescence, or senescence -- all of us experience “senior moments.” 

You intentionally set out on a mission to get something — forgotten car keys, replacement printer paper, a fresh cup of coffee — and suddenly you get waylaid by some wayward distraction. You encounter a co-worker with a sudden crisis. A kid has a meltdown. (These two “crises” can be eerily similar). Someone texts you, while another someone arrives at your desk, and simultaneously the phone rings, all in the same moment.  

After dealing with these interruptions you find yourself standing in a room with no idea why you are there. What were you after? What was your agenda? In the hallowed ivy-league tradition of absent-mindedness, you just had a “senior moment.” You pointedly and purposefully search your mind and reassemble your thoughts in order to figure out why you are standing where you are -- and what you were intending to do.  

“Senior moments” are reset moments. And busy, bustling lives require reset, reassessment moments. We need to take the time to reconfigure and reconsider just exactly what it is we are pursuing and why we are pursuing it. This sermon this morning is a “senior moment.”  

In this week’s gospel text there are definitely two very different “things” being sought after…_______________________
All Our Strength 

The story is told of a little boy and his father. They were walking along a road when they came across a large stone. The boy looked at the stone and thought about it a little. Then he asked his father, "Do you think if I use all my strength, I can move that rock?" 

The father thought for a moment and said, "I think that if you use all your strength, you can do it." 

That was all the little boy needed. He ran over to the rock and began to push on it. He pushed and he pushed, so hard did he try that little beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. But the rock didn’t move — not an inch, not half an inch. 

After a while, the little boy sat down on the ground. His face had fallen. His whole body seemed to be just a lump there on the earth. "You were wrong," he told his dad. "I can’t do it." 

His father walked over to him, knelt beside him, and put his arm around the boy’s shoulder. "You can do it," he said. "You just didn’t use all your strength. You didn’t ask me to help." 

The world in which we live tells us that it is all up to us. It tells us that we have to be strong and independent. It tells us we can’t and shouldn’t count on anyone or anything else. And yet, what faith tells us and what Jews and Christians have known forever is that we have a ready resource in God, strength for those who ask. 

Donald M. Tuttle
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There Is Nothing More Tempting Than a Lonely Place. 

There is nothing more tempting than a lonely place. A lonely place where phones do not ring and loud voices all shouting at once do not compete for our attention. A lonely place where we can hear ourselves think, feel our own calmed breathing, rediscover the inner rhythms which seek in vain to regulate our lives. A lonely place where we can listen to the wind rippling through the trees or, perhaps, to the full and wise sound of stillness. A lonely place free from the cant of television and the condemnation of calendars. A place of tranquil rest and blessed retreat. There is nothing more tempting than a lonely place.

"And in the morning," Mark tells us, "a great while before day, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35).

Thomas G. Long, Shepherds and Bathrobes, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.______________________________
Personal Prayer Time

We live in a hi-tech, fast pace, workaholic world where no one rests. We are constantly on the road, running errands, going places. We stuff ourselves with "fast food," overbook our lives with a myriad of things to do, and at the end of the day we are totally exhausted. We live (and die) by the clock. We are controlled by the need to produce. Time is money, time is how we keep in control of our lives. We resist quiet time by keeping the radios, televisions and computers on. The very thought of being alone, praying, scares us to death. We want professionals to do that for us. We haven’t learned that relaxation and mediation breaks will empower us to do even greater things. Thus, we continue to be busy. Consequently we are on a path to self-destruction, unable to help others, let alone help ourselves.

I know that I need to build in personal prayer time, time to relax, time to "get away." This story has reminded me to make time for myself a high priority. But, I have also learned something more important. The story tells us that Jesus took time away to pray and be refreshed. That is explicit. What we fail to see is that Jesus set aside this time to yield to the power of God. I believe we need to learn to yield to the power of God too. That means being free from all other distractions so that God can empower us and refresh us. Then and only then can we help others as the power of God flows through us.

Keith Wagner, Help Me, I'm Falling!
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How Clearly Can You See?

This is a story about a small seacoast village in England that routinely would become covered by dense fog. The pride of that village was a lighthouse that had been built on the north end of town where the harbor was navigable and free from the huge rocks that dotted the rest of the coast. One night the villagers had gathered on the south end of town to celebrate a local holiday. Part of that celebration included the building of a large bonfire on the beach.

That same night, a ship in the vicinity developed engine trouble. The ship's captain, after checking his maps and charts, decided to locate on the beam from that village lighthouse and put in at that harbor for repairs. As he scanned the horizon through the fog, he caught sight of a faint glimmer of light. Thinking it to be the beam from the lighthouse, he set his course on it to go ashore.

As he came closer to land, he began to see the light more clearly and realized it was not the lighthouse but the bonfire. Quickly he changed course, later discovering that he had been only 100 yards away from one of the largest sunken boulders in that area and certain destruction of his ship. It made a difference how clearly he could see!

How clearly can you see Jesus? What do you see? 

Paul E. Flesner, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, CSS Publishing Company
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Missing the Meaning of Success

When Hamilton College celebrated its centennial, one of its most famous alumni, Alexander Woolcott, was asked to give a major address. Horace Fenton Jr., remembers that Wolcott opened his speech in this way: "I send my greetings today to all my fellow alumni of Hamilton College, scattered all over the world. Some of you are successes, and some of you are failures--only God knows which are which!" 

We don't always know success when we see it. 

J. Ellsworth Kalas, If Experience Is Such a God Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating The Course?, Nashville: Dimensions.
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Solitude - Avoiding Burnout

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

C.S. Lewis
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Solitude and Silence 

A father took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunchtime arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, "Son, we'll just have a silent prayer." Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, "What in the world were you praying about all that time?" With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, "How do I know? It was a silent prayer."

Our Daily Bread, Adapted.
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More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Coping with Pressure

Countless icebergs float in the frigid waters around Greenland. Some are tiny; others tower skyward. At times the small ones move in one direction while their gigantic counterparts go in another. Why is this? The small ones are pushed around by the winds blowing on the surface of the water, but the huge ice masses are carried along by deep ocean currents.

Unknown
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The Coronary and Ulcer Club 

The "Coronary and Ulcer Club" lists the following rules for members...

 1. Your job comes first. Forget everything else.
2. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are fine times to be working at the office. There will be nobody else there to bother you.
3. Always have your briefcase with you when not at your desk. This provides an opportunity to review completely all the troubles and worries of the day.
4. Never say "no" to a request. Always say "yes."
5. Accept all invitations to meetings, banquets, committees, etc.
6. All forms of recreation are a waste of time.
7. Never delegate responsibility to others; carry the entire load yourself.
8. If your work calls for traveling, work all day and travel at night to keep that appointment you made for eight the next morning.
9. No matter how many jobs you already are doing, remember you always can take on more.