HOMILY 5TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR B 2023
JESUS MOVES ON IN ACTIVE AND PRAYERFUL MISSION
Mk 1.29-39 Job 7.1-7 1Cor 9.16-19,22-23
In driving out the demons, the symbolism continues, that Jesus has authority to confront and overpower evil, wherever he encounters it, but this time he wants it played low-key, so that his hearers don’t just think he’s a supernatural wonder-worker, well above the normal tun of the mill day-to-day life. He wants to walk with the people and engage with them on their level. What’s more, anything deeper about his divine nature would confuse them, with the context of suffering and death being part of it all, in his accepting the human condition, and in the end, facing his human mortality.
Recently I heard a replay of a 1999 interview with John Menadue, who was chief of staff for Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and then Malcolm Fraser (a very interesting transition un turbulent times!), back there in the 1970’s for those who can remember. He was a late convert to Catholicism, and when asked why, he said his call to faith came in the acceptance of Jesus as reflecting the God who comes among us as one of us, that the mystery of Incarnation hit home, with him thus finding faith. It took him a long time to come to this realization, and so the early followers of Jesus could be seen to fit into the same category. It all takes time to absorb and reflect and accept in faith.
Meanwhile Jesus here hits the road, still in Chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel, the next encounter being with Peter’s mother-in-law along the way in Capernaum, said to have been a very mixed and multicultural centre by the lake of Galilee. It’s a pity we don’t get a bit more information and insight into the background and family lives of Peter and the other apostles, as tradition would have it that 11 of the 12 were married men, John being the exception. It is implied by Paul in Corinthians at one point that Peter’s wife did accompany him at least sometimes along the way with Jesus, but that’s probably stretching a point, as we really don’t know any details.
Again, Jesus offers comfort, peace and healing to a woman in adversity, and to demonstrate her recovery was real, Mark has her hopping out of bed and getting straight back into action, serving the visitors, not that we should take a chauvinistic interpretation of a woman’s role!
At the same time, Jesus demonstrates the need to take time out and pray, engaging with God as Father, while preparing for his next foray along the way. There are no comfort zones or places to settle down for long on his itinerant mission, as the journey goes on, and he continues to spread the Good News of God’s kingdom of love and peace and justice.
And now, on the local scene, this week marked the beginning of another school year, and so we’re back into action in parish and school communities. With whole school Masses here and at OLN next week, hopefully we can work on continuing to engage our school and parish communities, beyond just sacramental celebrations for Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. We keep trying!
Funerals are back on, after a coincidental break in January, and Aged Care Masses and visitation continuing, with occasional COVID lockdowns still! I’ve had 4 calls out to the dying in the last week as well, in each of the parish’s 3 nursing homes.
Liturgy Committee met this Saturday, to review our Advent and Christmas celebrations, and now to prepare for Lent and Easter, as time moves forward. It’s all part of building our parish communities, and engaging all levels. There’s always more we can do better together. Thanks once again to all who are involved.
Then I can’t let Job’s depressing thoughts pass by without a mention, as he ponders on the meaning of life, and why his own existence is so miserable, with the thought that it’s just not fair, something we’ve all no doubt felt, at the down times of our own lives. He has had his good times, but now lost it all, wife, children, house, job and friends, so he’s out on a limb on his own, wondering what new catastrophe might come next!! In the end, we know that he works his way out of the black hole of depression, and finds hope through faith, along with new meaning and direction in his life. Don’t we know it’s easier said than done, when we face failure, loss and illness ourselves. There’s no doubt it all can seem so tough and unfair.
Nevertheless, Job’s story offers us hope and comfort, as he realizes that God is with him through it all and that he just has to believe in himself and his capacity to continue on with life, finding the positives, and finding new friends, with whom to engage, aware that he is not on his own after all.
I did a wedding on Friday of a happy loving couple, Virendra and Sanjanaah. a lovely young lady whom I baptized and whose parents I married way back in the 1990’s. I always ask for a personal reflection from each party as to why they wish to take this big step in life, and Virendra made the comment that her optimistic nature and outlook, helped complement his tendency to sometimes see the half glass empty! He makes a good point that we need to support and encourage each other as friends, in our relationships, and not think we have to do it all on our own. And sometimes, counselling and professional therapy is necessary too. Let’s acknowledge there’s no shame in that at all.
As my friend Claude Mostowik MSC says: “The point is that God heals the broken-hearted through us. Having attended to local concerns, Jesus goes to the edges of town for prayer. His prayer is intimately connected with his actions. It is in the moment of solitude that Jesus saw the bigger picture, the wider world that God loved and embraces, and deepened his own awareness of God’s peace, compassion, tenderness and love for all.”
The path of discipleship continues, as we face the unpredictability of life and its challenges, during another year, working and praying together. And let’s not forget, life is beautiful (as the film title says), despite the things that go wrong here and there for all of us!
john hannon 4th February 2024