Feb 3, 2018

5th Sunday: To preach and to heal


He grasped her hand and helped her up


It is an interesting verified fact that Pope Pius XII who had the very unfortunate fate of being elected during a very dark time in world history, was convinced that Adolf Hitler was possessed by Satan.  The level of destruction and violence that Hitler encouraged would indicate this strongly, as was true in the case of Stalin and other ruthless dictators during the Second World War 

That being so Pope Pius is alleged to have attempted the rite of exorcism from Rome, facing Berlin, over Hitler.  Apparently, he did so repeatedly but it seems to have not had an immediate effect. There may be specific reasons for this, according to professional exorcists but it is one example of this dark power.  There is a reason why the Church reminds us about sin and temptation by naming three sources of temptation: the world, the flesh and the devil.  We live in an imperfect world, flawed through human weakness but there is still much reason for hope. 

Christ has overcome this power of darkness and his death and resurrection is the key to that success and to our salvation. In Christ there is only light and life.  Our Gospel this Sunday and the scene in the synagogue at Capernaum is one such example.

Here we find Jesus in the ministry of healing, exorcism and preaching which Mark indicates that our Lord was very busy about such things on a daily basis. 

Jesus comes as healer as he compassionately reaches out to Peter’s mother-in-law who was likely a widow considering her living in Peter’s house. Jesus, “grasped her hand, and helped her up” as the fever left her.  Many heard of this and as the Sabbath day ended after sunset, the whole town was gathered at the door with the sick and desperate.  He cured many and drove out demons. 

While we may be tempted to look more critically at this through the eyes of modern medical science as in dismissing what was thought to be demonic possession but was actually symptoms of a medical condition, the Gospels many times emphasize Jesus’ confrontations with the forces of darkness.  It was historically a dark time in that of Jesus.  With the force of ruthless Rome at times, the abject poverty that most lived in, and all around indications of disease and ineffective ways to heal, the power of Christ to bring hope and healing became a powerful force for optimism. 

Our first reading from the Book of Job while poor Job laments his human condition as hopeless it sets up a kind of backdrop for what Jesus found in the social conditions of his time. 

The Gospel passage further tells us that as Jesus went off to pray, Simon Peter and others pursue Jesus stating: “Everyone is looking for you.” While we imagine that the compassion of Jesus had no limits it still indicates as our Lord says, “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also” that his mission was greater than one location or simply to work healings all day.  He continued to preach the good news and drive out other demons throughout Galilee.  Here Mark shows a kind of frenetic Jesus who wasted no time in the active fulfillment of his daily ministry. 

It brings forward to us who also live very busy lives; lives that often can be distracting and disjointed.  The very nature of our faith is to be sent out on the mission Christ has given to his Church.  We see this in everything the Church does and Pope Francis has made it clear that we cannot be a Church closed in on itself.  What God has done for humanity is sending his Son must be known by the world and like Jesus in the Gospel today we move out and “go to the nearby villages.”

For most of us, for myself as priest, we do so beginning here at home.  “Going out” may mean my own family and extended family, our neighbors, those we know who have left the Church, those we work with, those in our classrooms and even something as simple as prayer before a meal in a restaurant.  We can evangelize in both silent witness and in our behavior and words.  It might mean developing a more active and focused prayer and sacramental life or renewing my commitment in my marriage or other vocation.  

How can I combat evil that I see?  How can I live a life of virtue that is an example to others of who I say I am?  Jesus ministry of a preacher and healer is the mission we are called to where we find ourselves.  I can forgive rather than seek pay back; I can love rather than hate; be honest rather than try to hide something. 

May Jesus be our model as we all share as loyal sons and daughters in the life he has gained for us. 

Peace to you

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always by your protection. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God for ever and ever. 

(Collect of Mass)