HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B

HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:

Understanding the Healing Ministry of Jesus

The Gospel of today presents us with the healing ministry of Jesus. The healing ministry of Jesus as recorded in the synoptic gospels shows Jesus’ commitment to restore the whole person to God and not focus on a single dimension of healing. Thus, the healing ministry is all encompassing. As we have it in today’s gospel, it involves preaching,  healing and deliverance. This captures the prophecy that was released by the Prophet Isaiah (Is.61:1) and the fulfillment in Luke 4:18  when Jesus gave his manifesto saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed and to declare the year of God’s favour. This explains the mission of Jesus. A part of is not separated from the whole. Thus, we must understand that the healing ministry of Jesus must not only focus on the physical restoration of a sick person but the absolute restoration of man back to God. This healing ministry functions in various capacities as against the believe that it is only exercised by those who own healing centers.  

Healing ministry is a function of God’s word: We must preach the gospel; St. Paul says in the second reading of today 1Cor.9:16 “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” The term “woe” is found numerous times in the Old and New Testaments. It is the favorite expression of the prophets when announcing God’s judgment upon nations, cities, or individuals. Jesus used it severally against the Pharisees and the Scribes. It means God’s judgment and wrath. So, St. Paul is saying that he is under the threat of judgment from God if he fails in his responsibility to preach the gospel. Beloved, preaching the gospel is our responsibility – we shall come under God’s judgment if we fail to preach the gospel. The best way to preach is to behave well. We shall come under God’s judgment if we do not behave well. Again, we must not relegate God’s word in pursuit of casting and binding. Ministers spend the whole day in Church casting and binding why the people suffer the want of God’s word.

Healing ministry is a function of a divine search: The Catechism of the Catholic Church in number 1501 says that “…very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.” This is true, when Hezekiah became sick he turned to God, many blind people and sick people searched for Jesus; some cried out – Son of David have pity on me. In today’s gospel the disciples said to Jesus “Everyone is searching for you”. Beloved, people still have this search for God – many people still hunger for God’s word, many are searching for liberation in him because only in him can the best result be assured. Most importantly we must search for him for salvation. He himself said “seek and you shall find”  In the gospel he says “that is why I came out”. He came out to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel – He is out to save you and I. He is out bring  many from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge and from sin to righteousness.

Healing ministry is also a function of visitation to the sick. Beloved, whenever we visit the sick we engage in healing ministry. The gospel tells us that Jesus left the Synagogue for Simon’s house where he restored Simon’s Mother-in-law who was sick. This care for the sick continues to propel our priest in their visitation to the sick – pastoral visit to the sick is a major aspect of healing ministry. This visit is not just reserved for the priest alone but for all of us. We are called to share in this healing ministry of Jesus. You don’t need to establish a centre or a chapel for healing before you can carry out healing ministry. The simple visit you carry out does more. As Jesus went from the Church to the Peter’s house we must equally go from the Church to our houses, hospitals, place of work to do good and to serve.

Healing ministry is one of the primary functions of the Church: The Church heals through pastoral care for the sick. The church does this in various dimensions. The Church heals emotionally through her counselors – many people suffer hurts, emotional injuries and abuses but through the instrumentality of a well-trained counselor they are restored. However, we give praise to God who heals the broken-hearted (Today’s response to the Psalm). The Church heals through the sacrament of forgiveness. Sin is a spiritual sickness and through the priest many are restored to health. The Church heals through the establishments of hospitals. Some people feel that for a Church to have a hospital is a clear indication of faithlessness. Some believers go all the way to deemphasized drugs during ailments. Beloved, God has given us knowledge so that we may not suffer. Hospitals are centers of healing through the instrumentality of medical doctors. When you follow their prescription you can be restored.  Where this has proven impossible, the Church also offers healing through direct prayers, mass for the sick and anointing of the sick. (Jas 5:14-15)

Healing ministry is a function of prayer: The gospel tells us that “a great while before day, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed”. Every Christian needs a quiet place for prayer. Jesus, even though he is God prayed ceaselessly.  No one can work healing without prayer. We cannot exercise the unction for healing without dwelling in the secret place of God. So, we must continue to stir up our spirit man through prayer. Many ministers today are just forcing themselves to exercise what they have not installed in secret place of God. We cannot give what we don’t have. Because of this emptiness some have given in to magic and fetish power to work miracles. Beloved, we must learn from the Master. He is a man of prayer we too must be men and women of prayer. Again, this prayer is an invitation to pray for the sick. Whenever we pray for the sick we are exercising the healing ministry of Jesus. God hears the prayers of the saints for the sick.   

Healing ministry is a function of freely uniting ourselves to the passion and death of Christ: Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death. (CCC.1500). Job in the first reading expressed this in a dramatic way. He waited for his healing and he went through tossing day and night. Many of us continue to suffer ailments for a long period of time. Rather than wandering about let us unite our suffering with that of Jesus’ passion and surely we shall be restored. His story did not end in shame then why are we troubled? Believe in him and healing will definitely come. Job story ended in praise – no condition is permanent – our story will also end in praise if we give in to the suggestions and voice of mere mortals. Again, uniting it with Christ passion equally means that even though we may have to face death we are not giving up on God. Shadrach Meshach and Abednego decided not to give up even though God will not save them. St. Paul became slave for the sake of the Gospel then he says that our suffering is brief and our blessings in heaven are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Beloved, Healing ministry also means the ability to accept suffering or death whenever it comes. God help us all. Amen

Fr Galadima Bitrus, OSA:

Divine Mercy in the Service of Human Misery

Today we mark the 5th Sunday of the Ordinary Year. The arc of the liturgical year is beginning to bend towards the Lenten season which is a period when we liturgically live the experience of the intersection of human misery and divine mercy. Today’s readings, therefore, hint at these Lenten dynamics.

In the 1st Reading (Job 7:1-7), Job describes his life, in reality, man’s life on earth as a transient, tiring, miserable and hopeless existence: like a term of servitude, like days of a hired man or of a slave, characterized by unending nights of misery and sickness (vv. 1-5), a life so brief, and like the wind, flying faster than a weaver’s shuttle (vv. 6-7).

This passage is part of Job’s response to the first of his three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) who had come to comfort him as he battled the fact of inexplicable and unjustifiable misery. 

Eliphaz had sought to make sense of Job’s suffering, arguing that God may be disciplining Job, for which if he be only patient, he will enjoy a happy future (see Job 4-5). From the beginning of Job’s story, it is clear that Job is innocent, hence his suffering is not a punishment for his sin: “that man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1b).

Therefore, Job replies Eliphaz pointing out the fact that his pain cannot be simply explained in terms of divine discipline, for his pain is more profound than mere discipline; moreover, he does not have both the strength to endure such pain and the time to wait for any possible happy future, hence, his description of the brute fact of the brevity of human life and the fatigue which often characterizes it. 

The book of Job, written probably by a Jerusalem theologian during the Persian period, generally battles with the question of the suffering of the innocent. All known traditional explanations such as divine retribution and divine discipline, fail to satisfactorily make sense of the suffering of the innocent Job and certainly, of the suffering of many innocents in our world. 

Before the mystery of suffering, therefore, our tendency to question whether we are deserving of it or not reflects some sort of the retributive mentality. The case of Job teaches us instead, to be honest about our experiences of suffering and to concentrate on encountering in our misery, God’s mercy which heals and saves. As the Responsorial Psalm reminds us, “Great is our Lord and almighty; His wisdom is beyond reckoning” (Psalm 147:5). What we know of his ways of doing things is that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)

In the 2nd Reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-23), Paul underscores the gratuity of apostleship. Despite coming from a tradition that fully supports claiming his rights to material support as recompense for his spiritual services (see 1 Cor 9:3-14), Paul makes no claims to these rights and refrains from boasting on account of the gospel he was preaching (9:15-16). He rather emphasizes the fact that he was commissioned in trust, for which he does not expect material reward for the Gospel he preached. In this way, Paul made both the gospel and himself free to all, being able to adapt to the condition of all his audiences so as to make himself understandable by all in order to save all (9:17-23).

Thus, Paul teaches us, especially ministers of the Gospel, to shun practices and break away from traditions that make the Gospel a burden to bear instead of a yoke that lightens up the burden. The Gospel, that of Jesus Christ, should make us feel liberated and not imprisoned, saved and not condemned, delivered from and not handed over to, healed and not sickened.  

In the Gospel (Mark 1:29-39), we see an exemplary attitude of how humans should behave when visited by misery or suffering, and we also see how God relates to human suffering. Simon (and his friends) whose mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, turned to Jesus and related to him her situation (vv. 29-30). Jesus approaches the suffering of the woman with tenderness, taking her by the hand and lifting her up, thus restoring her to health (v.31). Following this, many more sick and possessed people were brought to Jesus who healed them and cast out from them the demons that had been tormenting them. 

Thus, the Gospel teaches us to learn to turn to God and hand over to him our distress and hardship and those of our dear ones, seeking divine intervention and divine succour instead of activating our retributive mentality, trying uselessly to question whether we are deserving of suffering or not, in search of where to place blame. 

When we turn to God, mercy is his name; he heals, restores and alleviates our suffering. God does not relent in doing this; for he goes about everywhere doing good. Indeed, praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted! And when he has done all or any of these, may we learn to get up and bear the witness of service, like Simon’s mother-in-law and those virtuous women of the New Testament who ministered to Jesus (see Mark 15:40-41).

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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