Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Fifth Week in Ordinary Time 2011
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt. 5: 13-16
Today’s Gospel reminds the disciples of the Lord just what they are supposed to be with the two metaphors of salt and light: You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. The word You is emphasized here to show the contrast between the Christians and the Jews. It is the followers of Jesus who are salt and light.
Salt and light were essential to life in the ancient world. Salt was used to season, purify, and preserve food. Without various salts, even the earth would lose its fertility. The human being needs light to see, to live, to function. If we tried to live in pitch darkness, life as we know it would be impossible. I cannot even imagine being in a world without light.
Another interesting thing about salt and light is that they do not draw attention to themselves. They are just there, doing their thing. We don’t even think about the salt that is in the good tasting, well-seasoned food we are eating. It’s there, the food tastes good and we eat it. Recently, because of my health issues, I was put on a salt-free diet and now I am more aware of the presence or absence of salt than ever. And we take light for granted. The sun rises and sets giving us the light we need to live along with the humanly produced light produced from electricity.
And so, the Christian, with the Gospel values of love, compassion, forgiveness, and service to others, is the salt and the light of the world. It is up to us to purify, preserve, and season the Christian life we try to follow ourselves and lead others to by the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are the children of God.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 53-56
The Gospel selections read daily in the Liturgy, one after the other, do their best to impress us with the healing power of Jesus. If something is wrong or out of order, take it to the Lord. This, of course, is the spiritual principle of surrender, mentioned in the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps of Spirituality. We have spoken many times of the power of this Step: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
What is going on in your life today that you would like improved? Are you presently trying to work out the solution all by yourself? Try it the 3rd Step way. Ask the good Lord for his involvement. It is only our faith and trust in him that makes us whole.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 7: 1-13
The story is told of an imprisoned rabbi who used his small allotment of water each day for the ritual hand washing of the Jewish Law rather than drinking it to stay alive. We can read about such goings on and come to the conclusion that the person was either very stupid or he had a death wish. This story shows an external religious practice and rite being pushed to an extreme and, right off the bat, that makes it wrong.
Undoubtedly, the rabbi was a very religious man, but he failed in good common sense coming from the inner desire to stay alive. Am I placing any such external religious practices against family necessities or my own well being? If so, what can be done to straighten out this rather perverted order of things?
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 7: 14-23
The Gospels this week are so far directed to the contention that exists between the external and the internal, the internal affairs of the heart and the external religious rites regarding foods, the clean and the unclean. There are many stories in the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament, of people choosing to die rather than fail in the fulfillment of some external ritual such as eating unclean food. In the New Testament, the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan is an example of the same thing. The priest and the rabbi passed by the injured man in the ditch because of the possibility of becoming unclean by touching a dead person.
I guess this whole thing revolves around our priorities. Certain things are just more important than others. I hope our consciences are formed so as to make the right choices in these instances. Human life is certainly more important than becoming unclean and whatever that amounts to. Sometimes it is hard to imagine ourselves doing such things, but just when you think you have heard it all, something else even stranger comes along.
Let us pray today that the Lord will help us keep our priorities in the proper order.
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 7: 24-30
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reportedly wrote: “If you knock long enough and loud enough…..you are sure to wake up someone.”
This quote kind of fits what is going on in the Gospel for today’s Liturgy. A Gentile woman approached Jesus and asked him to drive a demon of one sort or another from her daughter. She was persistent and aggressive in her petition to the Lord, and even when he started teasing her, she kept up her prayer. Because she hung in there, Jesus granted her prayer and told her the demon was gone from her daughter. And the woman found it just as he had said when she got home.
This idea of being persistent in prayer appears quite often in the Scriptures. It follows the old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the message in today’s Gospel: Keep on praying and the Lord will answer you sooner or later.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 7: 31-37
I believe we can say that the Lord gave us everything we need to get through life in rather fine fashion. But nature isn’t always perfect. We rely greatly on our five senses for quality living and if one of them is impaired, we immediately feel the bad results. Our gifts of sight, hearing, speaking, touch, and smell are invaluable to all of us. And all of us know what it is like to lose one of them, even through a cold, the flu or some injury. Living without one of more of our five senses is not easy.
Today let us remember to pray for those who are having a difficult time getting though life because of deafness, blindness, the inability to speak properly and so on. The handicapped are to be prayed for, cared for, and loved. They are special people doing a special job of living despite their handicap.
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Mark 8: 1-10
We close out our week with Mark’s Gospel story of Jesus multiplying the fish and the bread to feed the hungry people. All though this week we have seen Jesus caring for his people in one way or another, serving them and loving them. That’s why he became man for us and his purpose has not yet ended. There are many people, unfortunately, who are going through their lives unloved. That must be a terrible way to live.
Let us pray today for the dawn of God’s love to break over them and help them all to realize that God loves them very much, that they are precious to him along with everyone else. Such a realization can indeed be life-changing. A little bit of love goes a long way.