Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 15
Mark 1: 40-45
Today’s Gospel for this Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time tells the story of Jesus cleansing a person from leprosy. Have you ever wondered why there are so many miracles of healing related in the Gospels? Well, first of all, they grabbed peoples’ attention. If you knew someone who was crippled and needed a wheelchair to get around and one day you saw that person jogging down the street, I dare say it would get your attention. Miracles are signs of the extraordinary happening right before our eyes.
Miracles are also signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God. The long-awaited Messiah, the Anointed One of God, has arrived! The Kingdom of God is here – now, at this very moment. What is this Kingdom of God we speak so much of? And what are some other signs of the presence of this Kingdom among us? How do we recognize it?
I recently read a short paragraph, I forget where I read it, that expressed very nicely and briefly what typifies the Kingdom of God. The author stated that the Kingdom of God is a new world order where love would replace hate, concern would replace apathy, light would replace darkness, and life would replace death. It is a new world order where God’s will is to be done “on earth and in heaven.” Very short, very concise. The Kingdom of God is love, concern, light, life, according to the will of God.
I began to think about where these criteria were illustrated in the Scriptures, in the Gospels. And suddenly I realized that all of them were manifested in the story of the Good Samaritan told in Luke 10: 29-37. The Good Samaritan obviously was a person of love and concern. He could just as easily have seen the man lying in the ditch and passed on by like all the rest in the story. It would have even been rather reasonable for him to do so since the Jews and Samaritans were not even on speaking terms let alone into helping one another. But the Samaritan showed love and concern for the man none the less. He took the time to get him where he would be safe and comfortable and able to heal. He even paid the hotel bill and promised to pay more if the care exceeded the amount he had paid. Surely this is showing love and concern.
The Good Samaritan is a light for all of us yet today, thousands of years after this story took place. How many of us think of this story when we are helping another in need? Apathy, doing nothing to help someone, is darkness. Compassion is the light of Christ.
And, finally, the Samaritan gave the wounded man new life. Chances are he would have died if the Samaritan had not cared for and helped him. Certainly all of us would have died if Christ had not come to give us the light of salvation. Jesus came to give us life and to give it abundantly, just as the Good Samaritan gave the injured man abundant life by providing for his continuing care.
Surely, the Great Commandment is the will of God. He expressed this to us way back in the Book of Deuteronomy. We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are to do unto others what we would have them do for us. Yes, the Kingdom of God is a new order, a new way of living and it is here among us now. How am I doing as a member of this Kingdom?
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 16
Mark 8: 11-13
Today’s very short Gospel selection follows immediately after Mark’s telling of the miracle of the Feeding of the Four Thousand with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Surely the Pharisees had heard of this marvelous miracle worked by Jesus for the hungry crowd. Yet they came to Jesus wanting a sign that the Messiah was among them. The objection of the Pharisees that Jesus’ miracles are unsatisfactory for proving the arrival of God’s Kingdom is comparable to the request of the crowd for a sign after witnessing the same miracle told in John’s Gospel (6: 30-31). And no further sign was given to them.
Jesus has given us all countless “signs” of his presence in our world and in our lives, signs of his love for us, his concern, his light, his abundant life that he shares with all of us. We said above that these are signs of his Kingdom being among us. Yet our actions sometimes make us wonder at the strength of our belief in him. How many signs do we need that he has come for our redemption and that his way equals happiness and peace?
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 17
Mark 8: 14-21
Yesterday’s and today’s Gospel selections show a degree of negativity in the Pharisees and even in the disciples of the Lord. They look for what is wrong in his actions rather than for what is right. This practice is more common than we might think – perhaps we will even find some of this in ourselves if we look. You know, Murphy’s Law: If anything can possibly go wrong, it will.
I read an old story that illustrates this point: A boy and his grandfather were leading a donkey down the road. Someone saw this and began to laugh and called them stupid for not riding on the donkey instead of walking. So the grandfather rode the donkey and was then criticized for making the boy walk. He let the boy ride on the donkey and then the boy was criticized for lack of respect for his elders. Then they both got on the donkey to ride and were criticized for cruelty to animals. It seems like there is always this negativity hanging around. Am I guilty of this in any way?
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 18
Mark 8: 22-26
We have often heard the phrase in these homilies: Repetition is the mother of studies. Repetition is the mother of a lot of things, if we just stop to think about it. Repetition is the mother of growth. It is also the mother of perseverance. Even though I would like everything I want or desire to happen right now, this instant, today – it doesn’t always, if ever, happen that way. I’ve been sober now for many years but I still have not arrived, as they say. It takes a countless repetition of the 12 Steps and years of meetings and even then I know that I’ll never have it all down pat.
We learn slowly, over a period of time, as we see in today’s Gospel. The blind man begged Jesus to touch him and cause him to see again. Jesus had to touch the man a number of times before he saw clearly. This leads us to conclude that old habits die slowly, not all at once. We have to keep working at it, repeating it over and over and over, before any progress becomes noticeable at all. A world famous figure skater was asked how in the world she ever learned to skate so well. Her answer: By getting up every time I fell down. And so it is with each of us.
Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 19
Mark 8: 27-33
Along the way Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”
In our Gospel for today, Peter is the only one whose answer is recorded. For Peter Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah. But who was he for Andrew, James, John, Judas, Bartholomew and the others? We can only imagine what they answered. Maybe they all agreed with Peter. We will never know.
More important than this, however, is letting Jesus ask me who I say that he is. Thinking of my own response to that question, I think it is safe to say that I have progressed through my life to what my answer is right now. When I was a child, I probably thought Jesus was the one hanging on the cross in the parish church and in the various rooms in my home. Then I learned he was the one who died for us – that he died for all of us personally. He died for the “good” and the “bad.” Then he was the one who led me out of darkness into the light and kept the light burning for me along the long and sometimes tedious path out of the disease of alcoholism. Today he is my good friend who listens to me when I talk to him and who talks to me when I listen to him. He is my friend who leads me to happiness, joy and peace. I have become attached to him and don’t ever want him to get out of my sight again.
Who is Jesus to you? Who do you say that he is?
Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 20
Mark 8: 34 – 9:1
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
What is life? I learned from working in a hospital as a chaplain for five years that there is life and there is life. I have stood in the intensive care ward with my hand touching the shoulder of a grieving mother as she gazed at her son lying in the bed paralyzed from the neck down from a motorcycle accident. He was still breathing thanks to the respirator he was hooked up to, he was still alive, but he would never have quality life again or life at all away from that machine. I suffered with her as she came to the realization that she had to allow the doctors to pull the plug and let him go to the Lord. Yes, there is life and there is life.
At the present time I am 78 years old. I have lived life for that long. And so far I have enjoyed quality life. I can enjoy the things that make life worth living, as they say. This to me is quality life, if I may generalize it. I am happy most of the time. There have been times when I was not happy most of the time and had to figure out how to get that quality life back again. I first learned that I could not do it alone, and then I had to decide that Jesus was my way, truth and life. And when that happened, quality life returned.
I now realize that it is not the material things of life that bring true happiness. Happiness rather comes from the decision I have made to turn my will and life over to the way, truth and life of God. The material necessities will come if I follow this decision. But even when I do this to the best of my abilities, I know there is more to quality life than I will ever have here on this earth. We read in the Scriptures: Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered the mind of humankind what God has prepared for those who love him. Then there will be a quality of life that we cannot understand on this earth.
Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 21
Mark 9: 2-13
In yesterday’s homily we spoke of life, quality life and the eternal life of the next life that we will have when we are with Jesus in the life to come and which we do not fully understand at this time. Today’s Gospel from Mark, telling of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor, is a glimpse of that life to come with Jesus. Jesus was transfigured before them, “and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.”
At this point, and to bring this discussion of “life” that I began a couple of homilies back to a conclusion, I would like to quote a short passage from The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts.
“The phenomenon of “life” and “living” has a very extensive profile in both Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament vocabulary describing the high quality of life that was offered to Israel by Yahweh as a reward for their consistent devotion to him and obedience to his laws is significant. The blessed ideal of life in Canaan was held out constantly to the people as an incentive for remaining faithful to Yahweh in every area of life. Sadly, that was rarely realized.
In the New Testament, the idea of “life” (apart from mundane usage) undergoes significant development. The concept of “everlasting life” is relatively rare in the Old Testament, and where it did occur, or was implied, it referred primarily to living in the land. In the New Testament, however, terms such as zoe and zao in particular, clearly indicate a new quality of life that transcends the earthly sphere. These terms point to an eternally enduring, sublime level of existence that is associated intimately with the person and work of Christ, and is obtained through the means of saving faith in him. In short, it is this ideal, consummate level of existence, in union with God and Christ that is typologically anticipated by the ideal of a peaceful and abundant life in the land. The land, of course, exemplified old covenant “rest”; and the new and radically superior quality of life offered by Christ in the new covenant is characterized by the believer’s hope of eternal rest in the heavenly kingdom of God.”
It is really going to be something to experience “life” at it fullest in that life to come.