Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Posted for February 8, 2015

The Gospel text we are given today follows immediately 
on from the one we heard last Sunday. You will 
remember that Jesus preached in the Synagogue and the 
people were astonished at his teaching because he spoke 
with authority. He then cast out some demons who had 
identified him as the Holy One of God.

Today’s text is a continuation of that same Sabbath day and Jesus goes on from the Synagogue to see Simon Peter’s mother in law who was in bed with a fever and he heals her. This seems straightforward enough until you realise that the words Mark uses are full of theological meaning.

The first thing is that Jesus takes her by the hand and helps her up. In other translations it says lifted her up and in yet others it says raised her up. Of course this is the same Greek word being translated by several different English words since we have a much wider vocabulary in English than they do in the Greek language.

The word that is used occurs in several other places in the Gospels referring to the resurrection when our bodies will be raised up. This then is an oblique reference to the resurrection; it is particularly relevant here because Peter’s mother in law was dangerously ill and could easily have died and so Christ by lifting her up is demonstrating what will happen when we actually do die and are raised up by God.

The other word used in a theological sense is where once she had got up she began serving them. The word used for serving is the same one that we use today for a Deacon because a Deacon is one who serves. So this is not so much meaning that she took up household duties as she began to serve the Christian community, in other words she began to exercise Christian ministry.

We can see how with his careful choice of wording Mark is indicating that there is a lot more going on here than we can see on the surface. The original Greek speaking Christians would have immediately understood the implications of this story and recognised that it was not so much about the lady in question as about the resurrection and Christian ministry.

After this story Mark tells us that after sunset the people brought the sick to Jesus for healing. This is important because the Sabbath Day ends at sunset and that meant that the people were allowed once again to carry burdens. Only after sunset were they free to carry their sick relatives and friends to Jesus for healing.

We can see that the strict regulations enforced on the Sabbath Day about what you could or couldn’t do were in practice quite counter-productive. These rules were introduced to help the people keep the Sabbath holy but they eventually get in the way and prevent the sick from being healed, which would surely be something that ought to have been regarded as a sacred work and therefore an entirely appropriate thing to be doing on the Sabbath.

As Mark’s account proceeds we will see how Jesus’ frequent breach of these strict Sabbath regulations provokes the authorities into doing away with him.

The work of healing the sick is accompanied by the casting out of devils. Jesus forbids the devils to speak because they knew who he was. Jesus does not want them to be constantly identifying him as the Messiah because he wants to reveal this to the people in his own way and at a time of his own choosing

Today we are a little shy about speaking of devils. Even those who are quite firm in their faith tend not to take devils very seriously. We regard them as something belonging to an earlier era, something appropriate to a more superstitious age. With our modern scientific mind-set we do not like to think of devils as being real.

This would be a mistake. I do not want to exaggerate the role of the devil or to suggest that demons are everywhere; but be sure that there is a battle against evil going on and the devil is busy enough in the modern world.

The devil is a representation of the powers of evil and these powers are as strong today as ever they were. Of course, we know that the battle against evil has already been won through the sacrifice of Jesus. But we know that this victory has not yet been fully worked out and will not come to its conclusion until the Last Day. So the devil is still alive and well; and certainly busy enough in the world of today.

He is very much present in a secular society which constantly seeks to minimise religion and to mock those who have faith. He is also present in a society which places a very high value on material objects as well as on things such as status or celebrity.

The vast increase in the amount of pornography available through the internet is a sure sign that the devil is very active in our world. We know quite well the pernicious and corrupting effect pornography has especially on young people, giving them warped ideas about human sexuality ultimately aiming to render them unfit for respectful human relationships.

Thirty years ago pornography was hard to find and we were a better society as a result. Today however we should not underestimate the addictive nature of pornography and the extremely strong grip it can have over a person.

So how do we fight the devil whatever form he takes? How do we cast him out? Well the answer is simple: we fight evil with good. We do the very things that the devil does not like and as a result he will in time go elsewhere.

The devil does not like us to pray which is why he tries to fill our heads with other things and distracts us from prayer. He definitely does not like us to go to mass which is why he makes us very sleepy on a Sunday morning and tells us that there are a lot of other things we should be doing rather than going to mass.

The devil is also responsible for putting all kinds of thoughts into our heads and temptations in our way. He certainly does not want us to abide by a strict moral code. He gets fed up when we take steps to resist temptation and when we set ourselves moral parameters.

So by praying, by going to mass, by abiding by a set of moral rules, by avoiding temptation; in all these ways we can protect ourselves from the tricks of the devil. And do not forget that we can also command him in the name of Christ to simply go away.

In short it is by living the kind of life that Jesus lived that will keep the devil away. Look at the Gospels, the devils were afraid of Jesus and he could command them to leave a person. What we need to do is to simply do the things Jesus does and we will be safe.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1975

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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February 8, 2015

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