Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for February 15, 2015

President John F Kennedy invited a bishop to give an 
invocation. The prayer was endless. Later, a smiling 
President Kennedy asked a guest, “Did you hear that 
bishop’s speech to God?” There is irony in today’s Gospel. 
Jesus tells the cured man to tell no one of the miracle. 
The  fellow cannot contain himself. He tells everyone.

Yet in Matthew 28,19, Jesus tells us to tell everyone about Him. What do we do? That’s right. We tell no one. We should bring back the former leper. He was a better public relations person than we. Or we should become like the bishop. As the scene opens, Jesus is walking out of the Galilean mountains. He has delivered His famous sermon on the Beatitudes. He is about to take off the academic gown and hood of the scholar and put on the mantle of the miracle worker. Though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, it contains the most miracles. Christ was being followed by a huge mob. As He approached a town, a desperate man broke through the crowd and painfully got to his knees before Jesus. The crowd ran away in horror. The fellow was our unnamed leper. Leprosy was a common disease in Palestine. In its late stages, the illness is a bad scene.

Substitute foul smelling sores for nose, lips, toes, etc, and one has the picture. The Jews looked upon leprosy not so much as a physical disease but a spiritual uncleanness. The leper carried both physical wounds and the conviction that God hated him. Talk about poor self-image! Jewish law was harsh to lepers. They had to live outside towns. If they came upon a clean person, they had to ring a bell and shout, “Leper, leper.” The historian Josephus wrote they “were, in effect, dead men.” Imagine the courage of this fellow! The law stated if a leper exposed others to his disease, he was to be stoned to death. Lucky for him that the people around the Teacher were so anxious to get away from the scene. Otherwise they might have well stoned him to death. Would Jesus have put Himself between them and the stones? With you, I answer yes.

A question rises. How did the leper sense that the Christ would not flee in revulsion with everyone else? What quality did he discern in Him that told him Jesus would hold His ground? Mark here is telling us much about Jesus. He signals us He was most approachable. We discover He has time for those whom others consider human garbage. One hears people say, “My sin is so horrible not even God could forgive it.” This Gospel gives the lie to such a statement. The mystics tell us God will forgive us not because of who we are but because of who He is. “If you want to, you can cure me.”

The leper’s gut plea is couched in just eight words. People in pain do not speak in pages. They have time only for the essentials. Today’s account tells us that the Teacher cured the fellow before Him and touched his running sores. Can anyone here imagine what that stroking must have felt like to the leper? Probably it was the first time in years that someone who was clean placed a hand upon him. If one picture is worth a thousand words, one touch must be worth ten thousand to a leper. Is there anyone here who is still frightened of Jesus the Christ? This miracle is called by scholars an action miracle. It happened in a nanosecond. This is unlike other miracles in Mark. There the Teacher takes the man aside, looks to the heavens, sighs, puts spittle on the man’s ear, etc. But here the Nazarene felt there was no time for preliminaries.

This fellow’s misery had to be terminated immediately. What does that tell you about the Person whom you worship? Would that we could teach ourselves to have just a fraction of that compassion. Though we may not have a healing ministry, each of us can practice a hearing ministry. Suffering people need to talk. Walt Whitman wrote, “Seeing a wounded soldier on the battlefield, I do not ask who he is. I become the wounded man.” So should it be with us. One who is Christ-centered instead of self-centered, said GK Chesterton, is a sane person in an insane world. One final note! The cured man taught us how to pray. His prayer needed only eight words. Jesus showed fondness for short prayers.

Check Matthew 6:7, “In your prayers do not use a lot of meaningless words…” Jesus is e-mailing us the information that brief prayers bring quick answers.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
February 15, 2015

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—February 15, 2015
What can we learn today from a leper who kneels before Jesus in the hope of being healed?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:40-45)

We know from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel that as Jesus began His public ministry, He drew large crowds (see Mk 1:28, 33, 37). Today, we meet a leper who had apparently seen or heard enough about Jesus to make him take a bold action. Jewish law kept lepers away from the worshiping community, because the leprosy made them ritually unclean, unable to participate in the liturgical life of Israel. This can be difficult for us, in our day, to understand. In the Law of Moses, in order to teach the people about God’s holiness—a lesson they desperately needed in order to be His chosen people—they had to learn in simple, obvious ways that God is Life Itself, pure goodness, perfect justice.

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Unclean No More
When I visit a hospital or a nursing home, I often will come upon a room that with a warning on the door.  It will say, “Infection.  All visitors must check with nurses station and then use mask, gloves and gown.”  When I did this for a while, I  became use to “gowning up.”    I had to feel bad for the poor patient though.  It made them seem like an outcast to society, but at least our society has found a way for the rest of us to care for them.

Pope Francis and the Hidden Path to Holiness
Five years ago the Catholic Church had a Year of the Priest, and now Pope Francis has declared a Year of Consecrated Life. To mark this year, he has issued an Apostolic Letter, building upon Vatican II’s decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis (1965), and St. John Paul II’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (1996). While everyone seems to have a concept of the priestly ideal, the unique charism of consecrated life, especially for men, is more obscure. In particular, religious brothers tend to have lower profiles than do priests and nuns.

Don’t Waste Your Lent: 7 Ways to Have a Good Lent
Lent is a season of penance and ascetical warfare. The enemy is concupiscence, the world, and the devil. The goal is pure hearts so that we can joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our Lord at Easter, the greatest feast of the liturgical year. In a way, Lent should be a microcosm of our entire struggle on earth, just as the Paschal feast of Easter is a microcosm of our heavenly triumph in Christ. Yet, a good Lent takes focus and discipline, and it can easily be wasted.

To what is God calling you?
Discerning God’s will in our lives can be a difficult and confusing endeavor most of the  time. I can still remember hearing the many epic tales about the heroic Saints in our Church’s life and thinking, “If I really love God, wouldn’t I do the same? Wouldn’t I give up everything, move to a different country, and start a new life devoted only to God?” This is a question that has stayed with me for many, many years, and I am sure that many of us can identify with it. What, then, are we to do?

Is There Really “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church?”
The Catholic Church teaches infallibly, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” or, “outside the Church there is no salvation.” But as with all dogmas of the Faith, this has to be qualified and understood properly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lays out the truth of the matter succinctly in paragraphs 846-848, but I would recommend backing up to CCC 830 for a context that will help in understanding these three essential points concerning this teaching:

The Lord’s Prayer and its Structure of Hope
Those who pray the Lord’s prayer with faith take up the effort to see our struggles with the light that is from above, the understanding that comes from God. That is why when it is prayed carefully with devotion, the unvanquished light of heaven shines through each syllable into the depths of one’s life and current situation, if only we allow it to.  This is true in the very structure of the prayer Christ entrusted to the Church.

Lessons from a Monastery: Leaving the World
2015 is the Year of Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church. This year isn’t just for religious, but for the entire Church. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter to all Consecrated People ,addressed the laity also when he wrote “In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. …I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received.”

On God’s Generosity and Growth in Prayer
Prayer seems like such a simple thing; we all know we should do it, we know it should be transformative, and we even attempt it sometimes. For most people, that’s about the extent of our knowledge and experience. Of course, there are those people who pray very regularly, experiencing a very rich and intimate interior life, but for the majority of people, fostering a mature prayer life is a bit like searching for a golden coin in the dark, in a room frequently littered with painful stumbling blocks, or as I call them “spiritual Legos”. Prayer is something we assume we ought to know how to do because it’s just a conversation with God, but we often believe we’re failures when we find that it doesn’t always come naturally.

Love as a Virtue
We love because God has loved us first.” So we read in 1 John 4:19. In an article a few weeks back, I suggested that we should learn from Thomas Aquinas that love can be both a passion and a virtue. In the modern world, we tend to think of love only as an emotion – something we “fall into,” something that “happens to us.” There is certainly love of this sort: love that we “feel” and sometimes feel very strongly. But it’s important to realize that this is not the only kind of love. There is also love as a virtue – when love becomes not merely a feeling we have, but a settled disposition to do good for others: a disposition to be self-sacrificing, compassionate, and just.

This Lent, Rediscover What Love Does
Though my wife and I both grew up with dogs, we do not have dogs. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is that some of in our family have allergies. But this did not keep us from hosting a dear, elderly couple for dinner last week, their little “Sparky” in tow.

Love does this. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

The invitation to Love is always accompanied by an invitation to exchange what is lesser for what is Greater.

Mysteries and Paradoxes of Evangelization – A Meditation on a Passage from the Gospel of Mark
In the Church throughout the world today, we are rightly more focused on evangelization. It is “job one,” and Jesus could not have been clearer: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:18-20).

A Need We All Have
I love music. I love good music. I really love great music. But it truly is in the ear of the beholder as to what makes good or great music, isn’t it? I mean, I love The Allman Brothers; many people don’t like the bluesy sound and long jams. I love the work of the late Rich Mullins; many people who aren’t Christian probably wouldn’t, and even some Christians wouldn’t like the style.

How am I to understand suffering?
One of the things with which we so often struggle is to understand our condition in a fallen world. Each of us, in our own way, has experienced the pain and suffering so often encountered as one journeys through this world on our road to heaven. The road to heaven is a way of suffering and sacrifice; and it leads directly through the cross of Christ. If we are to find and stay on this path, this is a truth that we must come to embrace.

Ask, Seek, Knock — Your Gift Awaits
I always have been taught that faith is a gift. And who doesn’t love receiving gifts – especially if it is the perfect gift, something sorely needed, something for which we have asked?

Is Reviling a Mortal Sin?
Some time ago I made a rule for myself that I would not call out another Catholic writer by name and criticize that person. I had a sense that nothing good ever came from it because 1) I’d tried it a few times, 2) felt uneasy about it, and 3) found that, in fact, nothing good ever came from it. Chalk it up to the Golden Rule.

As an editor and educator, I likewise counsel other writers to follow the same rule. Write about issues and topics. Do not criticize people publicly. If you must name a person for the sake of attribution, deal dispassionately with the issue not the person. If you can make your point without naming names, do so.

Love Your Enemies
Jesus often spoke about the obligation of fraternal charity. He took us beyond the prohibition of killing or even striking a brother. He said that we must not become an­gry with our brother, nor show our bitterness toward him by injuring him in any way.

An Unquenchable Thirst for God
“ ‘Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.’ Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart,’ as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶30)

Indifference to the Dignity of Work
We have all done it. We have walked past a beggar on the street. We have purchased groceries from a cashier whose eyes we did not meet. We have insisted on the least expensive goods available to us. We have been impatient with a doctor when our appointment time is delayed. Some of us have even mumbled under our breath about a fussy baby on an airplane. What do these seemingly disparate scenarios have in common? These are times when we fail to appreciate the importance of understanding the dignity inherent in all forms of work.

Demons According to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross
It is not popular in these times to write about demons. As Lucien-Mary of St. Joseph says, “It is doubtless the masterpiece of this master of illusions to pass himself off as nonexistent in a world where he so easily gets souls to go the way he wants, without needing to show himself: He has every interest in not doing so” (95). Her observation is similar to Baudelaire’s well-known quote to the effect that the devil’s cleverest wile is persuading us that he does not exist.

Holding Me Back
I don’t try to hide the fact that I have a larger than average family, but I don’t usually volunteer the information, either. It’s not that I am ashamed. I am just tired of having to either defend my choice or explain personal details of my life to an openly hostile or friendly but overly-curious public.

I am also not usually offended when people ask questions, even those they would never ask someone with one or two children, because in general I think people are just curious and want to know how others live.

This is a good thing because it builds our empathy as a society. It is my job to be kind to people and decide on my own personal boundaries for what I will and will not share.

Secularism, Religion, and Moral Progress
Is religion a source of moral progress in the world, or does it hold humankind back from achieving a more just society? In a recent column for the Los Angeles Times,  Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine and author of the recent book The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, answers this question by pointing to the moral progress made in recent times:

A Picture of Holy Boldness in Prayer
There are some who wince at the notion of praying boldly to God, especially if anger or exasperation are part of that boldness. And yet the Bible itself models and counsels that we should include in our prayers the times when we are angry, exasperated, or disappointed in God. The psalms are filled with such prayers and great figures like Moses, David, and Job cry out to God quite plainly, expressing their anger and disappointment. I have written more on that here: A Meditation on the Role of Anger in Prayer.

A Priest’s Fight for the Seal of Confession
When I was a seminarian in St. Benedict, Louisiana, I always thought the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be my favorite to celebrate, if I became a priest. The first time I encountered the seriousness of the Seal of Confession was with one of my good friends. We attended the same high school, and ended up going to the same seminary together; I later married, and he became a priest.

About six months after his ordination, I asked what celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation was like. He responded that it was powerful and humbling to see a person confess their sins, convert to the Lord, and receive forgiveness, all before his very eyes.

Dealing with Busybodies: Some Practical Tips
Some time ago, I shared some practical tips for how to make a difficult decision. While it can be a huge relief to make the initial choice, we sometimes still have to face another hurdle: defending or explaining ourselves to people who feel entitled to an opinion about our lives.

Why Settle for Shades of Grey?
Remember the scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ when the androgynous, almost-beautiful-but-not-quite Satan character is carrying a baby, and when the face of the baby is revealed, it turns out to be old, ugly, and creepy rather than a sweet baby face? This was confusing for a lot of viewers, and when asked about it, director Mel Gibson explained that the surprisingly hideous baby was a depiction of how evil is a distortion of what is good.

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