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Contents: Volume 2 - 5th SUNDAY (B) Ordinary Time
- February 7, 2021

 The

  Fifth

  SUNDAY

   2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

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Sun. 5 B

Yes, there are days that we all feel just like Job, so close to giving up! Yes, there are days that we all feel like Paul, committed to preach the Gospel with vigor and conviction. Yes, there are days that we all feel like shouting to Jesus," Come, please come" to heal our sick, preach to us, and drive out those demons!

Jesus was well sought after, from daybreak to sunset, it seems. He had those moments in his non-stop ministry, moments of tiredness and wondering, as well as times of steadfastness and dedication. Surely "Everyone is looking for you" weighed him down at times. Nevertheless, Jesus persevered because "For this purpose have I come.”

Our journey , too, has so many ups and downs. Let us persevere through prayer and fellowship to keep on keeping on. Living our Baptismal call is not easy. It can be done, gracefully, with Jesus along side as well as before us, and behind us, to guide us and keep us going.

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Fifth Sunday in Ordered Time February 7 2021

 

Job 7:1-4 & 6-7; Responsorial Psalm 147; 1st Corinthians 9:16-19 & 22-23; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 8:17; Mark 1:29-39

 

Talk about someone having a bad day! In the first reading this Sunday, Job lets it all out. He is lost everything: his money is gone, his property is gone, his livestock are gone, his lush fields of grain are forever ruined. His precious family have all been killed in a horrible construction failure. And even his three best friends come to explain to him why God has so punished him for his sins. Job denies any wrongdoing, and justifiable so. He is a man of righteousness, faith, integrity, and kindness. In all this disaster Job has never for an instance lost his faith. He is beaten, he is ruined, he is without hope. But he holds onto the faith that has been his in his good years. He never lets go of that faith that God loves him. But even so, he finds his life tiresome and without joy.

There is a saying about a person with exemplary patience in adversity. That person is said to have the patience of Job. My wife also has a saying about patience: patience is a virtue, possess it if you can: seldom in a woman and never in a man. You can imagine there is some contention in our household about the later part of that saying. This beautifully written story of a mythical person who is tested by evil forces has a message for us. It seems in the lifetime of many octogenarians that our life has been filled with disasters. There have been wars, there have been riots, there have been planned massacres, there have been cruel despots and some who failed to achieve their despotic inclinations. There has been disease and pandemics and near pandemics. There have been individual and group violence that has robbed us of friends, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, neighbors, and citizens whose presence added much to our living. There have been millions who have died in flight from terror and certain death or from corruption that would have robbed them of possibilities. There have been millions more who never saw the light of day because of policies and economic repressions that made it seem inconceivable for their birth.

It seems we are in a terrible mess religiously, economically, socially, psychologically. It all comes down to us individually. At times we tetter on the brink of despair at our condition, our future, and the future of our children and grandchildren. How does this work out in the story of Job? It works out beautifully and provides insight for us, if we have the patience to read and reflect on the entirety of this wisdom story. Perhaps that could be your homework for this week – to read and reflect on the book of Job. There are answers there for the violence, terror, and uncertainty of our times.

The gospel story continues the narrative from last week. Recall that Jesus made his first presentation in Mark’s gospel of his mission. He goes to the synagogue and assumes the role of teacher. During his teaching – teaching as one with authority and not merely someone interpreting – a man possessed with an evil spirit is liberated from his enslavement. It is a sign to the assembled Sabbath crowd that here was present among them one who brought liberation from evil.

After the synagogue teaching, Jesus is invited by Peter to his home. There they discover Peter’s mother-in-law in bed suffering from a fever. Jesus extends his hand to her and raises her up. This is Mark’s reference to the coming resurrection in about three years’ time. The mother-in-law goes immediately to serving the Sabbath meal that had been prepared the day before. The implication we take from this incident is pretty straight forward. At the presence of Jesus, that which lays us low becomes the springboard that lifts us up. It lifts us up in a new living not merely for our own pleasure and well-being. It lifts us up so that we may serve the community in which we live. The community is not limited to family. That community includes the assembly, those neighbors, those who worship with us. It is within that community that we are nourished with the Sabbath meal. It is a meal that is not rushed but is the place where we share not only food and drink but also conversation and exchanges of respect, hope, and love. The presence of Jesus causes this to happen. Presence! Oh, how we long to see his face: how we long to feel his touch on our fevered brows! Oh, how we desire to be liberated from what holds us back, from what enslaves us, from what brings us to the edge of despair! If only Jesus were present with us so we could hope again, that we could get up out of our bed driven there by the feverous demands on our time, our energy, our attention.

Ah, Ha! There is the story of Job: there is the story of Peter’s mother-in-law. Even beyond these two stories, the message of God’s presence is the entire story of the Hebrew people, of Christianity, and of every faith throughout the world that believes in a divine being.

There is a word in the last verse of the Job reading this Sunday. Job says, “my life is like the wind….” That word for wind in Hebrew is “Ruah.” That word is the one used at the beginning of the story of creation where the “spirit of God hovers over the chaotic waters.” It is the word used in the most ancient story of the creation of humanity to indicate the breath of God in the nostrils of the formed clay. It is the meaning of the vast wind that shook Jerusalem on Pentecost. In the creation story on the sixth day of creation, God creates animals out of the dust of the earth. Genesis says only that they were living beings made out of the dirt of the earth. But it is only that clay form that becomes Adam that is brought to life by the breath of God.

Recall as well the start of release of the Hebrew nation from Egyptian slavery. Moses in the wilderness encounters a burning bush. It is a speaking bush that burns but without diminishing the bush. When asked who this bush made present, the response is “I am who am with you!” This response becomes the start of this people, these Israelites, on their journey into freedom. They are quickly freed from the wiles and perversity of Pharaoh. But it takes forty years for them to come to the land of promise.

What takes them so long? Is there something about us humans that requires us to learn by experience? When we read the Hebrew Scriptures, when we study the Christian Scriptures, when we reflect on the writings of the ancient fathers and mothers of the Church, we conclude that God is in us, God is for us, and God is most certainly with us. God is present with us, in us, and for us. That gives our desperate experiences a whole new perspective. In the book of Job God does not cause Job’s troubles. Job’s friends argue that Job is deserving of this disaster in his life. Yet Job constantly argues that he has done nothing wrong. And his three friends cannot prove Job is deserving of God’s punishment. The disaster that visits Job comes from the workings of the evil one, the one who goes about looking for the seeds of evil that hide in the hearts and minds of humanity. The evil one waters and raises up those evil inclinations to the detriment of the person. God is present: God is with us: God is in us: God is for us. Whatever fever lays us flat, God is there with his helping, healing hand to raise us up from our bed of terror, of sickness, of despair. As we rise, there is learning, there is wisdom that comes from experience. We, of course, can dismiss our experiences without learning from them. But the follower of Jesus will recall what Scripture tells us about the suffering servant – that Jesus learned obedience by his suffering. This is not the obedience of military orders. This is the obedience that comes from the listening heart, that heart that is sensitive to the voice, the wind that comes through the Spirit of God present to us as His followers.

What we learn, by our actions, by our place in faith communities, in civil communities, in political communities, in families and in all the engagements of life we recognize God’s presence in us, with us, and for us. Remember the example of Peter’s Mother-In-Law. She rises from her enslavement by illness, lifted up by the hand of Jesus; she rises up to service to the household, the community. There are times when we are the hand of Jesus: there are times when we are the mother-in-law.

There is a wind, a Ruah, blowing through our land, through our world. That wind is the presence of God in us, with us, and for us. Listen with our hearts; listen remembering our history with God; reach out hands to the Lord present in us, for us, and with us. For the Lord is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is hope, his life is faith, he energizes love for self, for others, and for the Transcendent God who is here!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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JESUS SMASHES THE CHAINS OF MISERY: 5TH SUNDAY B


What can Jesus save us from, and what can he save us for?

 

On his way to his office each morning, a married deacon drops into the same café for a cup of coffee. He is always served by the same waitress. She is a bright and breezy person who always adds to her ‘Good Morning’ greeting, the words, ‘And how are you today?’ in return the deacon always asks the waitress: ‘And how are you?’ One morning not so long ago she answered: ‘OK, I suppose, but somehow I’m not living life to the full, even though I have the best husband in the world and a beautiful new baby.’

That young woman was indicating mild disappointment and dissatisfaction with her life. But she could not name just what was missing. But her mild restlessness was nothing to the dissatisfaction that in our First Reading today, poor old Job is feeling. The bottom has dropped out of his world, and his friends are no help at all. They keep teasing and taunting him. So, he finds himself in a state of acute depression and even thinks he’d be better off dead.

Probably we all know people who are longing and craving for fulfilment in their lives, but who remain bundles of misery. Their conversations are all about ‘poor me’. Perhaps, at least sometimes, we too feel so down and depressed that we come close to despair, and even feel we have nothing left to live for.

It’s clear from the gospel that Jesus felt deeply for people whose lives were so out of whack with their hopes, dreams, aspirations and expectations, that he reached out to them whenever, wherever, and however he could. To break their chains of misery and give them meaning, hope and support, was his life project, as he once said: ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10).

Jesus himself must have been feeling tired and even exhausted after taking part in the evening service at the synagogue in Capernaum that day, then curing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and going on to heal the many sick and troubled persons crowding around the front door of Peter’s house. Yet the very next morning Jesus rises before sunrise, and leaves the house for an isolated spot, where he can be alone with God in prayer, and renew there his energy and commitment. But Peter and his band of brothers track him down even there, and beg him to go back to the house. Simply because still more people have arrived and are clamoring for his help!

Jesus knew, though, that it’s simply impossible to help and heal every needy person. Yet it must have saddened and troubled him to think that whenever he moved on, as move on he must, he would be leaving some persons still feeling as miserable as old Job. He would console himself with the thought that he would keep doing whatever he could for any needy person who came his way. He would keep telling every distressed person of God’s ‘amazing grace’, i.e., of God’s awesome and unconditional love for them. But as well as telling them in powerful and challenging words about God’s strong and constant love for them, he would keep showing them that love. BUT HOW? By his interest in, and attention to every troubled person pouring out their hearts in sobs and tears! By accepting them without any condemnation, by forgiving and encouraging them, and as much as possible, by removing the sources of their misery!

Sometimes he set them free from their physical ailments and disabilities. Often, he delivered them from their personal ‘demons’ - their feelings of restlessness, resentment, worthlessness, failure, guilt and shame. Or from their ‘demons’ of bad memories of the evil and ugly things that they had done, or of the bad and ugly things that had been done to them. He would do all he could to put them back together again, and to help them to start living life as fully as they longed to do.

Our hope too is in the power and compassion of Jesus for us. He is alive in our midst all through our prayer together today. He is our way. Leave him and we may well get lost. He is our truth. Ignore him and his teachings and we may mess up our lives. He is our life. Turn our backs on him, and our spirits, minds and hearts, might just shrivel up and die.

But perhaps we are afraid that we have let our years crackle and go up in smoke, and have left him out of our lives for so long, that it’s just no use coming back to him. But surely, if we cannot bring our best to him, we can at least bring him our mistakes, our failures, and our sins. And surely too we can bring him our trust, our renewed trust in him, not only as the Saviour of the world, but as our very own personal Saviour, who is still and forever our way, our truth, and our life! Surely, we can! Surely, we will?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Year B: 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time


“He went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.”


I think we’ve all had days when we felt like Job:


“Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery?
Like the slave, sighing for the shade,
or the workman with no thought but his wages,…
Remember that my life is but a breath,
and that my eyes will never again see joy.”


Yes, there are some very evil places in this world.

Some years ago, I was one of a group of four Jesuits who were sent to set up a new community in the heart of Moss Side in Manchester. This is a place which was at the time famous for being the drug trafficking capital of the whole of the North of England. And it has the poverty, the lawlessness, the prostitution, the homelessness, the street-crime and the casual violence that goes along with drug trafficking all over the world. And when I was there children as young as 12 years old were shot in the street in wars between drug-dealing gangs.

We were given a disused flat in a largely abandoned and derelict block of flats. It was supposed to have been empty for years, but it had obviously been squatted in more recently by some drug addicts. Written on the wall under the title “My Life” were the saddest few lines I have ever read:

“Heat the spoon,
watch it melt,
fill the syringe
and stab yourself.”

I never met whoever it was who wrote those words, but I have often prayed for her or him. Because those are the words of a true addict – a man or a woman whose life is dominated by an evil she or he cannot control – someone who feels compelled twice a day to do something to themselves that they know is desperately harmful and will, in all probability, one day cause them to kill themselves. Their entire life has become constricted to a little pool of liquid containing heroin and to those desperate little acts of crime they have to carry out in order to get the money to buy themselves some more heroin.

Job – like all of us at times - is overcome by that evil. But the Good News of today’s Gospel is that Jesus is not so overcome. There is something about his presence and his message that brings healing where-ever he goes. His healing frees people from the bodily and the spiritual diseases that afflict them. Throughout the towns and villages of Galilee – he preaches the Good News of God’s salvation and heals those who are sick. And we know that Jesus did not come only for the people of his own time. He came for the people of all times and of every place. The healing power of Jesus is present for us in the Church forever. He tells us: ‘I am with you always even to the end of time.’ (Mt 28;20).

Of course, our first reaction to encountering serious evil – like those few lines of despair in Manchester - is to think that here we cannot be the followers of Christ. We alone cannot remove all the loneliness and fear; we cannot make a fever go away with a simple action, as Christ could. Yet, St Paul tells us, we have no choice – we have the responsibility whether we like it or not. All of us can say with him “it is a duty which has been laid on me”.

Jesus has healed us, forgiven us our sins and reconciled us with God. He asks us now to bring his healing to others, to become humble, persevering and patient disciples, helping him to win others to repentance and holiness by our imitation of him in his compassion, generosity and service of all. As St Teresa says: “Christ has no body now but ours.” We are his eyes, his smile, his ears, and his hands, still mightily at work in the world. It is better to light one candle than to curse the dark!

Let us stand and profess our Faith in Christ our Light.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.


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