5 Sunday B: Action and Contemplation

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1: “It must be Peter’s mother in law!”:

There is the funny story about a woman listening to her pastor preach a Sunday morning sermon about Simon Peter's wife's mother, ill with a fever. Since it was a boring sermon the woman left the Church after the Mass, feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Consequently, she decided to go to Church again that day, out in the country where she had grown up. When she arrived, she discovered to her dismay that her pastor had been invited to be the substitute priest and again, during the Mass he preached on the Gospel of the day about Peter's mother-in-law being ill with a fever. Believing that there was still time to redeem the day, the woman decided to go to the hospital chapel in the evening. As you may have guessed, her pastor was assigned to say the evening Mass there and he preached the same sermon on Peter's wife's mother and her fever. Next morning, the woman was on a bus riding downtown and, wonder of wonders, her pastor boarded that bus and sat down beside her. An ambulance raced by with sirens roaring. In order to make conversation, the pastor said, "Well, I wonder who it is?" "It must certainly be Peter's mother-in-law," she replied. "She was sick all day yesterday." (Millennium Edition of Preaching)

 2: Stop blaming others and start doing good:
There is an old and funny little anecdote that goes something like this. An elderly man who was quite ill said to his wife, "You know, Sarah, you’ve always been with me – through the good and the bad.  Like the time I lost my job – you were right there by my side. And when the war came and I enlisted – you became a nurse so that you could be with me. Then I was wounded and you were there, Sarah, right by my side. Then the Depression hit and we had nothing – but you were there with me. And now here I am, sick as a dog, and, as always, you’re right beside me. You know something, Sarah -- you’re bad luck!" There is a part of us that is tempted to look for somebody to blame for all the things that go wrong in our lives. More often than not, we blame the very people we once looked up to for an answer. Today’s first reading from the book of Job is a futile attempt to answer the perennial question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The Gospel shows us how Jesus spent himself in alleviating the pain and suffering around Galilee by his preaching and healing ministry rather than by pondering on universal solutions for the problem of worldwide evil.  

3 “I can't handle it any more!":
There is a story about a couple who had been married for more than thirty years. One evening, when the husband returned from work, he found his wife packing. "What in the world are you doing?" he asked. "I can't handle it anymore," she replied. "I'm tired of all the bickering and arguing and complaining that's been going on between us all these years, I'm leaving."  Whereupon, the startled husband suddenly dashed to the bedroom, pulled a suitcase out of the closet, filled it with his belongings and ran after his wife, saying, "I can't handle it any more either. I'm going with you!" Today’s first reading tells the story of a man named Job who is at a point in his life where he can't handle it anymore.  He expresses himself as a man without hope. In Chapter Seven he complains that life is a "drudgery" ... that his eyes "will never see joy again" ... he can but "lament the bitterness of his soul" (Jb. 7:1, 7, 11). (Millennium edition of Preaching

4: Humor in our healing ministry:

Laugh and the world laughs with you.”  “Laughter is music of the spheres, language of the gods.”  And it's fine medicine.  Laughter exercises the face, shoulders, diaphragm, and abdomen.  The breathing deepens, the heart rate rises, and the blood is more oxygenated.  Endorphins are released, pain thresholds are raised, and some studies suggest that even immune systems are boosted.  Norman Cousins, in Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, tried laughter therapy, and found that ten minutes of hearty laughter could give him two hours of pain-free sleep. When you laugh, others laugh too.  Laughter is a contagious, highly effective, totally organic medicine.  It has no side effects, and no one is allergic to it.  Did you have your dose of laughter today?  Jesus may have burst into hearty laughter when he watched Zacchaeus climb down from the sycamore tree. Perhaps he also had at least a mischievous smile when Peter started sinking in his attempt to walk on water.  Then why don’t we too have a hearty laugh in the worshipping community in the real presence of our Lord?

5:  Humor in the preaching ministry:  
After the Sunday Mass a little boy told the pastor, "When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money." "Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my daddy says
6: Humor at Sunday collection:
During the last Sunday service that the visiting pastor was to spend at the church he had served for some months, his hat was passed around for goodwill, farewell offering. When it returned to the pastor, it was empty. The pastor didn’t flinch. He raised the hat to Heaven. "I thank you, Lord, that I got my hat back from this congregation."
7:  Humor at the liturgy:
A very innovative liturgy director, a young lady, danced the offertory procession in 'attractive' costumes and playing the banjo. The bishop was presiding on this occasion of the pastor's golden jubilee Mass. As the "dancer" approached the altar the bishop whispered to the pastor: "If she asked for your head on a platter, she'd have it!"
8: Experience the healing touch of God.  
Most of us are familiar with Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in southern France built at the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a saintly young woman named Bernadette a century and a half ago.  Pilgrims today continue to throng to the shrine, hoping to be cured of their ailments.  Over the decades, thousands have left behind their crutches and braces as silent witnesses to the Lord’s power to make them well. This sort of thing is, of course, nothing new.  Sites of holy apparitions and miraculous healings ranging from Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Guadalupe (Mexico) and Medjugorje (Yugoslavia), to the holy sites in our own land, have drawn pilgrims from all countries throughout the ages. These seekers have made their way to sacred temples, grottoes, and hillsides in the hope of finding healing and strength. Some dismiss such journeys of Faith as childish piety, inappropriate in an age of therapeutic advances such as our own.  But healing is an essential element of the Gospel message.  Surely, Jesus, whose Sabbath day of preaching and healing ministry is described in today’s Gospel, will not disappoint us today when we are assembled around the altar seeking his power, healing and favor in our own lives.
9: “A Million Little Pieces:”
The controversial best seller which was later proved to be a “fake-memoir” of the recovering addict hero, James Frey, begins with a challenging anecdote as its preface: The Young Man came to the Old Man seeking counsel. I broke something, Old Man.”  “How badly is it broken?” “Into a million little pieces.”  “I’m afraid I can’t help you.” “Why not?”  “There is nothing I can do.” Why can’t it be fixed?” “Because it’s broken beyond repair.  It’s in a million little pieces.” Doesn't that sound like what Job says in chapter 7: 1-4, 6-7 in today’s first reading when his life was broken into a million little pieces?  But today’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-39), gives us the assurance and proof that nothing in our lives is beyond repair for Jesus, the healing savior.


From Fr. Jude Botelho:

We are familiar with the story of Job, part of which is contained in the first reading of today. Job’s story was a pitiable one: He was deprived of family, lacked worldly possessions, was racked by physical pain and suffered mental anguish. Job put himself the question: “Why should God allow these misfortunes to come upon me?” Job moans his lot: “Is life worth living?” He compares his life to a slave, whose life is one long drudgery; he feels helpless and hopeless like a workman who has to work for no wages; His life is one long bore, he waits for the end which will not come. Job though steadfast and loyal was impatient. His human friends had failed to explain life and he felt that his divine friend would not come either. Is there any hope for the depressed? Our Christian perspective adds a new dimension. Truly, if death is the end of it all, life does not make sense!

The healing in giving
He stood on the steel bridge-fifty feet above the swirling river. He lit his last cigarette –before making his escape. There was no other way out. He had tried everything: orgies of sensuality, travel excitement, drink and drugs. And now the last failure: marriage. No woman could stand him after a few months. He demanded too much and gave nothing. The river was the best place for him. A shabby man passed by, saw him standing in the shadow and said, “Got a dime for a cup of coffee, Mister?” The other smiled in the darkness. A dime! “Sure, I’ve got a dime, buddy. I’ve got more than a dime.” He took out a wallet. “Here take it all.” There was about $100 in the wallet, he took it out and thrust it towards the tramp. “What’s the idea?” asked the tramp. “It’s all right. I won’t need it where I am going.” He glanced down towards the river. The tramp took the bills, and stood holding them uncertainly for a moment. Then he said, “No, you don’t mister. I may be a beggar, but I’m no coward; and I won’t take money from one either. Take your filthy money with you –into the river. He threw the bills over the rails and they fluttered and scattered as they drifted slowly down towards the dark river. “So long, coward.” said the tramp and he walked off. The ‘coward’ gasped. Suddenly, he wanted the tramp to have the money he had thrown away. He wanted to give – and couldn’t! To give! That was it! He never had tried that before. To give –and be happy… He took one last look at the river and turned from it and followed the tramp….
Christopher Notes

The gospel story begins with Jesus going with his disciples James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. He has barely entered when they confide to him their worries and concerns, petty though they may seem. Simon’s mother-in-law has gone to bed with a fever. Jesus did not hesitate, he went straight away to her bed, took her by the hand and the fever left her and she began to wait on them. Jesus’ present healing involves only a gesture – he grasped her hand and helped her up. That healing action of Jesus was enough to set the town on fire, and by evening everyone who was sick or afflicted in any way was at Simon’s doorstep. Whenever people hear of a healer there are hordes of people who seek the magical touch. What’s wrong in seeking a miracle? If we can get instant relief from our misery why not try the charm, the magical ritual, the holy sanctuary? After all does not God want us to be healed? The Gospel tells us the crowds kept increasing, they wanted more miracles. By morning there were crowds milling around waiting for Jesus but he was nowhere to be found, he disappeared. The apostles could not understand. This was the moment Jesus should have capitalized on his popularity, yet he disappeared and when they found him, he was alone by himself praying. By refusing to be what the people wanted him to be: a magical Saviour, Jesus was making a point, that good health does not necessarily enhance the quality of life, and ill-health does not necessarily detract from it. Rather than carry on with the healing, Jesus insisted on leaving the crowds and heading off to other places to preach the good news. We can imagine it was hard for Jesus to leave the people yet that was the Father’s will revealed to him in prayer, and that is what he did. He had come not to do what the people wanted him to do but to do the Father’s will. Suffering, a deep part of human existence, and essential part of estrangement from God, was also a means of purification and return to God. Jesus did not ignore pain, but did not seek to avoid it either.

Broken to become beautiful!
At the Royal Palace of Tehran in Iran, you can see one of the most beautiful mosaic works in the world.  The ceilings and walls flash like diamonds with multifaceted reflections. Originally, when the palace was designed, the architect specified huge sheets of mirrors on the walls. When the first shipment arrived from Paris, they found to their horror that the mirrors were shattered.  The contractor threw them in the trash and brought the sad news to the architect. Amazingly, the architect ordered all of the broken pieces collected, then smashed them into tiny pieces and glued them to the walls to become a mosaic of silvery, shimmering, mirrored bits of glass. Broken to become beautiful! It's possible to turn your scars into stars. It's possible to be better because of brokenness. Never underestimate God's power to repair and restore.
Robert Schuller

Pause and be still
The musician Andre Kostelanetz once visited the French artist Henri Matisse. When Kostelanetz got to Matisse’s home, his nerves were frayed and he was exhausted. Matisse noticed this and said to him good-humouredly, “My friend you must find the artichokes in your life.” With that he took Kostelanetz outside to his garden. When they came to a patch of artichokes, Matisse stopped. He told Kostelanetz that every morning after he has worked for a while, he comes out to his patch of artichokes to pause and be still. He just stands there looking at the artichokes. Matisse then added: “Though I have painted over 200 canvasses, I always find new combination of colours and fantastic patterns. No one is allowed to disturb me in this ritual. It gives me fresh inspiration, relaxation, and a new perspective towards my work.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Finding our strength and power in God
There was a man who was in the habit of going off by himself into a remote wood. One day a friend curious to know what he was up to, followed him. When he caught up with him, he found him sitting quietly on a log. “What are you doing?” he asked the man. “I’m praying,” came the reply. “But why come to this remote spot to pray?” “Because I feel close to God here.”  “But isn’t God to be found everywhere, and isn’t God the same everywhere? “God is, but I am not.” – While it is true that we can find God and pray to God anywhere and everywhere –in the kitchen, in the street, in the car, in the farmland, in the workshop –still, it’s a good idea to have a special place to which we can withdraw from time to time – the shore, the park, the mountains, the church, or whatever. In such places God seems to be nearer and more friendly. The whole atmosphere seems to be more pervaded with the divine presence. And in such places we are different too. We are calmer, quieter, more relaxed, and thus more open to what God is offering us at all times and in all places.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies


Reaching out makes us reach within Late one December night on the cancer ward the halls were quiet and solemn, the patients were asleep and most of the visitors were gone. The nurses were gathered about the nurse's station preparing for shift change. Sarah, one of the nurses, was especially tired, having worked seven straight 12 hour days. The kids had needs, her husband had been laid off, and the house payment was due. PING. PING. PING. Sarah angrily looked at the call light box. The patient was a seventy-year-old woman. Sarah had been to her room at the end of the hall at least fifteen times. Angrily she started down the hall. On her way, she suddenly stopped. She stood motionless as a soft voice wafted out of room 235.
"And then one day I'll cross the river;
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives."
Tears welled up in her eyes as she listened and thought about the young woman in that room -- a thirty-five year old mother of two with cancer, with only a week to live, perhaps days. Sarah stood there, with tears in her eyes, remembering how this young terminal woman had such peace. The patient would speak to everyone who came into her room and she would smile even in her pain and took the time to share her faith and let people know the reason for her peace was a faith in God. All the nurses who had been around her commented on her strength and how they had felt peace and calm after talking with this exceptional young woman.
"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know who holds the future,
Life is worth all the living, just because He lives."
Sarah started down the hall to answer the call light, but she was no longer going to check on some pestering old woman. She was going to the room of a patient, a person, a fellow human in need. Sarah left work with a new outlook on life. She had a rekindling of the spirit of service that had motivated her to become a nurse. Those fires had almost died, but for a young terminal woman who had the desire to be of service to her fellow man even unto death. This is a reminder to us that the reason that we are on this earth at all is to be of service to each other. Christ said it best when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brother."
Author unknown


The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field. "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that." 

Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how the experience had contributed to his philosophy in life. "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss the things in life, that my uncle had missed." 

Frank Lloyd Wright saw in those tracks what his uncle could not: It is easy to let the demands of life keep us from the joys of living.

We all recognize that any goal in life worth achieving demands a great deal of our energy. If you are a doctor you must spend vast hours alone and in residency studying the human body. The life of your patient demands it. If you are a teacher you must live in the library researching and preparing for your lecture. The mind of your student demands it. If you are a carpenter you must patiently measure the building before you drive the first nail. The integrity of the structure depends on it. If you are a mother you must sacrifice your life for another. Your children require it. 

We could not live if we did not set goals and work to fulfill them. No sane person would argue otherwise. But here’s what young Wright discovered at the tender age of 9, and what some don’t learn until 59: The objective in life is not the goal but the journey on the way to the goal. The whole city had gathered around the door, pressing in to see Jesus. The demands on him were already piling up. He cured many, cast out demons, and taught constantly. And his disciples didn’t help matters. When he left in the morning early to pray, they went searching for him. And when they found him they said, “What are you doing, everyone is searching for you?”  

How do we enjoy the journey when everyone and everything is searching for you, wanting a piece of you, and demanding your time?
Even if you are not a “senior” -- whether you’re in prepubescence, adolescence, middlescence, elderes-cence, or senescence -- all of us experience “senior moments.” 

You intentionally set out on a mission to get something — forgotten car keys, replacement printer paper, a fresh cup of coffee — and suddenly you get waylaid by some wayward distraction. You encounter a co-worker with a sudden crisis. A kid has a meltdown. (These two “crises” can be eerily similar). Someon texts you, while another someone arrives at your desk, and simultaneously the phone rings, all in the same moment.  

After dealing with these interruptions you find yourself standing in a room with no idea why you are there. What were you after? What was your agenda? In the hallowed ivy-league tradition of absent-mindedness, you just had a “senior moment.” You pointedly and purposefully search your mind and reassemble your thoughts in order to figure out why you are standing where you are -- and what you were intending to do.  

“Senior moments” are reset moments. And busy, bustling lives require reset, reassessment moments. We need to take the time to reconfigure and reconsider just exactly what it is we are pursuing and why we are pursuing it. This sermon this morning is a “senior moment.”  

In this week’s gospel text there are definitely two very different “things” being sought after…_______________________
All Our Strength 

The story is told of a little boy and his father. They were walking along a road when they came across a large stone. The boy looked at the stone and thought about it a little. Then he asked his father, "Do you think if I use all my strength, I can move that rock?" 

The father thought for a moment and said, "I think that if you use all your strength, you can do it." 

That was all the little boy needed. He ran over to the rock and began to push on it. He pushed and he pushed, so hard did he try that little beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. But the rock didn’t move — not an inch, not half an inch. 

After a while, the little boy sat down on the ground. His face had fallen. His whole body seemed to be just a lump there on the earth. "You were wrong," he told his dad. "I can’t do it." 

His father walked over to him, knelt beside him, and put his arm around the boy’s shoulder. "You can do it," he said. "You just didn’t use all your strength. You didn’t ask me to help." 

The world in which we live tells us that it is all up to us. It tells us that we have to be strong and independent. It tells us we can’t and shouldn’t count on anyone or anything else. And yet, what faith tells us and what Jews and Christians have known forever is that we have a ready resource in God, strength for those who ask. 

Donald M. Tuttle
There Is Nothing More Tempting Than a Lonely Place. 

There is nothing more tempting than a lonely place. A lonely place where phones do not ring and loud voices all shouting at once do not compete for our attention. A lonely place where we can hear ourselves think, feel our own calmed breathing, rediscover the inner rhythms which seek in vain to regulate our lives. A lonely place where we can listen to the wind rippling through the trees or, perhaps, to the full and wise sound of stillness. A lonely place free from the cant of television and the condemnation of calendars. A place of tranquil rest and blessed retreat. There is nothing more tempting than a lonely place.

"And in the morning," Mark tells us, "a great while before day, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35).

Thomas G. Long, Shepherds and Bathrobes, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.______________________________
Personal Prayer Time

We live in a hi-tech, fast pace, workaholic world where no one rests. We are constantly on the road, running errands, going places. We stuff ourselves with "fast food," overbook our lives with a myriad of things to do, and at the end of the day we are totally exhausted. We live (and die) by the clock. We are controlled by the need to produce. Time is money, time is how we keep in control of our lives. We resist quiet time by keeping the radios, televisions and computers on. The very thought of being alone, praying, scares us to death. We want professionals to do that for us. We haven’t learned that relaxation and mediation breaks will empower us to do even greater things. Thus, we continue to be busy. Consequently we are on a path to self-destruction, unable to help others, let alone help ourselves.

I know that I need to build in personal prayer time, time to relax, time to "get away." This story has reminded me to make time for myself a high priority. But, I have also learned something more important. The story tells us that Jesus took time away to pray and be refreshed. That is explicit. What we fail to see is that Jesus set aside this time to yield to the power of God. I believe we need to learn to yield to the power of God too. That means being free from all other distractions so that God can empower us and refresh us. Then and only then can we help others as the power of God flows through us.

Keith Wagner, Help Me, I'm Falling!
How Clearly Can You See?

This is a story about a small seacoast village in England that routinely would become covered by dense fog. The pride of that village was a lighthouse that had been built on the north end of town where the harbor was navigable and free from the huge rocks that dotted the rest of the coast. One night the villagers had gathered on the south end of town to celebrate a local holiday. Part of that celebration included the building of a large bonfire on the beach.

That same night, a ship in the vicinity developed engine trouble. The ship's captain, after checking his maps and charts, decided to locate on the beam from that village lighthouse and put in at that harbor for repairs. As he scanned the horizon through the fog, he caught sight of a faint glimmer of light. Thinking it to be the beam from the lighthouse, he set his course on it to go ashore.

As he came closer to land, he began to see the light more clearly and realized it was not the lighthouse but the bonfire. Quickly he changed course, later discovering that he had been only 100 yards away from one of the largest sunken boulders in that area and certain destruction of his ship. It made a difference how clearly he could see!

How clearly can you see Jesus? What do you see? 

Paul E. Flesner, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, CSS Publishing Company
Missing the Meaning of Success

When Hamilton College celebrated its centennial, one of its most famous alumni, Alexander Woolcott, was asked to give a major address. Horace Fenton Jr., remembers that Wolcott opened his speech in this way: "I send my greetings today to all my fellow alumni of Hamilton College, scattered all over the world. Some of you are successes, and some of you are failures--only God knows which are which!" 

We don't always know success when we see it. 

J. Ellsworth Kalas, If Experience Is Such a God Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating The Course?, Nashville: Dimensions.
Solitude - Avoiding Burnout

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

C.S. Lewis
Solitude and Silence 

A father took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunchtime arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, "Son, we'll just have a silent prayer." Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, "What in the world were you praying about all that time?" With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, "How do I know? It was a silent prayer."

Our Daily Bread, Adapted.
More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson
Coping with Pressure

Countless icebergs float in the frigid waters around Greenland. Some are tiny; others tower skyward. At times the small ones move in one direction while their gigantic counterparts go in another. Why is this? The small ones are pushed around by the winds blowing on the surface of the water, but the huge ice masses are carried along by deep ocean currents.

The Coronary and Ulcer Club 

The "Coronary and Ulcer Club" lists the following rules for members...

 1. Your job comes first. Forget everything else.
2. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are fine times to be working at the office. There will be nobody else there to bother you.
3. Always have your briefcase with you when not at your desk. This provides an opportunity to review completely all the troubles and worries of the day.
4. Never say "no" to a request. Always say "yes."
5. Accept all invitations to meetings, banquets, committees, etc.
6. All forms of recreation are a waste of time.
7. Never delegate responsibility to others; carry the entire load yourself.
8. If your work calls for traveling, work all day and travel at night to keep that appointment you made for eight the next morning.
9. No matter how many jobs you already are doing, remember you always can take on more.