AD SENSE

5th Sunday B: Mission as Action and Contemplation


INTRODUCTION:

In the first reading, Job feels like a slave, life as drudgery without any joy.  In the second reading, Paul makes himself a slave, makes himself weak in order to save them. In the gospel, Jesus shows by his life and actions that he has come to save those who have become slaves to demons and illness. Work and prayer strengthen our faith and mission., he shows us.

The blessed bathrobe

A woman was diagnosed with cancer.  Despite being well off financially, she always had a feeling of emptiness.  Seeking to fill that void, she amassed more and more things – books and magazines, art and collectibles, even more and more people.  But the more she accumulated, the less time she had to enjoy them all, to appreciate them all, to know them all.  Her motto had become “Have everything, experience nothing.”


That began to change with a bathrobe, one of the few things she took with her to the hospital for her cancer surgery.  Every morning she would put it on and took comfort in how soft it was and enjoyed its beautiful color, its warmth, the way it moved around her when she moved.
She later told her doctor, “One morning as I was putting it on I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  I know it sounds funny, but I felt so lucky just to have it.  But the odd part is that it wasn’t new.  I had owned it and worn it now and then for quite a few years.  Possibly because it was one of five bathrobes in my closet, I had never really seen it before.”
When she completed her chemotherapy, she held a huge garage sale and sold more than half the things she owned.  Her friends thought she had gone “chemo-crazy,” but getting rid of so many possessions brought a new joy and appreciation to her life.  Until her illness, she had no idea what was in her closets or on her bookshelves, she didn't know half the people whose telephone numbers she had in her address book.
But the fewer things she has she now enjoys; she has fewer but much deeper friendships.  Having and experiencing, she discovered, are very different.

[Adapted from My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]

 In today’s Gospel, Mark includes the short but important detail that Jesus, in the midst of his demanding preaching and healing, seeks out a “deserted,” out-of-the-way place to pray.  We all need that deserted place in which we reconnect with God and the things of the heart.  That “deserted” place may be a set time for prayer every day, a walk in the woods, a quiet corner of the house or apartment, or even a bathrobe -- whatever keeps us aware of God's presence in our life and renews within us a sense of gratitude for the blessings of that presence. 

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1) “A Million Little Pieces:” This 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

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 a jinx! You always bring me bad luck!” There is a part of us that is tempted to look for somebody else 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) 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 young girl, St. Bernadette Soubirous, in 1858. Pilgrims today continue to throng to our Blessed Mother’s 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; [not yet authenticated by the Church]), 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). 

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 compassionate smile when he reached out to grab Peter’s reaching hand as the Apostle began to sink in his attempt to walk on water, forgetting the Master in his sudden fear. 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 you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”

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!”   

21 Additional anecdotes: 

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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) “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 anymore 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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “You’re so kind.” A few years ago, in Sweden, a nurse working in a government hospital was assigned to an elderly woman patient. This patient was a tough case. She had not spoken a word in three years. The other nurses disliked her and tried to avoid her as much as they could. Basically, they ignored her. But the new nurse decided to try “unconditional love.” The elderly woman patient rocked all day in a rocking chair. So, one day the nurse pulled up a rocking chair beside the lady and just rocked along with her and loved her. Occasionally, the nurse would reach over and gently touch and pat the hand of the elderly woman. After just a few days of this, the patient suddenly opened her eyes and turned and said to the nurse, “You’re so kind.” The next day she talked some more and incredibly two weeks later, the lady was well enough to leave the hospital and go home!  Of course, it doesn’t always work like that, but studies are accumulating which show without question that love has healing power. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus demonstrated the love and mercy of God his Father for His children by his teaching and healing ministry. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Healing love of Jesus: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. Her 1844 volume Poems made her one of the most popular writers in the country at the time and inspired Robert Browning to write to her, telling her how much he loved her work. Elizabeth had become an invalid and had suffered for many years, unable even to lift her head from her pillow. But then one day she was visited by Robert Browning. It was love at first sight. In just one visit, he brought her so much joy and happiness that she lifted her head. On his second visit, she sat up in bed. On the third visit, they started dating and soon got married!  Love can heal us physically. No wonder, as today’s Gospel tells us, people were healed by coming into physical contact with Jesus! He was Love Incarnate… and that’s what he is calling us to be today: Love made flesh; Love personified; Love lived out. This is the first point. Love can heal our bodies. Love can heal physically. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Crumbled and dirty $20 bill: A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a crisp new $20 bill. There were 200 people in the room. The speaker asked them, “How many of you would like to have this $20 bill?” Hands went up all over the room. Then the speaker said, “I’m going to give this $20 bill to one of you, but first let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up… and then he held it up and said, “Who wants it now?” Hand went up everywhere. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” He dropped it on the ground and stepped on it and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up and held it up for all to see. It was crumpled and smudged and dirty, and he said, “Who wants it now?” Still hands went up all over the place. Then the speaker said, “My friends, you have just learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. No matter how smudged and rumpled it became, it was still worth $20.” Many times, in our lives, we get knocked around… dropped, crumpled, smudged, and ground into the dirt… by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. And sometimes we feel as though we are worthless, and used up, and of no account. But no matter what has happened… or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. Do you feel spiritually sick this morning? Do you have a fevered soul right now? The doctor is in the house! Jesus Christ is the Great Physician… and just as His love healed Simon’s mother-in-law, even so, His love can heal you, help you, cure you, redeem you, save you. In gratitude, you will want to serve, to help others. You will want to pass that love on to everybody you meet. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Happiness begins with a touch — “a touch of the Master’s hand.” W. E. Sangster was once asked if he would find time to cheer up a young man who was recuperating from a nervous breakdown. Sangster promised to do his best. He sought the young man out and began to try to help him, but it was hard work. “This is a gray world,” the young man said. “I see no purpose in it. It is dull, meaningless and evil. Its pleasures soon pass. Its pains endure. I seriously ask myself the question: ‘Is life worth living?'” Sangster saw him once or twice a week for nearly two months. Every conversation was the same “nothing seemed to improve. Then something happened to that young man. He fell in love. Head over heels in love! On the day his engagement was announced he came to see Sangster and began the conversation with words something like this: “This is a lovely world. Come out into the garden and listen to that little bird singing fit to burst its heart. Isn’t it a glorious morning? How good it is to be alive!” That young man did not will himself to that change of attitude. It was not a choice he made. Something happened to him within. He fell in love. So it is when we experience Christ’s presence in our lives. The world seems to change. But it isn’t the world at all. We are changed by a touch – the Master’s touch which healed people as described in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “What would you like for Christmas?” Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus put his priorities in order by starting every day in prayer. Gorman Williams spent most of his life as a missionary to India. In 1945, he purchased his ticket for a long-awaited vacation back in the United States. But a few days before he was to leave, he heard about some Jews who had escaped the wrath of the Nazis. They had traveled by boat to India seeking refuge. Since it was a time of global war, the Indian government denied their request to immigrate. They were granted permission to stay for a short time in the lofts of the buildings near the dock. Their living conditions were wretched. But it was better than being sent to a concentration camp in Germany. It was Christmas Eve when Gorman Williams heard about the plight of these Jews. Immediately he went to the dock, entered the first building and called out, “Merry Christmas! What would you like for Christmas?” The response was slow. “We’re Jewish,” someone called out. “I know,” Williams said, “but what would you like for Christmas?” The weary Jews, fearful for their very lives, replied, “We would like some German pastries.” At that point Gorman Williams sold his ticket to the United States and purchased more German pastries than anyone had ever seen. He brought lots and lots of them and carried them in large baskets. Later he told this story to a group of students. One brash, judgmental young man reprimanded him. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he said, “they were not even Christians.” “No they weren’t,” the wise missionary quietly replied, “but I am.” Gorman Williams had his priorities in order. [Nell W. Mohney, Don’t Put a Period Where God Puts A Comma, (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1993), pp. 21-22.]. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) Miraculous healing: One of my all-time favorite Church magazine cartoons pictures a physician in his office, speaking with his bookkeeper. The subject of their conversation is a patient’s bill, which apparently had been in the accounts receivable file for a long, long time. The bookkeeper said to the doctor, “He says that since you told him his recovery was a miracle, he sent his check to the Church!” Today’s Gospel passage from Mark touches on the subject of miraculous healing. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Don’t forget your primary objective: Charles R. Swindoll, in his book Dropping Your Guard, tells of Flight 401 bound for Miami from New York City with a load of holiday passengers. As the huge aircraft approached the Miami Airport for its landing, a light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to come on. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked out the light failure. Their question was this, had the landing gear actually not deployed or was it just the light bulb that was defective? To begin with, the flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out…and then another. By and by, if you can believe it, all eyes were on the little light bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket. No one noticed that the plane was losing altitude. Finally, it dropped right into a swamp. Many were killed in that plane crash. While an experienced crew of highly paid, seasoned pilots messed around with a seventy-five-cent light bulb, an entire airplane and many of its passengers were lost. The crew momentarily forgot the most basic of all rules of the air — “Don’t forget to fly the airplane!”
The same thing can happen to the local Church. The Church can have so many activities, programs, projects, committee meetings, banquets, and community involvements — so many wheels spinning without really accomplishing anything of eternal significance — that the congregation forgets its primary objective.
So what is Jesus’ goal? Jesus says it is to preach. “That is why I have come, to preach! There may be some healings along the way. Simon, I have come to preach the kingdom of God and we must go elsewhere.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) “Every one is searching for you.” I read recently about a woman named Laura. Laura first attended Mass at age five. Her mom had recently become a Catholic. When Laura inquired about the Church, her mom said, “This is where Jesus lives.” At the end of the service, Laura said, “I want to see Jesus.” Her mom tried to explain that Jesus was there in spirit not body, but the five‑year‑old didn’t get it. Finally, her mom said, “That’s enough, Laura, let’s go home.” Laura resisted. Mom insisted. Then Laura bolted across the aisle and bear‑hugged a marble post. She yelled out, for all to hear, “I’m not leaving till I see Jesus!” Her mother was humiliated. The more she asserted, the louder Laura protested. Finally, the priest came over, bent down, took Laura by the hand, and gently led her to the tabernacle and told her that Jesus is inside. After a couple of minutes Laura re­turned happily to her mom, content to go home. That was twenty years ago. Today people who know her call Laura by her proper name, Sister Laura. She became a nun! In that role she has excelled in school and thrived as a servant to others. I guess we’d have to concede that somehow in the Sacrament that day long ago, little Laura “saw Jesus.” [Jim Cathcart, The Acorn Principle (NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), pp. 153-154).] I personally believe that everyone is looking for Jesus in his or her own way. We have what French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Blaise Pascal called a “God-shaped void” within our souls. We try to fill it with all kinds of inappropriate and ineffective substitutes –power, wealth, sex, drugs – but nothing on this earth can suffice. As St. Augustine said so beautifully, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” All people, everywhere, need what only Christ can offer them. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) Look at life through the eyes of Jesus. Pastor Edward Markquart of Seattle tells about hearing a former NFL football coach, Sam Ratigliano, speak one time at a banquet. Pastor Markquart assumed he was going to hear one of those “jocks for Jesus,” banquet speeches in which he would be told how Jesus had helped this NFL coach win so many victories. Instead, Sam Ratigliano told how he and his wife were driving one evening with their two-year-old daughter in the back seat. Suddenly a car was upon them; there was an accident; their car rolled over; the child was thrown out; and was pinned underneath the car. Markquart with his cynical attitude expected the NFL coach to say something like, “I found enormous strength in myself, picked up the back bumper of the car one inch, just enough for my wife to get her safely out.” Ratigliano then went on to tell how he and his wife grieved so deeply for so long over the death of their little girl. It was an awful time for them, the most difficult time in their marriage. Time went on, and they got pregnant again, finally, an answer to prayer, and that baby was about to be delivered . . . and it was stillborn. So here they were at this banquet, says Ed Markquart, and Sam Ratigliano went on to say: “God has called me to be his servant in my turf, the National Football League. He rules over all aspects of my life, when winning or losing, in triumphs and tragedies. How about you? Where is your turf? Does God rule you there in your turf, in your situation? Not just when you’re winning, but when you are losing? Not just during the triumphs but during the tragedies of your life? Does God rule you then?” (http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_b_christ_the_king.htm.) Here was a professional football coach who had learned to look at life through the eyes of Jesus. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) The best organized, but the least efficient: A German soldier was wounded. He was given leave for two weeks and ordered to go to the military hospital in his hometown for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, “For the slightly wounded,” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.” He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For wounded officers” and the other, “For wounded enlisted men.” He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For party members” and the other, “For non-party members.” He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street. When the soldier returned home after getting his wounds bandaged in a private hospital, his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?” “Well, mom,” he replied, “to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me — but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!” The soldier’s comment describes many Churches in our day: well-organized but accomplishing little. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus and his disciples were not “organized,” but were able to accomplish great things. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Saving the broken pieces: 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 the brokenness. Never underestimate God’s power to repair and restore. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus brought healing to so many broken-hearted people. (Robert Schuller; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Make lives beautiful: At the end of the Second World War, Rabbi Rubenstein, confronted with the realization that 6,000,000 of his fellow Jews had been exterminated as useless parasites by Hitler, came to the conclusion that there is no God. But to blame God for all the ills in the world is not the answer. The first place to look is within every human being – one person’s inhumanity to another. Wars are started by human beings; food shortages are deliberately caused to keep the world prices up; millions are abused, exploited and manipulated by their own fellow human beings. We can make life ugly or beautiful! Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus made lives of so many in Galilee meaningful and beautiful by his preaching and healing ministry. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) The healing in giving: He stood on a 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. He was too much a brute to be treated like a man. 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! What difference would a dime make now? “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….Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus gave himself to the people of Galilee. (Christopher Notes; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) The Black Death, the most severe epidemic in human history, ravaged Europe from 1347-1351. It is thought that as many as 25 million people (one-third of Europe’s population at the time) were killed during this short period. Thousands of people died each week. This plague killed entire families at a time and destroyed at least 1,000 villages. Once a family member had contracted the disease, the entire household was doomed to die. Parents abandoned their children, and parent-less children roamed the streets in search for food. Boccaccio said it best: “… brother was forsaken by brother, nephew by uncle, brother by sister and often husband by wife, and fathers and mothers were found to abandon their own children…” If the people weren’t dead, they ran away in vain attempts to save themselves. Victims, delirious with pain, often lost their sanity. Life was in total chaos. The Black Death struck the European people with very little warning. Physicians and philosophers harmed rather than helped. They did not understand the causes of infectious diseases, or how they spread. It is no wonder that the people looked to priests and storytellers for answers, rather than doctors. They did not know where this sudden cruel death had come from. And they did not know whether it would ever go away. The Plague was a disaster without a parallel. Why man has to suffer, get sick, and die are the problems that continue to nag people today just as they did humanity from the beginning. The first reading tells the story of Job’s vain search for an answer, and the Gospel explains how healing was one of Jesus’ main ministries. (Fr. Bobby Jose). 

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) Healing touch: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. Her 1844 volume, Poems, made her one of the most popular writers in the country at the time and inspired Robert Browning to write to her, telling her how much he loved her work. Elizabeth had become an invalid and had suffered for many years, unable even to lift her head from her pillow. But then one day she was visited by Robert Browning. It was love at first sight. In just one visit, he brought her so much joy and happiness that she lifted her head. On his second visit, she sat up in bed. On the third visit, they started dating and soon got married! Love can heal us physically. No wonder, as today’s Gospel tells us, people were healed by coming into physical contact with Jesus. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) “You must find the artichokes in your life.” 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-humoredly, “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 had worked for a while, he would come out to his patch of artichokes to pause and be still. He would just stand there looking at the artichokes. Matisse then added: “Though I have painted over 200 canvasses, I always find new combination of colors 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) The slave of all: The Christian nations of Europe brought many good things to the world. They also brought many bad things. One of them was black slavery. In some respects, slavery and the African slave trade were less brutal in Latin America than in Anglo-Saxon America. But the story was basically the same. Cartagena, in the present Republic of Colombia, was one of the most notorious of the South American slave-trade ports. As many as 10,000 slaves from Africa reached there each year. Hundreds of others died on route. Those who arrived were usually frightened, sick, or dying. Spanish slave-dealers were willing to let them be baptized, but they would permit little more. Spanish missionaries protested against this mistreatment, but their complaints were ignored. One Spanish Jesuit, St. Peter Claver, decided that at least something could be done for these poor folks to show that God loved them. So he wrote out his vow to God, “I shall b the slave of the slaves forever,” and then devoted himself to serving them for years. He met them in their crowded “corrals,” repulsive though they were in their sickness and neglect, and he brought them medicines and food and little gifts. He rounded up the blacks to interpret his instructions on God and his love, and thus he was eventually able to catechize and baptize over 300,000 slaves. He warned this poor folk against exploitation and the occasions of sin that they would encounter. He sought constantly to remind them of their own human dignity, despite their social degradation. This was his principal missionary work for thirty-five years. Then in 1650 he was stricken with a terminal illness that incapacitated him for four years. Peter bore all his trials with great patience – including the young black man assigned to take care of him who often neglected him for days on end. Only in his last hours when they learned he was dying, did the people of Cartagena recall what Father Claver had done among them! He had fulfilled his vow to be “the slave of the slaves forever.” “…I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible. (I Cor 9,19. Today’s second reading.). -Father Robert F. McNamara.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) Dilemma of PhD. doctors: In many African villages, those holders of PhD are causing confusion. We address them as doctors and when simple village folks in Africa hear it, they flock to them with all their health problems. These “doctors” find themselves in a serious predicament as they try to explain that even though they are called doctors they do not cure the sick. Nobody seems to give a satisfactory answer to the question of the village folks: “If they do not cure the sick, why do people call them doctors?” Jesus finds Himself in a similar predicament in today’s Gospel. He comes as the Savior of the world and yet He does miraculous physical healings. For example, in the synagogue he heals a man with an unclean spirit. And then He goes to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother in-law who has a fever. They bring to Him all who were sick or possessed with demons and He cures many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Strengthening power of God: When we take our pain to our hearts, when we honestly admit our weaknesses and helplessness, as Job does in today’s first reading, God can finally begin to fill us with strength. Why? Because it is only when we are brought to our knees in utter helplessness, only when we finally give up on our own strength, that God can send an angel to strengthen us, as God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus during his agony in the garden. One night, some months before his death, Martin Luther King received a death-threat on the phone. It had happened before but, on this particular night, it left him frightened and weakened to the core. All his fears came down on him at once. Here are his words as to what happened next: “I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. Finally, I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. ‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’ At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before.” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). 

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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


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Sermons.com 

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?
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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
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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 TimeWe 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!
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson
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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.
Unknown
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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.