Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7 / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mk 1:29-39
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The word “apostle” comes from two Greek words that together mean: one who is sent. Each Christian has an apostolate to follow. We have been called to evangelize, to be sent out like St. Paul and the twelve apostles, to announce the Good News of the love that God has for us all.
Today in our gospel reading, St. Mark continues his story about the first days of Jesus’ public life. Mark tells us that Jesus preached in the synagogues, and that upon leaving the synagogues, He drove out many demons. One day after preaching in a synagogue in Capernaum, the town in which Simon Peter and Andrew lived, Jesus decided to visit their home, together with James and John. When He arrived, Jesus was told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever.
Jesus immediately decided to cure her. That was how Jesus’ miracles occurred. He saw the plight of the people that wanted to be cured, and He cured them. Jesus approached Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, grasped her hand, and she was cured. She immediately got out of bed and began to serve Jesus. This was the way she showed that she was thankful for being cured.
After learning of this occurrence, the townspeople spread the news of the Lord’s miracle. The news went from home to home, and soon the entire population of the town crowded around the door of the house. From the surrounding area, people brought all who were sick or possessed by demons. Jesus cured those who came to Him in faith. The next day before dawn, Jesus went off to a certain place where He prayed. Jesus was praying when the apostles arrived to tell Him that everyone was looking for Him. People who wanted to be cured continued to arrive, but instead of returning to town, Jesus said to the apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Our Lord’s true mission was to evangelize, to announce to all humanity the Good News of the love that God has for all human beings.
The gospel reading for this Sunday presents a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry, for He not only preached, but also engaged in acts of healing and compassion. After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and numerous others, Jesus retreated to pray, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a deep connection with the Father. He then expressed His mission to preach the Gospel to other towns, underlining the purpose of His coming. Jesus came to preach. He came to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God, to invite all humankind to let God reign as king in their hearts and in their lives, to reconcile us with God and with one another.
Much of the sickness, poverty, and suffering that exists in our world is traceable to the disharmony or sin that separates us from God and from one another. By healing this root cause of all of our problems, we find ourselves in a position to receive God’s abundant blessings in all areas of our lives: spiritual as well as physical, moral as well as material, social as well as psychological. But to try to seek physical healing and material well-being without first making peace with God is to miss the point.
In reflecting on the gospel passage, we are invited to consider our own response to the call of discipleship. Like Jesus, we are called not only to receive His healing and grace, but also to actively participate in the mission of sharing the Good News. Our faith is not meant to be passive, but dynamic, influencing our actions and interactions with others.
St. Paul invites us in the second reading to follow the example of the Lord to evangelize. The true mission of all Christians is to proclaim the gospel to a world that needs to hear the word of God. Our second reading reminds us of what St. Paul said to the Christians of Corinth, that for him, preaching was an obligation. He did not do it for his own glory or to become rich. He did not even start to do it on his own initiative. He had been given a task to do: to be a missionary of the Word of God, to become all things to all, so that he could save at least some.
St. Paul did not do this without problems, but despite the difficulties, he continued to announce the gospel. He continued on the mission that he had been given. If we want to do the same, we have to do as St. Paul did. Our mission does not end when we walk out of the doors of this church after Sunday Mass. It continues.
At Baptism, all Christians receive the same mission: to evangelize within the boundaries of our own lives, every day, whether at school, at work, or in the home, in our words, our example and our way of life. We are obliged to show that we are Christians, that we follow Christ, and that because we follow Christ, we constantly fight against evil and injustice in this world. As Jesus’ message spreads to other communities, those people, too, receive His message and consolidate it, nurture it, and allow it to become part of them, abiding deep within them. The Holy Spirit builds on it, in and through the people who hear and respond to it.
There is so much to be done, so much we can do, so little time to do it. There are never enough hours in the day, days in the year. We do what we can and keep our eyes on the big picture. We draw strength, inspiration and vision from our prayerful “time-outs” with God to focus our energy, direct our choices, and lead us mindfully through the busy-ness of our days comprised of so many different possibilities and needs. We can’t do everything. We are all too aware of our limitations, so we ask the Lord to help us do what we can do, well, with focus, clear priorities, and above all, with love and compassion.
As we continue to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, let us reflect on the ways we actively participate in the mission of Jesus. Are we open to being instruments of healing, compassion, and reconciliation in our communities? Do we recognize the urgency of sharing the Good News in a world that thirsts for hope and meaning?
May we, like Jesus and St. Paul, respond to the call of discipleship with enthusiasm, trusting that God’s grace will empower us to fulfill our mission in the world. Let us also ask the Virgin Mary to help us to be faithful to the mission that God has given us, just as she was. And let us thank God for having called us to carry it out.