Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Stewardship Prayer

Almighty and ever-faithful Lord, gratefully acknowledging Your mercy and humbly admitting our need, we pledge our trust in You and each other.

Filled with desire, we respond to Your call for discipleship by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ. We profess that the call requires us to be stewards of Your gifts. As stewards, we receive Your gifts gratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible manner, share them in practice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

We pledge to our ongoing formation as stewards and our responsibility to call others to that same endeavor. Almighty and ever-faithful God, it is our fervent hope and prayer that You who have begun this good work in us will bring it to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Catholiconline.com

COLLECT

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,

that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,

they may be defended always by your protection.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jb 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

APPLICATION

While the book of Job points out that earthly sufferings are not always a punishment for previous sins committed by the sufferer – Job was an innocent man – it does not solve the problem of human pain. The author could not solve this age-old problem because his world-view was restricted to life on this earth. It was only when the full revelation of man’s purpose in life and God’s loving plans for him, were made known through Christ that the full answer to this question was given. When life on this earth was thought to be the sum total of a man’s existence it seemed hard and cruel that his few short years should be marred and saddened by bodily and/or mental ailments. But with our new knowledge and certainty that this life is only a preparation, an apprenticeship, for the eternal life that awaits us after death, we are able to see our earthly sufferings in their proper perspective. They may be punishment for past sins – God’s loving way of giving us an opportunity of making atonement for our offenses – or these sufferings may be laid on our shoulders to atone for fellowmen who are incapable of carrying their own saving cross.

For whichever reason these trials are sent us, we Christians should, with the example of Christ before us, be able to accept them with good will and bear them patiently because they come to us from God. But the objection can be raised: it is not God but sinful men, wicked neighbors or even wicked members of our own family who are the cause of my ill-health, my mental and bodily sufferings. Granted that this is often true and that many, if not most of the pains and hardships people have to suffer, are caused by wicked fellowman, yet all of this is happening with God’s knowledge. He could prevent it but he will not because out of evil he can produce good. The sufferings of the innocent bring down God’s grace not only on themselves but on the very wicked who caused their sufferings.

God wants all his adopted children in heaven. His all-wise way of bringing this to pass may often seem to our limited intellects to be almost unjust to the innocent while the guilty ones seem to be favored. But it is not so. God’s innocent children will be rewarded where the reward will be everlasting, and when they reach that reward they will have an added source of joy in the knowledge that it was their patient endurance of suffering brought on them by wicked men, which earned for their one-time oppressors a place in the eternal kingdom. In heaven there will be no narrow-mindedness, no sense of resentment or desire for revenge. Remember the words of Job: “man has a hard service upon earth . . . he is like a hireling and a slave.” Most of us can see this fulfilled in our own lives. However, our conscription, our military service or slavery, is of relatively short duration. If we put up patiently with our tribulations (having done all that is humanly and lawfully possible to ameliorate our condition), we will soon see that what looked like the heavy hand of an enemy was instead the caressing hand of the eternal Father, who loved us and so sent us crosses which he would turn into eternal crowns.

Knowing, then, that this life is only an apprenticeship through which we can earn our eternal life of happiness, we should all be able to face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” which come our way. We should, in fact, be able to welcome them for they are reminders kindly sent us by God, lest we forget our real purpose in life. What is more: they are means given us to make us apostles in our own homes. Through patiently-borne sufferings, we can bring God’s grace down on fellowman who have no time or no thought of asking for it.

Christ suffered for us and died the excruciating death of the cross, so that we might have eternal life. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow him. That daily cross of ours can never be as heavy as his, for he was the innocent God-man. If, however, we carry our cross patiently, it will be turned into our crown of glory when we meet Christ at the moment of our death.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

READING II

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1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23

 

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

APPLICATION

St. Paul is the single Apostle about whom we know most. From the accounts of him given in the Acts, and from his own letters to the various churches, we have not only the principal events of his life but clear glimpses into his character. He was never a man of half- measures but put his whole heart and mind into whatever cause he espoused. As a young Pharisee – a student of the Mosaic law in Jerusalem – he exceeded in zeal even his teachers and elders. To the Pharisees Christ was a false Messiah. He was not what they expected and what was worse, he was a blasphemer for he claimed to be God, so they had him condemned to death. But his followers began to proclaim that he had risen from the dead and was not only Messiah but the Son of God. For this they were persecuted and imprisoned – this heretical sect had to be wiped out.

In this persecution of the infant Church, Saul of Tarsus took a leading part. But Christ intervened on behalf of his Church. On his way to Damascus, with authority to arrest any believers in Christ that he found there, and bring them prisoner to Jerusalem, he was converted. The vision of the risen Christ gave him a new outlook on life, the persecutor was turned into an Apostle of the new faith. Baptized in Damascus, he spent some time in solitary meditation in the desert and later in his native Tarsus. Then he began his mission to the Gentiles, the mission given him by Jesus (Acts 9: 15). From Antioch in Syria he traveled through Cyprus (where he changed the name Saul into Paul), Asia Minor, Greece and as far as Rome. He spent the last twenty-four years of his life bringing the message of Christ to the Gentiles. In doing so he suffered hardship after hardship. Apart from fatiguing journeys during which he frequently suffered from hunger and thirst, he was often beaten up by mobs. Five times he was scourged by the opposing Jews. He was stoned, ship-wrecked and imprisoned at least three times (see 2 Cor. 11 :23-29).

The vision of Christ which Paul had on the road to Damascus remained his guiding-light all through these years. He gladly and completely became the slave of Christ and put every ounce of energy he possessed into serving his master. Because his fellowman were brothers of Christ, Paul made himself their slave also. For him there was neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian, slave nor freeman – all were brothers of Christ, adopted sons of God, and his all-burning desire was to help them all reach the eternal inheritance that God, through Christ, had in store for them.

We can hardly hope to emulate the true brotherly-love, the total dedication, the complete self-giving of Paul, but we must all try to follow him if only from afar. We cannot and need not take on distant missionary journeys, we cannot and need not give up all our earthly cares and responsibilities, but we all can and must take an active interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of our fellowman. Some of this obligation, which is on every true Christian, we can fulfill by helping missionary societies, but nearer home, in our own very neighborhood, there are works of charity which each one of us can carry out. There are neighbors, fellow-sons and daughters of God who are in dire need of the ordinary necessities of life – we can spare a little from our own resources to help them out. There are many heirs to heaven who, alas, are leading lives which will not bring them to their everlasting home. A word of advice, an encouraging example, a few devout prayers, can still work miracles. Let us try to imitate St. Paul, if only from afar. Every least effort, every smallest sacrifice for Christ and our fellowman, will have its reward when our day of reckoning comes.

We can all be apostles in our own limited surroundings; we must all be apostles if we hope to reign one day soon with Christ in heaven.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:
Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. .. Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers. .. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.1

CCC848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”2

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”3 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.4 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.5

1 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. I Cor 9:22; I Pt 2:2.
2 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.
3 Cf. Rom 1:1.
4 Phil 2:7.
5 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

GOSPEL

Mk 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020418.cfm

APPLICATION

Surely the people of Capernaum saw enough that first day of Christ’s public ministry among them to make them realize that this man from Nazareth who had come amongst them was no ordinary preacher, no ordinary rabbi, no ordinary man. They saw that he preached as one having authority; they saw that by a simple command he cast out demons and removed all bodily ailments. Yet though they were astonished and amazed at his power, their worldly outlook did not let them rise above their own small interests. Our Lord did not blame them or criticize them, he knew and fully understood their slowness of mind in regard to things spiritual, and he knew also that they would eventually give themselves wholeheartedly to his kingdom.

While he was prepared to wait for the desired effects which his miracles and preaching would eventually have on them, he hastened the arrival of that day by praying to his heavenly Father to send the graces necessary for their conversion into their hearts. When the four Apostles found him praying in a lonely place, they told him that all Capernaum was searching for him, but he knew why they were searching for him. They wanted to see more miracles and very likely they were hoping that he would stay on in Capernaum and the sick and the maimed from the whole of Galilee would be brought there for healing. This would increase their earthly business and prosperity. His answer to the Apostles, while not directly condemning this worldly outlook, shows that his mission had an entirely different objective. He had come on earth not to bring earthly prosperity to any town or country but to bring spiritual salvation and blessing on all people. That very morning he began to carry out his mission and for the remaining two years or more he went from town to town preaching the kingdom of God.

We Christians of today have many advantages over the people of Capernaum of that day. They saw Christ with their bodily eyes as a man of power amongst them; we see him with the eyes of faith as he really was and is – the Son of God who came on earth as man in order to make us sons of God. We know who he really was and we know the full meaning of his mission. We have seen that mission completed amongst us by his death on the cross and his resurrection. By his death he conquered death for us; by his resurrection he opened the gates of heaven for us and led the way there for all who will follow him.

This is the good news Christ brought to our world. This is the meaning of Christianity; this is why we are Christians. We are members of Christ’s kingdom on earth, so that when our life here ends we shall be members of his everlasting heavenly kingdom. Yet, with all of this knowledge and with the example of the thousands and millions of saints who have lived according to this knowledge over the past nineteen hundred years and more, and who are now enjoying the reward Christianity promised them, how active and how effective is our Christian faith in our daily thoughts and deeds? In my daily dealings with my fellowman would I be picked out as a Christian? Do I, by my words and deeds, prove to those with whom I live and work that I am convinced there is a future life after death, that reaching that life is the most important thing in this world for me, and that it is through living my short earthly life as a true Christian that I can earn that eternal life?

If I can say yes to these questions I am, thank God, on the right road. But if my answer is “no” then it is time I had another good look to see where I went off the road, and to find out that I can return to that right road once more. God is merciful; Christ is patient with followers who straggle and wander, but it could be fatal to postpone for too long our call to the God of mercy. It will be too late if we delay turning to our patient Christ until we are about to die. Stop straggling and wandering off the highway today and the patient Christ will welcome you and help you back. There may be no tomorrow for you, you have no guarantee of it.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.1 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.2 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.
2 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

BENEDICTUS

Entrance into Sonship

To share in the Son’s relationship: How is this to be done? What did it mean for Jesus himself? It manifests itself in the Gospels primarily in the prayer of Jesus. The fact that he is Son means, above all, that he prays. That, in the ground of his being, whether he works among men or takes his rest, he is always open to the living God, always has his place in him, always regards his existence as an exchange with him and so always lives from this innermost depth… The Son does not simply design his own existence; he receives it in a most profound dialogue with God. It is this dialogue that makes him free to walk among men and makes him free to serve. It is this dialogue that teaches him, without school or teacher, to know Scripture more deeply than anyone else – to know it truly from God himself… Whoever becomes the son of this Father no longer stands alone. Entrance into this Sonship is entrance into the great family of those who are sons along with us. It creates a relationship. To draw near to Christ means always to draw near to all those of whom he wants to make a single body.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to the Apostle Paul

Glorious St. Paul,

Most zealous Apostle,

Martyr for the love of Christ,

Give us a deep faith,

A steadfast hope,

A burning love for our Lord;

So that we can proclaim with you,

It is no longer I who live, but Christ

who lives in me.”

Help us to become apostles

Serving the Church with a pure heart,

Witnesses to her truth and beauty

Amidst the darkness of our days.

With you we praise God our Father:

To Him be the glory, in the Church

and in Christ, now and forever.”

Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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