Message: We see Jesus' authority, his invitation to discipleship in the call to serve.
With this homily I continue my mini-series on Jesus' authority. As we saw last Sunday we meet Jesus' authority by acknowledging our sins and accepting him as the Lamb of God who takes away sin. This is enormous, but there is more. After announcing God's mercy, Jesus immediately calls four men to follow him - to become his disciples.
We see these same four men in today's Gospel: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. In Simon Peter's house they witness his first healing miracle. Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. I find it interesting that the first healing involves not a cancer, not a paralysis, but a fever.
In one of his prayers, Blessed John Henry Newman refers to this life as a "fever." He asks God's support until "the fever of life is over..."* How well we know. We go through life agitated about many things and when we look back, we can hardly remember what they were about.
In the nineties when the Internet was just getting going, I got into an argument with a guy I didn't even know. He had attacked our faith, I can't remember how, but I do remember obsessing about it. Even during Mass I was thinking about how I was going to respond. A fever gripped me, but hardly the kind described in a popular song!
We have other types of fever - gambling, sex, money, alcohol, sports. All can be good in themselves, but they can take over, lay us low. When Jesus saw Simon's mother-in-law laid low by a fever, he took her hand and raised her up.
She immediately began to serve - in Greek "diaconia." It's where we get our word, "deacon." Jesus heals because he was us to serve - to becomes deacons and deaconesses wherever we find ourselves. You won't have to look far. Right next to us are hungry people and at our doorsteps people with various diseases - including those troubled by demons.
Pope Francis challenges us to reach out to those who are hurting, to people on the margins. Even in his apostolic journeys, he has not gone first to the big rich countries, but to the margins - countries like Albania, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
In his visit to the Philippines he said that we need to learn to cry with those in need. "Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don't know how to cry,"
That of course in the first step in healing: to learn to cry, to identify with the person who suffers. I sometimes wonder if - on a human level - Jesus' power to heal comes from his compassion, his ability to enter into the suffering of the other person. When a person is hurting, sometimes even more than a cure, a person wants someone who senses what he is going through.
This can seem scary. I am not Jesus and I do not have the capacity for compassion that he has. I have to admit I often feel overwhelmed. I pray for young people to hear the call of Jesus. So many anguished souls - that need a priest, a religious sister, a loving lay disciple.
And Jesus knows we need times of renewal and rest. In today's Gospel he takes Simon and the other disciples "to a deserted place." The first Christian spiritual retreat.
To be alone with Jesus is an end in itself. If you have a contemplative vocation, go for it. You have my admiration, but usually the time alone with Jesus leads service - to the hungry, to those troubled in mind or body.
So we see Jesus' authority, his invitation to discipleship in the call to serve. Next Sunday we will see Jesus' authority in his cleansing of a leper. This will take us into Lent - a season of purification, of internal cleansing.
For today we see Jesus (and his disciples) embodying the words of the Psalm: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Amen.
*May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.
From the Archives (Fifth Sunday, Year B)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
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