Sunday, February 5, 2012

HOMILY FIFTH Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle “B” February 5, 2012

Very early, before dawn, Jesus gets up, leaves Capernaum - the town where today’s Gospel is set - and goes off to a deserted place.  Jesus wants to get away from it all.  He looks for someplace where He could be alone.  Of course He was not really alone.  Jesus was with His Father.  And Jesus prays.
Later in the morning, the Apostles get up.  Eventually it dawns on the Apostles that Jesus is gone.  They set out to look for him.  Finally Simon, also known as Peter, finds Jesus, and has this wonderful line: “Everybody is looking for you.”  
The important question is “Why?”  Why are they looking for him?  What do they want from Jesus? 
Well, the answer is pretty obvious.  Just the night before Jesus had cured many who were sick with various diseases, and drove out many demons.  The people wanted cures.  They wanted to find Jesus so that they could tap into His power and be healthy, so that they would not hurt, so they would be well and comfortable.
Can you blame them?  We all want some help against the pain and sorrow and misery of this life.  Look at all the drugs and painkillers we use.  Our first reading from the book of Job puts it well, if bluntly: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?   Are not his days those of hirelings?   .....   Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”  
Admittedly this is a downer, but a lot of life is like that.  I remember talking to a person who had been attending a self-help group for adult survivors of child abuse.  And this person talked about how much the other people in the group had suffered, all through no fault of their own,  how much hurt was out there.  With war and disease and crime there is always a lot of suffering, a lot of hurt.  You don’t have to look far to find hurt.  In fact we spend a lot of time and effort to keep ourselves distracted and to NOT look at all the pain and suffering around us.  We look to be entertained. 
And then Jesus comes along and heals, He makes the wounds whole, heals the illnesses, eases the aches and pains, restores health and vigor.  Then He casts out the demons, of gambling addiction, of alcoholism, of eating disorders, of low self esteem, of depression and anxiety, of all those demons that beset us and beset those we love. 
Of course the people love it.  They think this is wonderful!.  And so they are looking for Jesus in order to make their lives easier.
It is a good reason to look for Jesus, but not a good enough reason.  For Jesus has a mission.   “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”   Jesus heals, not in order to make us feel good, not so that we can be comfortable and at ease, but in order to enable us to participate in His mission.   Jesus heals us so that we can follow Him.  He is on the move.  He has work to do, and He invites us to share in that work.
Do you remember St. Peter’s Mother-in-law at the beginning of the Gospel?  She got it right.  Jesus took her by the hand, helped her up, the fever left her, and then what?  She did not plop down in front of the TV, say “Thank God I feel so much better”, She did not grab her purse go out shopping, nor did she get on the phone and call all her friends to tell them about her miraculous cure.  No.  What did she do?  She waited on them.  She understood that her healing was not really just to make her feel good, but to enable her to serve.  That is why we are healed.
It is another form of the essential Christian paradox: we must loose in order to find.  We must give in order to receive.  We must die in order to live.  We are healed in order to serve.
There are three important lessons that we need to learn from this Gospel story.
One, Jesus is able to heal us, in all the ways that we hurt and are broken.
Two, Jesus does want to heal us.  He wants us to be whole and holy.
Three, and in some ways the most important, is WHY Jesus heals us.  He heals us so that we can be disciples, so that we can follow Him.  That is the deepest healing of all.

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