Feb. 4, 2018

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


As I write this, the nation is reeling from wildfires in California and a series of catastrophic hurricanes that have devastated communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. No doubt many believers are left to wonder (along with Job) what it all might mean, and whether God has abandoned them.

Paul offers one answer to the Corinthians when he suggests that by freely embracing hardships and sacrifices in service of the Gospel, he is able to identify more closely with “the weak” and so to facilitate their embrace of his preaching. God can work even in and through suffering and hardship.

Jesus, in the Gospel reading from Mark, “immediately” responds to the illness of Simon’s mother-in-law by grasping her hand and “raising her up.” In so doing he gives tangible evidence that with his coming the reign of God is already breaking into human history.

Simon’s mother-in-law, whose instantaneous cure is clearly miraculous, responds by jumping up and “waiting on them.” She is happy to serve because, thanks to Jesus, she is once more able to do so.

The prominent 20th-century American businessman William M. Batten, writing in Fortune magazine, once recounted how the Roman emperor Valens threatened the 4th-century Christian bishop Eusebius with confiscation of all his goods, torture, banishment and even death. The courageous Christian replied: “He needs not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.” That is real freedom!

Batten went on to comment: “When I hear my friends say they hope their children don’t have to experience the hardships they went through, I don’t agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.” Struggle in service of the Gospel is a privilege that should call forth our thanks.

Homily Helps for the January issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and is a full-time member of the campus ministry staff at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.