Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mass Readings -- 08FEB09, part 2

So yesterday I was commenting on the Sunday readings from a week ago now, and I mentioned how the first reading, from Job, tells the truth about how difficult life can be at times. Then the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 147) reminds us that we can have a really, really, really big God, even (especially!) in the face of life's trials.

This is good news, and worth celebrating.

(Of course, if we're the 'frozen chosen' we just sit there and judge, however. what's up with *that*?)

Furthermore, in the second reading, Paul states (in part) in the First Letter to the Corinthians,

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! (NAB: 1Cor 9:16)
You see, he's been through the wringer, he knows the depth and breadth and height of his need before God, and has found a Higher Power who's so big that he'll say, in the eighth chapter of the Letter to the Romans,

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NRSV: Romans 8:38-39) [emphasis mine]

There's nothing in all the created world that can separate Paul from the love of God -- nothing. No trial, no deployment, no separation from loved ones, no shame, no fear.

No terrorist, even.

So Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians can't help but tell others about this good news. He simply can't keep his mouth shut about it. It's too big to keep inside, and if he were to try, it's "woe to me if I do not preach it!"

This is supposed to be our story as well. (That's why there are readings appointed to be read in Lectionary-based liturgical celebrations. They tell our story, again and again.)

Moreover, in the Gospel reading, from the first chapter of Mark's Gospel,

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. (NAB: Mk 1:29-31)
Simon's mother-in-law (clearly Peter was married, and he was the first Bishop of Rome...), upon being healed "got it" that true gratitude is expressed in service. This is a great story in the first chapter of Mark's Gospel (which is filled with stories of Jesus healing folks) because Jesus does the unthinkable. (He always seems to be doing that, and I like that about him!)

He *touches* a woman he's not related to.

In the ancient Near East -- and indeed to this very day in the part of the world where I happen to be living right now) -- a male just did NOT touch a female he was not related to! That was a very bad thing to do, and is still considered such today.

But Jesus is not held down or held back by slavish adherence to the limitations that we human beings place upon him. He realized the awesome power of human touch, and in his touching her, in his lifting her up, she was healed.

We can have a God who wants to touch us, too, if we so choose.

And she, in her gratitude, started being of service. Right away. Gratefully.

That's supposed to be our story.

Soldiers know all about 'selfless service' -- it's one of our so-called Army Values. So the part about service, and about it being selfless, is nothing new. What's important is that Pete's mom-in-law's selfless service was rooted in her gratitude for God's healing, saving action in her life, in the midst of her pain.

All of us, in whatever our 'deployment' looks like, in the midst of whatever trials we might be enduring, who choose to have a really, really big God in our life, can have a God who heals broken hearts and binds up our wounds. We too can be filled with gratitude -- if we let ourselves be filled -- as Paul was, and we can let others know that this can be true for them as well, as Paul did.

And like Marge (I like to think of Pete's mom-in-law as being named Marge), we can let that gratitude issue forth into grateful, selfless service.

(Amazing what the 'limitations' placed by the use of a Lectionary upon the Presider at a litugical celebration can yield, eh?)

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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