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Fifth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; I Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39.
1/ First Reading: RSV Job 7:1 “Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? 2 Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, 3 so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4 When I lie down I say, `When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. 6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. 7 “Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.”
2/ Second Reading: RSV 1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
3/ Gospel: RSV Mark 1:29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Every one is searching for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I. THEME: What is the meaning of life?
The most important question that bothers many people is, “What is the meaning of life?” Depending on the answer for this question, people have two different viewpoints for their life, either optimistic hope or pessimistic despair. These viewpoints will lead them how to correspondingly live their life, either untiredly working to reach the ultimate goal or doing nothing and waiting for death to liberate them from a meaningless life.
Today readings concentrate on finding the answer for this question. In the first reading, Job felt life has no meaning because he didn’t know what is the meaning of his life. The reason why he had this feeling is that God was testing him to see if he is still faithful when He took away all of his children and possession. Job didn’t understand why he was suffered when he committed no wrong doings. In the second reading, once St. Paul recognized the importance of preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls, he was ready to sacrifice his life for this purpose. He eagerly preached the Gospel to all, and readily became all things to all men so that he can win some souls for God. In the Gospel, St. Mark presented a typical day of Jesus: to preach the Good News, to heal all sickness, to expel demons, and to communicate with God in prayer.
1/ Reading I: The meaningless of life
1.1/ Suffering in life is a reality which everyone must face: The Buddhism says life is an ocean of sufferings and framed in a vicious cycle of the four elements: birth, old age, sickness and death. Suffering can come from all the circle of life. The first action of a newborn baby is crying, not laughing. Then, he must spend his young age for education and preparing to work. Next, he must work the main portion of his life to earn living and to raise his family. Finally, he retires from work, not because he wants to, but he doesn’t have strength to continue. Beside all of these, diseases can penetrate his body at anytime, especially when he grows old. The last phase of his life is death when none can escape. The author of Job highlighted some of these sufferings as follows:
(1) Suffering comes from hard works: “Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling?Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me.” If human life has no other meaning, he is worse than animals, because they don’t have to work hard like him to earn a living.
(2) Suffering comes from the monotone of time: The author of Ecclessiastes said: “There is no new under the sun.” The author of Job expressed the same feeling: “When I lie down I say, `When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn.”
(3) Suffering comes from sickness: This is the next suffering which Job must suffer, when Satan caused him to have a skin disease.
(4) Suffering comes from wrong understanding: Job suffered from wrong accusations of his friends and his inability to understand the meaning of suffering.
1.2/ Life without hope is death: Men can live with suffering, but can’t live without hope. The author of Job said: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope.”Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.””
To understand Job’s situation, we must understand his understanding about the meaning of life. According to Jewish tradition at that time, happiness is only limited in earthly life. When people died, that is the end of human life. Even though God revealed about the next life in many books of the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, but people didn’t correctly understand it. To the people who lived according to God’s law, they believed that God would grant them a happy life on earth with many children, richness and a long life. In Job’s case, he lived according to God’s law; he couldn’t understand why God took away all what he had. Neither He understood that suffering is used to test his faith in God. The author confirmed his belief according to Jewish tradition when he concluded his book with God’s multiplied blessings on Job. The concept of the next and eternal life happened late in the Books of Daniel and Maccabees, about second century BC, and was clear with Jesus’ confirmation (Jn 6:39-40, 11:25).
2/ Reading II: I became all things to all men.
2.1/ Preaching the Gospel is a duty: The event of his conversion on the way to Damascus always enlightened all of St. Paul’s thinking. He was on the way to persecute Christians, not to preach the Gospel; but God had His own plan, He made Paul to be the preacher of the Gentiles. Therefore, Paul ascertained in today passage: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.”
Since preaching is Pauls’ duty, he tried to find a way to earn the reward from the preaching of the Gospel: “What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the Gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the Gospel.” Like Jesus, Paul emphasized many times on workers should be rewarded for his work. He refused to take the reward from men, not that he wasn’t deserved, but to get the reward from God. In Paul’s life, he worked with his hands to support his preaching of the Gospel, though he could ask for support from his faithful. He intentionally did this to get God’s reward.
2.2/ Paul sacrificed everything for the preaching of the Gospel: Once Paul recognized God’s plan of salvation and his vocation to preach for the Gentiles, he was ready to sacrifice all he had to fulfill his vocation. Since the salvation of souls is the most important task, all methods must be used to achieve this goal. Paul’s efficient method is “to become all things to all people.”
He explained his method: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Preachers must not be afraid to reach areas where no one plant their feet yet. He shouldn’t be hesitated to enter prisons, brothels, robbers’ den if there are people who have not yet to hear the Gospel. Jesus and Paul are indeed the exemplars for us to follow.
3/ Gospel: A busy and typical day of Jesus’ life on earth.
3.1/ Preaching of the Good News: Today passage reported Jesus’ preaching in the Capernaum’s synagogue in the Sabbath day. During Jesus’ life on earth, he didn’t limit his preaching in the synagogue, but expanded to all places: on mountains, along the roads, in a boat, along the seashores… wherever it had audiences. What are the contents of Jesus’ preaching? First, the kingdom of God has come. Jesus wanted to say that God’s kingdom has come with his appearance. Everyone can enter to enjoy a happy life with God from now on. Secondly, he is the hope of humankind. Through him, all human sins are forgiven and human beings are reconciled with God. Lastly, he invited people to repent and to believe what he preached because he is God’s wisdom. He comes to reveal God’s mystery for men. People need to know these fundamental points before they can believe in him and hope in what he promises. These can also help them to change their life according to requirements of the Gospel.
3.2/ Healing of all diseases: No one can escape diseases, from normal disease as fever to serious disease as ulcers. Jesus had compassion on all those who are sick and he healed many of them.
(1) Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law: Peter’s house isn’t too far from the synagogue so he might invite Jesus and other apostles to come to his mother-in-law’s house to have a lunch. He thought meal is ready to eat; but when they came, they didn’t see food but his mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Immediately they told him of her.Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.
We can learn a lesson of patience from this situation. Many times, we feel pain and desperate because sickness prevents the works and plans which we are doing; but we must learn how to go along with God’s will, even in our sickness. Once we are healed, we can continue to work as Peter’s mother-in-law joyfully served Jesus and his disciples.
(2) Jesus healed all the sick and those who were possessed by demons in Capernaum: Mark briefly reported: “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.And the whole city was gathered together about the door.And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
They must wait until the sun came down because it is illegal to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus healed all. People suffer because of all sickness in body; but they suffer even more from being possessed by demons. Jesus cast out demons and gave power to his disciples so they can liberate people from being slaves to demons.
3.3/ Communicating with God in prayer: Though Jesus was so busy during the day to preach and to heal; he could still find time to communicate with his Father in prayer. According to Mark, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” A new day with all its challenges, Jesus knew he needs God’s wisdom and power to meet its challenges. This teaches us that we can’t meet challenges of life without communicating with God in prayer. We must balance between our prayer life and apostolic works.
When Jesus was still in prayer, Simon and those who were with him pursued him,and they found him and said to him, “Every one is searching for you.”But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.”And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. Jesus had only three years to complete his mission and he wanted the Good News to reach as many as possible.
One temptation which is always happened to a preacher is to settle in one place after he has built up his local connection. He forgot the urgency of preaching of the Gospel for the salvation. A true preacher must always be on the road to preach and to win souls for God until the time God takes him away.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Life has a meaning or not depending on if we can understand or not.
– The meaning of life isn’t come from human being, but from God. He creates and predestines them for a happy and eternal life with Him in the heaven.
– Life on earth is the opportunity for us to show our faith in God. We must spend all of our time and effort to show people the ultimate goal of life, and help them to reach this goal.