Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Look Up and See the Father's Hand
Bow Down and Serve Submissively as does a Beast of Burden

First Reading (Job 7:1-4,6-7 ): Job sighed at the many sufferings in life
Second Reading (1Cor 9:16-19,22-23 ) : Willingness to sacrifice to spread the Gospel
Gospel (Mk 1:29-39): Cure of Simon's mother-in-law; preaching throughout Galilee
Chinese Classics :
-It's not till a child is three years old that it is allowed to leave its parents' arms(1)

-Now heaven and earth, the journey of all living things. Now time is but a traveler of a hundred centuries. Life is but a dream.”(2)

The passage from Mark's Gospel today describes Jesus' work of one day: praying, acting, preaching. One can say that through these ways Jesus testified to the Father's plan for him, living life as his Father wished. In fact, it is not one day's pattern, it is the pattern of his entire life. In his daily life, indeed throughout his entire life, Jesus maintains his close relationship with his Father (prayer), performs miracles, as healings (action) and speaks to the people (preaching), as testimony to his adherence to the mission given him by his Father.

Today's Gospel passage records that after Jesus left the synagogue in Capernaum, he went with John, James and the others to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew. Peter's mother-in-law was lying in bed sick with fever. The Gospel says that “he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her.” (Mk 1:31 ) Jesus could cure people without medicine or using a great amount of strength. Touching the person's hand or even being near the person was sufficient. The cure was complete, body, heart and spirit. Once cured Peter's mother-in-law “ began to serve them”. That is, once she received the gift, she reciprocated, showed her gratitude through action. The receiver immediately becomes the giver – a very natural response that reflects a person's true feelings.

Some people think that Confucius's ‘kindness to one's fellowmen’ means more than ‘love’. It also refers to one's genuine feelings and real emotions. If a person can treat others according to the true emotions felt deeply within one's heart, that is truly ‘kindness to one's fellowmen.’

When Fan Che asked Confucius whether “one year” was sufficient mourning over the death of one's parents, instead of answering Confucius asked him whether he would feel at peace doing so. Unexpectedly, Fan Che said yes, he would feel at peace. Confucius then said, “Your feeling at peace is the consideration.” That is, if you feel at peace, then do it. But Confucius did not think Fan Che would really feel at peace because he reasoned “that it is not till a child is “three years” old that it is allowed to leave its parents' arms.”(1) If one acted according to how one really felt the person would try to mourn the parents' death for “three years” in order to repay the parents for the “three” early years of love and care in their arms. When Fan Che's said that he felt at peace to mourn his parents for “one year”, it did not reflect his true feelings. It was only an excuse, such as the need to work hard for a living, which he used to convince himself that “one year's” mourning was sufficient. Confucius' conclusion was that Fan Che's thinking was not really “lacking in filial piety” but was rather “unkindness to one's fellowmen, ” because he did not act according to his genuine internal feelings and true emotions.

Peter's mother-in-law acted out of her true feelings when she served Jesus as soon as she had been cured. It was a gracious way to be the giver to repay having been the receiver. The Gospel continues that all the sick and possessed persons were brought before Jesus. “The whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk 1: 33-34) The Gospel says that many sick and possessed people came. “The whole city” may have been an exaggeration Mark used to deliberately emphasize the whole atmosphere of excitement and that Jesus' preaching and miracles were attractive to so many people. From another angle we can see that the many disasters in our world today are an indication of the world's great need for Jesus and his salvation.

Scripture tells us that we have here no lasting city. Even Li Bai, the carefree and unconventional god of poetry regretfully sighed and said, “Now heaven and earth, the journey of all living things. Now time is but a traveler of a hundred centuries. Life is but a dream.”(2) The world we live in is full of calamities and easily can seem quite meaningless. This situation is well described in today’s reading from the Book of Job. “Job said: ‘Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to their end without hope.” (Job 7:1-6)

Religion can cure human hearts and sometimes human bodies, too. Physical and mental health always are interconnected. Some Marxists and researchers of Chinese society think that when Marx said “religion is the opium of people” , it was not just pessimism. Opium really can have a mesmerizing and pain-killing effect on our bodies. Some times doctors will find there is no effective medication for peoples' physical ills. On the other hand, religion sometimes has an amazingly strong effect in helping people regain faith, hope and life.

The above is an account of a day in the life of Jesus and miracles he worked. Of course, it was combined with his preaching and prayer: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed….he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues.” ( Mk 1:35,39 )

This is one day in Jesus' life. It is also the pattern of his whole life.


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