Breaking Barriers and Extending the Kingdom

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Gospel Reading: Mk 1:29-39

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.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.


Other Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7 | Ps 146: 1-6. R. v 3 | 1 Cor 9: 16-19. 22-23


REFLECTION | HOMILY

A FRIEND of mine told me how he used to idolize his mother. He said his mother was a very strong woman. She managed to raise three boys and two girls almost single-handedly because his father worked overseas as a heavy-equipment mechanic. On top of that, she taught for more than thirty years as primary school teacher. Even other people recognised this, said my friend. He would tell me how relatives and neighbors used to come to their house to ask his mother’s help on all sorts of things—from being a mediator between two disputing neighbors or a ‘padrino’ to young couples who eloped and wanting to get blessings from their respective parents so they could get married to getting things going for civic organisations.

But I noted to him that he said ‘USED TO IDOLISED’ and ‘WAS’ a strong woman. And he said “I came to notice the change in her after we all grew up, move out of the family home to build our own families and especially after she retired from teaching. Sometimes, after a long-distance conversation on the phone, I wonder what happened to the strong woman I know.“ It seems, without the responsibility of raising children, without the identity and dignity of work—as a teacher, she lost her self-esteem. Maybe in her mind his mother thought she had lost her place in the family and even in society.

Peter's mother-in-law was healed Matthew 8:14-15Today’s Gospel narrates the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus is told of her illness, and without speaking a word he goes over to her, grasps her hand and helps her up. Mark implied in this gospel passage that Peter’s mother-in-law was a widow without family support. In Jesus’ time a widow without a family would be regarded as homeless and thus socially less worthy than other members of the family in Peter’s household.

When Jesus sat the woman up, he did not merely heal her of her sickness. But He restored her function and place in the family and society. He restored her self-esteem. In touching Peter’s mother-in-law and then allowing her to serve him, Jesus broke down traditional barriers. He took a hands-on approach to a situation that formal Judaism at that time kept at arms’ length: that the sick and the sinners be isolated from society. The gospel is teaching us that the Kingdom of God cannot tolerate prejudice and taboo just as sickness and evil has no place in the Kingdom. The power of Jesus’ words brings wholeness and holiness. While his words heal and restore us to our proper place in society, they, more importantly, return us to our proper place before God.

The Gospel is teaching us, inviting us to follow Jesus; to break all barriers, to extend our boundaries so that the Kingdom of God may reach further and further. Just like Peter’s mother-in-law, who served Jesus after he had healed her, may our service to each other, to the Church and to society become the solid evidence of our healing by the power of God’s words and also a demonstration of our response as followers of Jesus.

5sundayOT-blog2Jesus is no longer physically present on Earth. However, each one of us is encouraged to become Jesus’ eyes to look on the world with compassion, just as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law and all the sick and afflicted. Each of us here is being challenged to be his hands and feet to do good and bless others, in the same way as Jesus sought the marginalised and isolated to deliver God’s Good News them. Through the gospel, Jesus is teaching each one of us the essence of his mission—and therefore our own mission as Christians: to proclaim the Kingdom of God, by approaching those who suffer, by grasping their hands, helping them up and by healing the broken-hearted and binding up their wounds.

The second reading told us that Paul learned this lesson well. Following the example of Jesus, he offered himself in the service of others, becoming all things to all people.

In order to follow Jesus, to be able to participate actively in the proclamation of the kingdom of God, let us ask ourselves: what are the barriers that prevent us from seeing the world in the way Jesus did? How can we overcome these barriers to reach others so that they may be able to know the Kingdom of God? What can we do to comfort the elderly, to help to feed the starving Children, heal the hatred and violence in our world? How can we help to solve misunderstandings in our families so that we may not become alienated and separated from those with whom we share life? How can we put an end to bigotry and indifference? What can we do—as individuals and as community—to make our world a better place today?

On this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, let us put our trust in the power of God’s words and actions. Let them carry us so that, in turn, we may lead others to God. Let us pray to our God to heal and strengthen us by the power of his words and actions so that we may be faithful revealers of His Kingdom. ###

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