Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 7, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
In today’s first reading, Job is deeply disturbed. Having lost all his children and properties, he is sick to the point of death and filled with despair: “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. […] My days […] come to an end without hope. […] I shall not see happiness again” (Jb 7:4,6–70). Likewise, the current pandemic has heightened anxiety, fear, and despair among many
In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul asks: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” (Rom 7:24). Although we are called to joy, we nevertheless experience many forms of suffering and pain every day. This is our human condition.
Today’s Gospel begins with the healing of St. Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick with a fever, possibly malaria. “They immediately told him about her” (Mk 1:30). When someone is sick, we, too, have to bring them to Jesus’ attention.
There is always hope, even in the face of sickness and death. Today’s alleluia refrain says: “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Today’s responsorial psalm says: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3)
“He [Jesus] approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them” (Mk 1:31). Preaching the gospel is not merely the proclamation of a message that helps us become better persons. Preaching the gospel is God’s action. It is not merely a message but rather an event that transforms our lives. Jesus’ preaching was followed by signs and wonders: conversions, deliverance from evil, forgiveness of sins and physical healing. As today’s Gospel says, “The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons” (Mk 1:33–34).
The Word who created the world in the beginning is now recreating all things anew. We become new creatures in Christ.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). Like Jesus, the apostles also performed wonders. St. Paul’s preaching was followed by great signs, as he says, “For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit [of God], […] I have finished preaching the gospel of Christ” (Rom 15:18–19). The Church is the extension of Christ’s action in the present.
In the Instruction On Prayers For Healing, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declares: “Presuming the acceptance of God’s will, the sick person’s desire for healing is both good and deeply human, especially when it takes the form of a trusting prayer addressed to God” (#2).
When we pray to God, he always grants inner healing and deliverance from evil. Sometimes he heals the body and sometimes not. It is a mystery. Healing from sickness is something extraordinary, which serves to bring about our conversion and increase our faith. The healing of the body is a small sign that reminds us of the glorious resurrection of the body that will occur on the last day. Even those who are miraculously healed will not remain in this life forever. However, Christ’s death and resurrection give us hope. The kingdom of God is “already but not yet.” We live in anticipation of eternal life, when all things will be fulfilled in Christ.
Today’s Gospel says: “Rising very early before dawn, he [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35). May Jesus’ example help us increase our prayer. In prayerful dialogue with God, may we find the hope, serenity and strength to face the present circumstances. May our faith in Jesus Christ help us see the tribulations of our present life as the path to the glorification of our bodies. Amen.