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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Homily. Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39.

Green Stole and Gospel
Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

In the face of suffering man is, in the end, powerless (First Reading and Gospel); and however much comfort-oriented society may strive and even to a degree succeed in shielding us from physical suffering, life on earth does not meet the aspirations of the heart. Christ has come as the redeemer and the conqueror of suffering and of death. He does not limit his healing mission to the ills of the body, but takes on the ailing soul to free the whole man, with a dedication (Gospel) that is mirrored by St Paul (Second Reading).

Jobīs perspective on life is dark-tinted, not surprising given the conditions of life universal in the ancient world and his ignorance of a promised afterlife which will surpass the deepest longings of the human heart (it was only gradually that the promise of eternal life was revealed to Israel). Yet depressing though his experience appeared, the lot of man is still more serious than Jobīs life represents. Not only do hundreds, if not thousands, of millions of men and women still live in conditions that are not much better than his. There is a far deeper wretchedness, which consists in manīs alienation from God through sin which holds the prospect of a never-ending misery, and to which we ourselves, despite our technological and medical advances, have no remedy.

The trials of Job, and the illness of Simon Peterīs mother-in-law, are merely sign and symbol of this incomparably greater ill. "[T]he Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adamīs sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the īdeath of the soulī." (CCC 403)

Manīs burden makes our life a struggle – literally īmilitary serviceī (īdrudgeryī does not do full justice to the concept, or the way the Church Fathers treated it, with its connotations not only of being drafted unwillingly but also of a battle we must engage in). To heal us, Jesus has taken our full burden upon himself: our sin, and our daily battle to overcome it. He begins to draw the sting from it by taking it on not against his will but with full willingness rooted in love. His whole life, a day of which is marvelously and graphically depicted for us by St Mark, becomes an unrelenting battle against the evils visited upon us in which he gives himself no quarter. Successively and with scarcely a break to eat he preaches in the synagogue, heals Peterīs mother-in-law, cures those suffering from physical and spiritual ailments well into the late evening, rises before dawn to pray and, refusing to stay and be acclaimed for his good works, is driven by his love to "move on to the neighboring villages" to "proclaim the good news there also". This is Jesus whole life. He is the greatest fighter in all of history, "for us men and for our salvation." St Paul, imitating Jesus, is urged on by the same compulsion. Willingly, he has made himself a slave to the needs of his brothers and sisters (Second Reading).

Catechesis: The consequences of sin and the spiritual battle to which we are called (CCC 399-409).

The consequences of original sin: a given. We can understand and cope with our whole situation in the world much more adequately when we accept the fact that it is profoundly affected by the consequences of Adamīs sin. We need to allow for its influence, and take measures with foresight to counteract it. It is foolish for parents, educators, public officials or anyone to act as if this weakness of our nature were not a universal and permanent reality. "Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals" (CCC 407). As if, for example, mere information about sex or drugs were sufficient to help young people act responsibly and well, without also strengthening a wounded will with grace and natural means, and refusing to allow free conduct through the senses to stimuli that foster the disharmony of the human faculties.

A battling, fraternal Christianity. From Jesus and from St Paul we learn what it is to fight every day to bring the message of salvation entrusted to us to all people. What Pope Paul VI proposed to young people is valid for us all: "It is up to you, young people of today, to renew the prodigious Messianism initiated by the Catholic youth of yesterday, and develop it for today; that is, the passage from a routine and passive Christianity to a Christianity that is conscious and active; the passage from a timid and inept Christianity to a Christianity that is courageous and militant; from an individual and private Christianity to a Christianity of community and fellowship; from an indifferent Christianity that is insensitive to the needs of others and our social duties to a Christianity that is fraternal and is pledged in favor of those who are weakest and those who are most in need. Courage! It is up to you!" (Homily, Palm Sunday, April 4, 1971).