Dear Friends, today’s readings call us to consider our faith, what it means perhaps and how much it is a part of our days as followers of our brother Jesus. There is much more to be hopeful about it seems in 2021 than there was in 2020 and I think many of you would agree. There is a new tone in Washington–less negative with a willingness to work together “putting forth a bud”–hope springs eternal within me! I wish each of you peace and love–do stay safe and well as we move ever forward! As I said in the bulletin, if you need any help from me or just a listening heart, before I get to you, don’t ever hesitate to call, 507-429-3616 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.–Pastor Kathy
Come, let us praise our God. Let us bow down in the presence of our maker, for God is above all.
Let Us Pray
In faith and love we ask you, loving God to watch over your family. In your mercy and loving kindness no thought of ours is left unguarded, no tear unheeded, no joy unnoticed. Through the prayer of Jesus may the blessings promised to the poor in spirit lead us to the treasures of your heavenly kindom. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name and with the Spirit, one God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.
- Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
- 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
- Mark 1: 29-39
My friends, as I was writing this on Thursday, here in Winona, Minnesota, it was snowing—just as predicted, and I always marvel that weather people are quite accurate in predicting weather patterns, even a couple of weeks out—but at the same time, it’s what they do—right? And they should be good at it! We might say the same for ourselves as followers of our brother Jesus—as Christians. Let me explain.
Most of us as adult Christians—our particular brand being, “Catholic” knows the tenets of our faith—those things that make us who we are: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. We all learned that these four define us as the one, true Church of Christ—that we are to be holy, that everyone is welcome and that all the teachings we believe in come from the apostles and to this day are reinforced by their successors, the bishops, with the Spirit’s help. Now, that all sounds neat and clean, but whether it is true in practice is quite another thing. We will leave that for now.
Today’s readings for this 5th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time suggest that faith is very important and that our faith should help us to stand firm in the face of all that comes our way in the course of our lives. There are times when we don’t understand why life takes a certain turn—why suffering happens and as we look back on such times, realize that it is only our faith that got us through, believing that God does want good for us and not bad.
We see this in the 1st reading today from Job. He is basically a good man, actually, a very good man, yet we know, “the rest of the story,” that is not shared in this selection. We know that Job loses his wife and children, all his animals—everything really of value to him. And on top of all that, suffers a terrible skin affliction. What are we to make of that?
Job we know remains faithful to God, does not blame God for what has happened, even though his friends say that he should. The reading today shows Job’s humanity—the discouragement that we humans feel at times for why unjust things happen. Job, it seems, “discusses” all this with God trying to come to terms with what has happened—in fact, leaning on God, a source of strength he senses, beyond his own ability to cope.
We see Paul’s humanity coming through as well in today’s selection from 1st Corinthians. He seems somewhat down in this reading, saying that he basically can’t do anything but, “preach the Gospel”—and he wants to, even though it’s hard. He tells us that he, “becomes” whatever is needed to share the Good News of Jesus—if that means—becoming poor, someone who is abused—so be it. What is most important to Paul is that all and any people that he can get to, would know and understand and come to believe in Jesus, the Christ.
We can hardly read this and not ask ourselves if we are anywhere close to this in our own personal faith. I know from myself; I am not prone to “preaching” with words, but more so, with actions, or as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach at all times, if necessary, use words.” I don’t of course do this perfectly, but believe actions, more than words, are most important. I believe that Paul probably did both. He was compelled by his faith to do so.
With Paul, as with Jesus in today’s gospel; we see an urgency—really, to touch as many people as possible. After a time of prayer alone and his return to his apostles; Jesus is told that the people he cured the night before are asking for him; but Jesus feels the need to move on—to share with more people. Again, is our faith—our constancy in “preaching” the word, however we may do that, as strong, moving us with such urgency?
We should not miss the genuine concern that our brother Jesus demonstrates in caring for Simon’s mother-in-law. We read in Mark, “Jesus went over to her.” This simple comment stood out for me in light of reading Mary Trump’s book this past week about her uncle, Donald. She relates a time early in his presidency when the whole family was invited to the White House to celebrate his two sisters’ birthdays. Rather than Donald meeting them all at the door with a hearty welcome, the family was led to the Oval Office where the president was sitting and remained so while they all stood.
My friends, we might put all the readings for this 5th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time together under the title of, “Faith and What it Calls Us to Do.” We could look at the issue of suffering displayed in the readings from Job and Paul and blame God, asking why, if you say you love us, do you let such things happen, especially to those who are doing a good job, “preaching” the word?
As many theologians have instructed over the years, a god who would cause people to suffer, is not a god that one should believe in. Anyone who has ever been serious about having a meaningful relationship with God has come to believe at least two things:
- God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, but God is most assuredly there with us to work through whatever life brings.
- Suffering, as well as joy-filled happiness is part of each person’s life and each is an opportunity to grow, to become more of who we are meant to be. This is precisely where faith comes in .
And granted, in happy times; we are much more able to stand in faith, believing that ultimately there is a God who wants good for us and not bad, but suffering seems a part of each person’s life–what we do with it is something we get to choose and our faith tells us that whatever we choose, our brother Jesus will be with us. Therefore my friends, it would seem that our lives as Jesus’ followers call us to be more than we would be if left to our own defenses—I think we call that grace.
I would like to now return to a thought I left hanging earlier. We as Catholics live by four tenets—mainly that we are people in community who claim to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Simply put, we are a people united—striving to be holy, simply put, good, caring and just people, true to the teachings of Jesus and following the ways of the apostles guided in our day and through time by our bishops and other leaders.
From time to time, it is good to look at all the above to see how we are doing. I think the tendency in our leaders as well as within ourselves is always to be less, rather than more of whom we can be and perhaps that is part of the suffering we experience in our human lives.
The first tenet of our faith is, “oneness”—we are for each other or should be—not just “preach” with words, but with actions. Our country is finally beginning to look at the systemic racism that has plagued us for longer than we have been a country. If in fact we could deal with this issue truthfully and with a will to change, would we not then, be truly, holy?
The next tenet, “apostolic,” meaning, coming from the apostles and reinforced through time, by bishops—primarily, but others too, guided by the Spirit is one, in my mind that is often missing the guidance of the Spirit. A Church guided by the Spirit would instinctively know that proclaiming to care for life in the womb, but deny that same life throughout its human existence is wrong. A Church guided by Jesus’ Spirit would instinctively know that all must be welcomed to our communion tables and that all calls to priesthood must be considered, be they female or male. A Church that claims to be “one” would recognize all as equal, be they black or white, red or yellow, whether gay or straight or both. A Church that is “apostolic” living Jesus” message as articulated by his first apostles, women and men of faith, led by the Spirit would speak vehemently against the selfish notion of “America First.”
My friends, our lives as Jesus’ followers will always, always call us to be more, to be bigger, grander, and more noble than our smallest, “good-enough” images of ourselves. We see this in Pope Francis, in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and we must strive for this goodness in ourselves. We must be good listeners of each other’s stories and take them to our times of prayer as did Jesus, so that through our collective sufferings and joys, we can be that more which our world so desperately needs and then our “preaching” will be about action, not just words! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
- O God, as we see Jesus reaching out to all, making everyone welcome, help us to see opportunities in our everyday lives to do the same, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother, hear our prayer.”
- Loving God, surround your people throughout our world who most need you, helping them to find their way toward whatever is most needed in their lives, aided by a concerned world—help each of us to do what we can to support the poor and suffering wherever they might be, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
3. Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses—COVID and all others—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
- O God, help us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak truth to power to help alleviate the struggles of those abused in this world and in our Church, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
- O God, help us to strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray— Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
- For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
7. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Jesus our Brother, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Gentle God, you who loves us beyond all imagining—be close to us each and every day, shadow us under your wings and be the strength that we need to live as you did, conscious of being inclusive of all, loving others when it is easy and when it is not so easy. Give us the strength and courage to live out our mission, given by you for the people of God. Give us your deep and abiding peace that we would not worry, but trust and believe that you will always be with us. All of this we ask of you who are God, in the Creator, Savior and Spirit, living and loving us forever and ever—Amen!
Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be together physically, nor receive the Bread of the Table—but let us always remember that Jesus is with us! Always!
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, we ask that you would help us to bring your salvation and joy to all people in our world. We ask that we might do this well through Jesus, our Brother and Friend, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.