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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 04 February 2024 Job 7:1-4, 6-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 ><}}}}*> Mark 1:29-39
There’s another “war” happening that had actually started a long time ago but only now recognized by the powerful US Senate in Washington DC when they summoned last week the owners of big tech companies to a hearing on the harmful effects of social media.
It is a war that at first seemed to have been neglected or even unrecognized when parents and experts have long been complaining about the ill effects of social media. Finally, authorities are doing something about it.
Though the issues at hand are very contentious because of the many benefits too of social media, the US Senate hearings are a big step in demanding more social responsibilities from tech owners who have become so powerful with their products’ wide reach and influence.
Of course, much responsibilities are also in the hands of parents and users of social media but one thing has always been clear these past 20 years when experts and ordinary folks have been raising the red flag on social media being so impersonal in nature where persons are often considered as objects than subjects to be loved and respected.
Our ability to communicate is a sharing in the power of God, a sharing in his authority meant to foster union among peoples as persons. Despite the efficiency of social media, it cannot and must not replace the human person in every communication. This we have seen last Sunday when people were “astonished” and “amazed” one sabbath as Jesus spoke with authority in their synagogue in Capernaum. From there, Jesus moved into the home of Simon Peter, staying for a while in Capernaum before moving on to other locations to continue his ministry of teaching and healing.
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.
It was still the day of sabbath and we could feel the great joy and pride of the four disciples with Jesus that they “immediately told him” about Simon’s mother-in-law who “lay sick with a fever.”
Notice Mark’s detailed report on the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law by Jesus: He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. In this continuation of a slice in the life of Jesus last Sunday, Mark is presenting us again another important aspect of Christ’s authority and power that is personal which empowers others.
To empower means to raise up a person from one’s lowliness in order to restore his/her well-being. To empower means to make a person whole again as he/she discovers and experiences anew his/her giftedness in God and as a person.
Now, imagine this in the light of the powers of social media made possible by the internet through various devices: Jesus could have healed anybody who was sick within a 100 or 200 meter radius from the synagogue of Capernaum with his great powers being the Son of God. He could have just sent off signals like a router to heal more sick people instead of making them flock to the home of Simon Peter. Even today, perhaps, we could just come to the church, stay in a specific spot like the confessional to get connected to Jesus and voila – get healed!
But, Jesus never did that kind of healing and would never do it. Recall how Jesus would always approach and touch, speak and meet the sick before healing them. When a woman was healed of her hemorrhages after touching his clothes while they were in a crowd, Jesus stopped and searched for her to have a personal relationship. Unlike the internet, Jesus came in order to personally connect with us and connect us with the Father in the most personal manner.
In every healing by Jesus, there is always something deeper than restoration of one’s health which is salvation, a personal encounter with the Christ who leads us to fulfillment as persons. In every healing of body, there is the forgiveness of sins in one’s soul and being. Healing is more wholistic in nature than being being relieved of headache or any discomfort. Many times, our sickness can leave us deformed, disabled and even invalid without any cure at all yet deep inside us we still experience freedom and joy. That is healing because we are assured of being loved and cared for by another person and most of all by Jesus, personally.
So unlike the powers of any human or professional nor even by the social media so much around us that may be indeed so strong and efficient with its great speed but could never uplift us or restore our well-being. For sometime, they can offer us with relief but the deep longings and emptiness within us lingers on. Why? St. Augustine expressed it perfectly when he wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
This Sunday, Mark is telling us that Jesus comes to us daily right in our hearts where our home is, always “approaching us, grasping our hands, helping us up” from all our burdens and pains, sufferings and miseries. Are we present to meet Jesus? Do we “immediately” tell him our problems like Simon Peter when his mother-in-law had fever?
The only essential and vital connection we must keep and maintain in this life is our personal connection with God in Jesus Christ who exemplified this well at the end of this Sunday’s gospel when “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk. 1:35).
Last Friday we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation where Simeon and Anna showed us too how they remained personally connected with God in their daily prayers and fasting at the temple so that when Joseph and Mary came with the Child Jesus, both were led by the Holy Spirit to meet them. Imagine the crowd at the temple at that time plus Simeon and Anna being both old with the usual woes but were both never distracted in their focus on God and his promise of salvation in Christ before dying.
There will always be suffering in life as the first reading reminds us. Like Job, we go through many setbacks in life, making us wonder all the more at the mystery – and scandal – of human sufferings, of how it could befall us if we have a powerful and loving God. St. Paul meanwhile tells us in the second reading how imperfect our world is when we sometimes have to make sacrifices to keep the unity of our family and community.
Both Job and St. Paul in their sufferings and sacrifices remained connected with God, bore everything in silence to become “all things to all men” (omnia omnibus) by sharing God’s power and authority in their weaknesses even in death that have empowered countless men and women through the ages including us in our own time.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, our true healer of all sickness in body, heart, mind and soul: keep us connected in you especially in moments of trials and difficulties so that we may be filled with your personal powers as we too empower others when they are weakest. Amen.
A blessed weekend to everyone!