Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39


Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

What Jesus Really Came For

Job 7:1-4, 6-7

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Mark 1:29-39

PhD holders are causing confusion in Africa. People call them doctors and when simple village folks hear it, they flock to them with all their health problems. These “doctors” find themselves in a serious predicament as they try to explain that even though they are called doctors they do not cure the sick. Nobody seems to give a satisfactory answer to the question of the village folks: “If they do not cure the sick, why do people call them doctors?”

In today’s gospel, Jesus finds himself in a similar predicament. Jesus came as saviour of the world. The prophet Isaiah had said of him that by his bruises we are healed and made whole (Isaiah 53:4). True to type, in the synagogue he heals a man with an unclean spirit. From the synagogue he goes to Peter’s house and heals his mother in-law who has a fever. “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons…. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mark 1:32-34). Then, very early in the morning he escapes to a quiet spot to pray. Before he could finish his morning prayers his disciples hunt him down and inform him that an even larger crowd has gathered with their sick and infirm and that everyone is looking for him. You would expect Jesus to say, “Great, now we are in business. Now they are coming. Our strategy is working.” But what does he say? He says no, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (Mark 1:38).

Excuse me! Proclaim the message? What message is greater that healing the sick and restoring to them their human dignity that has been disfigured by sickness and poverty? Isn’t that essentially what Jesus came for? Well, not exactly. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). This good news is spiritual and material just as the human person is soul and body. But when it comes to order of priority, the spiritual comes first, then the material. This order is brought out in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

What Jesus came to do, in other words is to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God, to invite all humankind to let God reign as king in their hearts and in their lives, to reconcile us with God and with one another. Much of the sickness, poverty and suffering that exists in our world is traceable to the state of disharmony or sin that separates us from God and from one another. By healing this root cause of all our problems, we find ourselves in a position to receive God’s abundant blessings in all areas of our lives, spiritual as well as physical, moral as well as material, social as well as psychological. But to try to seek physical healing and material well-being without first making peace with God is to miss the point. It is putting the cart before the horse. It does not work. This is probably what the people of Capernaum tried to do with Jesus that morning. So Jesus boycotts them and continues to other cities of Galilee to proclaim the message.

The big crowd that came looking for Jesus that morning went home disappointed. They did not find him. Why? Because they were looking for him for the wrong reasons. They were looking for Jesus simply to get what they wanted; they were not interested in what Jesus came to give. Not that Jesus is not interested in our material welfare. He is. But the spiritual must come first. Like the people of Capernaum we come to church on Sunday looking for Jesus. We come with our various problems of soul and body. To avoid disappointment the first thing we need to do is to forget our personal problems and seek the kingdom of God that Jesus came to proclaim. When we find the kingdom of God then God Himself will see to all our other needs of soul and body.


Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Paul’s Understanding of Ministry

Job 7:1-4, 6-7

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Mark 1:29-39

Religion is the most flourishing industry in Africa. You can have up to ten different churches within one street block. There are cases where as many as three different churches are located in one building. This poses for the average Christian the question of how to differentiate the genuine from the fake. Jesus cautions us that there will indeed be fake preachers, ministries and churches.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

In today’s 2nd reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about his own ministry. Using Paul as a model for evangelists, missionaries and preachers, we are able to evaluate the genuineness and faithfulness of modern-day ministers to the ideal that we see in Paul.

In today’s reading, Paul does not tell us everything about ministry. What he tells us, however, can be summarised under three headings: (a) why he became a minister, (b) how he measures his success as a minister, and (c) how he goes about his ministry.

On why he became a preacher, Paul tells us that it was not his natural choice of profession but a calling from God. It is a divine obligation laid on him, a commission entrusted to him by God Himself. As a result he cannot boast about his ministry or see it simply as a career. It is a vocation

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).

There are people who go into ministry because they could not find another job. There are people who take to ministry because it pays well. For such people the first commandment becomes, “Thou shall pay thy tithe.” Tithing becomes more important for them than everything that Jesus taught. Paul, like Jesus, saw ministry as a call to serve not to be served (Matthew 20:28).

The second point we see in Paul’s ministry is how he evaluates his success as a preacher? Paul does not evaluate the success of his ministry as many modern-day preachers do by the size of their church building, the size of their bank account or how much they take in the collection plate. He measures his success simply by how many souls he can reach with the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. To make it easier for people to receive his preaching, he offers it free of charge, though he knows fully well the Lord’s command that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. 19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them (verses 18-19).

We now come to the final point, Paul’s style of ministry. Paul has one gospel, but he presents it differently to different audiences. He adapts it to their different situations. He adapts not only his preaching style, but also his personal life-style – his eating, dressing, and social habits – to make it serve and enhance the appeal of the gospel to the audience at hand.

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (…) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (…) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some (1 Corinthians 20-22).

Most preachers today blame people who sleep during the homily. Paul would blame the preacher. If you find anyone sleeping during the homily, wake up the preacher. Paul adapts his message according to his audience. He presents the same gospel as good news to different audiences. This is one great challenge to the established churches in our times, as we see entire populations leaving our churches – teenagers, young adults, blacks, the educated class, homosexuals. The challenge for us is to become all things to all people, so that people of every class, culture and sub-culture can hear in our presentation of the gospel the good news that is music to every human heart.


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

The Healing Jesus

If you one of those people who surfs a lot on your TV, there is no doubt (especially if you have cable) that you have hit more than once on one of those healing-prayer services. Evidently these are quite popular and I’m sure very credible in the eyes of many viewers.

Why is this so? It is so because there exists in our world today (as ever before) so much pain, so much suffering. People everywhere are looking for cures, looking for healing, and they will try to find them anywhere, even from those strange-looking religious figures who fill our tv screens.

So there is no question that suffering enters our life, just as it enters the life of many other persons. In the Old Testament we find instances of individual and national suffering. Perhaps the most obvious suffering individual is Job, who suffered so much and so intensely that he almost despaired. Yet, though his life was one of suffering, Job never lost his trust in God. Scripture tells us Job cursed the day he was born yet he stayed with the Lord, trusting in God’s providence and love. And although he understood that it was the Lord who gave and the Lord who took away, in the end Job blessed the Lord, and determined to accept his suffering and his pain.

Centuries later, when Jesus walked this earth, he was certainly aware that many people suffered pain from sickness and other physical ills. Fortunately our loving Lord helped many who suffered by healing them. We don’t know how many people were healed by Jesus (some scholars estimate the number to be in the tens of thousands), but when we read the Gospels we come away with the impression that while he was with us, Jesus was either curing someone, or on his way to a healing, or coming home from one. And as we know from the Scriptures, he even raised at least three people from the dead.

What kind of people did Jesus cure? We don’t know too much about them, but one thing is sure: some of them asked Jesus to cure them, to let them see, or walk, or hear again, and some of them, such as those nameless persons who formed the crowds who hung around the houses or other areas where Jesus was staying, did not even ask. Yet the healings happened; over and over again Jesus performed miracles of healing.

Do you think that perhaps the same wonderful events could still happen in our world today? Would Jesus, could Jesus, still cure, still heal us perhaps of our ills, our sicknesses, our pains? The answer, obviously, is yes, a thousand times yes!

Yet people today (and this might include you) do not ask for healings, do not dare to ask, perhaps because they feel too unworthy. Could it be that these people fail to realize, or fail to remember, that Jesus is most compassionate towards the hurting, that Jesus sought out the suffering, so that he could heal them or help them in every possible way? These poor sufferers (and maybe you are one of them) might also fail to understand that Jesus is all powerful, that his healing is still available, and that all we have to do is ask Jesus to remove our pains, our sufferings, and even our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Do we not read in the Gospels that Jesus often linked forgiveness of sins with physical healing? He is truly our most compassionate and loving Savior.

Let me make one more somewhat disassociated lesson from this Sunday’s gospel. It applies to one particular class of people in the audience: married men. In the first part of today’s story where we have the story of an important healing done by Jesus, did you notice who was healed? None other than Peter’s mother-in-law! That little human interest story might help in establishing your special priorities, and give you more love and peace at home.

It’s one of those added blessings which cost little and do much for you and yours.

Homily # 2

We just heard words about preaching in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Maybe   the fact that it is about preaching lets most of us feel that it is not our concern. Maybe you can thing is only the concern of the ordained who preach during the liturgy.

The wonderful truth and reality is that it is the concern of those who are hearing as well as of those who are speaking during the liturgy.  Why is this so? It is so because at the end of the liturgy all who hear, along with those who preach in the liturgy, are to go out to preach day in and day out by how the life they are living presents words spoken or heard in the Assembly of the faithful.  How does this happen?

Let me say a few words about the preacher who stands here. Paul says there is not one preacher who has a right to boast. He clearly says that my willingness to do it as a sign of faith is my obligation. Then he also says that everyone who preaches has to know it is woe to him if or her if one does not preach the truth of the Gospel with life and with words which speak of a lived faith. If any one of us who is ordained to preach expects the word to heard, then we must be people of faith in our words and our actions, in our witness and our sharing or what we say will be like a clanging cymbal, will ring like a cracked bell.  We must pray and study and prepare so that what we come to preach rings true within our hearts and minds so it may ring true your hearts and minds when you hear our words of preaching. Just as Paul was real and vulnerable as he went out preaching, so must every preacher today be real vulnerable as he stands before you to preach. It is an awesome task never to be taken lightly, never to be left to the writing of another preach and simply read.

But what about the preaching which is called for on the part of each and every believer?  The preaching of every disciple whether with words or actions or both, is important as a sign of the continuing the life of the Body of Christ, the Church, throughout the ages. Yours may be preaching with words. Yours may be preaching by actions. For most it is also preaching both by word and action. Both are important. Both are ways of being the lifeblood of the Body of Christ and making the Body a visible presence in our world.

Your preaching with words may be in teaching your children the life of faith in prayers and scripture stories. As they grow or have grown it may be in continuing to talk about faith and Church in your home.  It may be in calls, e-mails or letters to governmental agencies or representatives or senators to urge support for aid in so many places, or to chide about common sense in domestic appropriations and so much more. It may be in letters to the editor of the local paper daring to give witness to concerns over wars undertaken under bad pretenses. It may be in comforting a coworker over loss of family member, job, or hope.  Words may also be represented by silent participation in protests against the death penalty or wars or unfair treatment of people in the world of commerce. It may be in simply using words becoming a believer.

Your preaching may be in example throughout the actions of each and every day.  Truly this is a larger task than to stand here and preach for 10 minutes.  There are so many places, so many issues where faith may be tested by what we are called to do, by the general ways of the world around us. It may be especially tough in situations where peer pressure can lead us where we should not go. It can take courage to call the issues out by what we do, by the attitudes we display. The issues are different and larger than in Paul’s day and at the same time have just as significant impact on the people of today. Many issues are further away from us and we simply have knowledge of them and are called upon to weigh their future import in our lives.

We pray in the Eucharist to give thanks for what has brought us this far and ask the grace to go and preach with every bone of our bodies, every action of our lives.  We pray for continued courage in word and action. Where we have been told to be quiet, we ask courage to again open our mouths. For some the prayers are for the courage of taking the first new steps in preaching with our lives.  We pray that we hear the conviction of Paul and take heed.

Today we will have celebrated our baptized membership in the body of Christ. He calls each to rejoice in being able to live with a sense responsibility for the health of this Church in our own beings as well as the continued life in the world.  At the ascension he commanded us to make disciples of all nations, baptizing, teaching and making sure all knew he was with us until the end of the ages.  The ages are not yet completed. So, when the deacon or priest dismisses you at the end of the Eucharistic Celebration, you are sent to carry that preach in word and action until you gather again.  It is a joyous task about which we cannot boast.

Homily # 3

Over the years we have seen many Hollywood impressions of what Peter was like but none of his mother-in-law unless she got to stand in a crowd of extras for Cecil B/ DeMille. Sometimes we forget that the first pope was married when Jesus called him and therefore he most assuredly had a mother-in-law. Because my mother-in-law Lord rest her soul was my ally in winning my wife and one of my favorite people  I’m not going to stand here and do what so many persons in the past have done make fun of mother-in-laws. Though I can still remember a friend of mine saying, “Behind every successful man there stands an utterly surprised mother-in-law. Whether Peter’s mother-in-law was surprised at Jesus selection of him to be the head of the apostles, we do not know. In fact, she is mentioned only once in all the Gospels, but that one mention is important to us.

Peter, who at the time was still known as Simon was worried about his mother-in-law. She lay ill with a fever. When Simon told Jesus about her, he uttered no magic formulas as a healer courting popular esteem might; he performs no spectacular gestures to impress the sick person. Jesus, the artisan of another kind of power, “grasped her hands and helped her up and the fever left her. Jesus demonstrated once AGAIN as he has earlier that day in the synagogue, “that the reign of God is at hand. But the action of the King of Kings doesn’t surprise us, it is the action of Peter’s mother-in-law that does. She immediately began to wait on Jesus and the disciples. Does she take a few minutes to rest from her ordeal or even to rejoice. Nope, this was not this woman’s way.

Some cynics might picture her as a caricature of women who are destined, in their “inferior position in society,” to wait on men. The truth is she was a mirror of Jesus himself. She reflected the generous, outgoing spirit of Jesus in his ministry.

After dinner in Peter’s house, Jesus, no doubt exhausted from the day’s labors, was expected to cure the townspeople who were ill or possessed by demons. He responded in his characteristic way. The next morning his fatigue, he rose early as Peter’s mother-in-law had risen from her bed of illness. Jesus was in search of a quiet place for prayer, but there is no rest for the good. When Simon and the others found him, he knew that his few moments of peace were at an end for that day. His mission beckoned to him. He recognized that his father was calling him to lift people out of the kind of misery which Job felt when he protested, “I shall not see happiness again.” So off Jesus went to the neighboring villages to proclaim the good news.

St. Paul was filled with a similar sense of service. To underscore his dedication to preaching the Gospel to which he had been called, he wrote,”I am under compulsion and have no choice.” It was an emphatic way of expressing his profound sense of duty. He did not hesitate to highlight his generosity by reminding the Corinthians, “I offer the Gospel free of charge.” In comparison with the exalted vocation of St. Paul, the simple service offered by Peter’s mother-in-law may seem rather insignificant. The point, however, is that both of them reflected the generous and unselfish spirit of service of Jesus himself, Paul in his way, and the mother-in-law in hers.

And what is our way? We can be like Jesus in the duties of our calling in life, whatever they may be. Peter’s Mother-in-law and Paul the apostle show us that there is a wide range in the service to which the disciples of Jesus are called. We need to reflect on how generous and unselfish we are in our lives as a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a worker, a volunteer, a student, a doctor, a lawyer, a priest-whatever our calling may be.

There is rest for the wicked because they think only of themselves and their own comfort. There is no rest for the good, the people who follow the example of Jesus They know that happiness and fulfillment in this life come from imitating the generous, unselfish spirit of Jesus.

Homily # 4

We do not have to feel the drudgery and anguish of Job to sense sometimes that our lives are without point or passion.

While disaster and depression might be rare for us, ennui and a lack of focus are not.  And they are enough to bring us low.  The causes can be many, yet often enough it is just simply a “managerial” attitude toward our lives, a “maintenance” frame of mind, that makes our feelings and faith go flat.  We seriously misunderstand our faith if we see it in terms of getting by and getting through.  If that is what it is all about, it has to become a frightful bore.

Perhaps at times our young people catch this.  They sense a tedium, a staleness about our religion and our practices. “Mass is so boring,” a young woman recently told me. Well, surely, she is not going to find much entertainment there-especially if you compare it to our fifty available channels and the razzmatazz of pop culture.  And besides, why would one expect novelty and slickness from a sacred communal practice, the hallmarks of which are great tradition, universality, and stability of form?

But I also think my young friend is on to something. There is not much intensity or urgency in a community whose primary concerns are managing its relationship to God and maintaining its our existence.  Is the church really about the powerful message of Christ, or is it just concerned with itself?

St. Paul, on the other hand, seems positively driven to write and speak of Jesus and his revelation.  “I am under compulsion and have no choice.  I am ruined if I do not preach it!” So much does his faith mean to him that he is willing to be the slave of all, to be all things to all people in order to win them over.  For Paul, the faith is definitely not a matter of small consequence.

We, in contrast, seem hounded by doubt.  Is it really that big a deal that people believe in Jesus? Does it matter very much to us if our children drift away from a faith we saw we love? Isn’t one religion just as good as another? And don’t theologians themselves suggest that conversions, mission, and proselytism are passe, if not wrong-headed?

Well, if our faith is something that really does not make a very big difference, if it is actually not crucial that we or others believe, no wonder it seems boring to some of our young. Anything we don’t care much about can’t be very interesting.

The things we do care about, however, we inevitably talk about.  As another, very wise, young person put it: “If you love someone or something deeply enough, you want to tell others, you want to share it with others, you think they are missing something if they do not have it.”

Paul’s drivenness is as understandable as the lover’s.  Both turn almost desperately to declamation, poetry, or song.

If faith is real, it seeks expression.  It will communicate and profess. It will have the energy of passion.

But faith cannot be real for us if it is not allowed into our real world.  A Christ who is squeezed into a pew may feel cozy, but the relationship will soon tire and confine.

Could this be one of the reasons why the Gospel of Mark at the outset portrays our encounters with Christ over a broad range of life experiences?

We first find Jesus leaving the synagogue to enter into the midst of human intimacies–friends, community, and family.  He walks and abides with comrade-apostles and their in-laws.  There he is found.  He inhabits relationship.

Second, he is never far from pain and diminishment.  Grasping the hand of Simon’s mother-in-law, he helps her up as her fever abates.  Other people with afflictions, obsessions, and interior injuries call out for his touch and he responds.  This was not his major work, of course, but he seemed always to have time for the marginal and the outsider.

Third, he is found in the “lonely place.” Mark notes here that the desert is where he finds solitude. At other times, it is on the mountain.  But as it is with his appearance in relationships and the wounded of the world, he maintains this dimension of quiet and prayer as a hallmark of his life.

The ground of the real world–our solitude, our relationships, and our human solidarity–is the terrain from which Jesus sets out to proclaim the good news and visit the synagogues of Galilee.

Our practice of faith, our discipleship, cannot be otherwise.  Jesus not only transforms our secluded moments, our intimacies, and our social compassion.  He lives there.

And his presence is a matter of supreme importance.  For in our human solitude we find not isolated brokenness–we discover a citadel of relationship to God.  Our friends are not diversions from a far-off deity; they give our life in God flesh and blood. The call of the wounded is not merely some problem to solve or avoid; it is an invitation to love’s redemptive power.

The Eucharist reenacts this truth.  And without this truth or its expression, we would be, like Paul if he were not to preach Christ, quite desperate.

Homily # 5

The word “apostle” comes from two Greek words that together mean, “one who is sent.”  Each Christian has an apostolate to follow.  We have been called to evangelize, to be sent out, like Saint Paul and the Twelve Apostles, to announce the Good News of the love that God has for all.

Today, in our Gospel reading, Saint Mark continues his story about the first days of the Jesus’ public life.  Mark tells us that Our Lord preached in the synagogues and that upon leaving the synagogues he drove out many demons.  One day, after preaching in the synagogue in Capharnum, the town in which Simon Peter and Andrew lived, Jesus decided to visit their home together with James and John.  When he arrived, Jesus was told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever.  Jesus immediately decided to cure her.  That was how Jesus’ miracles occurred.  He saw the faith of the people who wanted to be cured and he cured them.  Jesus approached Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, grasped her hand, and she was cured.  She immediately got out of bed and began to serve Jesus.  This was the way she had of showing that she was thankful for having been cured.

After learning of this occurrence, the townspeople spread the news of the Lord’s miracles.  The news went from home to home and soon the entire population of the town crowded around the door of the house.  From the surrounding area, people brought all who were sick or possessed by demons.  And Jesus cured those who came to him in faith.  The next day, before dawn, Jesus went off to a deserted place where he prayed.

Jesus was praying when the apostles arrived to tell him that everyone was looking for him.  People who wanted to be cured continued to arrive.  But instead of returning to town, Jesus said to the apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose I have come.”  You see, Our Lord’s true mission was to evangelize, to announce to all of humanity the Good News of the love that God has for all human beings

Saint Paul invites us, in the Second Reading, to follow the example of the Lord, to evangelize.  The true mission of all Christians is to proclaim the Gospel to a world that needs to hear the Word of God.

Our Second Reading reminds us of what Saint Paul said to the Christians of Corinth: that for him, preaching was an obligation.  He did not do it for his own glory or to become rich.  He did not even start to do it on his own initiative.  He had been given a task to do: to be a missionary of the Word of God, to “become all thing to all” so that he could “save at least some.”  Saint Paul did not do this without problems.  But, despite the difficulties, he continued to announce the Gospel; he continued on the mission that he had been given.  If we want to do the same, we have to do as Saint Paul did.

We all know many bishops, priests and deacons who, like Saint Paul, in their preaching, and in their lives, give us a good example of how to be followers of Christ.  They sometimes have difficulties in their own personal lives.  Yet they continue to follow the vocation that the Lord has given them.  Yet, all that they do is share in the same mission that all Christians have.  It is a mission that does not end when we walk out of the doors of this church after Sunday Mass.  It continues.  You see, at Baptism, all Christians received the same mission: to evangelize within the boundaries of our own lives.  Every day… whether at school, at work, or in the home… with our words, our example and our way of life… we are obliged to show that we are Christians, that we follow Christ, and that, because we follow Christ, we constantly fight against evil and injustice in this world.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us to be faithful to the mission that God has given us, just as she was.  And let us thank God for having called us to carry it out.

Homily # 6
There’s a hurting and a healing theme in today’s gospel, which tell us the story of Peter’s ill mother-in-law. But the hurt is not just concerned with her illness back then. It has an unintended contemporary ring. By that I mean that feminine consciousness might be hurt, offended, by the whole episode in the first place. Why? Because on the surface, what do you have? You have a group of hungry men come into the house. But it so happens that the woman of the house is ill. So they tell Jesus about her and he goes over and cures her. And then the very next sentence says, “and immediately she got up and waited on them.” How about that? Does that arouse the suspicion that the men folk couldn’t even get their own lunch and so they prevailed upon Jesus to work a cure so they could have a woman wait on them? Is there a battle of the sexes issue here: men are served and women do the serving? A woman’s place in the home?

So it would seem, but, actually, that’s reading a modern agenda into this episode. Nothing was further from the gospel writers mind, and it needn’t be in ours. What the gospel writer was saying in this story of hurt and healing was something near and dear to his heart: that when Jesus Christ touches you and you become his disciple, then you immediately enter into service. That’s the nature and the power of true love. Discipleship is not about freedom or power or authority. Discipleship is about lowly, selfless service in the name of God. That’s the message here.

A priest stopped to visit a poor family in the Kentucky Mountains . As he greeted the mother she burst into tears and exclaimed: “Oh, Father, I just knew you would come today. I know you can help me. ” She poured forth a long list of problems and troubles. Here and there the priest offered a word of hope and encouragement but he seemed so utterly helpless in the face of all her miseries. Finally she finished. She paused for moment and then exclaimed: “Oh, Father, you have been such a help to me. You settled all my problems.” The priest was bewildered; he had not solved a single problem. Then he began to realize it was sympathy she needed and wanted.

Have you noticed, most of the time when someone is talking to you, you’re planning a response instead of listening? Most people really want someone to listen, really listen. They don’t really want advice; they just want to be heard.

Today’s gospel tells that Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases.” He could. He was God. How can we follow the healing Christ, we can’t work miracles; we can’t cure with the touch of a hand, a word, a gesture. Nevertheless, we can share in the healing work of Christ. We can listen, really listen.

I used to be a good golfer.

I used to be in good shape.

If you listen to those around you, you know there are a lot of U2B’s (used to be’s).

Yes, for many of us, there are significant accomplishments in our past. So when folks brag on themselves or someone else, we find it very easy to jump in with our U2B comment. While nothing is wrong in particular with talking about the past achievements, there are two dangers which we should acknowledge when we get to be regular in the IU2B world.

First, we often jump in with our IU2B monologue before the other person has finished with his or her story. In other word, we’re not listening to hear them and learn about them, but we’re listening for when we can say something, especially about ourselves. Whether it’s a buried selfishness or insecurity, our IU2B talk is often a tad rude and reveals something lacking on our hearts.

If we are to be salt and light to the people around us, one of the best things we can do is to listen to them. I don’t mean just hearing their voice, but listening for their heart in the story they are telling. One way to avoid derailing their story is to pause when the IU2B urge strikes, and ask two relevant questions about their story when they’re done telling it. Many people would simply fall over in amazement to have been heard and valued enough to be asked to explain.

Jesus promised heaven to those who call on the ill. “I was sick and you visited me….come on in.” even the Old Testament urges us: “be not slow to visit the sick; for by these things thou shalt be confirmed in love.”

A friendly, cheerful visit to someone in poor health, whether at home or in the hospital, can lift their spirits and help their body. What can we do for the sick?

We can listen, if they are in the mood to talk. Sympathetic listening is an art that can be acquired and developed. A sympathetic visitor takes the patient’s hurt into his own heart. He shares the pain, even though he has heard the story a dozen times before.

Second, too much of the IU2B monologue reveals that we are spending too much time in our past and not enough in planning for the present and dreaming for the future. We dangerously threaten our present and future when we keep looking at the good things we did yesterday rather than rejoicing in the day that God has given us today.

I hope your past was full of achievements and blessings. But even more, I’m praying that all of us can be better listeners and more focused on the present and future than on the past. Let’s make sure that our only major IU2B is that we used to be an IU2B!

Priest story from, 5min homilies, Msgr. Tonne


Homily from Father Clyde A. Bonar, Ph.D.
Contact Father at
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Readings: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39
“Not To Be Left In Church”

Something astonishing happens during the Sabbath services. While Jesus is preaching, a man possessed by an evil spirit begins to shriek out. Hearing the cry, Jesus drives out the evil spirit. Everyone is amazed at the healing powers of Jesus. Then, the Sabbath services ended, Peter asks Jesus to come home with him. Peter shows Jesus his sick mother-in-law, and Jesus cures her.

Think what happened! Christ healed in the synagogue, showing he had the power of God. Peter says, bring that power of God into my home. My mother-in-law is ill, please heal her.

Take God Home From Church

That’s exactly what this gospel challenges us to do. Here we are in church. Nourished by the Word of God, fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, we are to take home from church the power of God. Bring God into our daily lives.

A prime example: Repeating the Lord’s Prayer at Mass reminds us to bring forgiveness into our homes. One mother, about to have a major operation, said she “was just plain mean” to her husband. She kicked her son out of the house. That Sunday at Mass, she nearly chocked as she prayed: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” After Mass she took God home with her. Over breakfast, that morning this mother asked her husband and son to forgive her for being so mean.

Another family discusses the readings from Mass as they drive home. Sometimes the father will start with a question: “What did the priest mean when he said we need to take God home from church?” Or, one of the children asks: “Why did Jesus go off to a lonely place to pray? Why didn’t Jesus pray at home, or go back to the synagogue?” Before the car has left the parking lot, each member of the family chimes in. A discussion of the readings and the homily while driving home.

Typically church go-ers take home with them a certain calmness. An ability not to get ruffled, at least not so often! Sitting on the tarmac, waiting to take-off, one couple was fussing. They’d miss their connection, they fretted, their travel schedule all fouled up. Beside the couple sat a man who frequently went to daily Mass. The fretting couple asked, “This doesn’t seem to bother you. Are you a pastor?” Knowing he could do nothing but wait, the man had the calmness of a person who goes to daily Mass.

Today’s gospel challenges us to bring home from church the power of God. Having been nourished by the Word of God and fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus, we are to carry Christ into our daily lives.

Take Time To Pray

After he had cured all the sick, the gospel says Jesus “went off to a deserted place where he prayed.” Christ had to spend time with the Father to refresh himself, to listen to the will of the Father. And, what Christ needs, we also need.

To me, a place to renew myself is a retreat. Priests need retreats. Every Christian needs a few days every once in a while to renew themselves before God. One retreat impressed me deeply. The elderly retreat director had compiled a list of all the things in his life he needed to thank God for. He read, “Thank you God for parents who loved me, and encouraged my vocation to be a priest. Thank you God for friends who have stood by me in good times and bad.” He read his list, two pages. As we listened, we too mentally started a list of gifts we have received from God. A retreat, a way to refresh ourselves.

But, making a retreat once a year is not enough. Daily we need a lonely, isolated place to pray. Like, a spot in our homes. For me, it’s the chair in the extra room. I keep my breviary, my prayer book, beside that chair. There’s a candle on the table. I’ll read my morning or evening prayer, or meditate. Often I’ll light the candle and just sit quietly, placing myself in God’s presence. Coming to that chair, I begin to pray, because that’s what I do in that chair. Nothing else, just pray. My isolated place for prayer.

The other thing about prayer is time. Prayer has to be scheduled to get done. For me, morning is easy. I pray right after I shower and dress. Part of the morning routine. Evening is also scheduled. As soon as I get back to the rectory in the afternoon. If I don’t do evening prayer then, I’m apt to forget. Praying takes a routine. And, besides morning and evening other times can be added. For example, one priest prays the Rosary while driving. To one nursing home, he reports, it’s a two Rosary trip.

Jesus went to a lonely, isolated spot to pray. Christ took the time, found a place to pray. So too must we. Set up a prayer routine, schedule prayer time each day. And, pick a place because we soon discover that as we go to that place, we are already starting to pray.

Reach Out

After he prayed, Jesus said, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” That’s the next step. To take our faith to others. To bring the good news of God’s kingdom to other peoples in other places.

To our neighbors in other countries, we proclaim the good news by missionary efforts. Blessed Trinity in Ocala, Florida, has adopted Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Belize. Blessed Trinity has sent clothing, books, canned goods, school supplies, computers, religious articles to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Each summer a youth team from Blessed Trinity presents vacation Bible school to the children of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The youth group fries fish and washes cars to earn money for the trip. Then, for the vacation Bible school, they lead games, tell stories, do crafts, have fun, and pray with the children of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

We proclaim Christ to our neighbors when we pray in public. When Pope John Paul II traveled, his Masses were huge, outdoor events. Mass in a public park or a sports stadium. To tell everyone, we’re Catholics, the Pope is here. One year our diocese [Orlando] did confirmation in the downtown arena. Confirming two thousand, with fifteen bishops helping. As a public reminder, Catholics pray. As individuals, when we pray before meals in restaurants, when we make the sign of the cross, we publicly proclaim our faith.

In our ministries, we proclaim the good news to lapsed or fallen away Catholics. Our Sponsor Couples and team members on Engaged Encounter weekends when preparing young couples for marriage, invite any Catholic who hasn’t been to Mass for a long time, to come back to church. We remind them, marriage is a Sacrament. That placing God at the center of a marriage greatly increases the possibility of a happy marriage.

Our bereavement team invites fallen away Catholics to renew their faith. How often we bury a mother or father who seems to be the last Catholic in the family. So long since friends and relatives have been to Mass, they appear totally unfamiliar with what’s going on. By a friendly, prayerful planning of the funeral, and being with the family at the funeral home and during the funeral Mass, our bereavement team proclaims the good news to those who mourn.

Jesus said, “Let us go to the neighboring villages and proclaim the good news.” Our neighbors are those in other countries and those living down the street and our lapsed brothers and sisters. Our task, to proclaim the good news to all of our neighbors.


Jesus preached in the synagogue. Then, he went home with Peter and healed his mother-in-law. Afterwards, he went to an isolated place to pray. Refreshed by prayer, he set off to neighboring villages to continue proclaiming the good news.

What Jesus did, we are to do. After going to church we are to live our faith. Bring God into our daily lives. And, we must not forget to pray, in our own isolated spot. Then, refreshed by prayer, we proclaim the good news to our neighbors. As Christians, we live our faith and we proclaim our faith to others.


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Today is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time and for the last three weeks the readings have been looking at the man Jesus setting out on his mission to preach the Good News of the Kingdom.

On the 2nd Sunday we saw Jesus inviting the disciples of John to follow him to ‘come and see’ where he lived. We see their excitement as they return home after spending only a day with him and announcing: We have found the Messiah!

Then on the 3rd Sunday we saw the attraction Jesus has for those seeking the truth. He calls four men to become his apostles and they follow without hesitation.

Last week, the 4th Sunday, we saw Jesus teaching in the synagogue and all were impressed by the authority of his teaching and astonished at the power of his word which could give orders even to unclean spirits.

And today we meet him once again in the Gospel. We see him at work; we watch him in action. We draw closer to him, trying to get to know him and understand him a little better.

So what do we see about Jesus in today’s Gospel?

  • We see a strong, energetic, busy Jesus, working hard to spread the Good News of the Kingdom. From the synagogue where he cast out the evil spirit from a possessed man he went straight to Simon’s house and cured his mother-in-law. Then crowds came and after sunset he is still working. Long before dawn he got up for prayer: let us go elsewhere (let us keep moving) … he went all through Galilee.
  • There is a sense of urgency, of mission, of energy, of driven-ness. Jesus is like the sower of seed who doesn’t stop to look back where the seed has fallen but one who goes on sowing.
  • We see a man of great simplicity and power. Jesus comes to the bed of Simon’s mother-in-law and takes her by the hand and helps her up – her illness now gone. The words of Jesus and the deeds of Jesus are one and the same thing, equally powerful. Simplicity and power!
  • We see a man of prayer, a man who keeps his priorities straight; his relationship to his Father stays in the first place. A man who refuses to let the busy routine dictate the terms of his life. A man who defends the spiritual from the practical, as well as from the temptation of popularity.
  • Finally, we see a man who is busy teaching us. Not only by what he says but by what he does.

This Gospel shows us one of the greatest and most significant aspects of what Jesus came to teach us. When he goes off to preach elsewhere and leaves behind all those who are not yet cured and who are still suffering he shows us that he did not come to take all this away. He could have gone on curing till there was no one left to cure but in moving on he showed us that he had not come to inaugurate a paradise on earth without illness or suffering.

Nor did he exempt himself from suffering.

Jesus came to show us by the example of his life and death that the way to happiness and eternal life was through the human situation – and not around it.

Jesus did not come to take away our suffering but to show us how to make it – in union with him – a vehicle to eternal life. He came to bring happiness IN our human condition – and not through exemption from it.

  • Do we live our Christian life with a sense of urgency, with a sense that the day will come when it will end and that then it will be too late for all the things we need to accomplish?
  • Are we simple and humble about how we deal with others or do we have lots of self interest? Are we simple about our good deeds?
  • Are we people of prayer? Do we put energy into our prayer? Do we make time for prayer, even getting up early, like Jesus? Do we look for a time and a place, every day? If Christians are serious about their Christian life they will pray.
  • Are we constantly praying for exemptions from suffering; for privileges, for favours? Or do we pray for the strength to remain happy and peace in these sufferings?

Our present life is a special time of grace, a time of favour. Let us set to work before it runs out.


Redemptive suffering


FR. Thomas Cassidy, SVD, a veteran missionary priest, passed away at 90 due to pneumonia complications. Fr. Tom who worked in China in 1947 moved to the Philippines when the Communist government expelled all Catholic missionaries from mainland China.

* * *

Fr. Tom who hailed from Peoria, Illinois, was well known as a dynamic preacher and retreat/recollection master. He is specially memorable to me because he recruited me to the seminary and later became my mentor in Homiletics.

* * *

His remains lie in state at the Villa Cristo Rey Retirement House in Christ the King Seminary on E. Rodriguez Boulevard, Quezon City.

Interment is set on February 9, 2009 following the 3 p.m. Requiem Mass.

* * *

In the gospel of this 5th Sunday in ordinary time, we read of Jesus healing people who were afflicted with various diseases, including the simple fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (read Mk 1:30).

There’s a joke that Peter denied Jesus three times because he had a grudge against Him – He healed his biyenan (mother-in-law)!

* * *

Jesus was concerned with the problem of human suffering in all its forms.

Despite that, Jesus did not eradicate suffering altogether. He Himself had to undergo terrible suffering. Suffering, He taught, is part and parcel of human existence. To paraphrase the existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel, “Suffering is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”

* * *

When you read the papers or switch on your TV, you can’t help but be appalled by so much pain and suffering.

There’s the war between Israel and Palestine which has claimed hundreds of lives, including innocent civilians.

Right here in our country, there are senseless killings like the guy who raped a helper then slit her throat and killed two other children.

* * *

Add to that, the physical pain endured by those who’re afflicted with various ailments: Dengue fever, diabetes, arthritis, AIDS, cancer, to mention some. Then there are the mental, emotional, and psychological sufferings like the loneliness of a solo parent, the anguish of relatives in caring for a refracted son, the drudgery of work aggravated by an unfriendly environment.

* * *

Throughout history, people have sought a solution to suffering. The Greek Stoics, for example, insisted on an attitude of endurance in the face of pain. “Just bear it. Don’t complain,” they say.

* * *

The Buddhists, on the other hand, say that the best approach is to suppress all desire, experience nirvana, or oblivion. If you desire nothing, you cannot be hurt or disappointed. The pessimist philosophers like Schopenhauer claim that the only thing that will end suffering is death. The earlier we die, the earlier we end our misery in the world.

* * *

Christianity seems to have the best answer. When Christ came to the world, He was fully aware of mankind’s innumerable scourges and miseries.

Christ Himself suffered. But by suffering He gave meaning to it; hence, pain is not useless. If rightly offered to God, suffering becomes redemptive and can gain us eternal life.

* * *

Obviously, it does not mean that we do not exert effort to remedy the problem of suffering anymore and just wait for the painless peace and happiness in heaven. If scientific and medical discoveries can put an end to pain, fine. Or if a sick person can avail of the latest medicine for healing, by all means, do it.

* * *

But sufferings and sickness, whether physical or mental, and ultimately death, will remain with us.

Further, much of human suffering including sickness is man-made, hence, could be avoided. For instance, uncontrolled drinking of liquor and heavy smoking cause a lot of sicknesses which often lead to death.

* * *

A whole family suffers terribly due to domestic violence or marital infidelity.

A nation suffers due to corrupt officials who plunder government funds.

There would be less pain and misery in the world if people knew how to respect the rights of others, if they were less selfish, more caring and sensitive about others’ needs and feelings.


Practicality as ‘moral’ norm

By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

THERE’S a true story of a young man who was apprehended for petty stealing. When the parents were summoned to the police station, the embarrassed mother said: “Son, why did you do this? Didn’t you know that stealing is wrong? To which the teen son said: “Yes, but you never taught me what’s good or what’s bad.”

* * *

Samuel Florman, an ethics theorist, wrote, “Most evil acts are committed not by villains but rather by decent human beings – in desperation, momentary weakness, or an inability to discern what is morally right or wrong amid the discordant claims of circumstances.”

* * *

For some people, the “moral” norm nowadays is practicality. “As long as it serves your purpose even if it’s immoral, do it.”

For instance, in election, one sells his vote to a candidate for monetary reason. The poor are very vulnerable. Others are wiser. They sell their vote to the highest bidder or even to the two contending candidates.

* * *

Practicality in morality is shown also in bribing bidding committees in multi-million government projects or peddling pornographic materials or illegal drugs since there’s fast buck in there.

But moral laws and principles should be followed at all cost despite material enticements otherwise that will lead to a general breakdown of society’s moral foundation.

* * *

The Greek philosopher Plato (4 BC) puts it neatly: “Poverty consists not in the decrease of men’s possessions, but in the increase of one’s greed.”

The Lord teaches that corruption outside is but a projection of a person’s greed or the uncontrolled desire to amass more by any means, at any cost.

* * *

He says: “It’s not the things that come from outside that make a man unclean. It is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. From a man’s heart come the evil desires which lead him to rob, kill, commit adultery and do all sorts of evil things” (Mk 7.20).

Hence, it is necessary always to look deeply into our real motive when transacting businesses or handling big amounts. Pray also for strength against succumbing to temptation.

* * *

THE LIGHTER SIDE. In a book of humor by Jerry Lieberman, a story is told about a janitor hanging a signboard outside the Congress hall.

It read “Fixers, bribers, grafters, keep out of the House.”

* * *

Just then a congressman passed by. “Better strike out grafters,” he said, “or we’ll never be able to raise a quorum.”

* * *

Certainly Lieberman did not have the Philippine Congress in mind, but the story strikes at the heart of a festering problem today which is corruption.

* * *

Weighing Officials. It is reported that when the citizens of High Wycome, England, elect a new mayor, all the town councilors are weighed in public, following an ancient custom.

* * *

Those whose weight is less than or at least not more than when they took office are warmly applauded – they have not grown fat at the public expense.

* * *

If this were applied to our mayors, congressmen, governors and national leaders, would they pass the test or would it be a case of “tinimbang ka ngunit sobra”?

* * *

APPEAL. Delia C., 44, is a widow, who is afflicted with complications due to tuberculosis. She’s been in and out of a government hospital because she can’t buy the much-needed medicine.

* * *

Only the daughter, who is a solo parent, is attending to her. To compound the family’s woes, she was terminated from her work as a salesgirl in a mall because of absences.

* * *

With no source of income, the family will soon be evicted in the small hut they’re renting if the poor family can’t come up with P1,400 for two months arrears.

When she came to ask for help from me, she had to borrow P20 for fare and look for someone to watch her mother at home.

* * *

There are similar indigents we’re helping. Dear readers, have a heart. Extend a hand by chipping in to our Social Fund.



By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:44:00 02/08/2009

QUESTION: Why did Peter deny Jesus?

Answer: Because it was Jesus who healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 29-39) we hear of Jesus’ tremendous healing power, and how many who were ill or possessed by demons came to Him in droves. We all have illnesses, addictions and vices. The Greatest Healer invites us today to seek Him, come to Him, and ask for His mercy and healing.

* * *

People who are ill see the world from a different perspective. All of a sudden, the realization sets in—that life is not forever; and along with this realization is the openness to the Divine, and the hope for better times, and the belief that miracles can and do come by. It should not be, but it often happens that some people first have to go through suffering and sickness before they go back to God.

* * *

When we say that a person has many possessions, it means that he/she has many holdings or belongings. But it could also mean that he/she is possessed, held or controlled precisely by these. And so it happens that some people can be imprisoned and locked up in their lust for power, money, fame, and lust itself. Let us ask Jesus, the Greatest Healer, to cure us of our greed, fears, vices, and insecurities. It all starts with honesty and humility, expressed in a simple prayer that says: “Lord, I need you! Lord, we need you!”

* * *

(Question: What is the proof that there was already a telephone during the time of Jesus? Answer: “Di-nial” ni Peter. O, di ba?) Levity aside, we all play the denial game, some more, some less. Again, there is this rumor that the Philippines is fast becoming the “denial capital” of the world, thanks to our leaders and government officials. Careful. Denial is a dangerous game. It is also a deadly game. It is a game where nobody wins. Truth will always catch up in the end.

* * *

How do we stay focused on our mission and purpose? Jesus teaches us again today the value of prayer. “Rising very early before dawn, he went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Are you always with/in a crowd, on the fast and loud lane of life? Sooner or later, before you know it, stress comes, and peace, even health, is gone. Why, oh, why do we have to hurry to the cemetery? Why, oh, why do we rush through life and miss all the peace and beauty? When you feel tired, harassed, stressed and empty, it’s time to go down on your knees and pray.

* * *

There are some people I’ve met, who because of prayer, have remained focused in spite of their high positions in life. Bob Gothong, chair of Gothong Southern Company, confided to me that the first thing he asks applicants to his company is loyalty to God and loyalty to family. Loyalty to the company comes last. Bob sees his work and business as a mission for the Lord and for the people. It is time for us to rethink our way of doing business by putting God first, and profit second.

* * *

Everyone was looking for Jesus, but instead of staying on and basking in fame and glory, Jesus moved on. Here was someone who constantly left his comfort zones and sacrificed his own will and desires in obedience to His Father’s will. Truly, a purpose-driven person, but more so a Spirit-led Son. If a mission no longer moves you, and if the spirit no longer leads you, it’s time to leave and let go. Jesus was a real leader in the simple sense that He never overstayed.

* * *


Home is the missionary. Fr. Thomas Cassidy, SVD from Illinois, USA, left for China 1947 where he served till 1949. He served as chaplain for the US Marines for several months, and then he was assigned to the Philippines, particularly in Mindoro. He was good in vocation and retreat work. He was a very good preacher, and we were privileged to have him as our professor in Homiletics and speech at the Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay. Prior to his retirement, he served in St. Jude Parish in Manila. Here was a man who journeyed with zeal, determination and cheerfulness. He always had a smile and a good word for everyone, and hardly did he have any anger or unkind words for anyone. His favorite prayer and blessing: “May blessings come to you from five sources—from the four directions, and from above, especially from above.” Father Tom is finally home in heaven at the age of 91. He will be buried on Monday, Feb. 9, after the 3 p.m. Mass at the Shrine of the Divine Word, Quezon City.

* * *

Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is world day of the sick. We will be in Alaminos City, Pangasinan with Bishop Marlo Peralta for a 3 p.m. Healing Mass at the Cathedral. Let us all pray to heal us, heal our land, and heal the world with His mercy and love.

* * *

Some guys feel the need to love a thousand different women, but a real man knows how to love one woman … a thousand different ways. Advance Happy Valentine’s Day!

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, heal the world, heal us, heal our land. Amen.


Fifth Sunday of Lent: Suffering that gives life

March 29, 2009, 12:24am

Our journey this holy season of Lent continues. The Lenten season offers an occasion for us to focus on our relationship with God and with one another. Christianity after all is a religion of relationships. In the Old Testament, a covenant was established between Yahweh and the Israelites. It was a relationship built on mutual trust and confidence. Fidelity to the law was the greatest manifestation of the Israelites to the covenant. However, no matter how gracious the invitation of God for them to have a full communion with Him, some still neglected His call and instead followed their own will. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself, the Gospels tell us, pointed to the Reign of God as God’s way of establishing a relationship with human beings.

This Sunday, the readings propose that our faith in God must come from our innate desire to establish a relationship with Him. It is not something that is imposed on us. The prophet Jeremiah, in the First Reading, foretells the “new covenant’’ that God wanted to establish: “I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’’ (Jer. 31:33b). This new covenant was fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His life for the salvation of all. This He did in obedience to the will of the heavenly Father (Heb.). Jesus’ example must inspire us to take up the challenge of genuine discipleship. Our Lord used the image of a grain to convey that although discipleship is a simple call for us all, it is not an easy task to fulfill. Total denial of the self is needed and one must be ready to ensure suffering. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it yields much fruit’’ (John 10:12).

All of us are called to imitate Jesus who “emptied Himself’’ and considered the will of God as His lifelong mission. There is no better time to do this than now. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in its Lenten message, appealed to all Catholics and even non-Catholics to profoundly re-examine our lives, and face with the truth of the Gospel, which demands radical moral renewal. This means that all of us must renounce our selfish interests for the sake of the common good. We must die from our ambitions so that our country will once again rise from the filth of poverty brought about by rampant corruption. We must suffer so that we may give life.

A true disciple is one who follows the will of God. A true disciple is one who willingly suffers for the sake of the Gospel and for the betterment of the community. May we all walk with Jesus in His journey to the cross so that we too will share in the glory of Easter.


Word Alive

To live is to suffer


February 3, 2012, 10:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — There’s a devoted husband and father of three children. He is 47 years old, a respected doctor in the community and an active member of the parish.

He’s lying in a hospital bed wracked with intolerable pain; his days are numbered. Cancer has spread from his pancreas throughout his abdomen. There’s one unanswered question in his mind and in the minds of his family and friends. That one question is, “Why?”

* * *

The experience of this man illustrates graphically the perennial problem of why people, including the good, must suffer.

Moreover, people get to wondering why some who seem to care nothing at all about God and religion apparently prosper, while the good and God-fearing struggle with a host of trials and sufferings.

* * *

In the first reading of this 5th Sunday, Job wondered, too, about why the good must suffer when he lost thousands of his cattle, his enemies ran off with his camels, his seven sons and three daughters were crushed to death after a violent wind struck their house. That was not enough. Satan struck Job with a serious ulcer which covered his whole body.

* * *

His wife who was a mulier fortis taunted him to deny his God. To which Job replied: “You speak like a foolish woman. You have received good things from the hand of God; why should we not receive bad also?”

The story of Job teaches that a good, faithful life in this world is NO GUARANTEE that you are immune from trials and sufferings.

But the story teaches, too, that if one is faithful and patient amidst sufferings, he will be rewarded just like Job in the end.

* * *

Jesus was concerned with the problem of human suffering in all its forms as shown in this Sunday’s gospel. We see him curing people who were afflicted with various diseases, including the simple fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mk 1:30). There’s a joke that Peter had a grudge with the Lord — he denied Him three times — because He cured his mother-in-law!

* * *

Jesus did not stamp out suffering altogether. He Himself had to undergo terrible suffering. Suffering, He taught, is part and parcel of human existence  – “a problem not to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”

* * *

Not all suffering is inevitable though. Much of it is MAN-MADE, that is, caused by us. A husband, for instance, who comes home drunk and terrorizes the whole neighborhood or the guy who fritters away his salary in gambling, inflicts pain on his family.

* * *

We may not be able to make miracles as Jesus did. But much of the world’s suffering would be minimized if we would be more caring, more generous and sensitive to the feelings of our fellowmen.

Are you the cause of suffering or God’s instrument of healing?



Prayer time

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:50 pm | Saturday, February 4th, 2012

The story is told about a father who told his son: “Son, I am sorry if I was a bit too hard and harsh on you whenever I disciplined you when you were young. I remember you never answered back. You just locked yourself up in the toilet and cried.”

“Yes, I remember too, Dad. The toilet was my refuge. And I’m sorry too, Dad, for using your toothbrush to clean the toilet whenever I was inside,” was the son’s reply.

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 29-39) we learn Jesus’ secret refuge:  “Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.”  In the thick of grinding sparks and flashbulbs, Jesus did not miss candle glow moments with His Father. He knew how to retreat, recharge and renew in prayer.

* * *

Someone once said that Satan cannot make you sin, he will just make you very busy until you can no longer pray, and that, for him, is already a victory. Our biggest downfall is when we no longer take time nor make time to pray because we are too busy. Prayer time is prime time!

* * *

Jesus’ whole life was a constant letting go and letting God. He did not, so to say, sit on His laurel’s, nor did He bask in His fame and popularity. He moved on to other villages to do His mission.  And He moved out from the crowd and even from His disciples when it was time for Him to commune with His Father in prayer. Without prayer, we begin to move out from our true center.  Prayer makes us focused, brings us back to what is basic, and removes from us illusions and delusions.

* * *

Every night, many of us charge our cell phone batteries before we sleep.  If only we were as steadfast and conscientious in charging ourselves in prayer at the day’s end!  Also, many of us are so religious in taking our morning coffee and in getting our morning updates from the newspaper, radio or TV.  If only we were as religious in spending some time for prayer and meditation at the day’s beginning!

* * *

On a personal note, I always begin and end my day with prayer. The first moments after I wake up are spent on my knees in prayer. The last moments before I sleep are also spent on my knees in prayer. When we kneel, we know who we are, and we know who God is. When we bend our knees, everything falls into place.

* * *

Let me share with you my favorite prayer:  “Jesus, I trust in you. Mama Mary, I love you!”  Say this prayer with so much trust and with so much love, and you will experience peace.  It is such a simple, but an assuring prayer.

* * *

Rurick Santos, brother Fr. RJ Santos, SVD, our Filipino missionary working in Japan, texted me last Jan. 30, 2012, how he whispered the prayer “Jesus, I trust in you. Mama Mary, I love you” into the ears of his brother Regnault who was unconscious due to multiple stroke and heart attack.  He held his hand and just kept repeating the prayer. Lo and behold, the next day, Regnault was conscious. He was even singing.  And he will be discharged from the hospital this week.  Yes, prayer is powerful!

* * *

When I was younger, I thought I could “fix” things, and get things done with sheer wisdom or hard work.  Older now, and hopefully wiser, I know that there are a lot of things I can’t fix, so I just say to the Lord: “Help! I can’t fix it.  Please fix it for me. Amen.”

* * *

February 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  It is also the World Day for the Sick.  We express our solidarity, and we offer our prayer for those who need physical, emotional and even spiritual healing. We pray also for those who are involved in the care and support of the physically, emotionally and spiritually sick.

* * *

Those who go through any form of sickness or illness experience God in a very real way.  Moments of sickness are moments of tremendous grace. Yes, in everything that happens in our lives, there is a reason.  And there is a mission.

* * *

“My suffering is my offering.”  May those who go through any form of suffering find meaning and comfort in the thought that they can suffer vicariously for others, i.e., their sufferings can become a source of tremendous blessings for others.

* * *

Remember the cartoon character Popeye?  Remember how he becomes strong whenever he eats his spinach?  Remember his song?  “I’m strong to the finish, ‘cause I eat my spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man!”  Let Popeye remind us that we need prayer to keep us strong, and we can defeat whatever “Brutus” that comes our way if we know how to pray.

* * *

Please be reminded that when you get too busy and it seems that everyone is looking for you, don’t forget that the Lord is also looking for you!  Something is wrong, something will go wrong if you become too busy and you put God on the side and at the periphery.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me to make prayer time prime time of my life.  Amen.


ORAS PARA SA DIYOS: Reflection for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – February 5, 2012

Isang madre superiora ang palakad-lakad sa loob ng kumbento ang nakapansin sa isang madre na subsob sa pagdarasal sa kanilang maliit na kapilya. Sapagkat gabi na noon at may kadiliman sa loob ng kapilya ay patago niyang pinakinggan ang baguhang madreng nanalangin. “mahal na Birheng Maria, aking ina”, paiyak na sabi ng batang madre, “hindi ko na kaya ang krus na pinapasan ko! Aalis na ako sa kumbento!” Nahabag ang superiora ng marinig ito kaya’t patago siyang lumapit sa gawing dambana at nagtago sa madalim na bahagi nito. “Mahal kong ina, lalabas na po ako ng kumbento!” Ang sabi ng madreng patuloy sa pag-iyak. Sinagot siya ng superiora na nagtinig lalaki: “Anak, tingnan mo ang aking anak na nakapako sa krus. Damhin mo ang sakit ng mga sugat sa kanyang mga kamay at paa. Tiniis n’yang lahat yan para sa ‘yo! Pasanin mo ang krus mo sa iyong buhay tulad ng ginawa n’yang pagpasan sa kanyang krus!” “Mahal na Birhen, ikaw ba yan? Alam mong matagal ko na yang ginagawa. Pero talagang di ko na makayanan ang krus sa buhay ko!” Sa puntong ito ay nagtanong na ang tinig: “Ano ba ang krus na tinutukoy mo?” Sagot ng madre: “Ang demonyo po naming superiora! Arogante siya! Di marunong umintindi! Laging kaming kinagagalitan! Ano po ang dapat kong gawin?” Ang sabi ng tinig: “Iha… lumabas ka na! gooo!” hehe… Marami tayong krus na pinapasan sa buhay. May mga krus na dala ng mabibigat na suliranin. Mayroon din namang dala ng pang-araw-araw nating mga alalahanin sa buhay. Kalimitan ang mga ito’y nagiging pabigat sa atin. Sa unang pagbasa ay pinapaalala sa atin na ang buhay ay puno ng hirap. “Ang buhay ng tao’y sagana sa hirap, batbat ng tiisin at lungkot na dinaranas. Siya’y tulad ng alipin, pahinga ang hinahangad, para siyang manggagawa, naghihintay ng kanyang bayad.” Kung minsan pa nga ay nagiging dahilan ito upang mawalan tayo ng pag-asa at bumigay sa buhay… nakakapagod… nakakapanghina! Ano ang dapat nating gawin? Ang Panginoong Jesus sa Ebanghelyo natin ngayon ay may mahalagang itinuturo sa atin. Bakit di natin subukang tumigil sandali, tumahimik at magdasal. Ito ang palaging ginagawa Niya pagkatapos nang kanyang buong araw na pangangaral, pagpapagaling ng maysakit at pagpapalayas ng demonyo. Sa kabila ng napaka-abalang araw ni Jesus ay nakukuha niya pa ring magdasal. Batid niya ang kahalagahan ng pakikipag-ugnayan sa Ama na kanyang pinagkukunan ng lakas upang maisakatuparan ang kanyang misyon. Ito rin dapat nating ginagawa sa mga sandaling natatambakan tayo ng ating mga alalahanin sa buhay. Subukan nating kumukuha ng lakas sa Diyos! Siya ang nagpapagaling. Siya ang nagpapalakas. Siya ang nagsisilbing ilaw sa kawalang ng pag-asa. Gaano ba ako kadalas magdasal? Ang pakikipag-usap ba sa Diyos ay bahagi na ng aking buhay o nagdarasal lang ako pag may kailangan ako sa Kanya? Suriin natin ang ating buhay-panalalangin. Sa loob ng 168 na oras sa isang linggo, ilang oras ba ang inilaan ko sa pananalangin? Baka naman binabarat natin Siya! Huwag tayong sakim sa mga biyayang tinatanggap natin sa Kanya. Kung nakapaglalaan tayo ng oras sa mga makamundong bagay ay kaya rin dapat nating maglaan ng panahon para sa ating buhay espirituwal. Maglaan tayo ng sandali sa pananalangin. Ipadama natin sa kanyang pinahahalagahan natin Siya! Ang Kristiyanong hindi nagdarasal ay isang huwad na kristiyano! Peke! Walang kuwenta! Huwag natin hayaang maging ganito. Maglaan tayo ng sandali upang tumigil, manahimik at manalangin



Mk 1:29-39

WHILE WE were still seminarians, we did a hospital apostolate for a year. The head of the chaplaincy assigned me to visit patients having terminal illness, that is, cancer patients. Patients of this sort are hard to deal with because they have a lot of questions that we could not readily answer. Their questions were “Why does God allow this to happen?” or “Why me?

In that hospital, encountered a woman who shared with me that she never smoked all her life, but unfortunately, she was sick of lung cancer. She was a “passive smoker”, so to speak. The culprit? Her husband, who was a chain-smoker. He smoked inside their house and their bedroom. And worse, the husband left her now that she had a cancer. Her pain was too much to bear. Her oft-repeated question was, “Why me?” Likewise, I met a twelve-year old boy who had a cancer. His mother had a lot of questions that I could not answer. I simply listened to her and cried with her. I was present at the boy’s dying moments. I was helpless to see the grimace upon his face until he died. Everyone’s question was, “Why him?”

In our world today, we are confronted with misery and pain. In the television news channels, we could see some harrowing images or footages of children dying in famine, or people displaced because of internal strife and war. While we empathize for them, we ask, “Where is God in these situations?”

The problem of suffering has been an all-time problem. Philosophers and theologians have never found a cogent reason why people have to suffer or to undergo such a suffering.

First, let us learn something from Job. In the first reading, we have heard Job crying out, “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me.” Speaking of misery in the Old Testament, Job can be considered as an exemplar through whom we can reflect on the themes of suffering and misery. Job, a religious man, was put to the test by God. He was stripped of all possessions, and his family. It is a life full of misery. Job does not find an answer to the suffering that he experienced.  In fact, there has been no ready and easy answer.  However, Job has shown to us that there is also meaning in suffering. Suffering is part of God’s mysterious plan for us. God does not want us to suffer, but he allows it, perhaps, for our own good.

Second, let us turn to the gospel. In the gospel passage, we heard of Jesus’ curing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Like in the Book of Job, Jesus did not give us an explanation to the suffering of people. But Jesus demonstrated how important it is to be with the people who suffer. Being with the sick, curing the sick, and turning human suffering into joy… these are the things that Jesus demonstrated.

The recent visit of Pope Francis in the country has also helped us what to do with those people who suffer. “Mercy and Compassion” became the byword. The Pope visited Tacloban in order to show compassion to them. When he heard the stories of the survivors how they lost family members, he said nothing more. He told Cardinal Tagle, “What can we say?”. When he listened to a girl during the Encounter with the Youth at the University of Sto. Tomas who asked why young children suffer, the Pope told her, “We don’t have an answer to that question”. But Pope Francis journeyed with people who suffer. Like Jesus, he was with them and he communed with  and comforting them in their suffering, not so much of explaining why these people suffer.

Perhaps, in order for us to find the meaning of suffering, we must put our own suffering in the context of the suffering that Christ experienced on the Cross. Moments of suffering, from a Christian viewpoint, are opportunities for us to share in the pains and sufferings of Christ. For some, this may appear ridiculous. The fact that the world teaches us comfort and easy living, the theme on suffering can be out-of-date. In some affluent countries, the easy response to suffering is suicide or mercy-killing. For them, people should not suffer or suffering should be terminated instantly.


Suffering a mystery to be lived

by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
February 6, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel — There’s a young man who got married expecting to get lasting marital bliss. After a couple of years, he was asked by the priest who solemnized his wedding how things were getting along.

* * *

He replied, “Father, I’ve found out there are three rings in marriage– engagement ring, wedding ring, suffe-ring.” (For other couples, there’s a 4th ring–boxing ring!).

* * *

The amusing story may well illustrate that even with the best of relationships, there are misunderstandings and trials that sometimes lead to bitter quarrels and even separation.

* * *

Then there are the sufferings resulting from physical illnesses, emotional, and spiritual torments caused by guilt feelings over one’s crimes and sins. These experiences illustrate the perennial problem of why people, including the good, must suffer.

* * *

Moreover, people get to wondering why some who seem to care nothing about God and religion apparently prosper, while the good and God-fearing struggle with a host of trials and sufferings.

* * *

In the first reading of this 5th Sunday, Job wondered, too, about why the good must suffer when he lost thousands of his cattle and his camels. His seven sons and three daughters were crushed to death after a violent wind struck their house.”

* * *

His wife who was a mulier fortis taunted him to deny his God. To which Job replied: “You speak like a foolish woman. You have received good things from the hand of God, why should we not receive bad also?”

* * *

The story of Job teaches that a good, faithful life in this world is NO GUARANTEE that you are immune from trials and sufferings.

But the story teaches, too, that if one is faithful to God and patient amidst sufferings, he will be rewarded just like Job in the end.

* * *

Jesus was concerned with the problem of human suffering in all its forms as shown in this Sunday’s gospel. We see Him curing people who were afflicted with various diseases, including the simple fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mk 1:30). There’s a joke that Peter had a pent-up grudge against the Lord when he denied Him three times. It’s because He cured His mother-in-law!

* * *

Jesus did not stamp out sufferings altogether. He himself had to undergo terrible sufferings. Suffering, he taught, is part and parcel of human life. As the existentialist philosopher puts it: “Suffering is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”

* * *

Not all sufferings are inevitable though. Much of it is MAN-MADE, that is, caused by us. For instance, a government official who malverses tax payers’ funds, oppresses the poor who should be beneficiaries of these. The guy who fritters away his salary in gambling, inflicts pain on his family.

* * *

Of course, we should not just shrug our shoulder, saying there’s no remedy for this suffering. That would be fatalism or masochism. If you can do something to remedy your pain or lighten the burden, then by all means do it.

Are you the cause of suffering or are you God’s instrument of healing?


See Today’s Readings:  Year B

Back to: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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