February 7, 2021

5th Sunday Ordinary Time

This phrase keeps coming back to me.  Jesus does “God.”  He just doesn’t talk about God or pay lip service.  Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law just by helping her to stand up.  He drives out whatever made people crazy in their thinking and their actions.

The next day, very early in the morning, he leaves the town, going off to a deserted place where he prayed.  That is where he got his energy “to do God.”  He brought God to the people.  Everyone could feel God in the person of Jesus.

There’s a power about Jesus, not the “snap of a finger” power, but a real encounter with the mystery and essence of life. It wasn’t just because he was supposed to be God’s son, but because he was the real, living presence of the Eternal One.

Jesus did not have the time to soak in the people’s grateful praise.  He knew when to come and to act, and he knew when it was time to leave.  He was not there to please or to do for himself.  “Let’s go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose, I have come.”

When I coin the phrase that “Jesus does God,” I mean it literally as the Gospel writer does. When Jesus greets Peter’s mother-in-law and helps her to stand up, the writer uses the same word that describes Jesus’ resurrection.  Peter’s mother-in-law is given a “new life.”  Jesus is sharing the Resurrection before his own Resurrection.  That was what the people were experiencing.

What did Peter’s mother-in-law do?  She got up and waited on Jesus and the other guests.  She “deacons” on the rest, the Greek word “to serve.”  She does what God would do.  Jesus has touched her mind and heart to offer hospitality, to cook, to serve, to clean up — in a spirit of love and grateful grace.  The simple tasks of welcoming strangers and offering hospitality become a prayer to God whereby she offers God to those whom she serves.

This becomes a whole new way to see our lives and our work — not just an opportunity to make money or to complain because there is too much work, but to do what I do with love and grace, whoever that my work, whatever it may be or insignificant as it may be, or how difficult that my work could be, is a prayer, done with God’s help and as an honor to Him.

In contrast to Jesus in the Gospel is Job in the first reading where every ounce of life and happiness have been sucked out of him.  He has lost everything, his children were killed in a wind accident; he has lost all his wealth and the means by which he made his wealth, and his wife has become a permanent nag saying that it is all his fault.  Job digs for himself a deep hole of pity.

Eventually, God will do “his God thing” and rescue and restore Job, but until Job runs out of all his anger, his self-pity and throws himself in God’s open arms and comes to the truth that he cannot do life without God, nothing will change.

Our problem is that all of us suffer from a little bit of entitlement.  Because we try to be good, and are doing a reasonable job at it, we believe that God should reward us in some fashion. 

Whether or not our parents helped to build our parish is no guarantee of some special blessing for you.

Job yelled and screamed at God because he believed that he did nothing wrong to deserve all the disasters falling upon him (and he didn’t).  Actually, it was the devil who wanted to torture Job and asked God if he could, in order to prove that Job’s goodness was fake.  The devil was wrong.  At one point, God reminds Job that God gave him life and all his blessings.  Goodness, humility, trust and faith in God all go together.

Testing and suffering, good times and bad, are all a part of life.  God reminds us that it is partly a spiritual discipline that purifies our motives and trust in God, who causes what to happen in our lives. It’s not always clear.  What is clear is God’s love and presence is always with us and somehow God sees us through to the end.  So we are supposed to be grateful, be open, be alert.  God will give our lives the discipline we need, and sooner or later, we see the light and develop into a more trusting and loving person.

Rather than fighting, we are to let God be God.

It takes awhile before we reach what St. Paul calls “being all things to all,” when I finally let the maturation of Jesus become the maturation of my life.

We do not need to boast about being a good Catholic.  All we need to do is to be the best that we can do, but not just as an after-thought, to be simple, humble, consistent, trusting.  Doing so willingly and lovingly does have a personal reward that comes from God.  Grumbling because of the obligation that we feel, complaining and not doing so much, we feel imposed upon and guilty.  Sometimes, we need to feel shamed in our hearts when we realize that we are the beneficiaries and the stewards of the gifts of life.

God is always inviting us to purify our motivations, not to do things because we are forced to do them, but because we want to respond fully.

St. Paul tells us today that he made himself a slave, a servant, to place helping before taking. He identified with people – the weak, the less fortunate, without prejudice.  He says that he “became all things to all, to save at least some.”  “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”

Both Jesus and St. Paul would share with us today: “For this purpose have I come.”

So, we review our purpose for living today.  To get the most out of our lives for ourselves?  Or to put the most of myself into life for others?

Let’s say to ourselves today: “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel so that I too may have a share in it.” More than stories and sayings of Jesus, the Gospels are personal impressions of how the presence of God in Jesus touched thousands of people and continue to do so today.  What about you?

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