Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Jb 7:1-4, 6-7
2) 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Mk 1:29-39
Bernadette Soubirous was a poor 14-year-old girl when Mary, the mother of God, first appeared to her as she walked to a small grotto in Lourdes to collect firewood. Mary spoke tenderly to the French peasant girl with poignant messages reminding the people to pray and do penance and requesting that a shrine be built to her divine son Jesus.
When Bernadette asked Our Lady for her name, she replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
During one of the apparitions that unfolded in February 1858, Mary instructed Bernadette to drink water from the ground and to wash in it. So Bernadette began scraping the muddy ground to drink the murky water. The shocked townspeople who watched Bernadette thought the young girl had gone insane!
But the next day, from that same muddy terrain, a steady spring flowed out of the ground into a bubbling stream of clean water. Eventually that stream became the healing waters curing the minds, bodies and spirits of countless people who come as pilgrims to Lourdes.
In these weeks of Ordinary Time, between the Christmas and Lenten seasons, the word of God invites us to accompany Jesus as he walked, talked, preached and healed those he encountered. And the image of Jesus healing people of every disease of mind, body and spirit is a powerful one to reflect on in these ongoing days of a pandemic.
For in his role as healer, Jesus reveals God’s deep desire to heal humanity. God’s healing love, offered to all, begins from the first moment of humanity’s sin and alienation. From the beginning, God has been looking to heal and to reconcile humanity to friendship with him.
The psalmist describes God, the all-powerful creator of heaven and earth, as the one who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. So we join the psalmist in praying the responsorial psalm, “Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.”
God is always looking to heal, not harm, his beloved creatures created in and for love.
“Everyone is looking for you,” says Simon to Jesus who leaves for a deserted place to pray in solitude. Jesus has just healed Simon’s mother-in-law who he cured instantly of a fever. And then St. Mark tells us that the “whole town was gathered at the door.” Then, after sunset and late into the evening, Jesus continued to heal the sick who came looking to be cured of every disease.
The healing ministry of Jesus is not a thing of the past. Jesus’ healing power continues in our own time, especially in the sacramental life of the church. As we listen to God’s word and participate in the celebration of the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection in the Eucharist, we receive God’s healing love.
Now more than ever, the world needs the healing touch of God. Now more than ever, those worn out by fear and despair look for divine healing flowing through our words and actions. Today, God’s word invites us to become living instruments of Jesus’ healing love to a wounded world as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How will you share Jesus’ healing love with others today?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.