Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 7th of February 2021
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Week 5 Ordinary Time
The Gospel this week manifests the many roles of Jesus: He is healer, preacher, exorcist and priest. All of these roles fall under another larger role which He wishes to keep secret for awhile. His secret is almost revealed by the demons but He does not let them speak.
First, as healer, Jesus restores full health to Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, so much so that she begins to serve those in the house. Notice the human touch in this episode: Jesus takes the sick woman by the hand and helps her up. The Christian religion relies upon human contact:
God’s power coming through human touch, grace building upon nature. The Sacraments of the Church work this way: they are bodily encounters with the divine.
“Let us go elsewhere to the neighbouring country towns so that I can preach there too”, Jesus said to Simon-Peter. As preacher, Jesus was not sent into the world to be nice and polite. He preached peace and fire, love and justice, heaven and hell. He instilled in people both the fear of God and the mercy of God. He challenged their minds with parables. He challenged their behaviour by exposing hypocrisy. Just as He banished the devils when He performed an exorcism, He also banished error from the mind of those to heard Him preach. May our
opinions and the opinions of the world – the fashionable ideas, ideologies and latest social fads – give way to the words preached by Jesus. He alone is the measure of truth and goodness.
Jesus too is a priest. A priest is one who is appointed by God to offer prayer and sacrifices for the sake of the people. Jesus was appointed by God in heaven to come down and offer sacrifices for sinful mankind. Here in this Gospel story, Jesus separates himself from the
others, long before dawn, going to a lonely place and praying for the world. The others are asleep, He is awake! We are asleep because of our sin, He is awake because he is the source of all goodness, the Dawn from on high, the Light that banishes the darkness.
Jesus demonstrates his priesthood ultimately by His sacrifice on the Cross. The Jewish priests used to sacrifice bulls, goats and lambs on altars. In his greatest hour at Calvary, Jesus is both priest and victim; on the altar of the Cross he is the sacrificial lamb. His sacrifice reconciles man with God, repaying God the honour that had been withheld from Him because of sin. His sacrifice, the offering of His body and blood, is the ultimate prayer for us. How do we join Him in making this prayer?
We can be united to Jesus whenever we pray, but, in a special way, we join Jesus in His greatprayer by participating in Holy Mass. On the night before His crucifixion, at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted a ritual meal, the Eucharistic Banquet, during which He ordained His apostles to carry on his Priesthood and to renew the Sacrifice of the Cross whenever and wherever the Eucharistic meal was celebrated. The bread and wine at Mass become sacred signs, changed by the hands and words of the priest to become the same body and blood of Jesus that was offered long ago, that day at Calvary. No greater prayer can be prayed by the faithful than to participate in Holy Mass whereby they join with Jesus in His sacrifice on the Cross.
Finally, what was the secret role of Jesus that I spoke of earlier? As Christians we now know that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, or, to use the Greek word – the Christ – the one who was to save Israel. We know this now, but, during his ministry, Jesus never referred to Himself as the Messiah. He only spoke in such terms to his inner circle, His apostles. He wanted to keep his true mission a secret until after His Passion, Death and Resurrection, and then, only then, did He want his apostles to proclaim the truth to the whole world.
If, during his ministry, Jesus had announced himself as the Messiah, the people would have treated him like a superhero, a king, a political spokesman and they would never have let him go ahead with his Passion, the Way of the Cross. But Jesus was not destined to be a
“political” Messiah or a “military” Messiah. Rather, he would be a “suffering” Messiah who would redeem the world by making Himself a sacrifice. The demons, because they have superior spiritual knowledge, knew this and wanted to give away the secret and to derail his
plan, but he kept them quiet.
Later, after the Resurrection, and, when the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, the Church would loudly proclaim in public: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah; he died to save us from our sins and he rose from the dead to give us new life.
Are we willing to follow him on the Way of the Cross? The path towards glory is a path through suffering.
-Fr Eamon Roche