Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B

Caponi for Homilies.jpg

Francis J. Caponi, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Ps 147: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23
Mark 1: 29-39

Every parent with more than one child has had the experience of turning to one of the children and saying, “Go get your brother for dinner”; and the child, without taking a step, turns and yells, “Tommy! Dinnertime!”

And every parent always says the same thing: “Well, I could have done that!”

Jesus is in Capernaum. In one day, he has already exorcized a demon and cured Peter’s mother-in-law. Now it is evening of that same day, and “they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons…”

Jesus could stay in Capernaum his whole life, proclaiming the good news and healing the sick. He could call out, and the people would come to him. The sick would limp, would drag themselves by the thousands to get to him. Those too sick would be carried by their parents, families, friends and neighbors, wheeled in crude carts down dusty roads and carried on strong backs over hills and across streams.

Jesus could stand still, and the poor would swamp him, the lost and grieving would rush to him, the desperate and the lonely and the friendless would flood him like a swollen river.

Like the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, like Lourdes and Fatima, men and women would come to him. They would flock to have their bodies restored, to have the rust and grime scraped from their eyes and hearts, to take hold of the wonder of God’s compassionate love, to touch the Lord’s mercy made flesh, to hear the voice of God from the lips of a mortal man crying out that victory is near: “The kingdom of God is at hand!” They would walk on bruised and bleeding knees to hear the simple words, “Your sins are forgiven.”

But Jesus says no. “‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.’ So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.’”

Why? Why not stay put, avoid the rigors of the road and the strain of constantly finding somewhere to stay? Why not have a little comfort, and a great deal of convenience? Jesus could do that, could become the still center of an endless pilgrimage of the hopeless and the lost.

But there were people who could not or would not come to Jesus. The blind without anyone to lead them, the friendless cripple, those possessed by furious demons, men and women imprisoned by sin and afraid to approach the Lord. Again and again the Gospels tell us stories of people Jesus met while traveling: the woman at the well, the widow carrying her dead son to be buried, the blind man by the pool of Bethsaida, Lazarus in his tomb, the repentant tax collector. In order to save as many people as possible, Christ stands still for a few days and preaches and heals, then moves on to meet people not strong enough or brave enough or hopeful enough to come to him.

Love is doing good for the person right in front of you, the person you live with or work with or go to school with. But it’s more than that. Love begins at home, but cannot end there. Love is going to people who can’t or won’t come to you: the aunt or uncle in a nursing home, the friend in a hospital, the relative embarrassed by failures and mistakes, the child too angry to make the first move, the spouse too hurt to seek reconciliation. We all know people who will not budge, stubborn or proud or disappointed, or maybe just lazy. Love is going to those who can’t, or won’t, come to you.

For God so loved the world that He sent his only Son to us. In this Mass, Jesus comes among us once more. Because of our sins, we can’t get to him. So he comes to us, now, in the gift of his Spirit, in his body and blood, with the words of eternal life.

Let us also seek out those who are lost and those who are hiding.

When we do, we are acting like God, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.

Ours is a traveling God. Let us be traveling disciples.