By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily (February 4, 2018):
St. Mark’s gospel readings give us pictures of Jesus Christ. These pictures show us who Jesus is and why He is our Lord, Messiah, and Savior. From the first Sunday in January, Epiphany Sunday, Jesus is the Newborn King of the Jews. Three Gentile kings find Jesus and worship Him. Then, Mark’s Gospel in the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time shows Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. Andrew, the brother of Simon, tells Simon that he has found the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus tells people to repent and believe the gospel because “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And last Sunday, St. Mark’s gospel shows Jesus as one who teaches with authority. He is divine and drives an unclean spirit out of a man. So Jesus is a royal king of David’s lineage. He is called Messiah. He is the Lamb of God. And Jesus teaches authoritatively and has power over unclean spirits. This Jesus is the one we ought to worship here in this church as our Lord, Messiah, and Savior.
So now, this week, St. Mark shows that Jesus uses these characteristics to serve and to save others, from the lowest to the highest. The people in Capernaum that Jesus taught, healed, and exorcised demons from were down and out. And Jesus received them lovingly. Jesus is a king who serves everyone. Jesus gave the people in Capernaum hope that God was working among them. But the Jews believed the Messiah would be a great nationalist leader who would destroy the Roman occupation. But Jesus’s Messianic kingdom is much more spiritual and much less political and material. Jesus is at war with sin and Satan, not Roman occupiers. That’s another reason why He would not let the demons speak. They would identify Jesus as Messiah, God’s Son and the Jews would misunderstand that. St. Mark hopes his Christian readers would accept Jesus’s true identity on His terms, as a suffering Messiah who would die powerless on a Cross on Calvary to conquer sin and death, not Roman armies. Another important point is that Jesus’s miracles authenticate His Messiahship as one who suffers and serves, submits and dies, and rises. That’s what St. Mark wants us to know in his gospel about Jesus Christ, Lord, Messiah, and King.
St. Paul adopts that model of Jesus as his own. St. Paul says he worked to earn his own living at Corinth. He did it so that the Jews would not accuse him of profiting from the gospel. St. Paul preaches the gospel because he loves Jesus Christ and he fears being responsible for the loss of souls. St. Paul says he became all to all so as not to scandalize the least ones. St. Paul describes freedom as freedom from something in order to serve everyone with a gospel message that is infinite. For him freedom is never an absolute by itself.
The prototype in the Old Testament is Job. Today’s reading is part of his response to someone who is convinced that Job has sinned and God is punishing him for it. Job denies this and he refuses to curse God. Job says man’s life is a weary bondage. Job’s own life is a constant torment and he must submit to the hardships of life. Job believes that he will not prosper again. He also worries that he will not recover health or happiness again. Job suffers. And Jesus suffers as the Messiah and the Servant who is mankind’s Savior. He will submit and die on a cross.
But finally, today’s psalm praises God. Why? Because God has made our salvation secure in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. So what should we know? That this divine and yet fully human Savior and Messiah will serve, suffer, die on a Cross for us and rise again to save us from our sins. What should we do? We should not lose faith in Him and not be scandalized by Him. Why should we care? Because only Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can do this and save us.