February 4, 2024 –
The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year B]

Fr. Gabriel Greer

Recently, I spent six weeks in Ecuador on Spanish immersion. Midway through my program, we traveled to Riobamba to see Ecuador’s oldest Catholic Church ruins and the world’s highest point from the Earth’s center, Mount Chimborazo. While we were touring, I developed a terrible migraine and felt I was unable to communicate with my hosts precisely what I was experiencing. Eventually, my symptoms grew worse, and I went to the hospital. I was still worried that I couldn’t explain what was happening; however, slowly and with great patience, the doctor approached me and offered a remedy to cure the migraine. Sometimes, in our spiritual life, we experience illness and cannot communicate our exact symptoms to the Lord. In the liturgy of the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B, we encounter one of the primary themes of the Gospel: Our Lord came to heal us and restore us to right relationship with him.

The Lord heals us so that, in humility, we can bow before him and offer him worship. In the constant complexity of life, we see that humanity thirsts for something more than the world can offer. In the first reading from the Book of Job, Job states that man’s life is a drudgery and nothing more than months of misery. Job’s sentiment in the first reading summarizes the dramatic situation man has experienced since the Fall. In the beginning, humanity was created to share in the divine happiness of God, and God has given us everything that we need to share in His eternal blessedness. Then, Satan tricked our first parents, saying that we would become like God if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result of their failure to remember that they were created in God’s image and likeness, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Since then, the life of mankind has seemed to be tedious or miserable. 

We are made for happiness, but we find ourselves amid a battle, wounded and striving to do what is right. Even though this wound from the battle can undoubtedly feel like misery, we do not have to face this daily battle alone. Nor do we have to cure ourselves. The Lord desires to grasp each of our hands in the same way that he took the hand of Simon’s mother-in-law, who laid sick, and at the moment of our Lord’s touch, her illness left her. Frequently, our egocentric tendencies prohibit us from encountering the healing power of God. Instead of turning to God for healing, we turn to material possessions to alleviate our laziness, vanity, and petty ambitions. When we realize that we are not the center of the universe, we can see Jesus at the foot of our bed, offering his hand to heal us.

When God heals us, we should respond as Simon’s mother-in-law did. “She waited on them,” that is to say, she recognized that she was healed for mission. Worship of God is the first and primary mission for which the Lord heals us because by giving God worship, we recognize that only His grace can save us. Second, the Lord heals us to be on mission at the service of the Gospel. In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says, “An obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.” When we experience the healing power of the Lord, we are called to share his mercy with all the brokenhearted. The Lord cures us so that we might be his healing instruments for others, always at the service of the Gospel.

God wanted to share his divine life with us from the beginning of creation, and in return, we are called to give him worship and thank him for imparting his image and likeness. Unfortunately, the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden brought illness upon each of us. However, we are not alone in our illness; the Lord is at the foot of our beds, fervently seeking to grasp our hands and offer us healing. He desires to cure us so that we can experience eternal happiness and so that we can lead our brothers and sisters to his healing power. Let the Lord take hold of our hands so we may be healed, and when we are healed, let us praise Him and bear fruit for the world’s salvation.