Deacon Sil's Word For All “A Life Of Service”
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) February 6, 2000
First Reading (Job 7: 1-4, 6-7)
Job spoke, saying: Is not man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been told off for me. If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?" then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 147: 1-6)
Refrain: Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted. 1) Praise the Lord, for he is good; sing praise to our God, for he is gracious; It is fitting to praise him. The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; the dispersed of Israel he gathers. (Refrain) 2) He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; he calls each one by name. (Refrain) 3) Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to his wisdom there is no limit. The Lord sustains the lowly; the wicked he casts to the ground. (Refrain)
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23)
Preaching the gospel is not the subject of a boast; I am under compulsion and have no choice. I am ruined if I do not preach it! If I do it willingly, I have my recompense; if unwillingly, I am nonetheless entrusted with a charge. And this recompense of mine? It is simply this, that when preaching I offer the gospel free of charge and do not make full use of the authority the gospel gives me. Although I am not bound to anyone, I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became a weak person with a view to winning the weak. I have made myself all things to all people in order to save at least some of them. In fact, I do all that I do for the sake of the gospel in the hope of having a share in its blessings.
Gospel (Mark 1: 29-39)
Upon leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and the first thing they did was to tell him about her. He went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, and the fever left her. She immediately began to wait on them. After sunset, as evening drew on, they brought him all who were ill and those possessed by demons. Before long, the whole town was gathered outside the door. Those whom he cured, who were variously afflicted, were many, and so were the demons he expelled. But he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Rising early the next morning, he went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer. Simon and his companions managed to track him down; and when they found him, they told him, "Everybody is looking for you!" He said to them: "Let us move on to the neighboring villages so that I may proclaim the good news there also. That is what I have come to do." So he went into their synagogues preaching the good news and expelling demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Secretary to St. Peter: The Gospel of Mark, by Dr. Donald Strobe, pp. 28-33. Seven Worlds Corp., Knoxville, Tn. (See "Jesus Came Preaching", Mark 1: 14-22.) The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay, pp. 36-42. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1975. The Letters to the Corinthians, by William Barclay, pp. 81-84. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1975. More Telling Stories, by William J. Bausch, pp. 89-93. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT 1993. Days of the Lord, Volume 5, pp. 43-51. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1993. The Cultural World of Jesus, by John J. Pilch, pp. 31-33. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1996. Bringing the Word to Life, by Michael R. Kent, pp. 69-70. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT, 1996. The Word Encountered, by John F. Kavanaugh, pp. 22-25. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1996. Mark, by Wilfrid Harrington, pp. 19-22. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn. 1979.
The Left Hand of God (being God's instrument to others)
Words as actions (see Secretary, p. 28). "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians). The ancient Greeks had a saying: "By words alone are the lives of mortals swayed." Sweazey writes: "the talkers are the doers, if what they talk about is important. The greatest doer of all was called the 'Word', and words that start with him have changed men and nations...If what a preacher says can alter even slightly the direction in which people are aimed when they leave the church, the effect can be beyond all calculation." Preachers labor to make the lives of their hearers worth living. Actions are important, but words can motivate action. We should be continually amazed at the ways in which God sometimes uses our poor, frail, human words to communicate His word to the world...The real business of preaching is...the transformation of a person. Its goal is to bring about a change in human lives. It is suppose to inspire, motivate, persuade and move...We can be grateful if just a few words catch hold of someone's imagination and turn them to God (which is what the approaching season of Lent is all about: turning back to God). In the movie "Oh, God!", the grocery store manager who is played by John Denver, asks God who is played by George Burns what good coming among people and talking to them might do. God replies, "You never know...a seed here, a seed there, something will take hold and grow." The Nazi movement in Germany was built by preaching of a kind. Most of the great movements that have changed history have been fueled by preaching.
See Good News homily model for other ideas on the gospel (ministry and prayer).
Paul speaks of hoping for a share in the blessing of the gospel he proclaims. If we who are preachers truly prepare the word we preach, it will bring its blessing; we can spend many hours reflecting on texts that suddenly become luminous for us. We know them, as the saying goes, by heart. In the heart.
It's the same for musicians: they have a constant urge to move on. To stay put is to die, because if overused, everything becomes dull and boring. But each piece becomes infused with new appreciation as we move on and incorporate other things in our repertoire.
In Barclay's commentary on Corinthians, he says that this passage contains an outline of Paul's whole conception of ministry:
1) that it is a privilege;
2) that it is a duty;
3) that it produced a daily great reward; and,
4) that it should enable one to get "alongside of" another person.
Under item 3, he says: "To have mended one shattered life, to have restored one wanderer to the right way, to have healed one broken heart, to have brought one soul to Christ is not a thing whose reward can be measured in financial terms, but its joy is beyond all measurement." As for #4, he says: "Those who can never see anything but their own point of view and who never make any attempt to understand the mind and heart of others, will never make a pastor or an evangelist or even a friend...We can never attain to any kind of evangelism or friendship without speaking the same language and thinking the same thoughts as the other person." (I. e., walk a mile in their moccasins.)
Whenever I play music at liturgies, I often feel as if I am preaching through the lyrics of the songs we sing. It is that feeling which first led me to the diaconate, namely the desire to see what I could do with a particular reading or gospel in a homily. As an organist or guitarist, I feel like God's "instrument", that he was working through my talents to touch the hearts of the congregation.
Homily A Life of Service
If we could sum up today's gospel reading in one word, it would be service. Mark tells us in today's gospel reading that when Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, she immediately (Mark's favorite word) got up and served her guests. Our Lord too was never content being in one place but moved on so that he could proclaim the good news elsewhere. He never sent people away, but welcomed them, even if he was exhausted and would have preferred to be alone. How many of us can say we act in that way? If someone were to come to us and say "Where have you been? Everyone has been looking for you", would we have responded as Christ did? Or would we have answered rather impatiently that we wanted to be alone and not be bothered by anyone right now.
She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea. "Hello," she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child. "I'm building," she said. "I see that. What is it?" I asked, not caring. "Oh, I don't know. I just like the feet of the sand." That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by. "That's a joy," the child said. "It's what?" "It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy." The bird went glissading down the beach. "Good-bye, joy," I muttered to myself, "hello, pain," and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance. "What's your name?" She wouldn't give up. "Ruth," I answered. "I'm Ruth Peterson." "Mine's Windy." It sounded like Windy. "And I'm six." "Hi, Windy." She giggled. "You're funny," she said. In spite of my gloom I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me. "Come again, Mrs. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day." The days and weeks that followed belonged to others: a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. "I need a sandpiper," I said to myself, gathering up my coat. The never-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed. I had forgotten the child and was startled when she appeared. "Hello, Mrs. P," she said. "Do you want to play?" "What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance. "I don't know. You say." "How about charades?" I asked sarcastically. The tinkling laughter burst forth again. "I don't know what that is." "Then let's just walk." Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. "Where do you live?" I asked. "Over there." She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter. "Where do you go to school?" "I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation." She chattered little-girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Windy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed. Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood even to greet Windy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home. "Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Windy caught up with me, "I'd rather be alone today." She seemed unusually pale and out of breath. "Why?" she asked. I turned on her and shouted, "Because my mother died!"-and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a little child? "Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day." "Yes, and yesterday and the day before that and-oh, go away!" "Did it hurt?" "Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with myself. "When she died?" "Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off. A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn-looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door. "Hello," I said. "I'm Ruth Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was." "Oh yes, Mrs. Peterson, please come in." "Wendy talked of you so much. I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please accept my apologies." "Not at all-she's a delightful child," I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it. "Where is she?" "Wendy died last week, Mrs. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn't tell you." Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath caught. "She loved this beach; so when she asked to come, we couldn't say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks she declined rapidly...." Her voice faltered. "She left something for you...if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?" I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something, anything to say to this lovely young woman. Finally, she returned and handed me a smeared envelope, with "Mrs. P" printed in bold, childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues - a yellow beach, a blue sea, a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed: A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY. Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten how to love opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I muttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words - one for each year of her life - that speak to me of inner harmony, courage, undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes and hair the color of sand - a child who taught me the gift of love. (1)
In Matthew, Jesus states that "the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many". Who can forget the picture of Jesus taking a towel and washing the feet of his creatures, a picture we will consider in more depth in just a few weeks on Holy Thursday? Christ took on our human flesh not to prove how powerful God is, but to demonstrate the depth of God's love for us. He did not come in power, but in humility and simplicity. He loved his own creatures with a love that knew no bounds. And all he asks of us is to love our equals in this world, not his creatures, as he did. Christ came as one who serves, a servant. That is a word that is near and dear to my heart because in Greek the word for servant is diakonos, or deacon. So deacons are servants in a special way. I've only been ordained for a few years now, but already I have been changed by the special ministries that deacons perform. In that time, I have been privileged to baptize many children, and have been blown away by being such an integral part of this sacrament for their families. I have also officiated at several weddings, and they have also been wonderful experiences. And what I have probably enjoyed more than anything else is being able to share what the Word of God has meant in my life with others. And that's what Mark says that Jesus did: he preached the good news. And the second reading in today's liturgy from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians also talks about preaching. Paul says "I am under compulsion and have no choice. I am ruined if I do not preach it!" I have succumbed to the sin of pride during my life, but with preaching, I can safely say that I have never been so tempted. And that is because I am fully aware that the message I deliver is not mine but that of the Spirit working through me. I have lost track of the number of times that I have been blown away by a thought while I have been reflecting on a passage of Scripture. And I know that it didn't come from me because I know I had never thought of it before. So it has to be the Spirit and the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders which is at work in me. I get so excited about the revelation, for that is what it is, that I can't wait to share it with you. Suffice it to say this: when I preach, I feel like God's instrument to others. All I can do is thank God that he has seen fit to grant me these gifts which I can, in some way, return to him. And that is my message to you this morning: you are not deacons, but you are God's instruments nonetheless, with your own gifts and talents to use in your own ordinary daily lives. You preach the good news, just as Jesus did, through your love for one another. You too can be servants and imitators of Christ just by letting him into your lives and then sharing him with others. Be grateful that God has chosen you to be his messengers, his angels, his bringers of good news, to the world. And remember to share some time with family and friends. Don't push them away, like the author of our story did with Wendy. Christ always had time for others. And if that is the example that Christ has given to us, he would be pleased if we followed it.
1. A Sandpiper To Bring You Joy, by Mary Sherman Hilbert. Copyright 1979 by the Reader's Digest Association, Inc. from the June 1980 issue. Reprinted with permission from A Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 8-11. Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. (Copyright December 26, 1999 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) February 6, 2000 Penitential Rite
Lord Jesus, you came as one who serves. Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you came to proclaim the good news of salvation. Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you call us to be servants of one another and to proclaim the good news with our lives. Lord, have mercy.
Rite of Dismissal
The Mass is ended. Go in peace as servants of Christ to proclaim the good news of God's love.