Hi everyone, here’s my homily for FEBRUARY 5, 2012 – FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020512.cfm. As always – thanks for reading and your comments and feedback are always appreciated, Fr. Jim
Two weeks ago in the midst of an Inbox of 55 unread messages, there’s one email that I’ve read, and re-read several times:
Hey Fr. Jim –
So on Friday I was having lunch with a friend and I was feeling miserable and she told me I should let you and the Newman Center know. [I usually worry when an email starts like that] A few years ago when I was still a student I participated in a drive that the Newman Center was doing to have individuals sign up to be on the [Bone] Marrow Registry. I had completely forgotten about it until a representative from the NY Blood Center called me in late October letting me know that I was a potential match for one of their patients and wanted to know if I was still willing to donate. I said sure and started the process (which by the way is pretty long between further testing to make sure you’re a perfect match and then health testing to make sure you’re healthy enough to donate). Friday morning I started the last step, which is getting injections each day for the 5 days before donating to build up white blood cells in your body, which the side effects make you feel pretty miserable (which is where my statement above comes from- I’m not actually miserable!), and I will officially be donating tomorrow. And in talking we wondered how many people who do match let you all know that your drive did lead to a match if any at all. So I wanted to formally let you (and Newman!) know that at least one match was made and I am fully going on to donate tomorrow, and hopefully in a year as long as all was successful I get to meet the recipient. It has been a wonderful experience for me – everyone involved in the process has been extremely kind and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I wanted to really say thank you for providing this opportunity to me and so many others.
While reading this, that something we’ve done has been instrumental in helping others is significant, awesome in and of itself – there was a whole other part of the story that this young lady didn’t even realize that made me just marvel at how God continues to work miracles through all of us. About 5 years ago, my god-daughter, Lizzie, at the age of 9 months old had been diagnosed with Leukemia. And after suffering the devastating effects of chemotherapy which were unsuccessful in controlling the cancer, the doctors said Lizzie’s best shot was to have a bone-marrow transplant.
When someone you love is sick, you will do anything, anything to help them… so of course we were all tested, hoping we could be a match. But, adding more devastating news to already devastating news – none of us were. The doctors began a world-wide search to see if a potential donor could be found. And thank God, (which I do every day) they were able to find a woman, (I believe she’s from Eastern Europe) who was a match, underwent the procedure and was key in saving my niece’s life.
Some people when they hear stories like that, there’s a part of them that is extremely skeptical. They might dismiss it being a miracle thinking “It was just good luck…” It’s hard for some people to see the miraculous, to appreciate the healing especially when we see others still suffering… or even wondering “well the miracle wouldn’t have been necessary if people didn’t get sick in the first place.”
The reality is that we’re still in this spiritual battle of good versus evil. There are still awful things that unravel us, cause us to wonder where is God in all of this. There’s no question that Jesus has already won this war against evil- dealing a definitive blow to the devil with his resurrection from the dead… but for you and I, who are still enduring these ongoing battles, we need to make our choice whether we are truly going to follow Jesus Christ or not. Whether we see him as our Hope – in this life and for all eternity.
Which is why these healing stories are so important and so powerful to us. In today’s Gospel, we hear more miraculous healings including one about St. Peter’s Mother in law (yes the first pope was married!) who was suffering with this fever. You gotta realize that back then a fever was a big deal – it wasn’t pop two Advil or get an antibiotic and you’ll be fine in a few hours. This could be extremely deadly. More than likely she had heard about Jesus from Peter. But in her hour of need, Jesus grabs her by the hand and instantly recovers… not just the fever goes away but she is rejuvenated, transformed. 2,000 years later, we still remember this miraculous story thanks to scripture. But think about it, the fact remains the woman eventually died. Eventually there was a fever or some other illness that must’ve come along and there wasn’t a miracle experienced. But aside from this day where a cure was experienced, what made this day so memorable was from that day on, she knew who to trust, she knew who to follow, she no longer feared death. She knew deep in her heart from her own experience that we have a Heavenly Father who looks at us as His Children. And that he has sent his Son Jesus Christ to destroy evil. The miracle only meant to proclaim the good news that in Jesus Christ, the world has been made new.
When I got that email about the bone marrow donor, I was just overwhelmed to see how one of the most terrifying things my family has faced – my niece’s battle with Leukemia – 5 years later could bring about so many unexpected blessings. That what to me was a miracle that she experienced has multiplied countless times over… that this experience could have affected me so deeply, that when students at the Newman Center at MSU learned about it – it would touch their hearts and motivate them to work so hard to make this bone marrow drive a reality on this campus for three years in a row, and then would bring together two complete strangers into another life-changing, hope-filled experience where another potential miracle is unfolding . That’s not just luck. That’s not just a coincidence. Not by a long shot. It’s just another beautifully creative wonder of our ever-surprising, glorious God – who invites us to be a part of His story. To seek Him in the midst of our illnesses and moments of horror, and trust that whether there’s a miraculous healing like a fever leaving with a touch – or through the selflessness displayed through the generosity of loving people, God continues to move with and in and through each of us.
Today, this Gospel reminds us to be attentive to the blessings, the miracles that we experience, that we bring to others. Knowing that when we do, our faith in the one who comes to save us is renewed and proclaimed anew in our day and age.