5th Sunday Ordinary Time
Cycle B | 4 February 2018
Job. 7: 1-4;6-7
I Cor. 9: 16-19; 22-23
Mk. 1: 29-39
INTRODUCTION: Let us focus on our 2nd reading from Paul’s magnificent I Cor. Our passage has to do with a theme that is central to every baptized Christian: EVANGELIZATION.
Listen now to what Paul says to his little Church of Corinth: “If I preach the Gospel, there is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me and woe to me if I do not preach it.”
Basically, Paul is explaining himself to his audience. He is telling what he is about — identifying around which everything in his life revolves. What is it? Preaching the Gospel!
(1) Gospel, “euangelion” in Greek, good news in English, would have a lot of resonances to Paul’s audience depending on their cultural background. To the Jews among his audience, the word would have echoes of Is. 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,” referring to the victory of Israel about its liberation from captivity. His Gentile audience from the Graeco-Roman world, would have heard the Emperor’s announcement of a military victory.
After a successful campaign, the Emperor would send evangelists who would carry the good news of a victory in battle. Bringing the two together, Paul is talking about the declaration of a victory which brings with it liberation from captivity. What does that mean for Paul? It means the dying and the rising of Jesus.
On the Cross Jesus faced down the powers of this world, both visible and invisible. He allowed them to wash over him and overwhelm him. But then in the Resurrection, he broke and conquered them. There is no better symbol of the oppressive power of Rome than the Cross. If one gets into its way, that is what they will do to you and they terrified the world. Jesus on the Cross is overwhelmed by the dark powers of the world but in the Resurrection he breaks and relativizes them.
Paul’s message, “I preach nothing but the Cross.” He is holding up high the Cross because a great victory has been won and now we are liberated from the powers. In another passage, he says in Col. 2:15 “The dominions and powers he rubbed of their prey; put them in public display, led them away in triumph.” He is referring something the people of his time would have known: the victory parade of a Roman general in which the leaders of a conquered people would be paraded publicly in chain.
(2) How edgy this is that Christ has won victory over sin, death, evil spirits and now, like a conquering General, he makes a public show of them. I got them in chains; they did not get us in chain. That is the Gospel: a victory that has brought about a liberation.
Clearly this liberating victory is what Paul’s life is all about. It is his obsession, his preoccupation. It is what drives him on and on. Woe to me if I don’t evangelize! Note how outward looking this is! The Church by its very nature evangelizes It goes out to the world with this good news.
Think of Paul from Tarsus, educated in Jerusalem, how small space he was moving about! Once he meets Jesus, he starts moving around the world as fast and as far as the technology of the time could take him. He ended up in Rome but he longed to go as far as Spain! To put this a bit up to date, Francis wants a missionary church rather than a self preferential church.
(3) How does Paul do his evangelizing work? I make myself a slave to all so as to win over for Christ at least some, if not as many as possible. I move in to their space: weak, Jews, Gentiles, like Francis Xavier when he was in India or the Jesuit Mateo Ricci in China.
CONCLUSION: What lessons can we draw from this?
(1) We need to organize ourselves and everything we do across Evangelization. Nothing in our lives is more important than announcing the victory of Jesus.
(2) We should think of others not as objects to be used but rather as masters. What an opportunity for evangelizing.
(3) Father the Pauline instinct: going into their shoes; stooping down to the person you want to evangelize! These are theoretical and practical guides for evangelizing.
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches