by Father Alonzo Q. Cox
EVERY THIRD TUESDAY of the month, I celebrate Mass at Concord Nursing Home in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The Missionaries of Charity Sisters, who live in the convent, arranged for this Mass to be celebrated each month. The residents of the nursing home look forward to this Mass, but most especially seeing the sisters.
I am always filled with joy and gratitude when I see the interaction of the sisters with the residents, many of whom are very sick. One of the residents is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to speak. She is able to gesture with her hands, but unfortunately there is no other sign of communication with her. Each month the staff of the nursing home will wheel her to the front of the altar for Mass where she is able to see what is happening.
Just last month as we concluded Mass, one of the sisters went over to the wheelchair bound resident and gently touched her hand and caressed her face, and immediately tears began to flow from her eyes.
At that moment, I saw with my own eyes the hand of Christ Jesus touch the hand of this resident. It was the most beautiful encounter with the Lord that I have ever seen and it was just a simple touch!
No Words Necessary
We hear in today’s Gospel of how Jesus touches and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. What I find so beautiful about this particular encounter, as I did at the nursing home, is that Jesus heals and consoles with a simple touch, a grasp of the hand. Jesus doesn’t use words at all, He just took her by the hand. In the midst of all our infirmities, Jesus continues to heal and console, just by taking us by the hand.
As witnesses of the risen Lord, we are called to bring the healing love and mercy of Christ to all of our brothers and sisters. St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that each of us are called to preach the Gospel not by boasting or using verbiage, but by example. St. Paul says to us, “If I preach the gospel, this 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!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Instruments of Love
As heralds of the Gospel, each of us is called to bring the Good News to all of God’s people. We don’t need to use words. All we need to do is live out the words we hear our Lord proclaim. We don’t need to be ordained ministers or consecrated religious to preach the Gospel. That task is given to all of the baptized. We are instruments of Christ’s love, as we reach out our own hands to touch those in dire need of the Lord’s love.
Just as Jesus told Simon and those with him, He tells us today: let us go out and preach to all nations, proclaiming the greatness of the Lord. Let us continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus who strengthens and guides us and who truly heals the brokenhearted.
Readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Psalm 147: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
Mark 1: 29-39
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the diocesan coordinator of ministry to African-American Catholics.