His Excellency, Bishop Edward K. Braxton’s sermon from February 4, 2024: “Is everyone Looking For Jesus?”

February 8, 2024 | By His Excellency, Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

“Jesus, everyone is looking for you!” This is what Simon, not yet called Peter, says to Jesus in Capernaum, when he interrupts His morning prayers. Does Mark’s gospel have it right? Is everyone really looking for Jesus? How much time did you or I spend last week looking for Jesus? How much time have world leaders spent looking for Jesus since the start of the horrendous wars in Ukraine and Israel and the growing conflict in the Middle East? How much time are state legislators spending looking for Jesus as the debate what they euphemistically call “reproductive rights”?

While Nazareth was Jesus’ boyhood home, Capernaum was his base as an adult, very possibly at the home of His friends, Simon and Andrew. We can imagine the evenings Jesus spent with them laughing and talking, enjoying a good meal and a glass of wine with Simon’s wife, Simon’s wife’s mother, and Simon’s brother, Andrew. Today’s gospel, Mark, 1, 29-39 tells us that after preaching in the Capernaum Synagogue, Jesus walked the short distance to Simon’s house.

(In modern day Capernaum, you can see the amazing, excavated ruins of a house that archeologists believe is the house of Simon and Andrew, as well as the ruins of the nearby synagogue. Hovering above these ruins is an ingeniously designed modern Franciscan church, paid for by Benito Mussolini, the Fascist Dictator of Italy.)

Now Simon’s wife’s mother is sick with a fever. Jesus, saying nothing, grasps her hand and raises her up. (Of course, for Jesus to touch a woman, who was not His wife, was strictly forbidden by Jewish customs.) When the fever left her, she waited on them. What is Simon’s wife’s’ mother’s name? Where is his wife? Is she dead? Mark does not tell us. But we know from 1 Corinthians 9:5 that Simon Peter’s wife is still alive. Simon is not a widow. His mother in law’s fever could have been life-threatening, since deadly malaria was common in that time and place. That she waited on them, probably serving dinner, is to show her complete recovery. Remember, it is the Sabbath, so Jesus’s act of healing would have been frowned upon by strict observers of Jewish Law.

Some feminist commentators find this story offensive because an unnamed woman, just out of her sick bed, immediately waits on named men. Others argue that Jesus is honoring women by performing his first healing in Mark’s gospel on a woman. (Jesus later honors women by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and healing the woman with a hemorrhage.)

That evening after sunset, marking the end of the Sabbath, large crowds of those who were sick gathered at the door of Simon’s house. Jesus healed them and cast out evil spirits. Rising before dawn, Jesus left Simon’s house and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John pursue Jesus, interrupting his prayer saying, “Everyone is looking for you.” They were anxious to let Him know that even greater crowds had gathered hoping for physical and spiritual healings. They wanted Him to rush back to Simon Peter’s house. “You can pray later Jesus, but right now, there is a crowd of people at my house seeking to be healed. “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus completely ignoring them says, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose, have I come into the world.”

“Jesus, everyone is looking for you!” How different our lives would be, how different our world would be if everyone really was looking for Jesus.

How and why and where should you and I, your family, and St. Therea Parish and school be looking for Jesus? What are the marriage relationships, family relationships, parish, school, and community relationships in need of the healing presence of Jesus? Is everyone looking for Him?

On Friday the United States launched air strikes in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and militias it backs, reportedly killing nearly 40 people, in retaliation for the Sunday, January 28th deadly drone attack on American troops at tower 22 in Jordan killing three Army reserved solders and injuring scores more. These strikes, using long range B 1 bombers from the United States, are, according to the President only phase one of the response to the attack by Iran backed militants. Yesterday, United States struck 30 Houthi targets in Yemen for attacking United States ship in the Red Sea. These strikes intensified a conflict that has spread into the region since war erupted between Israel and Hamas after the militant Palestinian group’s

deadly assault on Israel on Oct 7, murdering 1,200 and taking numerous hostages. Now 26,000 Palestinians are dead. Many around the world are calling for a cease fire. American universities are in turmoil over pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic disputes. Should the United States find itself at war with Iran, it could be an international conflict of catastrophic proportions. In the midst of all of this, is anyone looking for Jesus?

On January 25th the state of Alabama executed Kenneth Smith using nitrogen hypoxia, for the first time as a means of execution over the objections of His Holiness, Pope Francis who has called for the world-wide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment, “Thou shall not kill!” is absolute and is equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent. Many Americans object to the Holy Father’s position saying, “If someone murders my wife or my child, I want them dead! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Who in this debate is looking for Jesus?

The arguments going on in state houses around the country concerning the legality of ending developing human life in the womb under the vailed language of “reproductive health care” and the explosive quarrels concerning human sexuality, gender, identity, and what constitutes a male and what constitutes a female is causing great tension in some families, schools, churches, health care facilities and Government offices. But has this caused many people to go looking for Jesus and his teachings?

There are individuals and groups in this country who argue emphatically that these are complex real-world problems, and it is completely unrealistic to try to apply the idealistic teachings of Jesus Christ to them. But what are the teachings of Jesus for, if they are not to be applied to complex real-world issues? Are the words, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” “Thou shall not kill” simply pious platitudes on a church wall which can have no positive impact on the distressing and depressing events that fill the daily news cycle? Are not the words of Jesus relevant to all Jewish people, Christians, and Muslims?

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

In ten days, on February 14th, the Church will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Hundreds of millions of Christians will receive the ashes of burnt palms on their forehead and hear the sober words, “Remember man, remember woman that thou art dust and unto dust you shall return.” A call to repentance for sin, love of God and neighbor, and spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, commemorating the life giving -sin shattering death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Instead of giving up deserts for Lent, why not give in to the Gospel and pray to the Holy Spirit for faith renewing energy we need to spend time looking for Jesus in every aspect of our personal lives. Pray for the discipline to look for Jesus by coming to mass on time, by not leaving early, by sitting in the front of the church, by listening attentively to the Word of God, by receiving the Eucharist prayerfully and by resuming the custom of praying the weekly family rosary. Pray that, like those needing healing in the gospels, all people everywhere, especially those in positions of national leadership and those with deep

grievances against others will show that the words of Simon Peter really are true, “Jesus, everyone is looking for you!”

Or will Easter Sunday come and the world will see that, in truth, no one is looking for Jesus.

No one is looking for Jesus!

Praised be Jesus Christ. Both now and forever. AMEN!

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