Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Job 7:1-4; 6-7; 1 Cor. 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39

Mystery of human suffering, brokenness, God’s compassion and healing are some of the words that help us capture the central message of this Sunday. The readings proclaim God’s healing power in Christ, who heals our brokenness and restore us to wholeness. The First Reading on the story of Job leads us to reflect on the drama and mystery of human suffering. It raises the question of suffering and its relationship to our faith and trust in a God who cares for all people. As this story unveils, we realize that human suffering and misery have always remained a mystery. During the past years of economic crisis, we have heard of many stories of people who have been affected so much that they preferred to leave this world. There are families that have lost everything and experienced one misfortune after another, just like Job. We have people in our families who have suffered enormously to extend that we ask: why does God allows such suffering. Job is an upright man, whose earthly goods, his wife, family and health are completely wiped away in a short time. It is not surprising that Job is depressed, confused and even questions God. He doubts the worth of living in his condition. Job like many people who have suffered enormously, sees no hope beyond this life, and thus wrestles with the meaning of human suffering. But in the face of all this, Job in the end remains faithful to God. In all his suffering, Job did not know that he was being tested by God to see if he would remain faithful. He did not know that Satan was challenging God regarding his loyalty. Here we have a lesson for each and every one of us. No matter what happens in life, we should always think positively in order to try to understand the grace of God at work in our lives. As Christians, we believe that God knows our suffering and cares for us.

The Gospel passage centres on healing by Jesus. It also reveals a sharp contrast between Job’s sorrowful, worrisome day and sleepless night; and Jesus’ day spent in doing good for others, concluding in a peaceful night and welcoming the dawn as it were absolved in prayer. Jesus starts the day at the home of Peter's mother-in-law who had fever and then continues healing the whole evening. The healing itself was not the main point. Rather it was a symbol, a sign of restoring people to health, to integrity of mind and body, so that they could enjoy the fullness of life as they serve God, which is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God. Thus, Jesus' teaching and healing, point to the Kingdom of God. At the end of the day's healing ministry, Jesus was tired. But we hear that early in the morning "he went off to a lonely place and prayed there". We are reminded of the temptation of keeping ourselves so busy that we neglect prayer in the end. We forget for whom we are working - God. Without prayer we would soon run out of steam, because that is where we must go to regain our daily energy. It is in prayer that we deepen our relationship with the Lord and focus more on the meaning and purpose of what we are doing. Early in the morning, we too must go off to a lonely place and pray. We must find quiet time to be alone with Christ, so that Christ may speak to us in the silent hours of the morning, and give us more energy to face the day. The central message may be summed up in three points. 1) The readings underline God’s healing power in Christ, who heals our brokenness and binds up our wounds; 2) Just as in all his suffering Job remained faithful to God, we too are challenged to remain faithful no matter what happens to us; despite our suffering or humiliation, knowing that Jesus will grasp our hand and lift us up. 3) The Gospel reminds us that having been healed of our brokenness, we too become instruments of healing for others. The Gospel therefore calls us to be instruments of healing, of God’s loving mercy and compassion in a broken world around us: in our own families and neighborhoods.

©2012 John S. Mbinda

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