To read the texts click on the texts:Jb 7:1-4; 1Cor 9:16-19; Mk 1:29-39
The name “Job” conjures up images of suffering and sometimes, of unjust suffering. The text of today explains why this is so. Although he seems to address his friends, Job is really speaking to God. The main thrust of his address is that, at most times, life seems an unbearable burden laid upon many of us. We wonder whether there is really a God who cares about what happens to us. We struggle and drag ourselves through life and gain nothing. There seems to be no escape from this drudgery. It is a fragile life, a life that is bound, inescapably, with death.
Anyone who has experienced such intense alienation knows how useless any talk of God’s goodness can be. The cheerful hymns of assurance, and the word of God, appear sometimes intentionally blind to all the pain in the world. The benign image of God they project is difficult to fathom or comprehend in the midst of the turmoil, trials, and tribulations of life. At such times, it is not surprising that one wants to revolt against God who seems to unconcerned about the sufferings of his people. He seems totally unaware of the hardships that his people undergo; he comes across as a God “up there”.
At such times, it takes both faith and courage to believe that God does indeed heal the broken-hearted and bind up the wounds of those in need. It takes both faith and courage to believe that God really cares.
However, even a glance into the mystery of the incarnation changes our perspective tremendously. It makes us look at God anew. It makes us review all the negatives that we may think of God, because in Jesus, God has given the answer to all of life’s questions. In Jesus, God has shown that he, himself, has gone through every trial and tribulation of life. In Jesus, God has revealed that he is not a God “up there” but very much a God who “walks with us”, a God who is Emmanuel, God with us, and for us.
This is evident in the Gospel text of today. As soon as Jesus is told of the illness of Simon’s mother-in-law, he heals her. Many others who were sick and possessed were also brought to him; he healed them all. He brought healing, with a gentle touch and, with words of power. Jesus could sympathize with our burdens, because they were his as well. It was for the purpose of lessening human burdens that he went about preaching and driving out demons.
Yet, there are times when we might be tempted to wonder why, if he was so powerful, he allowed suffering to take hold in the first place. Why were people afflicted with disease or, possessed by demons? Why were people born blind, or lame, or deaf and mute? Why do innocent children, even today, bloat from malnutrition? Why do these innocents not have enough to eat? Why do we continue to destroy each other, and nature itself, with our aggression and hostility? Why have we, like Job, been assigned months of misery?
Questions like these have never really been satisfactorily answered. Instead of telling us why, Jesus shows us how. Without denying our own need for comfort, he directs our gaze toward the needs of others. How are we to deal with the tragedies of life? We are to approach those who suffer, grasp their hands, and help them. We are to heal the broken-hearted, and bind up their wounds. We are to accept responsibility for our own brokenness, and the brokenness of the world, and do all that we can to make it whole. We have to realize that we are the ones who are called to continue the work of Jesus today. We are called, like Jesus, to realize that the world we live in is our world and that every human being is a brother or a sister. We are not to lament, like Job, because this will take us nowhere. We must, instead, ask ourselves serious questions. Will we continue to allow children to starve? Will we allow hate and indifference to rule the world? Will we allow division and misunderstanding to have the upper hand? Will we continue to be intolerant because someone has a different point of view, or call God by a different name? Will we keep destroying ourselves and destroying nature with our selfishness and desire to have more? We are, instead, to be proactive and positive, like Jesus.
Paul learned this lesson well. Following the example of Jesus, he offered himself in service of others, becoming all things to all people. His sole aim was to spread the message of the good news, that in Jesus Christ, God continued to reconcile the world to himself. It did not matter how far human beings tried to go from God. It did not matter how alienated they became from each other and from nature. God would make every attempt to win them back. He showed this, once for all, and in the most decisive of ways, when he sent his son. He continues to show it now, if we but open our hearts to see.