SUNDAY, FIFTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
First Reading: Job 7:1-4, 6-7 Job is wrestling with the problem of why the innocent should suffer. As a result of his own sufferings he takes a rather pessimistic view of live.
Second Reading: 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 St Paul tells how he has made himself all things to all people in order to bring them the Good News of salvation.
Gospel: Mk 1: 29-39 In the midst of all his activities of teaching and healing Christ finds it necessary to escape to a lonely place to pray.
SCHOOLED IN SUFFERING
Sickness with its accompanying suffering poses a problem for people of all times from the beginning of human history. In the Near East, they considered sickness as a scourge caused by the evil spirits or sent by the gods who have been angered by a cultic fault. To obtain a cure, they practiced exorcisms intended to get rid of the evil spirits, and they implored the gods for pardon by supplications and sacrifices. Even today, we find this type of religiosity in most of the religions.
The first part of Jesus’ public ministry, as is reported in the Gospel of Mark, is centered upon the town of Capernaum. Jesus’ words and actions overpower evil and its forces. Jesus announced the good news through his words and deeds; adding to it, he proved his divine authority by curing the sick and the suffering. Throughout his ministry, Jesus came across sick people who came to him for a cure. He saw it as an evil, a consequence of sin, a sign of the power of Satan over men (cf. Lk 13:16). He felt pity for them because of it and this pity brought forth a desire to cure them.
The liturgy of the day invites us to reflect on why we suffer and who it is that can cure us completely. The first reading, which is a passage from the book of Job, invites us to reflect on the problem of suffering, especially the suffering of the innocent. Why should we suffer, especially when we are innocent? Job complains to God about his suffering; but when God responds, Job realizes his folly in complaining about a reality that has no easy answers; the only and surest answer is trusting in the love of God despite not understanding his ways and praying persistently for grace and strength.
Human life, from birth to death, has its share of sufferings; there is no end nor limit to them. Children suffer, grown-ups suffer, parents suffer, the rich suffer, the poor suffer; everyone suffers. This is very evident in these present days throughout the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences. We cannot understand the purpose behind all of it. In other words, we are, in a way, in the situation Job found himself.
In today’s gospel we see that Jesus announced the good news everywhere – in synagogues, in the houses of people, and in open fields – accompanied by deeds of healing. We do not read of a single person who asked Jesus to be cured and was refused the favour. It is also true that Jesus, during his preaching, cured many who were sick. Yet, he did not take away all sickness and suffering from the world. He did not come for that. Instead, he came to help us understand that sickness patiently borne can yield the precious fruit of holiness, and consequently, salvation. Jesus cured the sick in order to lead them to a life of faith, and those who witnessed his wonders, developed faith in him. By healing the people, he was fulfilling what the prophets had announced regarding the messianic signs.
For a non–Christian, suffering will always remain a mystery. In times of trial, people deprived of knowledge and faith in God’s love for them, will express themselves with as much pessimism as Job did, as seen in the first reading. But for us believers, the mystery of the incarnation has cast a bright light over the problem of suffering. To teach people how to embrace the reality of suffering, Jesus did not make use of long discourses but taught us through his own example. Through his passion and death, he opened the door to salvation; hence, our own sickness and suffering, if embraced in obedience to God’s will, can be a means of our redemption by uniting us with the suffering of Christ. We are called to help lessen the suffering of the world, while striving ourselves to embrace the sufferings that God permits in our life. This is the Christian way. This is the way of Christ.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 147: 1-6 Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.
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