Fifth Sunday of the Year February 8, 2009

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark l: 29-39
Today’s readings build a relationship between sufferings and their closeness with God. Suffering is part of human life and every person goes through suffering some time or other. Sometimes it can be harsh and at others it can be mild, yet painful. Sufferings in this world have always remained a mystery. We seek to understand why Jesus had to choose the mode of sufferings to bring about the salvation of human kind. With Jesus the answer to human suffering takes on a new dimension. Along with Job we ask the same question why a human being should suffer. But with Job we must realise that we cannot begin to understand the wisdom and justice of God and we are in no position to criticise God’s guidance of the universe. In today’s Gospel Jesus through his preaching and action confronts suffering in a new light. Suffering is not to be endured like the stoics because we can do nothing about it. Nor can we revolt against God for what he has done to us. But the ultimate meaning and value of human sufferings is understood only after death as explained by Jesus or though the death. In this sense sufferings become a source of love.
In the first reading we have Job, that legendary model of long-suffering patience, is speaking of the tiresomeness of life. “Is not a man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? Like the slave, sighing for the shade or the workman with no thought but his wages… Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’ At one time, Job had everything going for him. Blameless and upright, he feared God and turned away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, all riches and possessions so that he was the greatest of all the people of the East. Within a period of time, Job lost everything that he had, his sons and daughters, all his animals and his servants. But amidst this, Job remained faithful to God. Finally he was filled with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Now Job was going through hard times land all deserted him. In all his suffering, Job did not know that he was being tested by God to see if he would remain faithful to the service of the Lord. 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 spiritually in order to try to understand the grace of God at work in our lives.
In today’s Second Reading, Paul shares with us today his own experience. We heard how he remained faithful in the service of the Lord. He says that he does not boast about being a preacher of the Gospel. It was a task given him to do. Nor is he in it for the money. Thinking spiritually, he considered himself a slave who was indebted to Jesus, never being able to repay for the gift of salvation that was promised to him by the grace of God. The fact that he had been chosen by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel was not a reason to boast. It was an obligation as a born again Christian to preach the Word of God in answer to his calling to walk his living faith in Christ. St. Paul viewed his work for the Lord as he being entrusted with a commission. This is like a king who sends his ambassador to a foreign country with a special message. The ambassador receives a commission that must be fulfilled. Having received freely, he gave freely, counting on the Lord God to reward him at the end of his worldly journey.
The Gospel reading of today presents us the typical day in the life of Jesus. He taught, preached, worked miracles and prayed. Last Sunday we saw his teaching and preaching. Now he does healing and praying. The Evangelist tells us that this was his routine. Jesus was at work using his energies to bring healing and wholeness into the lives of people. The difference comes from a totally different approach: Jesus is there to serve, to give, to share. He is not seeking any reward or any appreciation. Rather he wants to do the healing and he does it to the full. In other words we see Jesus as a Man for Others. Here we see how Jesus served the Heavenly Father in answering His Divine Commission to announce that the Kingdom of God on earth was coming. As a proof of His Divinity, Jesus performed numerous miracles. They tell him that Peter’s mother-in-law had fever and he heals her. Once cured, Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus and those who were present. To be healed and to be whole is to join once more in the shared work of building up the community through ones service. And, in the Gospel, service is love in action to which all are invited and we in a special way.
Jesus made Himself available to all those in need who accepted Him as the Son of God. We also hear that at sundown, the people of the town gathered around the place where Jesus was present. The people brought the sick and those who were possessed with demons to Jesus to be healed. And Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He had the time and good will for all. But the Gospel adds something more; they say that while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place where He prayed. It is there he retires up into the hills to spend his time with the Father. It looks like his routine time table to spend his time in prayer. There he spends his time conversing with his Father, and gets the necessary strength to continue his mission. He needed the closeness of the Father. He is aware that He cannot give to others what he does not have himself and he gets his strength from his Father. Consequently, Simon and his companions went out looking for Him. They tell him of his popularity and how people seek for him. But Jesus chooses quietness and privacy and wants to be elsewhere where his services will be needed. It seems as if it reechoes Jesus’ own words, “I have come not to serve but be served.” He does not accept their suggestion that he go back to where he was so successful. He simply wants to be where the real needs of people are.
This is a life of meaning that Jesus lived. He is a man for all. He lives a life where there is time for prayer, reflection and coming closer to God; where there is time for sharing with others in word and action; where there is time for building and healing and reconciling. We ask the grace that we may be faithful to this calling we have received to fulfill the mission of Jesus. We too are called to serve, to heal and to soothe the wounds of others. We have the noble task of reducing the suffering in this world. We ask the grace from Jesus that we may be healers like him and be prayerful as he is and remain close to the Father.

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