5th Sunday O T Year – B – 2015
Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor.9:16-19, 22-23; Mk.1:29-39
There is the funny story about a woman listening to her pastor preach a Sunday morning homily about Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, ill with a fever. Since it was a boring homily the woman left the Church after the Mass, feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Consequently, she decided to go to Church again that day, out in the country where she had grown up.
When she arrived, she discovered to her dismay that her pastor had been invited to be the substitute priest and again, during the Mass he preached on the Gospel of the day about Peter’s mother-in-law being ill with a fever. Believing that there was still time to redeem the day, the woman decided to go to the hospital chapel in the evening.
As you may have guessed, her pastor was assigned to say the evening Mass there and he preached the same homily on Peter’s mother-in-law and her fever. Next morning, the woman was on a bus riding to downtown and wonder of wonders, her pastor boarded that bus and sat down beside her. An ambulance raced by with sirens roaring. In order to make conversation, the pastor said, “Well, I wonder who it is?” “It must certainly be Peter’s mother-in-law,” she replied. “She was sick all day yesterday.”
Today’s readings challenge us to avoid Job’s pessimistic and cynical view of life as a chain of pain and sufferings. We need to accept the pain and suffering with hope and optimism as a precious gift from God. We need to use them to do good for others and spending our time, talents and lives for others as Jesus did and as St. Paul did.
The readings today challenge us to go courageously beyond people’s expectations by doing good as Jesus did, instead of brooding over all the pain and suffering in the world that we cannot end. They invite us to explore the importance of work in our lives and to learn a lesson in work ethics from Job, Paul and Jesus.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” One such person comes to us this morning in today’s first reading. He name is Job. I’m sure most of you are familiar with his story that comes to us from the Old Testament. We enter his story today finding Job as a successful businessman, enjoying good health, some considerable wealth, at the peak of happiness, surrounded by a loving family, and married to a good wife.
But good fortune is like the wind. Suddenly everything changes. Savage bandits slaughter his servants and steal his flocks. A dreadful desert storm takes the lives of all his children. Under terrible pressure and stress his health fails and his entire body is covered with painful sores, the physical consequences, no doubt, of unendurable inner pain. In the end, his beloved wife tells him to “curse God and die.” And we know the reaction of his friends?
“Well,” they tell him, “God is punishing you for some horrible secret sins in your life.” We hear similar judgments in our own day when misfortune befalls people. But while most of us have not suffered to the extent Job suffered, most of us have experienced what was sent forth in today’s first reading — never-ending sleepless nights filled with fear, anxiety, guilt, and self-punishment. Some have felt tempted to literally curse God and die. Many have cursed the Church and died.
Many who have greatly suffered have likewise faced the temptation to curse heaven, blame God, and then resolve to die in nothingness. Modern psychology teaches us that it is only our totally free actions that bring us real fulfillment in life. If our life is filled with drudgery and our days are without hope, it may be because we have never dared go beyond the security of other people’s approval and acceptance.
Jesus shows us that we can reach perfection only by allowing the risk of suffering into our lives, and submitting ourselves to God’ Wisdom and His loving Will in all things. Jesus had no interest in being the center of attraction, of being popular, of being “successful.” He simply wanted to be where he could tend to the needs of the people.
He came to bring spiritual salvation and blessing to all people. That is why, for the remaining two years of his life, he went from town to town preaching the kingdom of God. He used his energies to bring healing and wholeness into the lives of the people. Jesus’ purpose was to teach, to serve, to give, and to share.
Three men were pouring into a large container a mixture of water, sand, lime and other ingredients. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first said, “I am making mortar.” The second said, “I am laying bricks.” But the third said, “I am building a cathedral.” They were doing the same thing, but each looked at it differently. And what a difference that made! What a difference in their attitudes?
Today’s readings reflect those differences. Poor Job says that life is hopeless. Most people can identify with Job. St. Paul takes a different approach. Few people worked as hard as him or went through so many trails. Yet he says this about his works: “I do so willingly; I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”
Today’s gospel presents a fascinating example of stewardship through St Peter’s mother-in-law. She was in bed, sick, when her son-in-law brought Jesus as an unexpected guest. Jesus went to her bedside, took her hand and she sat up. The fever went away and she waited on them. As someone says, “To serve is hard work and often, humbling but being a servant of Christ is Joy.”
We have to remember, we are not simply mixing mortar. We are building a cathedral. We do not give time and money grudgingly; we are building the body of Christ, because we have been entrusted with a stewardship. It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.
Bringing healing and wholeness is Jesus’ ministry even today, He continues it through the Church and through the Christians. In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the Church prays for spiritual and physical healing, forgiveness of sins, and comfort for those who are suffering from illness. We all need the healing of our minds, our memories and our broken relationships.
Jesus now uses counselors, doctors, friends or even strangers in His healing ministry. Let us look at today’s Gospel and identify with the mother-in-law of Peter. Let us ask for the ordinary healing we need in our own lives. When we are healed, let us not forget to thank Jesus for his goodness, mercy, and compassion toward us by our own turning to serve others.
Our own healing process is completed only when we are ready to help others in their needs and to focus on things outside ourselves. Let us also be instruments for the exercise of Jesus’ healing power by visiting the sick and praying for their healing. But let us remember that we need the Lord’s strength, not only to make ourselves and others well, but to make ourselves and others whole. Amen.