5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (3a)
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
February 4, 2018
Jesus helped many people. He healed Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever. “He cured many who were sick with various diseases and he drove out many demons,” but is this the purpose for which he has come?
Our responsorial verse today speaks of a different kind of healing. The verse calls us to “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.”
On the surface we face fevers and other illnesses. We fail in the battle of temptation from evil spirits and need healing of our sins. In his mercy, Jesus offers us healing but it isn’t always physical healing. Jesus is most concerned with what is going in our hearts and our souls. He wants to heal our broken hearts.
In our first reading today, we hear just six verses from the Book of Job. To appreciate what is said in these verses we need to know the whole story that is told in about thirty pages in the Book of Job.
In the six verses we hear today Job speaks of our lives as a “drudgery”. He speaks of having been “assigned months of misery and troubled nights.” As Job spoke these words, his life was not going well. He had lost everything, his family, his wealth, and his health. To lose something means we must first have something.
As the Book of Job begins, Job is a wealthy man. He has a huge farm and livestock and a great family. He is praised for his faith. The devil comes to tempt him, arguing that Job’s faith only appears strong because he has so much. The devil believes that if Job were to lose everything, he would abandon his faith.
So, the devil strikes against Job and everything is lost. At first, Job remains very strong in his faith. His friends think he must have sinned in some way to be punished so harshly. Job tells them he had not sinned but they won’t believe him.
As Job continues to suffer, he questions what is going on. He seeks an answering as to why he is suffering. This shouldn’t surprise us. Don’t we do the same thing? If we must suffer (and we don’t want to! We think we shouldn’t have to!), then we want to know why.
Some will say we must suffer because we are made stronger by our suffering. I absolutely believe this can be true. It is in suffering that we find out what our faith really means to us.
As Job goes on to question God, God responds by reminding Job of all God has done since the creation of the world. Reminded of God’s greatness, Job realizes he can’t expect to understand all that happens but he can trust in God.
For the atheist, this might sound like we are given God an out. They want proof! They can’t accept the fact that God would allow suffering. If God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful, he would get rid of evil.
Their line of thinking is based on the premise that all suffering is bad and must be ended. Our faith gives us a different perspective. We see a divine purpose in Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. If Jesus had not gone through his Passion, we would still owe a penalty for our sins. In his Passion, Jesus suffered for us.
Do we make ourselves slaves to our suffering?
Paul tells the Corinthians, “Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all.” What does Paul mean by “free” and “slave”?
Paul is free from suffering but not in the way we might wish. He still faces suffering. He is put on trial multiple times for his faith. They try to stone him at times. Paul suffers but he does not let the suffering control him or his life. In faith, he knows if he dies, he will go to be with Jesus (and that’s what he wants) and if he lives, he gets to continue to proclaim the gospel so that more people will believe. He accepts either as God’s divine will.
If this is what it means to be free, what does Paul mean when he says he has made himself “a slave to all”?
He is willing to give his life to serve all. Paul goes on to say, “I have become all things to all.” This verse troubles me personally because it leads me to think about all the things I can’t do. But Paul does not say he does all things himself. He had co-disciples. We know he specifically appointed Timothy and Titus to be bishops in communities he founded. What he did do was to try and meet everyone where they were at to be able “to save at least some.”
We don’t like suffering. I don’t think we should ever seek suffering. Some suffering shouldn’t happen. Suffering can happen because people choose to do evil but not all suffering comes from evil. People are still suffering from the Hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico last Fall. I don’t believe that someone did something evil to cause those hurricanes.
What about the wildfires? Some may have been intentionally set but many are accidents which we need to avoid but are not evil.
Sometimes we cause our own suffering. For my mother, in her final years, she complained about her emphysema and lung cancer. She smoked for years, which lead to the illnesses. At least she had a cause. Others get cancer without ever knowing why.
What makes us Christian is not whether we suffer or not. Our faith is revealed not in the amount we suffer but in our response to the suffering. Giving into the suffering says the suffering is stronger than God. In keeping our faith and being the stronger for it proves that God is present and helping us through whatever comes our way.