"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "
FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME(B) FEBRUARY 4, 2018
Job 7: 1-4;6-7; I Cor. 9: 16-19; 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39
by Jude Siciliano, OP
The reading from Job gives the preacher an opportunity to discuss the mystery of suffering in our lives. It is a mystery and not a problem to be "solved," but it certainly is a subject well worth struggling with and one that will find, I think, eager hearers.
The Book of Job raises the question of innocent suffering. Satan, present in the Almighty's court, is given permission to afflict Job. We know the story of Job's loss of family, riches and his physical afflictions. His name has become synonymous with suffering. Remember, he is an innocent person. When his "comforters" come to tell him the stock answers that he, or his predecessors, must have sinned and thus God is not inflicting punishment on the innocent, Job rejects this often-thought opinion. The passage we have today states that we do suffer and that there is no satisfactory answer for this suffering. It seems, Job says, that life is a meaningless cycle of misery. Let's stop here with this harsh sounding description of life. For those of us who suffer, Job is expressing what we feel, what seems to be the human condition. He is voicing a complaint, or in biblical terms, a lament.
The preacher might reflect on this traditional prayer form – lamentation. A friend lost his beloved sister under tragic circumstances and said, "I prayed and complained to God for letting this happen." Many are afraid to "offend" God by voicing such a complaint. Maybe we feel like complaining to God, yet have been told, like Job, that we shouldn't and so we say nothing and carry our pain and feeling of rejection unvoiced . The death of good people and the suffering of innocent children is a scandal to all of us. (The preacher might list some current examples.) Whether personal examples, or those we witness on the evening news come to mind, we certainly have plenty of examples of good people suffering. Even those who seem comfortable and not suffering physical pain, still know the pain of emotional suffering. We all shed the same tears, we all are linked by our human condition of suffering at one time or another in our lives.
Is Job despairing or lamenting? His prayer is a Lamentation, a complaint of a faithful person to God. It is a prayer of great faith for it expresses belief in the One who is listening. It says that we are not alone as we cry out of the abyss, that our words do not fall on deaf ears. Job does not get a full answer from God in this book, but he does learn that God is not deaf and hears the complaint of this pained and trusting servant who will not accept simple answers about suffering. He speaks boldly to God in this book; it is a prayer of truth, a prayer of courage and a prayer of trust. For some of us it may be the only prayer we can pray at this time. It is better than silence, better than turning away from our God.
God doesn't cause cancer, accidents and the suffering of innocent people. Rather, the Gospel in its entirety, shows Jesus lightening our burdens. Jesus shares our life and knows how burdensome it can become. Many think suffering is the result of our sins. Certainly much suffering is caused by our sin. We don't suffer because we have sinned, but sin certainly is at the heart of a lot of our suffering – there is racism, greed, lust, thirst for power, etc. We wonder why God doesn't prevent the suffering in the world. Facing this imponderable, a survey of Catholics I read says that, despite the suffering they experience, they still believe in God's love for them.
In today's Gospel, Jesus is shown healing, first Peter's mother-in-law, and then those brought to him at sundown. Notice that after he cures the woman, she gets up to serve. Mark is hinting that she becomes a disciple and that the process of discipleship is first the healing encounter with Jesus that enables service in his name. We, the church, the followers of Jesus, must recognize our responsibility to stop suffering as much as we can. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is a sign of God's desire to deal with suffering. We do not deny the presence of suffering and the tragic in our lives, in fact, we do what we can to overcome it. But while Jesus deals with suffering and cures illnesses in these stories, he doesn't eliminate all pain from the world; somehow we deal with that suffering and its causes as we can, and are left with the awesome mystery of what remains.
We look at this Gospel of Mark in its entirety and notice that Jesus is constantly going somewhere. Today he says to Simon and his companions, "Let us move on...." His journey will take him to Jerusalem where he will share totally in our fate of suffering and death. But the story does not end there, it continues, after a waiting period, to the Resurrection. The Resurrection is hinted at in Jesus' cure of the mother-in-law, for the phrase "helped her up," is better translated, "raised her up" and this links this cure to the real completion of the mystery of suffering.
Maybe we can't answer the questions raised by suffering in our world. Though, like Jesus the Word made flesh, we can be there with those in grief – stand with them, suffer with them and, when possible, do what we can to alleviate their pain. Our faith in Jesus, the one whom Mark promises will be more powerful, and will baptize us with the Holy Spirit, will strengthen us in this task of solidarity with those who suffer. The Eucharist we celebrate today, remember it is broken bread, reminds us that Jesus is here with us in our pain, helping us not to lose hope.
Perhaps suffering only finds final meaning in the redemptive and healing mystery of Christ's own death. His innocent suffering and death have put new meaning on our own. His suffering for the sake of others has a redeeming aspect to it and this is an even more profound mystery! In his own life, Jesus, like us, was repelled when he was confronted by suffering and death. He is steadfast though, and continues to trust in God through it all. He will continue to pray to God, trust and walk forward to Jerusalem, showing us the path as he goes. We walk with him and he with us...we shed the same tears.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
|The cure of Peter’s mother-in-law
is the prelude to a demonstration of Jesus’ power over all forms of
sickness and possession. There is a striking contrast between the
public performance and that which takes place in the house in the
presence of those already called to follow. In this latter instance
Jesus takes the woman by the hand and "raises her up," an
anticipated sharing of his resurrection power, to which she responds
by ministering to him as the first deaconess of the church. The
people outside on the other hand are excited and involved, but there
is no indication of understanding or willingness to serve.
----Sean Freyne, in SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION COMMENTARY 7: MARK AND MATTHEW (Chicago: ACTA Foundation, 1971, pahge30)
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
In this month that is set aside for Black History or African American History, it is important to understand the following points: race is a modern idea as ancient societies did not divide people by physical distinctions; race has no genetic basis and human subspecies do not exist; skin color is only skin deep and does not tell you anything else about the person; race is not biological but racism is real. Understanding racism is essential if it is ever going to be ended. In his book, Rising to Common Ground: Overcoming America’s Color Lines (Sowers, 2006), Danny Duncan Collum defines racism as "prejudice coupled with power for the purpose of domination" and finds its roots in white supremacism during the "Age of Discovery" when the powers of Europe began building global empires. Racism destroys lives made in the image and likeness of God.
Almost 40 years ago, the Bishops of the United States wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism. Among the many things, they discussed was the fact that "Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father." This past August, the USCCB announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Chairman of the committee, Bishop George V. Murry, states, "Through Jesus' example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I'm hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society." Pope Francis provides some guidelines in an earlier statement (10/28/14), "We must put human dignity again at the center and on that pillar build the alternative social structures we need. It must be done with courage, but also with intelligence, with tenacity but without fanaticism, with passion but without violence. And among us all, addressing the conflicts without being trapped in them, always seeking to resolve the tensions to reach a higher plane of unity, peace and justice."
The question--"Do we understand the inherent dignity of every human being?"--is a good place to begin.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Jesus about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Jesus is no longer trapped by the limits of time and place. He comes over to us now at this eucharistic celebration. He extends a hand, as he did for Simon’s mother-in-law, to raise us up from what would press us down and to help us go further on our journey with him.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
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Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736