|5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
So as to make ourselves more available to the readings from Sacred Scripture in today’s liturgy, we might picture a man with ulcerous sores lying on his bed with no one around to comfort him in his sufferings. He points up to heaven and occasionally shakes his fist upwards.
Likewise, we may imagine a woman also lying in her bed drenched with perspiration from a fever. There are people standing near her, caringly wiping her face now and then. She too points her finger upwards and extends her hand outwardly for help.
We have two forms of prayer in today’s readings. We can be honest about our complaints and problems which are real. We can pray also to receive healing from these sufferings and worries. The question is whether Job, in the First Reading, is complainingly praying or merely wasting his time feeling sorry for himself. The woman whom Jesus heals waits for healing, though she has something about which to complain.
Job is not praying that his suffering leave him; he is more concerned with himself and turning inward, not for relief, but for self-pitiful comfort.
The “mother-in-law” allows healing to come from outside her and when the healing is received, she responds in generous relatings.
We can pray with something or for something. The real question is what we will do with the suffering and the life given to us after we pray. We can pray these days with our own sufferings, pains and worries. “God gives and God takes away.” Job will eventually come to this realization. What is worth our prayerful consideration is the question about whether God gives us and takes away from us, gifts of health, friends, family and material goods. Does God punish the bad and reward the good? We have much about to pray and much about which to surrender.
I was eight years of age and in the hospital. My father came to visit and told me he and my mother were going to attend a college football game that afternoon. It is a bit embarrassing to be able to remember that far back that at that young age, I felt so sorry for myself that I found myself hoping that it would be raining and cold. I was hoping everybody was as miserable at the game as I was lying in my bed.
Job, in our First Reading begins with such a sweeping, universal judgment about the human condition. Everything seems terrible. After comforting himself with that brief survey of misery, he speaks of his particular misfortune and sadness. He is not hoping that things will be rainy and miserably cold out there, he says they are already and so he can put in his portion to the suffering-stewpot of humankind. Job is building up his case against God and is preparing to meet God in a kind of judicial setting. He has much about which to feel sad. He has lost almost everything; family, house, and physical health.
I remember also in my very early years being scolded and sent to my room. In my early Jobean condition, I could find everything else going bad for me. I wanted everything to be falling apart, everything bad about me and the punishers especially. Misery loves reasons to be miserable. Job has reasons and expects that he will never experience happiness again, because God obviously is against him. Later in the Book of Job God presents verifiable evidence in the great courtroom scene of all time.
Just an interesting sidelight to today’s Gospel. Two weeks ago, we watch Simon Peter leave everything to follow Jesus. Simon returns home accompanied by Jesus. We do not hear anything about how Simon’s wife reacted to Peter’s tardy arrival. Perhaps Jesus healed that relationship as miraculously as he does with his wife’s mother, we’ll never know.
Today, and in the Gospels of the next two Sundays, we see Jesus doing a healing work. There is a slow development of the theme that everything, demons, natural forces, mental and physical illnesses are all subject to his power. This power is not measured, as we know power, but rather expressed in gentle reentering of all life to order and harmony. In this sense, Jesus is the “Reorientor.”
The healed mother-in-law, may have been a real person with a real fever, but the author of this Gospel uses this wonderful story to begin the revelation of Jesus, not as the source of physical wellness, but the “regatherer” or healer of the human family who have gone into feverous disorder. The healing from this sickness, as with the healings and findings of others, is meant to be a raising, a getting us up, an enlivening. As the mother-in-law gets up and begins to wait on them. When the fever left her, she began to return to order in serving.
Job continued feeling sorry for himself and could not move beyond
himself. This is not a terrible thing, but rather normal. When
we are ill or hurting, we tend to enclose ourselves and feel less able
to reach out. Jesus’ healing is from fever, but even more for what
is her life’s mission. Jesus never healed somebody and just told
them to stay right there. As we read on in this story, Jesus moves
onto other nearby villages. This is why he came to find us, heal
us from and raise us. Jesus heals us so that in many ways and places
we will not bring rainy and cold spirits, but extend his bright and warm
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