5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Job 7: 1-4, 6-7

In this reading, Job is answering his friends who say he is suffering because of his sin.  What do you make of his words?  What dialogue do you have with God concerning suffering?

The Book of Job explores but does not resolve the fact of suffering. With Job, we see the dark and seamy side of suffering – and Job rails against the injustice of innocent suffering. His ‘friends’ are telling him that his sufferings must be a direct punishment for sin. Job vehemently disagrees. This passage is one of his lengthy, descriptive laments. In the end, after a series of intense, poetic exchanges with God, Job accepts that his suffering cannot be explained away or completely understood. His ‘friends’ are wrong; God harshly corrects them.  As the book ends and Job is restored, suffering is still seen as an intrinsic part of the gift of human life. Job learns to accept what he cannot understand and to trust in the inscrutable wisdom of God. (Preaching Resources, Feb. 9, 2003)

The mystery of pain…Why does God allow it to happen?  There is no satisfactory answer to that question.  But as Christians, we believe that violence, suffering and death are never the last word.  We have hope.  We do not have a God who is removed from our sufferings; ours is a God who has lived a human life and knows suffering.  There may not be answers that will satisfy, but for the believer there is God, who is sorrowful with us, who offers us eternal life, and who moves us, through our hearts, to build a more loving and compassionate society.  (Fr. James Martin in the New York Daily News after the Newtown school shootings)

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22-23

This is the cost of discipleship.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate,

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

From Bonhoeffer who wrote The Cost of Discipleship:

“…what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what would Jesus Christ himself wants of us.”  (p. 37)

“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.”  (p. 60)

“He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible.”  (p. 67)

The Gospel – Mark 1: 29-39

Before this passage, Mark tells of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and casting out demons (last Sunday’s gospel), and then the day goes on with this reading –Mark is presenting dramatically a ‘typical’ day in the life of Jesus who is intent upon proclaiming and ‘preaching’ God’s Kingdom.  What do we see of God’s kingdom here?

John Pilch points out that in Jesus’ culture Peter’s mother-in-law should have been living in her husband’s family home – or — if he was dead, then, she would be with one of her sons. The fact that she is in Peter’s house suggests that she may have no other living family members to take care of her. This woman may have known a lot more sorrow than just this fever. When Jesus touches her, she rises up with energy and purpose in her life. Jesus seemed to have helped her regain her meaning in life. This was beautifully expressed by her eager service.  What do you see in her story?

From Celebrations, Feb., 2003:

Comfortable Christianity is an oxymoron.  We like to imagine those in a deep relationship to God to be peace-filled . . . But to be honest, the most ‘responsive,’ committed Christians . . . are often ‘driven,’ compelled –with at least some measure of agitation and turmoil . . .the calling [from God] deep within – if heeded – is almost guaranteed to increase sensitivity to the demands that abundantly present themselves!  There are always more hungry mouths to feed, more injustices to deal with, more violence to be overcome, more broken hearts to be healed . . .Yet “while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”  It was from that quiet place that he moved on . . .

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