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?
“Without reading too much into words spoken by Job out of the depths of his grief, it is worth noting that neither Job nor his visitors invoke the possibility of life after death in a better place than this world as a source of consolation. Sheol is not Heaven (or Hell). It is the repository for “used souls’” since presumably our souls are not subject to physical destruction the way our bodies are. But [the understanding at the time of Job] our souls do not seem to retain anything of our memories or personality. For the biblical Israelite, dead is dead…”. The Book of Job seems to teach us, “It’s not all about you. If at times God’s world causes us grief, from plagues killing thousands to snowstorms ravaging a city, that is a consequence, not a punishment. It was not done with us in mind. The task of religion is not to explain why the water is bitter or to justify its bitterness, but to sweeten it to slake our thirst, not to help us understand the cause of our misfortune but to help us cope with it, (The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person, H. Kushner, p. 59, 186-187).
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)
From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 84: We can never attain to any kind of evangelism or friendship without speaking the same language and thinking the same thoughts as the other man. So long as we patronize people and make no effort to understand them, we can never get anywhere with them. Paul, the master missionary, who won more for Christ than any other, saw how essential it was to become all things to all . One of the greatest necessitites is to learn the art of getting alongside people; and the trouble so often is that we do not even try.
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?
Jesus’ healing power was not only an historical reality – people were healed, meaning was renewed in their lives, and they were restored to community – but it was also symbolic action. Jesus’ healing miracles spoke to the religious and political conditions of the day; but they spoke in action, not words. To the Hebrew mind-set, miracles were not “proofs” of God’s sovereignty. God created the world and could intervene in it if God so chose. God’s lordship over the world is not proven through miracles; miracles simply recognize the lordship that is already present. (M. Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 481).
“I’m living in a broken world, and there is holy work to do.” Rabbi Ronnie Cahana