Friday, February 06, 2009

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B 2009

The Book of Job, the story of Job’s life, is an Old Testament treatise on the question of evil and suffering.

In a nutshell in the beginning of the story Job was happy. When things were going well he was prosperous and he was faithful.

When he lost what he had, when his fortunes were reversed he became sullen and self absorbed.

Is not man's life on earth a drudgery?

I have been assigned months of misery…

I shall not see happiness again.

Job laments sadly…

Most of his thoughts begin with or contain the pronouns I or me.

This formerly generous and faithful man gets lost in his own suffering and becomes more and more a man misery.

In the Gospel we get a snapshot into the life of Jesus and from the beginning it becomes clear that people in need come to him, they seek him out.

As we read in the Gospel as soon as he entered Peter’s house they immediately told him about his sick mother-in-law. He approached her, he helped her up, and he healed her. Immediately she waited on them.

I think it is important to notice a couple of things in the Gospel.

First Jesus doesn’t simply heal her but he raises her up. He raises her up he raises her beyond her own self interests, her own preoccupations about her health and her illness. She doesn’t get stuck there telling everyone how much she suffered or how sick she was.

One of the commentaries I read pointed out that the verb which was used for “waited on” meant more than just women’s work or serving meals.

From the verb “diakoneo”, we understand that she did not just serve them meals rather she ministered to them, she took care of them.

Once Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and news spreads he has no rest. Many people bring their loved ones to Jesus and he heals them.

Moved by his great compassion he heals them.

When the day is finished he leaves all the excitement and we find him alone and in prayer with the Father.

The disciples are excited when they find him…

because they believe that He and they by association, are a great success “everyone is looking for you”

Jesus understands that he has to refocus his mission for them.

He calls them to move on.

By doing so he tries to help them understand that He did not come to be a doctor or a healer, rather he came to proclaim the Gospel… to found the kingdom of God on earth and to save souls.

What do these two readings teach us. What can we learn from them? How can they touch our lives?

The first thing that pops into my mind is this..

The difference between Job and Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law is noteworthy.

Job is lost in himself. He seems so overcome with his own suffering and misfortune that he can’t escape it. Why me ?Why me ? Why me is his lament.

Yes, he will eventually get it right but in today’s brief passage he is completely self absorbed, lost in himself.

On the other hand once she was healed Peter’s Mother-in-law did not dwell on her sickness, or pain, or suffering she got up and she focused on others, she ministered to them.

How often do we get stuck in the challenges of life?How often do we give our problem and worries and the misfortunes that come our way too much power over us?

How often do they draw us into ourselves.

This is particularly important now in these difficult economic times.

These days the news is filled with stories of people who tragically get lost in their problems and give into despair or people who never loose hope.

They are the Jobs and they are the Mothers-in-law of Peter in our time.

Which one will we be?

Which one do we want to be?

We have the power to face life as we so choose.

Will we put aside our struggles and serve others or will we drown in self pity?

The right answer seems so obvious but frankly many of us choose the wrong one over and over again.

The second point which comes to mind is this.

How do we judge success?

Obviously the apostles and Jesus judged it differently.

Jesus healed those who were sick because he was moved by compassion for them.

He knew they would become sick again and he knew that they would face death. The healing he gave them was but a respite, a moment of peace and well being.

It was not the most precious gift he had to offer them and he knew it.

Jesus never forgot that success of his mission meant salvation not just a moment of physical well being for those he loved for those he served.

Because of his fame and the benefits they saw they could receive being associated with Him, the apostles appear willing to settle.

Thoughts like,We’ve made it, we’ve arrived must have popped into their head.

Jesus knew that his primary mission was not to heal the body but save the soul.

He knew that things like fame and fortune played a very limited role in these noble tasks.

When do we consider ourselves a success?

When do we consider our friends a success?

When would we consider our children a success

and what do we teach them about success?

Is it when everyone is looking for us?

Is it when we or they have power or prestige or influence or money

Or is it when we/they have served others, or been of God’s instrument in the lives of another?

Are we willing to leave the glamour of worldly success behind and be about the business of working for the salvation of those we love, those we know, or those whose path we cross?

Jesus avoided the worldly temptation of success and fame by moving on He chose love over power influence and success.

Do we?

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