Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In order to help and increase our spirituality and for a better understanding of the problem of pain and suffering, God has given the Book of Job[1].

The Book of Job is framed around a story of trauma and reward. Job was a prosperous man with the perfect family. Then everything went wrong. One day he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. And if all this was not enough, even too much, then Job was plagued with sores all through his body. Through most of the Book of Job he sits in ashes suffering all these pains, and considering suffering. At the end of the Book of Job, God rewards his for continuing his faith in Him.

However, it is the forty chapter between the terrors that attack Job and the happy ending that are really important to us today. Job and his so called friends ask the same questions we all ask when besieged with problems. This is particularly evident in today's first reading. I have been assigned months of misery....My days come to an end without hope....I shall not see happiness again. Job's own wife tells him to curse God and die. He cannot explain why these terrible things have happened to him. But through it all, the turmoil, the doubting, the pain, the loss, Job keeps faith in God. He knows that God is there, somewhere. His faith is rewarded by recognizing the presence of God in the midst of the pain.

Job is an ancient biblical type of Jesus, confronted with the pain and suffering of mankind in today's gospel and with his own personal impending suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary. Jesus's total sacrifice of himself for his people and for God's Kingdom results in his feeling completely abandoned. My God, my God, why have your forsaken me, he prays on the cross beginning Psalm 22. But Jesus keeps faith in God, his Father. God vindicates Jesus and Job. That's the theological term we use. It means God's actions show the truth of Job's and Jesus's faith in the face of their turmoil.

Nothing could take God's life away from Job or Jesus. Not even death could destroy this life. Job believed in this. Jesus gave this to us[2].

In the face of turmoil, through trauma, in pain for which there is no cure, even when we feel we have been abandoned, we are not alone. Jesus is still there. Nothing, not even our pain can take him away from us.

And Jesus comes upon Simon Peter's mother in law in bed with a terrible fever. She, like all of us, are important to the Lord. He has work for her. He reaches out to her, cures her, and she waits on the disciples. Then Jesus comes upon many people suffering the results of evil in our world, for all pain and suffering and death is due to mankind's original and continual turning away from the Lord of Life. He sees them reaching out to him and he reaches out to them.

Today all of us are told that when we are suffering, in any manner whatsoever, we must reach out to the presence of God in every aspect of life. We believe that he is present for us and with us through it all. We believe that he cries out with us sharing our pain.

Now, we must use this special presence of the Lord as a way to come closer to the God who loves us, who was one of us, who died for us and who gave his life, eternal life, to us.

So we ask our God, When the difficulties of our human condition weigh heavily upon us, dear Lord and Divine Lover, teach us how to pray ■

[1] Sunday 8th February, 2009, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7. Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted—Ps 146(147):1-6. 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23. Mark 1:29-39 [St Jerome Emiliani; St Josephine Bakhita].

[2] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

Ilustration: Job, Folio 46r from the Syriac Bible of Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale, MS syr. 341),

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris