5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 07 February 2021
|Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife by John Bridges|
To listen to my audio reflections please click on this link
The readings of this Sunday liturgy are captivating. Because they place before us an important fact of our life and that is our life in God. Our goal in life is to serve God. We carry in our lives the reminiscences of God's enduring presence. Therefore our lives should be pleasing to God. As I write these few Sunday reflections I am with the Sisters of Charity of Maria Bambina (SCCG) in Secunderabad preaching an eight-day retreat. While reading the "Rule of Life: Constitutions and Statutes" of the Sisters a line touched me very much is of Sr Vincenza one of the foundresses of the congregation, "He who knows the Crucified One, knows everything" (p.22). In other words, if you have experienced or encountered Him, then everything has a meaning. This is what we see in the life of prophet Job, preacher Paul, and Jesus the Messiah. Job endures suffering to such an extent where God allows Satan to take control of him completely except taking away his life. Since his conversion to Christ, Paul sees the meaning of life only in the preaching of Christ whom he encountered so powerfully. Jesus' whole day program was so packed, that he had very little time for himself. We see this in the following.
I. Job's helplessness and misery does not mean that he deserts God his Creator
For a sick person, nights are always long, frightening, and unending. Such a person looks for the dawn to arrive as quickly as possible. The utter loneliness, physical pain, and mental torture have eaten up all the energy that Job had. He has no one to comfort and console him. He is longing for soothing words and trustful company. Unfortunately, nothing arrives in his distress. Therefore Job uses such distasteful words of lamentation over the futility and its uselessness of life: "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again" (Job 7:1-4, 6-7). In another place just like Prophet Jeremiah (20:14), Job would curse this way: "Then Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born. He said, “I wish the day I was born would be lost forever. I wish the night they said, ‘It’s a boy!’ had never happened. I wish that day had remained dark. I wish God above had forgotten that day and not let any light shine on it" (Job 3:1-16).
Prophet Job went through such dark nights of the soul and yet did not desert God. He never cursed his creator or spoke ill of Him. It is easier to run away from suffering and misery but it's harder to face them. As a man of faith, he believed that despair isn't the last word. "God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds," says Psalm 147 which immediately follows Job in the Mass readings. However, there is wisdom in facing the questions of life and especially its sorrow and anguish. And those who remain faithful to Him will have the rewards of life. Job's realization was such that God is not there to serve us and to be rejected when he appears to fail us. Perhaps when that thought comes to us and when our needs are not fulfilled it does not mean that God has deserted us.
II. Paul's vision of life is only preaching the Christ crucified and nothing else
A bitter enemy of the Christians or Jesus movement in its infancy stages, Paul turns out to be the hero of the Gospel of Jesus since his conversion. His focus in preaching the Gospel takes him to the lengths and breadths of the Mediterranean sea in the early stages of Christianity. Nothing could stop him from preaching as Paul himself says to the Corinthians "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:24-28).
St Paul was a happy sufferer. He suffers for a cause that is to preach the Gospel as he himself says: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!" (1 Cor 9: 16). The boldness of St Paul never stops even in putting forward strong arguments as we see in the epistle to the Romans: "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8: 36-37). The emphatic and bold Paul should inspire us Christians especially during these difficult days of pandemic.
III. Jesus never stops healing those who followed him
While preaching on the day of the Presentation of the Lord, (February 02) Saint Sophronius the bishop says "Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ." Perhaps these words find their real meaning when we look at the itinerary of Jesus in today's Gospel reading. Truly, Jesus radiated divine brilliance and eternal light throughout his life.
Look at the order of the day in Jesus' life. Early in the morning, Jesus is in the synagogue then goes straight to Peter's mother-in-law's house to heal her; by sundown/evening, he is busy healing the sick and driving out the demons. Before the dawn, Jesus is in a lonely place to pray, etc. We might notice here all the words of totality and completeness in the Gospel. The whole town gathers; all the sick are brought to Him. He drives out demons in the whole of Galilee. Everyone is looking for Christ. We too have found Him. By our baptism and other sacraments, we are healed and raised to live as Prophet Hosea says, "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. He healed and raised us to live in His presence" (Hosea 6:1–2).
Our lives must be thanksgiving just like Paul and Simon's mother-in-law. Once we have experienced him our duty is to serve Him and His gospel. In other words, we must be a gospel to others; good news to others. Thus others too may have a share in his salvation. God is not there to serve us and to be rejected when he appears to fail us and does not fulfill what we see as our needs. People wanted their lives to be changed through the removal of suffering and pain. The consequences of the Fall were sickness and death. That original wound can only be healed through the cross of Jesus. Each one is called to carry that cross of Jesus. St Ignatius of Loyola would emphasize the words of St Paul in his Spiritual Exercises (No. 95) by saying that "by joining in his suffering we may also participate in his glory" (Romans 8:17). We are the hands and feet of the Lord, that our lives and actions will glorify him. Jesus will always be with us when we follow him closely just as what he did to the family of Simon. "He who knows the Crucified One, knows everything"
Questions for Reflections:
1. What has been your experience in times of suffering? In your imagination invite Jesus into your home. Imagine him taking your hand, and raising you up to be alongside him.
2. In what areas of your life do you need the healing touch of Jesus? Along with you many others might need the healing touch of Jesus. Bring them in your mind to Jesus and ask for his healing for them too.
3. What motivates you to preach Christ and give witness to him?
4. Given an opportunity to you what apostolate you would choose in your life to preach Jesus authentically and radically in your present status of life?
God of compassion and mercy, be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Give me peace in everything I do: in my going out and in my coming in; in my sitting down and my rising up; in my work and in my play; in my joy and in my sorrow, in my laughter and in my tears; until that day comes which is without dawn and without dark. I ask this through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
-Olvin Veigas, SJ
06 February 2021