5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Feb. 10, 1991
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Mark 1: 29-39
This weekend I stayed home after hand surgery that leaves me in a splint and sling for at least a week. So here's an oldie on the day's readings.
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope” (Job 7: 6).
The book of Job is a lengthy meditation on human suffering. You and I have seen people in pain and grief. We’ve heard of people being victimized by terrible natural disasters, and now we are TV witnesses to the death and destruction of war. For these reasons and for others, all of us have at one time or another, like Job, had “troubled nights told off” for us, when sleep wouldn’t come and darkness dragged (7:3-4).
We might draw 2 lessons from today’s brief passages from Job and from Mark. The 1st is that lasting happiness is not possible in this life. “Is not man’s life on earth drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who longs for his wages (Job 7:1-2). While much of our race has progressed in easing the burden of labor, labor we still must, whether in the field or factory or laundry or classroom. While we have progressed marvelously in medicine and health care, we must still contend with illness, accident, death, and grief. Democracy is generally an advanced form of government, but it doesn’t root out corruption or self-seeking, and it brings its own problems of demagoguery and apathy. With the best of intentions, we still manage to misunderstand other individuals and other cultures and cause hurt. And, as we well know, not everyone has the best of intentions. So if we were expecting eventually to create heaven on earth, we haven’t gotten very far since the sacred writer reflected 2,500 years ago on the plight of Job.
Many people would therefore agree with Job: “Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again” (7:7). It was for such people that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The 2d lesson of the readings is that Jesus is the cure for all the ills of mankind: “They brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons. And he healed many…” (Mark 1:32, 34).
Last week Jesus drove an evil spirit out of one particular man. This week he drives a fever out of a particular woman, and he proceeds to cure many of their ailments. Eventually he will explicitly forgive sin, the root of every evil known to man, from stubbed toes to nuclear war.
Getting religion, meeting Jesus, doesn’t relive us of worry, pain, persecution, or death. Read the life of any saint, beginning with the sinless Mother of God. When Job asks, “When shall I arise?” and adds, “The night drags on,” he means only a literal nite of tossing and turning in affliction, or figuratively all the dark problems of life. But Christ turns Job’s question into a search for everlasting life: “When shall I arise?” on the last day, when Christ returns in his glory. “The night drags on”—the night of the grave and of the devil’s work—but only for non-believers, for those who reject Christ, his good news, his way of life. Our days are full of hope even when we know pain and grief. We shall see happiness—eternally. The Lord “heals the broken-hearted and binds their wounds” (Ps 147:3). Jesus’ ministry prefigures our healing and our happiness; his resurrection and ascension assure it. So instead of moaning with Job, in the rest of our Eucharist we shall “sing praise to our God, for he is gracious” (Ps 147:1).