5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
February 5, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
God isn’t finished with me yet.
Today’s first reading was from the book of Job. For many of us that book is not too familiar. It is a long book and a bit complicated at times. We have heard of Job and know that he suffered much. We also have probably heard the expression, “the patience of Job.” But the portion we heard today hardly sounds like the words of a patient man. They are rather the words of a discouraged, disheartened, beat man. He sees life as hard service, like a slave looking for shade, a hireling concerned for the wages of a rather arbitrary employer. He knows months of emptiness and nights of misery. Night is long and full of tossing. St.John of the cross called this the “Dark Night of the Soul.” After the death of St. Mother Teresa, information was published about her long period of this Dark Night of the Soul. Perhaps we too identify with some of these experiences. Job is without hope and has eyes that never again will see good. Hardly words of a patient man. Why does Job feel this way? He has good reasons. He was a wealthy man known for his possessions, his children, his righteousness. Suddenly his life changes. Lightning strikes and kills some of his cattle. Marauders come and take off his cattle and kill his servants. His family is especially close. They gather for family festivals at various times. At one of the family gatherings the house collapses and kills all the children. Then Job is afflicted with a horrible disease. Verse five from today’s Scripture was omitted, “my flesh is clothed with worms and scabs; my skin cracks and festers.” It hurts Job to sit down, to even move. On top of all this his wife encourages him to curse God. Then his friends come and say, “Job the reason you are afflicted is because you are a sinner.” Job knows this isn’t true. But he doesn’t know the reason for his afflictions. He does go through moments of cursing the day he was born and of reaching the depression state that is found in today’s passage. But he continues his search for meaning. An answer finally comes in prayer—God is almighty and all knowing. For Job this is sufficient.
Usually the first reading is selected because of its connection with the Gospel. It would seem to me the only connection would be the night Job spent and the night of prayer that Jesus spends in the deserted place. There is also restoration in both readings.
Today’s Gospel passage is part of Mark’s story of a “Day in Capernaum”. The day is a Sabbath. Jesus began the day by entering the Synagogue, teaching with authority and driving a demon out of a man. Upon leaving the Synagogue he enters the house of Simon. They tell him that Peter’s mother in law is sick with a fever. Just as Jesus had responded to the need of the man possessed with the evil spirit he responds to the woman sick with a fever. “He approached her, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” As Luke tells the story he uses the word “rebuke” for the fever, just as he had “rebuked” the evil spirit in the possessed man in the synagogue. There are important contrasts between the first and second healing. In the first it was a man, in the synagogue (a holy place) with an unclean spirit (supernatural). Here it is a woman, in a house (common place) with a fever (natural). As the Sabbath ended Jews would eat a meal together. Peter’s mother in law now serves the meal. We must notice that nothing is said about Peter’s wife and his mother in law remains nameless. There is another contrast between the two healings. In the first the evil spirit is driven out by a WORD, the evil spirit of the fever is driven out by TOUCH.
This story is a symbolic portrayal of our condition. We have been prostrate beneath the power of sin, Jesus raises us up, and we are called to serve.
Since the Sabbath is over the people can move around freely. They bring the sick and those with evil spirits to Jesus. Mark says, “the whole town gathered outside the door.” Jesus cures people and expels evil spirits. But Mark tells us, “He would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.” This type of command is frequent in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus did not want people to speak about him until the full import of his mission was known. He was not only a miracle worker, but also would be the suffering servant Messiah. Jesus frequently desired to de-emphasize the spectacular, to keep it under control, to play down deliverance from demons and physical healing. Some who would present themselves as healers today advertise their campaigns and emphasize the spectacular. This is unbiblical.
Next we hear those words of “aloneness”, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” I found myself wondering if it was possible that Jesus had spent a sleepless night, like the night Job described in the first reading. Is that why he got up very early before dawn? People were coming to him in great numbers for his healings. Did Jesus need to discern and discover what the Father willed for him? Did he ask his father for direction for his life? It would seem he did. Because we are told that “Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” It appears that the disciples want him to go back to the successes of Capernaum. Miracles were happening. People were being cured. The entire city is at the door. There has been no opposition to Jesus and his ministry. Returning to Capernaum seems very attractive. But Jesus after his night of prayer and discernment chooses to move on. In contrast to that wonderful past in Capernaum, the future, roaming around Galilee was uncertain—but that is what Jesus has been called to do. The disciples move on with Jesus, probably somewhat reluctantly. At this stage they are willing to go along with Jesus, but they could hardly be described as followers of Jesus. They would have to learn the hard lesson that Jesus was about much more than miracle working. As Mark’s Gospel continues the portrayal of the Disciples gets more negative. From chapter 1-8:21 They show a lack of understanding. From 8:22-10:52 The misunderstand. From 11:1-16:8 They fail Jesus.
For our reflection: Do I give any time in prayer to discerning the will of God for me? Am I open to where God is leading me? Do I need some healing word from God in my life? Do I need some healing touch of Jesus in my Life? Is some one waiting a healing word or touch from me? Is there some way that Jesus is calling me to serve others? We see that Jesus does not give up on the disciples in the unfinished and incomplete following of him. He does not give up on us. Whatever may get us down; Jesus has the power to free us from that. The disciples had to grow into their understanding of who Jesus was and what it means to be his follower. They not only had to leave certain possessions behind. They had to leave certain attitudes behind. What attitude am I called to leave behind? We are called to grow in our following of Jesus just as the Disciples were. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God. The values and actions called for to be part of the Kingdom of God, contradict much of what are held as values and actions in the Kingdom of today’s society. Are mine the values and actions of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the world? What do I need to do? What actions am I called to take?