Sunday Scripture Readings

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME,

FEBRUARY 9

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147;

1 Corinthians 9:6-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

OUR GOOD NEWS: All things work together unto good for those who serve the Lord. Job was famous as a model of a righteous person - God-fearing, moral and generous to the poor and helpless. The book begins with God testing his faithful servant's commitment. Total disaster was allowed to overtake him: children die, wealth evaporates and his body is stricken with loathsome disease. Remaining chapters mainly consist of extended dialogue involving three friends come to "console" him with an orthodox but unrealistic view of suffering. All misery, they insisted, is brought on by personal sin. One need only to repent for God to restore health, wealth and family. With increasing vehemence Job countered that it didn't apply in his case, and he searched vainly for meaning in his senseless suffering. Today's first reading details the miseries of human existence powerfully described by Job as background for Jesus' welcome work of healing (Gospel). An introductory rhetorical question ("Is not man's life on earth a drudgery?") allows no evading or mitigating of what we all must admit. In varying degrees, sooner or later, each person's life resembles the harsh lot of conscripts in forced labor or hired hands. Hopelessly trapped in intolerable situations, we react to the "slavery" and unhappiness of the present moment by pining for a future release that never materializes. A field laborer yearns for relief from the scorching sun, held to degrading work for wages that barely keep him alive. No peace even in sleep! Instead, he finds restless, insomniac tossing, waiting for dawn and a return to toil. Life, concluded Job, is like a weaver's shuttle. We're condemned to a constant coming and going that is monotonous, meaningless and abruptly ended when the thread of life, of vain hope for happiness, runs out. Job of course is right. Left to ourselves and our own resources, humankind cannot escape ultimate meaninglessness. Fleeting joys are obliterated by suffering and inevitable death. We are reassured however that God turns absurdity into purpose. He permits life's hurts to serve His salvific will, preparing us to appreciate and accept His gift of life in fullness. "Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted." With today's psalm we profess our firm faith that God answers our cries and with sovereign power and wisdom brings complete healing by undoing sin's effects in our lives. Jesus' healing of Peter's mother-in-law (Gospel) illustrates how, during Jesus' public life, "house" served as place of rest and a scene for teaching and working wonders. Leaving the scene of an exhausting struggle with an unclean spirit (last week's Gospel), Jesus was immediately informed of the older woman's condition. His curing foreshadowed his "healing" from death of all of us who are committed to Him. We're edified by the woman's reaction to her miraculous healing. She responded as befits every disciple - called to service, she immediately "waits on them at table," rather than visits her neighbors to share her good news. Her response teaches us an essential lesson, that discipleship means getting involved in selfless service of others.

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