Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Job is the source of this weekend’s first reading. This book furnishes few details about the identity of Job. It nonetheless is one of the great literary works in the Old Testament, and one of the best remembered — if not always exactly remembered.
Misreading Job has led to a phrase that has gone into English common speech, the “patience of Job.” Clearly, Job was not always so patient with God.
For instance, in this weekend’s reading, Job vents his impatience. He asks if life on earth is not, in reality, drudgery. Each human being, Job writes, is a slave. Personally, Job says he has been assigned “months of misery.” “I shall not see happiness again,” he writes drearily.
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians provides the second reading.
The same source has given earlier weekend liturgies this winter their second readings. In this passage from First Corinthians, Paul insists that he was free to accept the call to be an apostle, or to spurn the call. He chose to accept the call.
So, he proclaims the Good News. He explains the identity and mission of Jesus. It is an act of service and of love, given for people who otherwise would not know Jesus. Paul sees nothing as more important than bringing people to the knowledge of Christ and to loving Christ.
For its final reading, the Church offers us St. Mark’s Gospel the story of the Lord’s curing of Peter’s mother-in-law.
The story’s point is clear. Merely by touching her hand, Jesus cured the woman. She was so fully cured, in fact, that she immediately rose from her sickbed and began to wait on Jesus and the disciples. She was healthy again, but she used her health to care for others.
Lest it appear that this woman simply resumed routine domestic chores, it should be noted that the verb used by Mark in this reference is the same verb used to describe the ministry of the angels while Jesus was in the desert, an event soon to be told. For Christians, serving others, even in their physical needs, is holy and a product of union with Christ.
(This miracle long has fascinated Christians. Indeed, in the ruins of Capernaum is a site that pious pilgrims identified many centuries ago as the place where the house of Peter’s mother-in-law stood.)
The story continues. Jesus heals the sick and drives demons away. Then, alone, Jesus went to a distant place to pray. Simon and the others pursue Jesus, longing to be near the Lord, needing the Lord.
When at last they find Jesus, the Lord reminds them that the messianic role is to reach all people.
The Church continues to introduce us to Jesus, the Lord, the Son of God, with all the power thus implied. This Liturgy of the Word further puts before us the images of Job, the apostle Paul, Peter’s mother-in-law, and the apostles accompanying Jesus.
Paul very obviously gave his life to the vocation to which Jesus called him, that of being an apostle, of being the bearer to people of the Lord’s message and mercy. It was the mission of all the Apostles, as Jesus told them. It is the mission of all Christians.
Peter’s mother-in-law, cured by Jesus, did not simply return to life as usual, but, as Mark’s use of a particular verb shows, she served others, as Jesus served.
Job brings to mind who and what we are, limited human beings, whose limitations at times may test our best intentions. Amid this reality, the Lord is our strength and our model. The Apostles knew that there is no other model and none with greater strength and power than the Lord.
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