5th 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 is nonetheless one of the great literary works in the Old Testament since it so remarkably captures the struggle experienced by many believers as they try to match their faith in the merciful God to problems in their lives.
Scholars disagree as to when this book was written.
A misreading of Job has led to a phrase that has gone into English common speech. It is reference to the “patience of Job.” Clear in many places in this book is the fact that Job was not always so patient with God.
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.
He evangelizes. He proclaims the Good News. He explains the identity, and mission, of Jesus. Paul’s own Christianity compels him to evangelize. It is an act of service, and of love, given people who otherwise would not know Jesus. People’s needs in this regard are so great that Paul’s obligation, correspondingly intense, makes him the people’s slave.
For its final reading, the Church offers us a selection from St. Mark’s Gospel. It is the story of the Lord’s curing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Matthew and Luke have their versions of the same story.
The story 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. For all Christians, the impulse to serve others is true health.
While the cure is extraordinary, Mark does not make the fortunate mother-in-law the centerpiece of this reading. Rather, Jesus is the focus of the story. Christians have remembered the miracle long. Indeed, archeologists have found traces of this mother-in-law’s house in Capernaum. They confirmed their discovery by the fact that ancient Christian inscriptions were found on the walls.
As the story continues, Jesus heals the sick and drives demons away. He ordered the demons not to speak and they obeyed.
Then, alone, Jesus went to a distant place to pray. Since there are no deserts in the vicinity of Capernaum, Jesus must have gone some distance, or at least to a barren place. 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, a process begun weeks ago at Christmas and underscored in the lessons of the feast of the Epiphany and in those of the feast of the Lord’s Baptism.
Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, with all the power thus implied. His role is to bring to humanity God’s mercy and perfection.
The condition of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the anxiousness with which Peter and the others search for Jesus, tell us about ourselves. Conditions occur in our lives, as overwhelming as those faced by Job or Peter. We are powerless to overcome them. Jesus overcomes them. We need the Lord.
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