5 February 2012
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 1 Cor. 9:16-19 Mark 1:29-39
Some time ago a mother who had her little daughter held by the hand was speaking to a friend. As they entered the supermarket the mother of the child turned to her friend and asked, ‘how can you expect me to believe in a God of love when my little daughter here was born blind?’
Is it not true that for most people suffering is a mystery we cannot always explain to our satisfaction? Many attribute suffering to a God whom they feel wishes to punish people for their sins. This has absolutely nothing to do with the God Jesus Christ came to reveal. How could Jesus who spent much of his ministry in healing people be accused of wanting to cause suffering to others? Today’s gospel of Mark is mainly about Jesus’ ministry of healing. The problem or idea of a God who punishes often arises because in the Old Testament, the first part of the bible, God seems to be a punishing God. But this comes from the difficulty the Jews of those times had in trying to explain suffering. If God is One and there is no other God, then in some way he had to be responsible for all the suffering in the world as well as all the good. It was a problem they struggled to solve. However, in Jesus the fullest revelation is given of who God really is. God is pro-life. God does not will or send suffering.
Most of the time we cause it ourselves. For example, if I keep on drinking too much and my liver gives out, I can hardly blame God. However, some people who do all the right things healthwise and do a lot of good to help others may be struck down with cancer and we ask ‘Why him or her, above all?’
The readings today show where God stands in all this. In the first reading, Job gives voice to the evils and pains that beset us in life. Sometimes in our suffering we cry out to God for an explanation or answer. If we are honest we have to admit that there are times when we don’t get any satisfactory answer or indeed none at all. We think too of natural disasters like a Tsunami or earthquakes. The gospel today tells us that Jesus spent his time proclaiming the Good News of God and backed this up by healing.
He goes into the house of Simon and Andrew and heals the mother-in-law of Simon. We are told that “he went over to her and took her by the hand and helped her up”. This says more than healing her physically. He helped her up, raising her to a new status in a society where women were, as many still are, second-class citizens. Her response was to attend to the needs of Jesus and the others present.
Jesus then heals many others in the district. But obviously Jesus didn’t heal everyone in his time. I believe God still continues his healing process. But now he does it through us humans. One hears people say, “Why doesn’t God heal any more as he used too?” Of course, what we are looking for are extraordinary signs instead of seeing the very ordinary ways in which God still continues to try and relieve the pain of the world. What of the doctors, nurses and others who use their gifts to heal people?
There are other ways of healing besides the purely physical ones. What of people who console us and stay with us while we go through the grieving process having lost a loved one or by forgiving others etc?
Sometimes, it seems God allows suffering so people can mature or grow through it. I think of a man who never had time for his family as he was a workaholic. Then he got a very mild stroke. He was forced to stay at home while he recovered. It was during that time he realised how much his family loved and cared for him. Up to then he never took the time to allow them to do so or for him to appreciate their love.
The gospel today may be described as a day in the life of Jesus. Just prior to this passage, Jesus had been in the synagogue. Now he goes to Simon’s house and heals his mother-in-law. Then after sunset he heals many more. Early next morning he goes to a lonely place to pray, which he did quite often. His relationship with his father was a vital part of his life. Here he came to know what his father’s will was for him. When Simon Peter and the others find him they want him to go back and heal those not healed the previous evening. But for Jesus his relationship with his father and what the father’s will is for him is the source and power he needs for his work. Clearly as a result of his prayer he felt his call was to go elsewhere and not to go back as he tells Simon and the others wished.
God is inviting each of us into a deep personal relationship with him. This is the priority and will be for us too the source and energy we need for life. If we spend time in prayer to develop this relationship then when suffering comes along even if we cannot understand why, this relationship with God will help us to deal with it as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross.
The gospel reveals to us a God who is full of compassion and concern for the sick and those in need. He invites us to continue this work in our daily lives in whatever way we can. How will we respond?
“Lord Jesus, help us to give priority to our relationship with you and with our heavenly father. Like Simon’s mother-in-law may we too be of service to others in gratitude for all you do for us. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA