Monday, February 2, 2015

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 8, 2015

First Reading Commentary
In a sense Job is asking the question we all have probably asked at one time or another, “Why me?!”  At first glance it would appear that Job has been found guilty and sentenced to “months of misery.”  But many scripture scholars have observed that God seems to be the One on trial here; that God is the perpetrator and Job is the victim, jury and judge.  Sound familiar?  If we are honest with ourselves, somewhere along the way God has been blamed for the privations and drudgeries of life.  It’s not that the Almighty is the Source of the bad things that have occurred in our lives, but perhaps we’ve felt let down or even abandoned by Him.  It’s interesting that we think we can rationally discern the ways of God when we’re fit to be tied; but whether rational or irrational, it is not enough to make total sense out of why things that are divine are not necessarily logical.  Why God allows devout people like Job to suffer may always be a mystery.  One scholar used this analogy: “The point is not that an army has to fight, but it has to submit to all the hardships of military life.”  Our Lord Himself reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). 

If we believe that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful, then it is certain that we also believe that God could have achieved salvation for us with a mere snap of His Divine Fingers.  But what He chose to do is become like us, taking on flesh and dwelling among us.  That decision meant that He would also sentence Himself to be the Victim of intense suffering.  Who could ever fully explain why God chose this route? 

Consider how intimacy with Christ reduces or even eliminates the sizzle in our demeanor caused by human suffering.  Saint John Paul II allowed himself to be on center stage with his sufferings; and he didn’t do it so we would feel sorry for him.  He did it to teach us what to do with suffering.  None of the hospital visits, doctors, surgeries, medical apparatus or medications could bring him the kind of relief he was able to find by keeping his gaze fixed on his true Love.           

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul here is saying that if he preaches the Gospel through uncontrollable impulses, fear, or mere necessity to eat and have lodging, then he can’t rightly seek the reward of heaven. But if he preaches the Gospel freely and charitably, then he shall indeed receive a reward from God.  It was wise for Paul to take this approach because it was in a time of Christian history whereby he could have been accused of profiting temporally from the Gospel; and thus making the truths of the Gospel appear false.  But his convictions go far beyond appearances.  Saint Paul’s acts of charity are his willingness to be a slave or servant to everyone even though he is under no worldly obligation to any of them.  Paul understood perfectly that serving and loving God is synonymous with serving and loving God’s people.  Saint Paul’s refusal of any payment for his services made him a very credible servant and preacher of the Gospel.
Gospel Commentary
In this Gospel we see portions of the healing ministry of Jesus.  As evidenced, Jesus is a miracle worker; but Saint Mark’s intention is to show that Jesus is the One Who brought the Kingdom of God to earth.  Christ’s real mission is to proclaim salvation and the miraculous healings accompany Him on that mission. 

Saint Augustine tells us that the demons mentioned here knew that it was Christ, Who had been promised for so many ages before; for they saw Him perform the wonders which the prophets had foretold of Him, yet they were not perfectly acquainted with His Divine Nature, otherwise, they would not have been the driving force behind His persecution and Crucifixion because if they were well-acquainted with His Divinity, they would have known that His Resurrection is inevitable.  Jesus would not permit the demons to declare that they knew Him which clearly shows Christ’s authority over them. 

Everything in the Gospels occurred about two-thousand years ago, and if our faith tells us that the Gospels are meaningful to us today, then every time we read the Gospels it’s important and beneficial to find a quiet place and reflect.  In this Gospel, for example, why is it important and beneficial for us to know that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law?  That’s wonderful for her but how could that have any value for us?  On a physical level, Jesus can heal our infirmities if He so chooses, but it’s pointless to add to our own sufferings by dwelling on those times He chooses not to heal us physically.  The reasons why are a mystery.  But if Saint Mark’s intention was to portray Jesus as the One Who brought us the Kingdom of God, then it’s the healing of our soul that should be our focus.  Our soul is eternal and is in need of healing because of our sinfulness.  But since God granted us free will, we can’t sit around and wait for God to show up, so to speak.  We have to be proactive and approach our Lord and Savior to receive our healing; and being proactive is a good measuring stick to see for ourselves how much we love God. 

In reality, having a wedge between us and God because of sin should be agonizing and weigh heavy on our hearts.  Christ removes the heavy baggage of sin from us when we hear those beautiful words from the priest: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and Resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus and the others after her healing.  For us too, it is much easier to serve Christ and each other in holiness when the wounds of our soul have been healed by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.