The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St March Church in Norman, OK
February 9, 2003
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 + 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 + Mark 1:29-39
We have someone with us today who is rarely here. He is a little restless and often on the move. I’ve known him most of my life. He is not always popular, and I think it’s because he complains too much. I suspect he sings off key, whines a whole lot, and hasn’t many friends. His name is Job. He shows up rarely in our liturgical readings, and I think it is probably due to his steady stream of complaining and laments that are not very appealing in the context of celebrations. But he and his story are important to us. Without him and the themes he raises, we would be out of balance and probably deep in denial.
Job brings us a dose of reality. Today he proposes four things that to the honest are undeniable: things are not always right and lovely they need not be this way and can be changed sometimes my situation is intolerable with God things can be better, and I really believe this to be true.
The book of the bible that bears his name explores human suffering. Job himself may or may not have actually historically existed. But his story does, and all share his experience.
Rich in the eyes of this world, he has everything anyone could want: family, friends, wealth, and property. He lost everything that he had looked upon as God’s blessings. He came down with a disease that tortured him day and night. Those around him scoffed at his fidelity to God in the face of all that. They suggested that his sin or someone else’s caused it all. In the back and forth discussions recorded in the book, the popularly held notion that suffering was a punishment for sin gets contradicted, and God’s role in misfortune is not clear. At least, God is not to blame.
We are left to think that perhaps wealth, friends, possessions, and power are not really “gifts” that God give or takes. Perhaps, suffering is not really from God either. What we are left to discover is that Faith is the gift, and that with the gift of faith, we can become creative with everything else.
Suffering is a part of the human condition. The experience of it can either lead us nearer to God or send us running from God in despair and disappointment. It is the same with wealth, friends, and possessions. They can either lead us nearer to God, or drive us deep into selfish hoarding and loneliness. The Good News we proclaim is not an escape from the pain of life as I suggested last week in the context of parenting. The Good News offers a way to transform suffering into the birth pangs of something new. In the end, the Gospel is not given to us to make us good, but to make us creative.
This is the kind of discipleship Jesus promotes among those who follow him. The Jesus of this Gospel is a creative gift. His work of healing and forgiveness is a work of creation and by his own words, this is why he has come. Suffering people in the Gospel come to Jesus. They are healed and set free. The most burdened life is the one most filled with potential and holds the promise of new creation. The disciple who joins in the work of Jesus, joins in that work, and when it happens lament is turned into praise, complaint becomes thanksgiving, and God becomes companion. When that happens within us, we will have become disciples, and will have Good News to proclaim.