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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

Suffering
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

5th Sunday of Year B

 

JESUS HEALS 

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are led to examine human suffering?  When bad things happen, like earthquake, war, pestilence, bomb blasts and explosions, death of a loved one, failure in exams, when things are not going on well generally, we are sometimes moved to ask so many questions.  Where is God, when bad things happen?  How can God watch things go wrong the way we have it in the world?  What is the cause of all these sufferings?

 

First Reading  (Job 7: 1-4, 6-7)

Looking at the situation of things in the world, it is very hard to actually give a concrete answer to the question of sufferings. The Book of Job attempts to do that. People do ask why the world is so plagued by many kinds of sufferings. If only the bad ones suffer, maybe we will not complain. But that isn’t so.

 

Job from what we have at the beginning of this book was a very good man. Both God and Satan attested to this fact. The devil only felt that Job’s uprightness was because he has not known suffering and so will want to put him to the test. Job therefore lost his houses, flocks, servants, children and good health. His initial response in chapter 3 is interesting, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken back, blessed be the name of the Lord.  If we receive happiness from God’s hands, must we not receive sorrow too?”  

 

Our first reading today is a deeper reflection on the tragedies of Job, for him, life is all sorrow. The longer the sufferings of Job lasted without a solution in sight, the more the frustrations. It became worse with the intervention of his friends who came on a visit to sympathise with him over his condition. Today’s response is on the intervention of Eliphaz who opined that Job must be suffering as a result of sin even if he had committed such unconsciously, but Job insisted on his innocence. Job therefore paints a picture of life as he experiences it, like a slave forced to undergo immense privations without getting anything in return. The passage paints a picture of hopelessness. “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.”

 

Is that not what happens when every attempt at resolving a dire situation yields no positive result?  When the nights become terrifying and the days are lived in anxious waiting for the night.

 

Second Reading  (1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23)

For Paul today, the best way to be of service to the community is to feel their sufferings with them.  There is the need to share in their suffering and to share in their joy.  That is why he has made himself all things to all people in order to save some at all costs.  This he added is done for the sake of the Gospel.  He remains a model for the strong, chosen by God as His instrument, his reward is to be able to offer the Good News free. He does not consider his ability to preach the good news as a ground for boasting but a fulfilment of a duty given to him by God. He is always willing to subordinate himself to the mission entrusted to him for the salvation of all. Preaching the Gospel must never be seen as an opportunity to enrich oneself but service to the weak and vulnerable of the society.

 

Gospel (Mk 1: 29-39)

Mark presents to us the response of Jesus to human suffering beginning with an in-house miracle Jesus worked for Peter’s mother-in-law. Many who were sick and possessed by the devil were also healed afterwards at the end of the Sabbath observance. 

 

Just as Jesus wasted no time in attending to Simon’s Mother-In-Law, we should be prompt in our response to those in need, as long as we are in a position to be of help to such people. The woman who was healed also got up immediately and began to wait on them. Everyone who has received healing from Christ must be of service to others.

 

The second scene of the Gospel tells us of Jesus working many miracles.  We should not as a result of this think that Christianity is all about wonders and miracles.  God works so many miracles in our midst daily if only we can open our eyes to see. If our preoccupation in the service of God is all about cures and miracles and wonders we will be making a mistake.  Jesus did not come to abolish suffering in the world or he would have taken away everything that could lead to sorrow. The Gospel of ‘prosperity-without-work,’ runs contrary to the mission of Christ in our world. Wherever we preach Jesus without the cross or Christianity without suffering, we create an environment for despair and a rejection of the cross.

 

Jesus occupied himself with practical response to the need of those who were suffering.  Suffering cannot be a punishment from God, if it is, Jesus will be contradicting the work of God by healing the sick. He healed them and made himself available to them in their time of pain.  He passed through great injustice and suffering himself leading to his death on the cross.

 

The problem of suffering became an opportunity for Jesus to show the compassion (cum-passionis, to suffer with) of God in the face of human suffering.  The sufferings of others are opportunities for us too to show our love and compassion.  We may not be able to cure the way Jesus did, but it is always within our power to care. To care is in itself a form of healing.  Just to be with the one who is suffering is in itself more than a soothing balm. 

 

Jesus heals the pain not just of the people of the past, but the pain of the people of today. Some receive physical healing immediately. Others receive healing in stages. Some receive a clear miracle. The union with the Divine Healer is the reason why our doctors, nurses, and all care givers deserve our respect. All who call out to the Lord are healed. Some are healed physically, others emotionally and made able to accept their condition in life. All however receive spiritual healing as they unite their pain to the Cross of Christ.

 

It is in this context that we can best understand the Sacrament of Healing, the Sacrament of the Sick. This is Christ being really present in a sacrament at a particular time in our lives when we need his healing power.  When we, or our loved ones are seriously ill, we are challenged in our faith.  The sacrament of the sick gives us the courage to hold on to our faith in the face of such a challenge. This sacrament provides healing, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, and always spiritual. The sacrament of the sick is a sacrament for the living, not the dead. Do not wait until a loved one is expiring to call a priest. Do not look for this sacrament hours after a person has died. Call a priest when you know that there is a serious situation so that the person might receive the grace of this sacrament.

 

How can we respond today? Poverty alleviation–-those who are in position to alleviate poverty should do so. There is the need to work seriously at creating more jobs.  The social amenities in place are inadequate for the teeming populace.  There is the need for Government to take pre-emptive measures to avert disasters because we do not know how to manage such, nor do we have the resources (at least so we claim) to do so.  There should be justice for all, not just on the pages of newspapers.  It must be seen to be done. The electorate must be sincere as they cast their votes to make sure that the right persons represent them in government. We must all team up to fight corruption without fear or favour. Those in Government need to be more transparent knowing that everything is passing. This way by which we can reduce suffering in the world.

 

Let us Pray: Lord, you came into our world as a man of suffering and you carried our infirmities. Give us the grace to show compassion to those who suffer around us. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

 

 

 
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