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Reflection – February 4, 2024

Post Date: January 30, 2024
Author: Ric Cross

A Reflection on the Readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 4, 2024

READING 1 JB 7:1-4, 6-7
RESPONSORIAL PSALM PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
READING 2 1 COR 9:16-19, 22-23
GOSPEL MK 1:29-39

The introduction to the Book of Job in the New American Bible describes the book as a didactic poem, a poem written for the purpose of instruction. In this case, the instruction concerns the problem of human suffering, particularly of the innocent, and of retribution. We don’t know the author, and there is no real agreement as to when the book was written, but most give it a date between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C. at a time when many believed human suffering was a punishment from God (or the gods) for infidelity. The Book of Job teaches that even the just may suffer in this life, but rather than a punishment, their sufferings are a test of their fidelity to God.

The introduction also describes the book as a “literary masterpiece of all time.” I suggest you take the time to read it, but for those unfamiliar with the book, Job is presented to us as a very wealthy and prosperous Arab chieftain who was also very faithful to God. According to this story, Job’s faith in God was tested at the request of Satan. In a sudden reversal of fortune, Job lost all his possessions, including his family, and was afflicted with a loathsome disease. Oppressed with sorrow, he longed for death to put an end to his suffering, but Job never complained against God or lost his faith because of his sufferings. When his friends insisted that some terrible sin must have caused his misfortune, Job maintained his innocence. Job longed to speak to God face-to-face to get an explanation for his suffering. When God responded, Job learned that man does not have the right to question God’s authority and is incapable of probing the depths of God’s wisdom, power, and presence that governs the universe. In the end, God rewarded Job for his faithfulness, and he once again became a very wealthy, prosperous man with a large family. The lesson for Job and all of us is to trust in God, not question or blame God for life’s misfortunes. Our duty is to praise God, to trust in God, and to believe in our Responsorial Psalm that God will “heal the brokenhearted.” The Book of Job teaches us that bad things happen to good people, and it is beyond our capacity to understand why.

Also, notice our verse before the gospel this week: “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Our gospel passage comes from chapter 1 of Mark, at the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Some fundamental themes in Mark are found throughout the gospel.

First, The gospel is very Christological. Mark never leaves any doubt as to Jesus’ true identity. The opening verse sets the tone for the gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mk 1:1).

Second is the theme of discipleship; following Jesus requires a completely new way of life. The call of the first disciples in 1:16 indicates what is required to follow Jesus. Jesus told Simon and Andrew to follow Him, and their response was immediate, no questions asked.

Third: A new age has dawned where God’s reign has broken into human life with a new set of values. God has broken into human life in the person of Jesus, who teaches with authority and has the power to forgive sins, heal the brokenhearted, and take away our infirmities. This entire message can be summed up in Mark 1:15: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus’ Galilean ministry begins with the cure of a demoniac in the synagogue in Capernaum and then with the cure of Simon’s mother-in-law in today’s gospel. From there, Jesus went on to the other towns and villages in the area to continue healing the sick and casting out demons.

Another point to notice about the Gospel of Mark is that it is short and concise and seems to have been written in a spirit of urgency. There is not a lot of theology in this gospel; instead, it describes one event after another in the life of Christ with no theological explanation of what was said or done in those events. For example, we have “The Cure of a Demoniac” beginning with verse 21, and then we move immediately into “The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law.”

As we all know, there was much more to Jesus’ ministry than curing the sick. But by performing these miracles of healing, Jesus drew attention to His divinity (Christology) and His ministry of proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. In addition, His miracles of healing gave the people a sense of the presence of God in their midst. His ministry was valid, and it was time to believe in the divinity of Jesus, to repent and ask forgiveness for sins, and to become a true disciple.

The golden thread this week is that human suffering is not a punishment from God; we can bring those sufferings upon ourselves through our sins or bad habits, or others may bring that suffering upon us. But the suffering will be relieved by God, in this life or the next, if we truly believe in the divinity of Jesus, repent and ask forgiveness for our sins, and become a true disciple.

Reference: Copyright LPI

Author: Ric Cross

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