Sunday, 4 February 2018

Bringing our sufferings to God. 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 1:29-39; Job 7:1-4.6-7
Today’s account of the healing of a mother-in-law reminds me of the old joke about St Peter, which you may or may not have heard, but it goes like this:
Why did Peter betray Jesus?  Because he never forgave Jesus for healing his mother-in-law!

A related fact is this:
Sometimes God does things that we don’t really want, and sometimes He seems to “fail” to do the things we DO want.
On one hand, we hear in today’s Gospel one of many occasions in the Gospels when we see Lord caring for the sick by curing them: “He cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another”.
The Lord Jesus very obviously cared for the sick and needy, as He cares for us.
On the other hand, in our first reading, we hear the lament of Job.
Our short text doesn't tell us, but let us remember Job’s situation:
He had lost everything:  his flocks and herds had been destroyed, his house too, and all his children.  In addition, he was covered from head to toe in boils and pain. 
And, after long patience, then he laments, as we heard in that passage.
“Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service,
his time no better than hired drudgery?...
Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’
Risen I think, ‘How slowly evening comes!’…
My life is but a breath,
And my eyes will never again see joy”(Job 7:1-4.6-7)

As most of us know, the entire book of Job is a reflection on why God allows bad things to happen to good people.
The reason that this is a theological problem is that it is CLEAR from so much of the Scriptures, and so much of life, that He is a GOOD God, a CARING God, and yet so often we doesn’t do what I WANT.

The answer, in the book of Job, is that we are not given an answer.
We are told that He is all-wise, all-powerful, all-good -but He does not explain His infinite mind to us.
Rather than giving God an answer, He addresses Job with a  list of questions:
Where were you when I made the earth?
Where were you when I placed the moon in orbit?
-if you didn’t do these things, how can you dare to ask me “why”?

Let me note, however, one of the answers of St Augustine, a proposal he makes in the context of why God tells us to pray:
God DESIRES and intends to give us all that is good for us.
But we are not READY to receive what He desires to give to us.
What makes us ready?
Our very asking, our repeated asking, our asking with longing and desire -this changes us, forms us, and can makes us READY to receive the thing that God desired to give us all along.
By analogy: a child will frequently see some desirable glittering thing, and will scream and shout at his mother for the thing he sees and wants:
Give me -that sharp knife
Give me -that spinning chain saw
Let me -go to the glowing burning fire.
But before the child is ready for any of these things there are many things that need to change, mature, and be learned.  And THEN the child can receive them.
By analogy -God knows better than us, somehow, what is for the best.
So, a twofold conclusion: we need to BRING our suffering to God; & we need to TRUST that He knows best.

Did St Peter want the Lord to cure his mother-in-law?                        The Gospel does not comment.
But we can be sure that if The Lord did it, it was for the best.

And as we seek Him, like the sick and needy crowds, we must approach Him with the same confidence.

No comments: