Homily (2) 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 147:1-6; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
Suffering in Communion with Christ!
In his Book, When Bad things Happen to Good People, Harold S .Kushner explains why he took to this theme. It was because of his personal family tragedy. His son, Aaron became sick of what is called “progeria,” that is rapid aging. It was a sad news difficult for Harold and his family to handle. Yet, he knew he was trying his best to live the gospel, the good news, in obedient to the Lord. But if the news of the Lord is always good, how can the Lord allow his son become sick, inflicting immeasurable pains and anguish to the family? Harold’s question could be related to the biblical Job, Habakkuk, Paul and to the mystery of the Gospel of Christ’s Gospel, the cross, the sufferings, and healings, God’s justice, addressed in today’s bible readings. Or, as Joseph Cardinal Bernadin would write in The Gift of Peace, “Suffering in Communion with the Lord.”
Job, a pious and righteous man kept the rules like any of us. Obeyed God, was prosperous but also suffered terrible set back and misfortunes in life. He lost his property, his children. He was afflicted and tormented by all kinds of diseases. He felt restless and as if he had been assigned months misery (Job 7:1-4, 6-7). He would have loved to have rational answers to the cause of his set back and sufferings. But they were not forth coming, yet Job deepened his trust and love for God through his experiences of suffering.
Job’s suffering- experiences in his relationship with God could be liken to that of Paul. In his ministry, after his conversion, he experienced suffering, torture and imprisonment. He was once shipped wrecked and beaten many times for the sake of the Gospel. These sufferings did not change Paul. He kept the faith. He felt the compulsion to preach the Gospel of Christ. In the 2nd reading he strongly says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (I Cor 9:16).
What is the Gospel for Paul? It is the “the good news of Jesus Christ,” the patience, the sufferings, cross, the peace, the faith, and the hope that comes with it. It is the entire activity of evangelization to the Gentiles, to the uncircumcised (Gal 2:7). It must have its origin in God manifested in Christ, the son of God (Rom 1:9). It is the faith in Christ (Rom 4–6; Gal 1:23) and the living of the word of God (2 Cor 2:17), the beatitude (Matt 5:1-2). It is the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12). It is a Christian way of life. It is accepting God’s mysterious ways of dealing with us in the crucified Christ (1 Cor 2:1-2), and the hope in the resurrection (1 Cor 15; 1 Thess 4:12-17). It also include the fostering of unity (1 Cor 12–14). It is the story of the Risen Lord, not our own stories (2 Cor 4:4).
For Paul the Gospel is God’s salvific activity for his people, his power and healing mercies. Jesus was human. Again, as Cardinal Bernadin said in The Gift of Peace, Christ, “felt pains as we do. And in many ways he experienced pain and suffering more deeply than we will ever know. Yet in the face of all, he transformed human suffering into something greater: an ability to walk with the afflicted and to empty himself so that his loving father could work more fully through him.”
In the Gospel reading of today (Mark 1:29-39), the Marken, Christ walks with the afflicted. He empties himself to the sick. He heals Simon Peter’s mother –in-law who was sick with fever:
“On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew, James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever… he approached grasped her and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”
What are your own “fevers”? Certainly this can come in form of the restlessness of the biblical Job. It can come in forms of bodily or spiritual illnesses, some that we bring to our doctors. It is true that we have these human doctors. We keep those appointments. But do we believe in the Gospel of Paul, in the healing power of Christ who is able to cure us of our illness, or work miracles, the type seen in today's Gospel.
Truly, our today's “fevers” can also come in form of disunity and lack of love, and envious of other’s spiritual gifts, that the Gospel Paul opposes in I Cor 12–14. Our fevers can come in form lack of universal spirit, being victims of war, bias and prejudices, acts of terrorism, religious extremisms, HIV and Ebola epidemics, unjust socio-political structures that breeds poverty, violent, and lack of acceptance of others. Our fevers and weaknesses can come in all forms of immorality and idolatries of the 21st century, against the values of the Good News of Christ championed by Paul.
Whatever our shortcomings, fevers and sufferings might be, these days, in living and preaching the Gospel of Christ, we are invited to open up for our understanding of suffering in communion with Christ, not merely for its inevitability, but also for its Good News, its mystery, and redemptive values.