A reading from the Book of Job
(Chapter 7:1-4, 6-7)
Here is a cheery reading from Job, one of the most difficult characters in the Bible.
“Job spoke, saying: ‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings.? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”
Ow! What is this doing in our liturgy? It is a part of Job’s dialogue with three of his so-called friends who try to dissuade him from believing in God. But throughout his seemingly undeserved sufferings, Job does not lose his faith in God, and in the end, he is rewarded.
Have you or anyone you know ever felt like Job? Suffering? Sadness? Tossing and turning at night? No help from supposed friends or family? I hope that has not happened to you or anyone you love.
What we can learn from Job and his life of woes is that he did not give in. He did not lose his faith in God, even when his friends did not comfort him. Now, not only does God care for us, but God is not far from us, as he seemed to be far from Job. No! God lives within us. His Spirit is with us always. We have only to listen, especially when we feel down, depressed, or deserted. The Spirit is God within us.
(Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)
“Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” Yes, sometimes our hearts do break for any number of reasons. But God is a healer. Ask Jesus, the healer of hearts, to help restore you to spiritual health.
A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 9:16-19, 22-23)
Let us remember that the great Saint Paul that we meet in his letters was not always so great. He started off as a man who sought to murder Christians who he believed were following the wrong path. I have often wondered whether the Corinthians knew this when Paul came to preach to them. He seems to be trying to convince them that he is who he says he is, a true disciple of Jesus.
“Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it…. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” Once he saw the light, Paul became filled with the calling to preach and live the gospel, the “Good News.”
You and I may not have the same passion to travel the world as Paul did to spread the “Good News,” but we can proclaim it in the way we live each day and witness to God’s love.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
This episode took place early in the ministry of Jesus, and right away we see that Jesus was a healer. “Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all that were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising early before dawn, he left and went to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
Jesus was a healer then, and he is now for us. Have you been healed by Jesus? No? Maybe not in the dramatic way that he healed when he walked the earth, but he does heal now in many ways. It is not as though we pray, and a prescription comes back to us to follow. It is rarely instantaneous. It is more like a lifelong relationship. Sometimes you may feel the power of Jesus working in some dramatic way, but more often it is an abiding presence. “I am with you!”
Jesus is with each of us in different ways at different times, even when he may seem far away. We need to abide with him. He always abides with us.
Image: Job Restored to Prosperity, Laurent de La Hyre (1648). Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.