Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (4th Feb.)

Job 7:1-4; 6-7
Poor Job! Bruised and bloodied, Job’s life had flipped suddenly on its side – a gruesome sight. He is in the depths of a severe depression. He begins questioning himself – why me. He is widely recognised as a good man, “sound, honest, a man who feared God and shunned evil! (1:1), a wealthy and influential man in the community. Here, he has lost everything – property, family (except for his wife), his children tragically caught up in a “sudden great wind” and all of them dead.

In our verses today we read how abandoned and desolate he feels abandoned, above all by the God he loves. It is just emptiness and nights of misery, tossing and turning all night. He is truly suffering in this deserted place.

Many of us will recognise such a desert place, perhaps an experience of great suffering, of little understanding or empathy, of loss, wracked with anxiety and suffering in our spirit. Friends, somewhat like Job’s, while well-meaning can be unhelpful. Unable to understand deep suffering, they try by offering flaccid answers.

Persistent suffering affects a person mentally and bodily. It changes the person. Left to himself, Job is arguing his case with himself. He comes face to face with God. He remembers the love God has had for him – an explicit acknowledgement of the God of his life, of all the blessings he has received.

The deserted place creates: Change and healing blossom in its environment. Job in his dialogue with himself and with God is “in process” of finding the answer to suffering. Face-to-face encounter with God kindles his trust in the God of his life –“the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord”(1:21-23).

Psalm 146. 1-6, R v3 daily

To praise God can be a natural everyday response to the minutiae of daily living. How often do we say ‘thank God’ without much thought? What would it take to nudge ourselves each time we do use the expression to let flit across our minds praise of God? Praise is a central aspect of our lives before the Creator God. Our primary trust is in those who love us. This psalm spells out for us the God who saves us from our frailties and fragmentation, and traps that may lead us astray. There is a good word from Job; we live out our purposeful lives and ‘return to dust’, while leaving so much loving undone.

We are truly blessed who trust in God, our Saviour. Praise brings peace, praise reigns in and guards our hearts and minds. Praise the Creator God of the Universe, whose mysteries our world continues to marvel and seeks to unravel.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19: 22-23.

The heading in my New Testament (RSV) reads, “The Rights of the Apostle” What is the “Right of Proclaiming” the gospel which brings with it “obligation”? In this reading we have a self-reflection from Paul on his understanding of his own role as an apostle to the Corinthian Christian Community. There are many divisions rife among this Christian community over the gospel message (1:10ff). Paul understood his preaching of the good news as call from God to this community. With the call is carried an obligation. In defence of his right and obligation, he argues that he has become a slave to the people of Corinth. He has committed himself to enter into this community and submit himself to their daily needs and aspirations for the sake of the gospel. He supports himself and his preaching freely, so there will be no cost to the Corinthians. He is not only sent to the Corinthians to proclaim the Good news of the gospel but to be the Good news to all those whom he meets in the community. Paul cherishes all, whatever religion or social persuasion they may come from in this community. He must preach to them. That is the commission entrusted to him. In order to grasp the fruits of the gospel he needs to do so, not just by preaching by word of mouth but being “all things to all people”(9:22). “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings “(9:23).

This self-reflection of Paul is a fruitful model for each of us as preachers of the gospel.. It is in sharing the Word of the Gospel with others that the word penetrates our own being, our own presence and activity in this world.
Mark 1:29-39

This reading from the apostle Mark reads like a Diary entry – an Agenda for 24 hours!
* As soon as they left the synagogue Jesus, Simon and Andrew, James and John entered Simon’s house where his mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. While there, Jesus touched her and lifted her up and she was well enough to assume her rightful role in the household to minister to them.
*That evening they brought to him all those who had gathered at the house, the ill, the lonely, the broken, the empty and desolate. The whole city came to Him, we are told. He cured many of them that were ill. He never leaves those who need to be touched and healed. He may withdraw but He never leaves. Job discovered this too, that healing and new life emerge in deserted and desolate places. After all it was in the desert place that God formed the people of God (in Irish, the pobal Dé).
* In the morning He went off secretly to a quiet and deserted place to pray to His Father and refuel, so to speak, for his mission of preaching and healing.
*Later that day when they had tracked Him down he suggests to Simon and Andrew, James and John that they accompany Him to the neighbouring towns to proclaim there the good news too. They set out on their first preaching tour of the cities of Galilee. They were with Him and learned from Him that He was called to all. “This was what I came to do”(38b).

In this passage there is almost an urgency in Jesus to get on with His mission of being present and active in the communities. Present and active – a clarion call for all of us preachers.

Sister Dominique Horgan OP

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