5th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus And The Suffering Of Humankind.”
When we reflect on the serious problems troubling humanity we ask ourselves why all this should take place? In the first reading Job describes in dramatic terms the situation of people on earth.
The Gospel is a reply to the problems raised by the desperate denunciation of Job. Jesus sees the sad reality of suffering and disease. He takes up the task and teaches his disciples to engage in the construction of a new world that he has just begun.
The second reading proposes Paul as an example: he is Paul, a man who does not spare his energy and dedication in his mission; yet he is ready to give up his legitimate rights, in order to ensure the growth of the ‘Kingdom of God’.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Job 7:1-4, 6-7.
The first reading tells us that there
is no easy answer to the problem of human suffering. Job’s friend Eliphaz had a simple but very misguided philosophy, “Can you recall anyone guiltless who perished (Jb. 4:6)?”
Job himself in his affliction compared human life to that of a soldier, to a slave, to someone looking for release but never finding it.
All of us, at some time or other, have asked ourselves why so many calamities, injustices, wars, diseases, disappointments and exploitation plague the world. We are puzzled by seeing upright people experiencing a lot of suffering, while everything seems to go well with wicked people who have healthy families, enjoy success and prosperity. We ask ourselves, is this right?
The story of Job has been written to help us reflect on such problems. He was a very religious person, always well behaved, and yet he was struck by an endless string of calamities. Job is near despair. He has lost his children, his income, his home and his health. Why did God allow Job to fall into such a desperate state? Why did he allow him to be born if he was to experience only misfortune and pain?
Job is not resigned; he doesn’t suffer in silence; he gives vent to his sorrow in front of God and boldly asks God to explain the reason for his afflictions and calamities. His cry alarms us by sounding like rebellion and blasphemy. And yet, it is a deeply emotional and touching prayer. He had in the end to bend down in humility to a mystery he could not solve, before a God whose thoughts he could not grasp, and admit, “I am the man who misrepresented your intentions with my ignorant words” (42:3).
Some of us have known similar disasters, times when everything has gone wrong. Even when things are going well for us, we know that our lot can change in an instant. For example: bad medical test results, an unexpected retrenchment, a down turn in the economy, a phone call in the middle of the night, or two sombre looking policemen standing on our doorstep apologizing for the news they are about to give us.
Job did not despair. Through his anguish and his pain he continued to trust in God, surrendering his paltry wisdom to God’s mysterious designs. The story of Job reminds us that our faith does not preserve us from pain and suffering. We often hear Christians trying to explain God’s ways: he sends trials to those he loves the most. ‘The more a person suffers, the more God is pleased with him or her.’ ‘Sorrow and suffering purifies, it is a God-sent gift and gains merits for heaven.’ ‘Others declare that these trials are punishment for our sins.’
Are we ready to accept these opinions? As Christians, we believe that we are not alone in our pain. Jesus, who experienced more pain than most of us can imagine, is with us in our anguish every step of the way. He invites us to cling to him whenever disaster befalls us. In the Gospel of today we shall see how Jesus handles the sad reality of suffering and disease.
The optimism of the Psalm contrasts with the pessimism of Job. Though the people have suffered in exile and experienced great loss, God has brought them back and healed them. He is in charge of his creation and no one can measure his wisdom. He raises the lowly and humbles the wicked.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23.
Paul tackles the problem of meat sacrificed to idols. Was a believer to eat it or not? On the theoretical side, the answer was clearly yes. Yet there were some members of the community who could not bring themselves to do so. For their sake, Paul decided never to eat meat again. (Ch.8). He would not exercise his rights if this prevented others accepting the Gospel. He was ready to forgo other privileges too due to him as a servant of the Gospel, such as financial support. Although as an apostle and a Christian, he was free, he made himself the slave of all, to gain them for Christ.
The Gospel of today presents to us a typical day in the life of Jesus. Peter’s mother-in-law responds to her healing by serving Jesus and his disciples. Jesus restores people to health physically so that they can also be restored into a fuller relationship with others socially and with God religiously. Serving each other joyfully is a way of bearing witness to God’s goodness.
In the thick of all these activities Jesus withdraws to be alone with God in a quiet place and then moves on to other places to continue the proclamation of the Good News. The two poles of the ministry of Jesus come out in this story: being with people to teach them and to heal them and being with his Father in order to converse with Him and get the energy to serve the people in the way his Father wants.
Action needs prayer and contemplation. Prayer and contemplation need action. This is the vocation of all who want to follow Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark this is the first time that we told that Jesus prayed. He will pray again when he blesses the loaves to feed a large crowd and after sending the crowd and his disciples away, he will go off to pray. After the Last Supper, before his arrest, he goes off to Gethsemane to pray. From these three occasions we see that it is especially at very critical moments in his ministry that Jesus takes time to pray. Whenever an important decision has to be taken, Jesus prays in order to know whether he should continue what he is doing or change direction in the way his Father would want.
In prayer, Jesus seeks the will of the Father. Jesus is faced with the consequences of a growing popularity. Do all these people come to him with the right motives? Do they really want to discover God? Or do they come just because of the healing? Should he stay where he enjoys great popularity or should he go on to other places to preach the Good News?
A time of reflective prayer will help him discover what his Father’s will is. The answer he gives to Simon Peter is the fruit of this time of prayer. Jesus has discerned in prayer that the Father’s will is what he must move on instead of enjoying his own popularity.
The questions of the suffering Job are not really answered in the Gospel. What sort of world would it be in which suffering was totally eliminated? Clearly it would be a very different place. First of all the physical environment would have to be different. Modern science seems to suggest that it is not possible. The basic laws of physics, which make it possible for us to exist, are the same laws, which create the conditions in which suffering is possible.
But even if the physical world could be changed so as to eliminate diseases and natural disasters, that would not solve the problem. There still remains the suffering, which human beings inflict on themselves and on each other. To change that would mean changing people by taking away their freedom of choice. People cannot have true freedom unless the possibility of misusing it exists. Would it be a better world if there were no free choice; if we were all programmed automations?
Suffering then seems to be consequences of the way things are. But it would be a mistake to think that God is indifferent to suffering, or worse that he deliberately inflicts it. God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ and in Jesus; God has subjected himself to the consequences of the universe he has created. When Jesus died in terrible agony on the Cross, God showed himself to be at one with the suffering of humanity.
All of our lives contain some drudgery and sorrow, but in Christ, all drudgery and sorrow become birth pangs of a new life. In basing our lives on Christ, our pain, taken in faith, becomes part of our journey, as it was part of Christ’s journey.
We may still have questions about the endless suffering that surrounds us, but like Jesus we must remain committed to the caring for the sick. Through the witness of Jesus we hold fast to the truth that God loves us in our weakness and our suffering.
It is no use blaming God for the sad condition and misery of people on earth. The only attitude we can adopt is by prayerfully asking God for his guidance and to stand by the sufferers and fight evil with all our abilities.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … When things in our lives go seriously wrong and suffering becomes unbearable, do we have the trust in God and the fortitude to persevere and not give up in despair? Job did not despair; amid suffering, pray like the lamenting Job with the realization that “complaining” to God is a deep form of faith. Job touches unerringly upon every phase of life’s dark side of suffering and yet, he never loses faith in God.
Mon. …Do we perhaps expect that as Christians our faith somehow should make us immune to disasters and suffering? Do we subconsciously add up all of our good deeds and like an accountant create a balance sheet in our minds which shows that God owes us credits/favours; and when things turn upside down in our lives, we feel let down?
Tues. … Have we come to terms with the reality of suffering in this world in a way that we do not place blame on God and his divine plan for all humanity? Do we believe that God loves us and is not indifferent to our suffering and accept that our misfortunes are not punishments from God for our sins? Most often our misfortunes are a direct consequence of our sinful actions towards others.
Wed. … Paul was prepared to forego benefits and privileges if it prevented others from accepting the Gospel. Would we do the same? Would we give up some of our rights if it negatively infringed on the lives of others, and be prepared to endure hardship to make life easier for others?
Thurs. … Do we follow the example Jesus has given us in the way we serve God? We need to be active in our own faith by committing ourselves to the needs of others and at the same time converse with God through prayer in order to carry out his will.
Frid. … All of our lives contain some drudgery and sorrow, failed dreams and shattered hopes, but in Christ, all drudgery and sorrow become the birth pangs of new life. In basing our lives on Christ, our pain and suffering, taken in faith, becomes part of our journey, as it was part of Christ’s journey. Our sorrows become balanced by the conviction that a new day is dawning, an everlasting day when we will live forever in God’s loving embrace.
Sat. … Pray today for someone you know that is suffering a serious, isolating illness, and ask how God may call you to touch his/her life.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we may remember that Your Son, Jesus, by his sufferings, earned for us the strength to endure. Help us to understand that we do not need only to rely on ourselves but we have at our disposal the power of the Holy Spirit in whom we can overcome all difficulties. “Nothing is impossible with God”.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and
reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.