February 8, 2015 — Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week’s readings extend from Job, a man who needed to be healed, to Jesus healing many in Galilee. Healing is something of which we all are in need, whether it is physical or psychological or spiritual. As much as we may try to avoid it, our lives are filled with pain and suffering of one type or another. Jesus understood that and speaks to it extensively in His teachings.
Most of us are familiar with Job, a man who might seem to have been dealing with more than he could handle. Job is the ultimate pessimist. He bemoans his state in life, and in truth he was faced with many challenges. It was as if he wanted to die because he felt that only in death would he find relief from his pain and suffering. As we learn, however, God has other plans for Job; God will offer him both relief and joy in eternity. At times we, too, might focus so much on our own difficulties that we fail to see positives. The greatest positive is that the Lord is with us, both to share and relieve our suffering. Jesus is our hope, and that is where our focus should be.
The struggles of Job in many ways parallel our own. Job suffers and he questions how God can let that happen. In spite of his doubts Job comes across as a holy man. As difficult as that may be for each of us, that should in fact be our goal. In spite of all, we need to continue to strive to achieve holiness.
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, our second reading, shows some of the same thoughts and concerns as Job. Of course, we do not view Paul as suffering in the way and to the extent of Job. However, Paul does recognize that he, as is the case with each of us, must fulfill his charge from God, and that is not always easily done. Paul the Evangelist points out that God gives him the strength to preach the Gospel in spite of the response and reaction of his listeners, and regardless whether he receives support from those to whom he is preaching. As lonely and isolated as that may seem, as stewards and disciples, we, too, must be prepared to do what is right and to live out our Christian way of life no matter the consequences.
Job and Paul make somewhat indirect references to healing, but today’s Gospel from Mark speaks directly to healing done by Jesus. He heals in privacy (Peter’s mother-in-law), and He heals publicly: “He cured many who were sick with various diseases.” And then the Lord prays. Jesus demonstrates to us that being busy is no reason not to pray; instead it is a reason to pray. Jesus always found time and made time to pray. We need to do the same. A consistent and regular prayer life is an important way we live out our stewardship of time.
The Lord prayed not because of helplessness but because of the power He gained from prayer. Lent will soon be here. If we make one change in our lives, perhaps it should be to intensify and increase our own prayer lives. Jesus knew the value of public prayer, but He also knew and experienced the joy of praying alone. “He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed.” St. John Vianney wrote, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.”