Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Healing Power of God

Have you ever noticed how the Mass readings, especially the First Reading and the Gospel, fit together? They often emphasize similar themes or illustrate the same points. Today's readings are no exception; the First Reading, Psalm, and Gospel all explore the important themes of human suffering and God's healing touch. Let's take a closer look.

Today's First Reading, Job 7:1-4, 6-7, lays bare the depths of human pain and suffering. Everything in Job's life is going wrong. He has lost his family, his flocks, and even his good health. By the time we meet him in this reading, he is sitting in the ashes, covered head to foot in boils and absolutely miserable. Naturally, Job laments. Human life is all drudgery and slavery, he whines. People get no reward for their goodness and hard work. He complains of months of misery, sleepless nights, and days without hope or happiness. He even goes so far as to declare that he will never be happy again.

This is a pretty depressing reading, actually. We might even be a little glad when the lector proclaims, “The Word of the Lord.” But the tone changes as we begin the Psalm.

Psalm 147 is a song of praise. “Praise the Lord!” the psalmist exclaims. Why? God is good! He is gracious! He rebuilds Israel and gathers His people together. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. The powerful and wise God knows all the stars and calls each one by its name, which implies that He also knows each and every one of us and calls each of us by our name. He sustains the lowly and protects them from the wicked.

In other words, God is the answer to the human suffering that Job laments so emphatically. When we are broken and helpless, God comes to our aid and heals us. When we are miserable and hopeless, He lifts us up and fills us with His love. When we can't find meaning in the circumstances of our lives, we can always find meaning in Him. The Psalm becomes a faith-filled, hope-filled response to the First Reading. We may suffer, but we always have Someone to turn to in our pain, Someone Who will always help us.

The Gospel shows us God's consoling and healing power in action. When Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew, He finds Simon's mother-in-law sick with a fever. He doesn't hesitate. The instant He discovers her illness, He approaches her, grasps her hands, and helps her up. The fever leaves her immediately, and she responds with grateful service.

Word spreads quickly about this miraculous healing, and people line up on Simon's doorstep, bringing those who are sick and those possessed by evil spirits. Like Job, many of them probably feel helpless and hopeless. They are all seeking healing, wholeness, meaning, and an end to their misery.

And they find it. Jesus heals every one of them. He doesn't stop there. After a period of prayer, of deep intimacy between Jesus and His Father, Jesus moves on to nearby villages where He continues to heal all those who come to Him. His ministry spreads throughout the whole of Galilee.

In the Gospel, then, we get a close-up view of God's healing power, of His response to human suffering and misery. We receive much-needed reassurance that God loves us, cares for us, heals us, and brings us into an intimate relationship with Him.

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