In our readings today, people are tired. In our first reading, Job is tired and despondent by the losses he has experienced in life. St. Paul seems a little tired of having his authority and message challenged by the Christians of Corinth. In the Gospel, Jesus is tired at the end of His first day of public ministry in Capernaum.
In the Book of Job, we have a good and upright, religious man who has his children, farm, and health taken from him. He is a man who is suffering. He is bewildered by the circumstances of his life. Yet, Job holds fast to his faith. He has no answer to suffering but he trusts God in all things. In the end this trust is rewarded and all is restored to him and he lives to be 140 years old. We see that Job keeps his sense of proportion. He knows that we have two lives: one on earth, the other, more wonderful and enduring in Heaven. He sees rightly, that this life is short lived and he is only passing through. This life is the place of faithfulness to God and playing our part in His service. Job remains a steadfast witness to all who see him. Though he is in pain, Job knows that there is more to life than even the massively important gifts of family and security. All our blessing are gifts of God. As Job says: “The Lord gave; the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”. Job teaches us that we actually secure our family and future for eternity by keeping the faith.
Like Job we find suffering a challenge. If we are not to be healed, then we must turn our misery into ministry as does Job. Job, despite great provocation, doesn’t give up on God but remains an example of stubborn faith to others. I often marvel at the sick I visit who smile and are in good humour. The sick have a unique insight into what the pain of the crucifixion of Jesus achieved. They selflessly in turn offer up their pain in solidarity with Jesus as a share in His passion and cross. By offering it up, the Lord takes the sick person into His loving activity to lift up the world. The sick, though weak to the world, are in my view, the Lord’s most powerful ministers.
In the Gospel, the Lord’s first day has proved demanding. I can imagine Jesus was concerned how He would be received. Thankfully, it has been a great success. Jesus encountered people who were ill and He healed them. He did so out of compassion but also for another important reason: to proclaim the reign of God in human affairs. Let us look at Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother in law. Jesus shows His power to heal the woman by touching her. The gesture of holding the woman’ s hand, is an imparting of the Holy Spirit. The healing touch of Jesus is a wonderful reality. In chapter five of Mark’s Gospel, we have the healing of two incurables: the woman with the haemorrhage and a dead little girl. The woman forces her way through the crowd believing all she need do is to touch Jesus and she will be healed, she succeeds and is cured. When Jesus brings the dead girl back to life He takes her by the hand, says “Little girl, I tell you to get up!”. When Peter’s mother in law is touched and healed, she immediately waits on Jesus and His companions. The woman shows that the touch of Jesus must always translate into care, love, service and selflessness. When God gives a gift, it is given to be shared. In the Mass at Holy Communion and Jesus is given into our hands, do we feel the healing touch of His Sacred Presence? As we are about to receive, can we not bring the same confidence of the woman who believed just to be in touch with Jesus heals everything?
At the end of His first hectic day in Capernaum, Jesus is tired. The day has taken a great deal out of Him. He gets up first thing in the morning. He is exhausted and He needed a longer rest but He has a greater priority. Jesus goes away to a quiet place to be alone in prayer to His Father. It is in prayer that Jesus know the Father’s Will and He could share His demanding life with the One Who sent Him. Jesus needed to maintain a constant communion with His Father in Heaven. Jesus lived out the fruit of His prayer. The communion of prayer resourced and encouraged Jesus. This was supremely stated for us as we see Him pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before His trial, passion and death. In His daily life, Jesus seeks out people’s pain, sadness and reality. He takes it on and brings the afflicted person forward.
In all this He is teaching His disciples to learn from Him. The weak and needy must be the disciples concern as it was their Master’s. The disciples ask Jesus to stay where He is successful. But Jesus knows, reinforced by His prayer, that He must move on into the uncertainty of future places and maybe be made less welcome. Jesus is the God of opportunity for everyone. We must never do what we do for people’s approval or just for people who will be grateful.
My takeaway from this is that in order to continue the Master’s work of loving service, we need to be a people of prayer. Jesus was very busy and everybody wanted a piece of Him. Many of us know the feeling. When myself and my brothers were pestering mom for something and she was busy doing something else, she used to say to us: “I can’t make halves of myself!”. We all want to bring quality to the requirements of our daily duty and the demands of life; to do justice to the opportunities given to love and serve God in our neighbour. We need to pray for the grace of God to fuel and guide our words and deeds. I like the Duracell battery advert, I find it very instructive. You know the one, several rabbits must either run or play the drums. When other batteries are exhausted and the rabbits slow to a stop, the rabbit with Duracell keeps going. We, the Lord’s disciples are here for the long haul. We must accept that life will make its demands and for many pain is inevitable. We must trust God and believe our struggle, if offered up, is redemptive. There is no substitute for prayer. We should wear out two patches on the carpet by our beds with our knees. Jesus found peace in stressful times when He talked to His Father. May the peace this world could never give fill the all anxious hearts at this time.
Fr. Gerard X