Enduring Suffering with Divine Healing: 5th Sunday of the Year
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB
Fifth Sunday in ordinary time, YEAR B
First Reading: Job 7:1–4, 6–7
Psalm: Psalm 147:1–6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23
Gospel: Mark 1:29–39
SERMON AND LISTENING TO THE WORD
Theme: “Enduring Suffering with Divine Healing”
Point of reflection: Why suffering and diseases on earth? Am I ready to endure suffering? We need to open our hearts to allow God’s divine intervention in our problems. Christ is the Healer.
Sermon (Reflection): Dear friends of God, if you have never suffered — whether physically, mentally, or psychologically — then you are not a living human being. In its countless and diverse forms, suffering affects all areas of life and is quite inescapable. What is most important for Christians is to endure the suffering.
All the three readings of fifth Sunday in ordinary time feature the theme of enduring suffering with divine healing. As Christians we need to be guided by God’s word and face suffering with confidence and trust because Jesus Christ is the redeemer and the healer.
In the first reading, Job is grieving, and there is a confrontation of the mystery of undeserved suffering. Job, a believer, a righteous and innocent man is subjected to the brutal loss of all his property and family, and an illness that disfigures him. Job was unaware that his terrifying experience is a part of a test of his loyalty and faith in God designed in the heavenly court between Satan and God. Today too, as Christians we have lost family members, friends, property, and even illness is disfiguring us, but we are unware that the sufferings and difficulty times we are going through as an individual — as a family, as a community, and as country is part of our test of God’s loyalty and faith in God. We need to endure the suffering as Job experienced.
The Scripture acknowledges that suffering can push a righteous and believing person to the brink of madness. Yet, as the subsequent unfolding of the story of Job shows, Job never turned away from God. How many times have we turned away from God because of the difficulty moments we go through? Job argued and even challenged God, but never turned away from Him. Although severely challenged and tested, his fading faith endured the test of suffering. That is the enduring suffering that St Paul has reflected in the second reading (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23).
St Paul writes about his willingness to undergo various forms of deprivation and loss, to make his missionary efforts more effective and fruitful. The reading underlines how Paul endures everything for the sake of the Gospel. We too as Christians, we need to endure suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.
First, Paul decided to carry out his ministry without expecting support and remuneration from the community. Second, he even renounced his legitimate right to hold on to some fixed image or identity, which would guarantee him social recognition and status. St Paul was ready to endure the loss of everything for the sake of the Gospel which took hold of his entire existence (Cf. 2 Cor 11:25-30). The endurance of St Paul acquired meaning and became salvific instead of destructive. We can emulate a very good example of St Paul to endure suffering for the sake of the salvific mission.
The pinnacle of enduring suffering with divine healing is Jesus’ response to human suffering caused by illness. In Mark 1:29–39, Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Simon, who suffers from fever. The woman is at her native home, yet the disease prevented her from carrying out her tasks as a caretaker of her home. Jesus the healer enters this situation of an endangered human life and a disrupted home and restores its proper order. Thus, He physically heals the woman by touching her, thereby sharing his life and wholeness with her. Then, the restored woman returns to her traditional role as the home manager by assuming the role of a host–serving and taking care of her guests.
This episode shows how Jesus enters the human reality, which is disrupted and distorted by illness and suffering, and restores it. What we need today is God’s divine intervention in our life; all our difficulties, challenges, and sicknesses are nothing if we open our hearts and accept divine intervention in our situations. Only God is the healer and comforter.
Immediately after the healing, Mark reports that Jesus commanded the demons and evil spirits not to speak about Him and His true identity. Jesus needs no demonic testimony to reveal who He is and whom He represents. This further shows that Jesus has the authority and power over evil forces which afflict people with suffering. He dominates the evil forces which wreak havoc upon the world.
Mark highlights the prayer of Jesus as the source of his healing ministry intended to alleviate the sufferings of people. It was this prayer that enabled him to bring chaos into order and confront his people’s affliction and suffering with the healing touch of the divine power. My brother and sister, prayer is the weapon which counter attack every evil situation in your life. We need divine intervention in our life.
Listening to the Word of God “Healing mercies of the Lord”
The responsorial psalm of today breaks down all the barriers of human suffering “praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted” (cf. Psalm 147:1–6). Our hearts are wounded and they will continue to be wounded if we do not open them for Christ to heal us. Today’s readings show different responses to suffering.
Job resigned himself to pain and rebellion against his fate, but never decisively turned away from God. Though stubborn and angry, he did not give up on hope and faith. This teaches us not to give up when we are in difficult situations but to remain firm and have faith and hope that God will redeem us from our problems.
St Paul decided to welcome loss and suffering as a necessary price to be paid for pursuing his calling, which was carrying the Good News to the ends of the World. He was determined to turn what is normally destructive into advantageous in the service of the Gospel. Jesus in the Gospel confronted the chaos caused by illness and suffering with the divine power flowing from prayer.
For Christians, suffering might be unavoidable but not decisive, suffering and evil do not have the last word but can be met with faith, determination, and prayer. Aware of this, the Psalmist affirmed that ultimately God always “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Why are you so late my brother and sister to open up your heart to be healed by Jesus Christ?
Action: From today onwards, I (we) will choose to open my (our) heart for God and to respond to my (our) life’s sufferings, difficulties and challenges with prayer and trusting confidence in God’s providence. It is Jesus Christ who heals. What I (we) need today and in this life is Jesus Christ because in Jesus Christ there is everything and lacking nothing. If Jesus healed the Simon’s mother-in-law, why can’t He heal me (us)? The only thing I (we) need to do is to open my (our) heart to receive the healing mercies of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, my heart is restless until it lest in your healing mercy. Lord, give me strength and the gift of perseverance when faced with hardships and pain of my life. There is a lot of pain during this time of Covid-19, Lord calm my anxious thoughts and speak to my mind that you are my saviour and healer. Strengthen me when I falter, feel weary, disappointed, and distressed. May I feel strengthened to endure my own suffering and hardships, and I be a help and encouragement to others. Almighty God, heal my broken-heart and wounded-body, we ask this through Christ our Lord, the Redeemer and the Healer, Amen.
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