HEALING AND COMFORT IN OUR SUFFERING
What image can we have of ourselves on our pilgrimage of life? It is like that of a boy walking in the field with his father. Along the way, the boy holds the hand of his father, and with his other hand he picks up stones, or picks grains and flowers, or tries to catch butterflies passing by, but almost at all times, he is looking for something to fiddle with. His eyes are all over the place, and his feet are at times going in different directions. But he never lets go of his one hand holding on to his father. That is exactly what our relationship with Jesus should be at all times. We will be occasionally greeted with challenges and trials and tribulations and loads of distractions, but we must never let our hearts drift away from God. Jesus, in the gospel, teaches us by example. He always had time to be alone and pray. That was His way of being united with the Father – and of finding peace, inspiration, direction and inexhaustible strength to continue and fulfill His mission.
In the first reading from the book of Job, most of us probably already know the story of Job. He was a man who believed completely in the Lord and had received enormous blessings. The devil tries to undo this faith of Job. Eventually all the blessings are removed and sufferings are heaped on Job. While Job questions what is happening, he never doubts nor loses faith.
As we listen to daily news over Radio, Television, Newspapers and Social Media we get to know about the suffering condition of people around our locality in the nation and across the world. Human suffering is a mystery. We have a poor understanding of the meaning of suffering and much less, its redemptive nature. Suffering becomes even more mysterious when we see an innocent person suffer and we cannot explain why he has to go through such.
The story of Job in the scriptures is one of the most graphic descriptions of an innocent person who suffered. In his story, we see a man who had been faithful to God, but who, at a stage in his life had to go through acute distress. He lost his wealth, health, children, and even social prestige. Many of his friends abandoned him, but a few stood by him to encourage him. Job handled his condition in a human way and in a prayerful manner. He cried out in frustration when he was confined by the burden of his sickness and could not carry on with his normal daily activities. Lying in bed, he wondered, “When will it be day?’ and when it is day, he thinks, “How slowly evening comes!” (Job 7:4).
During the time of his sorrow, Job wondered if life was worth living. Job was restless and his miserable condition made him think of death as a better option. What Job was passed through is what St. Theresa refers to as the ‘dark night of the soul.’ Just like Job, when we are passing through suffering we sometimes ask God: ‘why must this happen to me? How long is this going to continue?’ and ‘why must it happen at this time?’ Even though Job voiced his frustration, he also expressed his faith in God. At a crucial point of his suffering, he confidently declares, “I believe my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25).
It is hard to understand why a good and caring God allows his people to suffer. We pray that we never lose faith despite our condition. Let us always understand that our condition is not our conclusion, and we can always rise from where we are, because we are planted, not buried. Are we that strong in faith? Can we trust God even when we question? Do we accept both blessings and sufferings from our Lord?
The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is Saint Paul’s account of how he tries to live the Good News. Saint Paul is clear: I must preach the Good News! Here we see Saint Paul not just enduring all of the trials and tribulations, but recognizing that preaching the Good News is required of him because he believes in Jesus. Does our faith impel us to share our faith with others? Are we able to tell others about our faith in Jesus? Are we willing to suffer because we believe that Jesus is the Lord?
The Gospel today is from Saint Mark. What is truly strong in the Gospel today is that everyone is looking for Jesus and that there is no place for Him to be away from the people. Jesus responds to that by saying: “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” The whole purpose of the life of Jesus is to preach the Kingdom, to proclaim the Good News: God loves us and invites us to share His life.
Who do you take your troubles to? Jesus' disciples freely brought their troubles to him because they found him ready and able to deal with any difficulty, affliction, or sickness which they encountered. When Simon brought Jesus to his home, his mother-in-law was instantly healed because Jesus heard Simon's prayer. Do you allow Jesus to be the Lord and healer in your personal life, family, and community? Approach the Lord with expectant faith. God's healing power restores us not only to health but to active service and care of others. There is no trouble he does not want to help us with and there is no bondage he can't set us free from. Do you take your troubles to him with expectant faith that he will help you?
Going further today’s gospel gives us an idea of the typical day of Jesus during his public ministry: “the whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases and he drove out many demons…He went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” (Mk 1:33-34, 39). Jesus was too busy that he had no time to so much as eat. That is why even his own relatives said: “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21). Based on our experience and standards, Jesus must be stressed out. But he was not. He was always at peace. How come? The secret of Jesus is revealed in the Gospel today: no matter how busy and exhausted he was, he would always find time to pray and to be with His Father: “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35). His communion with the Father gave him strength, inspiration and peace – it made him whole and focused in His mission, in fulfillment of the will of the Father.
Many of us experience restlessness and stress because we are divided within ourselves, we lack focus and so we are not in one piece. There is conflict within us. This inner conflict in us, which St. Paul describes as “the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23), is what makes us restless and divided. “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now, if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom 7:19-20).
When we are in sin, we are troubled. We lose our peace for we become divided within. But when we turn away from sin, and conform ourselves according to God’s will, we have peace for there is harmony and wholeness within. That is why Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God!” (Mt 5:8). Being clean of heart or single- hearted simply means being in one piece. And when this happens, we distinctly feel the presence of God in us. Indeed, peace is the presence of God. As St. Augustine says, “Our souls (hearts) are restless until they rest in the Lord”. Total peace and fullness of life will only be attained when we become united with God. This is what Jesus came for: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
When we are stressed and feel that the burden of life is just too much, perhaps it is a symptom that we are drifting away from the Father. We have to stop and find time to be with God in silence and in prayer. Jesus always invites us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28) …. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). May the peace and the loving presence of God be with us now and for always!!!
As a result of Jesus’ healing activities, people were seeking Him for healing. After a brief rest, instead of attending to those who were waiting to be healed, He left them and proceeded to the neighbouring place to preach. We must also ask ourselves. Who is Jesus to us? If we ask Him for graces, what is our purpose? Is He only a provider? Is He only a miracle worker? Or He is our Lord and Saviour? There is nothing wrong with asking for healing or material graces. If they are given, thanks be to God! But we should not forget the very reason why Jesus came. We should not also forget who God is to us. Jesus came to save. He used healing and preaching and miracles to proclaim His authority and His mission. We must pay more attention to God’s word and teaching, for with that we order our lives.
Let us look at today's Gospel and identify with the mother-in-law of Peter. Let us ask for the ordinary healing we need in our own lives. When we are healed, let us not forget to thank Jesus for his goodness, mercy, and compassion toward us by our own turning to serve others. Our own healing process is completed only when we are ready to help others in their needs and to focus on things outside ourselves.
Prayer - Lord Jesus Christ, you have all power to heal and to deliver from harm. There is no trouble or bondage you cannot overcome. Set us free to serve you joyfully and to love and serve others generously. May nothing hinder us from giving ourselves wholly to you and to your service. Amen!!!