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Reflection on Mass readings
7th February, 2021
Reflection on Mass readings
Sunday 7th Feb 2021 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 147:1-6 1Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 Mk 1:29-39
The book of Job is one that wrestles with the concept of suffering in general and innocent suffering in particular. It thus pushes against and ruptures the concept of suffering in Deuteronomy that interprets suffering as a punishment for wrongdoing. But it also highlights the other side that a person’s righteousness grants them no claim upon God. Today’s reading gives us Job’s soliloquy on the miseries of life. He lays bare any attempt at understanding the deeper meaning of life, pointing as he does to the aimlessness and incomprehensibility of life and human existence. No set of doctrines or systems is able to explain anything about life satisfactorily.
The Psalm is one of return from the Babylonian Exile and is a fitting response, albeit an allusion, to God who “heals the broken-hearted”. God is the source and meaning of our existence and without him, nothing makes sense. What then is one to do? How is one to recognize God’s wotking in our lives? The answer is perhaps not in looking for it but rather living out God’s pattern in the world. Hebrew thought referred to this as “Hesed”. Often translated as mercy, Hesed really means going beyond what is expected of us.
This is what Paul refers to when he says he has an “obligation to preach the Gospel”. Although he is well within his rights to both expect as well as accept food and shelter for preaching the Gospel; Paul does id “free of charge”. Again, while the Risen Jesus never insisted that Paul should identify himself with those to whom he preached the Gospel; Paul of his own accord becomes one with his audience
The Gospel has Jesus successfully teaching, healing and exorcising. And yet, Jesus doesn’t stay in Capernaum but moves on ahead to other towns so he can “preach there too”. No one would have faulted Jesus for staying in Capernaum; it is Jesus who chooses to go beyond. He wakes up “early in the morning” to pray and then to move on. His miracles are only subordinate to his “Hesed-driven” purpose – to preach the Good News.
It is in going beyond ourselves and what is expected of us that we truly realise the full meaning of life. God will take Job beyond his reason, it is there that Job will find the meaning of life. Paul, who in the risen Christ has found true meaning in life goes beyond himself.
What about us? Are we perhaps stuck in the rut because we focus only on what is necessary? Or do we allow ourselves to be led beyond our horizons into the vastness of God?