Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B 2015
Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B 2015
The plight of Job is the classic case of the the person who suffers and doesn’t deserve to suffer. At the point when he talks to his so-called friends today, he is pretty low. He has been hit with all sorts of misery over and over again. In his own words he says he has had “months of emptiness” and “nights of misery”. Like a depressed person he sees “no hope” and in his quickly fleeting life, he doesn’t think he will see anything good again.
Our reading ends there leaving us rather depressed and hanging. Surely there is hope for everyone. Why would God allow such suffering as this? Most of us have been there, at least a little. Those of us who have had serious illness, or lost a spouse or child, or suffered job loss or bankruptcy have all been down the same path as Job.
But, although we don’t read about it today there is hope for Job, especially because he stays faithful to God. Now, he does get a little gutsy after his entire family dies and he is a little sharp with God, but he never renounces God.
The whole point of the Book of Job though, it seems to me, is that pain and suffering are part of the human condition. God allows it but God is not punishing anyone. The point is how we react to pain and suffering in terms of our faith in God.
Job’s suffering runs the whole gamut of pain. That is why he is an ‘everyman”. He has physical pain in rashes and sores, blisters and boils. He has mental pain in that his reputation has been shattered and his social standing taken away. He has emotional pain in the death of most of the people he knows, including his whole family, and he has spiritual pain because he thinks he must have done something to deserve all the pain.
Through it all, however, even at the end, Job says that ‘he came naked from his mother’s womb and will go back their naked. God gave, and God took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’. In other words, who are we to question why God allows such suffering and pain? God has a wider plan both for us and for civilization. Through his suffering, Job and we learn a lot by our questioning, In the end Job is restored and rewarded because of his faithfulness to God.
This is why in Psalm 147, after that depressing first reading, we can shout “Sing praises to the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” And also “God’s understanding is beyond measure.” And all this is related to “How good it is to sing praises to our God.” In other words, if we continue to sing praises to God, even in our misery, somehow good will come of it.
In the second reading, Paul suffers all sorts of things in his life as well, but he does it all for the Gospel, he says, so that he may share in its blessings. He also says that “If I do this of my own will, I have a reward.” This is similar to Job’s understanding – if we stay faithful to God, if we carry out his will for us (Paul uses the word “commission”) then we will somehow be rewarded.
We know that God does intervene to help people, although from our point of view, it may seem unfair or very random. Some get cured, others don’t. On earth, though, Jesus showed his God-like nature by healing (physically and spiritually) all sorts of people. Perhaps it was because Jesus was also human, and so was able to cry at Lazarus’ death and feel great sympathy for so many of the suffering people he came up against. In any case, Jesus was first achieving fame as a healer.
Very early on in his career he was healing. Today we read of how he went to Simon Peter’s house and Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever, an infection probably, of some sort. Jesus took her hand and cured her. We also learn that John says early on ‘the whole city” came out to Peter’s house with the diseased people of the city and the mentally ill. And Jesus took care of them all. It is that empathy that comes with Jesus’ humanity that allows God to interrupt the chain of random events and change natural law. So our prayers for the ill should not stop. It may be there there is a greater good in some illness that we can’t see, but we should still cry out to God, who through Jesus was able to suffer along with us and knows what it feels like.
Although he was a healer, the healings were interrupting what Jesus had actually set out to do, and that was preach and tell the Good News of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus took time to pray alone in deserted places to prepare himself, and then moved to the next town to preach, where likely he was interrupted by the pained and suffering people there.
What I see the readings today reminding us of, then, is that we must never give up our faith in God, we must never give up our cries to God to stop suffering and pain, but we also need to realize that their is a greater purpose, one that we are not in on. And so, we place our trust in God, and by doing that, hope that God will reward us in some way. And this is the Good News of trust that we need to be reminded of today, as we continue our constant pleas to the God of healing.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]