From the Pulpit: Feb. 4, 2018

February 4, 2018 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sometimes life is hard and it seems as though the problems are just overwhelming.
• Some people have to deal with anxiety or depression.
• Some people have to deal with financial problems.
• Some people have to deal with chronic sickness or pain.
• Some people have to deal with family problems.
• Some people have to deal with marriage problems.
• Some people have to deal with problems at work and job security.

Our readings for this weekend present people who have difficulties, problems, and illness.

First Reading
Our first reading is a reading from the book of Job. We don’t have many readings during the church year from this book.
• I believe a little background information might be helpful.
• Job is an interesting character.
• Actually, the book of Job is a study in the meaning of his suffering.
• Initially, Job is a man who is truly blessed by God with family, possessions and good health.
• The tempter approaches God and tells him that if the life of Job turns for the worse, he will end up cursing God.
• God disagrees.
• Then in a single day everything changes.
• Job loses all of his possessions and as he is being informed that his flocks and herds have been destroyed by marauders, a messenger arrives to tell him that a tornado struck the home of his children and grandchildren and not one of them escaped.
• They all perished.
• If that were not bad enough, when Job wakes up in the morning he is covered with painful boils.
• Three of his friends hear of his misfortune and decide to come and visit him.
• They are quick to tell him that his misfortunes are the result of his sinfulness.
• However, Job protests and tells them that he has done nothing wrong and that he has always obeyed God and is a righteous person.
• His I’ll fortune is not the result of sin.
• You see, in antiquity sickness and ill fortune were considered to be the result of a person’s sinfulness.
• In short, they were punishment for sin.
• Our scripture passage for Mass today then is a lament by Job over all of the misfortunes that have come his way.
• His words are filled with great sadness and sorrow.
• The point of the reading is that sickness and difficulties in human life are not the result of sinfulness.
• Somehow they are mysteriously tied up in the plan of God.
• God reminds Job that he is God and God‘s ways are his ways and sometimes there is no understanding or human explanation.
At the end of the book of Job God rewards him by reinstating all of the blessings that he forfeited.

In the gospel, we meet a number of nameless people who are sick or experiencing problems and difficulties.
• The one mentioned at the beginning of the gospel is Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.
• We are told that she is suffering from some kind of sickness and high fever. Immediately, Jesus goes and takes her by the hand and with a few words restores her to health.
• As word begins to disseminate throughout the village and countryside people bring those suffering from all kinds of diseases and infirmities to Jesus.
• There must’ve been quite a crowd and quite a long line around Simon Peter‘s house as those who were in need of healing and those who were troubled came to Jesus to be made whole.
• This gospel relates the healing power of God.
• In that moment of encounter when Jesus confronts illness, disease and all kinds of infirmities, people are made whole.
• This is God’s desire for his people.

Without an exception, every one of us experiences illness, difficulties and troubles in our life.
• How we react to them ultimately will spell out whether we approach them with a sense of hope or hopelessness.
• In the scriptures that we have for today we are introduced to people who experienced illness or difficulties in their lives.
• What did they do? Every single one of them turn to God for help.

I have noticed that there is an interesting experience that more often than not occurs when a person faces either a long illness or difficulties and troubles.
• There seems to be a feeling of isolation. More often than not a person seems to lose contact with the outside world.
• Because of pain, anxiety or difficulties a person tends to turn in upon themselves.
• In doing so, they lose an emotional bond of support from other people.
• As a result, they feel as though they must face difficulties alone.

Different people act differently when it comes to either illness, problems or difficulties in life.
• The way a person reacts tells something about how they view themselves in relationship to God.

1. For some people, when illness, adversity or difficulties come, they become bitter and angry.
• They withdraw and become distant and bitter about life and become angry with God and blame him or others for all of their problems.
• They assume that if God is good, why does he let bad things happen to them.
• I guess, in some way there’s an answer in our first reading from the book of Job.

2. On the other hand, there are some people when faced with a serious illness or difficulties become very compassionate and sympathetic toward others.
• Yes, they struggle with their problems.
• However, they reach out in the spirit of generosity.
• Amazingly enough they grow closer to God because of the situation of illness or anxiety.
• In a mysterious way, they share in the sufferings of Jesus and draw even closer to God.

Jesus is there
The scripture stories today both from the old and the New Testaments are reminders of something that is significant.
• Jesus says to each of us, “I will be there for you.”
• In our first reading God is present to Job in his sufferings.
• In our Gospel Jesus is present to those who are sick and in his compassionate love he heals.

Gospel Challenge
The gospel challenge for this week is really an easy one. As a matter fact, you can probably do it here at Mass today.
• If you’re experiencing illness, anxiety or problems, after you receive holy communion spend some time with Jesus.
• Give him those things that are heavy on your heart.
• Let him be there for you as he was with those who were sick and in the distress in our Gospel story today.
• In that holy encounter, let him be with you and surround you with his healing.

If you don’t have any particular concern on your heart today, then pray for somebody that you know who is struggling with life.
• Perhaps they have a chronic illness or some kind of difficulty or problem in life. Lift them up to Jesus after holy Communion.
• Ask Jesus to be with them and give them the peace that they need.

Remember, Jesus promised always to be with us.
• In the difficult times of our life when we face illness or struggles or difficulties. Jesus is most surely present there with us.
• Sometimes it’s difficult to feel that presence or even to know that he is there.
• But in our readings for mass today he tells us, “I am always there with you and I’m always there for you.”