Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7:1-2, 6-7
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
If Job in our first readings seems like a real downer it needs to be pointed out that he has a lot to complain about. Job was extraordinarily comfortable when it came to this world’s goods. He was also extraordinarily religious. I guess one could say that it appeared that Job “had it all.” However, as a result of challenges presented to God by the devil, Job lost it all. Not only all of his worldly goods, but even his progeny, his sons. He did, indeed, have a lot to complain about. Yet, it is good to know that Job never cursed God, in spite of the urging of his ne’er-do-well friends, and his faith was unwavering.
In our liturgy this weekend Job appears to provide the contrast to the figures of Paul and Simon’s mother-in-law, who seem more concerned about serving the Lord than complaining about how bad things can be. Yet, Job speaks for all those who have ever felt that life can sometimes be “a drudgery.” He speaks for those who sometimes see themselves as “slaves,” whose life is nothing but hard work, sleepless nights and worry, a life frequently devoid of happiness. It is precisely into that world that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ entered, and it is that world that we see Jesus improving and making better in his healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. It is unlikely that Jesus even knew Simon’s mother-in-law, so it is not out of some sense of indebtedness that Jesus heals. Jesus heals indiscriminately throughout the gospels, Jews and Gentiles, both savory and unsavory characters. In this very first chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus demonstrates what he was sent into this world to do, to make the world a better place by casting out the evil spirits and healing the sick, by making what was wrong right, and by setting an example that would challenge others to follow in his footsteps and do the same.
There is a sense of urgency to Jesus’ mission: “Let us move on to the neighboring villages so that I may proclaim the good news there also. That is what I have come to do.” In the limited time that Jesus would have on earth he desired to show how liberating and redeeming his message would truly be. By enabling the lame to walk, the blind to see, the sick to be well, and casting out the evil spirits of darkness, Jesus gives us a glimpse of Eden, where sickness, death, and drudgery did not exist. But it is not just backwards that we look, for he also gives us a glimpse of that heavenly kingdom to which all men and women are invited. In chapter one of Mark’s gospel Jesus is setting an example for the newly called disciples. Simon, Andrew, James and John were meant to learn just what it was they were signing up for, for they, like Jesus, were being called to make the world a better place by doing just what Jesus did.
Simon’s mother-in-law, also, after being healed, did what Jesus does, she “waited on them.” Now while that might seem chauvinistic to some, the word for what she did was diakonia, a Greek word meaning “to serve,” to “be of service.” It is the root of the word we use for deacon. It is the foundation of who Jesus is, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” It is also what all of us are called to be. We are called to live our lives in service to others, we are called to be servants. We are meant to be instruments of God’s healing power in the world, for bringing healing and wholeness is Jesus’ ministry even today. The healing ministry begun in Mark’s gospel with Simon’s mother-in-law continues with us, who bring healing to a world sickened by hatred, division, violence, pride, avarice, selfishness, vengeance, self-indulgence, and prejudice.
When we are healed of that which afflicts us, let us not forget to thank Jesus for his goodness, mercy and compassion toward us by our own turning to serve others. Like Jesus, let us draw on the strength of a loving and gracious God in prayer, in order that we might continue the healing ministry begun by Jesus centuries ago, playing a vital role in bringing to completion what Jesus was sent into this world to accomplish.