Sunday, February 8, 2015

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:29-39 - On Suffering

Jesus heals Simon's Mother-in-law
In the ancient world people believed in a cause and effect of sin and suffering and righteousness and reward.  You suffered because you were sinful and were rewarded with a good life for being righteous.

Today, while many see their success in life as a matter of their own making; failing to thank God for His blessings upon them, many others continue to equate their sufferings as punishment or loss of favor with God.  The struggle to find meaning to human suffering is still a mystery of life.  

God’s people continue to cry out, “Why must I suffer?” or “Why do good people suffer, while evil people are untouched?”  “Must innocent children die?” or “Why are their horrible and painful diseases?”

These questions lead us to ask: “Why does God allow us to suffer?” or “If God says he loves us, how can He allow such hatred and barbarism to exist?” or “If God is all powerful, why does He not banish all evil and pain from the world?”

Since the fall of Adam and Eve humankind has endured hardship in life, including sufferings of disease, poverty, evil and death.  Some human suffering comes from God’s gift of free will wherein humans make poor choices with bad outcomes.  Other sufferings come from humans turning away from the light of God to dwell under the power and influence of the evil-one who delights in human suffering and misery.  There is also sufferings which are beyond our comprehension – such as diseases and natural disasters.

Through all this suffering and destruction the evil-one works to leads us away from loving God.  He deceives us with falsehoods of human mastery and self-deception to look for comfort and healing within our own powers.  Bringing many today to believe there is no God, thereby seeing human existence as having no meaning beyond what we experience in the here and now.  Theirs is a cold and unfeeling world void of love or hope – a drab and hollow existence filled with self-glorification and immediate; unsatisfying worldly gratifications.

We hear today the lamentations of Job, a righteous man who suffers greatly.  His sufferings are a mystery to him for he is a righteous man whose faith in God is unwavering.  Despite physical afflictions and material losses, Job proclaims, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Lord.”  He understands that there is no cause and effect to sin and suffering.  There is only the encounter with God.

Jesus’ power to heal afflictions and sufferings cause the people to seek him.  His actions of healing the people of their sufferings restores them to their families and their community life.  This foreshadows His power of forgiveness that will restore the people to God’s covenant; bringing them to a new life in His heavenly kingdom.

“Jesus grasped (the) her hand” (of Simon’s mother-in-law) “and helped her up.  Her fever left her and she waited on them.”  What we see in this exchange is not hungry men looking for a woman to serve them a meal, but the call to discipleship through the encounter with Jesus Christ.  

Simon’s mother-in-law, lives in his (Simon’s) house by his kindness alone.  She is a poor widow with no family of her own to care for her.  She is one of the least: marginalized; living at the mercy of others.  Her encounter with Jesus empowers her with purpose and meaning that brings her to a new life; calling her to serve the Lord through her witness of His power to heal and save.

All human suffering is not meaningless, but serves in ways unknown to us.  Job’s cries and complaints were not indications that he’s lost his faith in God.  His faith and trust in the Lord, no matter what purpose his suffering served, strengthened him to endure.  

In our suffering and afflictions, we are called to encounter Jesus; laying bare our wounds and miseries at the foot of His cross.  In His crucifixion and death we see our own pain and suffering: by His resurrection we see His love and healing.  Our lives are forever changed when we accept the hand of Jesus, who restores us and raises us up to new life in Him, as beloved of God. ~Amen

Deacon Don

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