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God's Word on Sunday: Hope gives us the strength to endure

  • January 31, 2021

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 7 (Year B) Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

Our perception of time depends a lot on our experience. When we are successful, happy, fulfilled and loved, time is swift indeed. It seems as if the party is over all too soon and we are reluctant to move on. But what about our experience of time when life is a gruelling and painful burden?

When we are suffering with physical pain or intense inner struggle time creeps forward with glacial speed. Economic hardship, abusive relationships and sheer exhaustion can make one long for an end to it all.

Job was in a similar situation — there seemed to be no end to his apparently meaningless suffering. Each day brought fresh and more intense suffering and he had reached the point where his life seemed useless and unbearable.

Many people reach this point; some recover and move on, while others do not. The strongest weapon we have in times like those is hope, for without hope, many just give up. What did Job have to hope in? His greatest hope was for vindication — an explanation for his situation and a declaration that he was innocent. Elsewhere in the book he proclaimed that he knows that his Redeemer lives and that he will encounter God while still in the land of the living.

We often use the expression “the patience of Job.” Patience is closely connected with hope, for hope gives us the strength to endure, which is the meaning of patience.

The present pandemic has brought home to all of us the repetitive, dreary, drudgery of one day flowing into the next with little variation. At times it seems as if it will be endless. It has also brought depression, economic hardship and frayed relationships. Add to that the stress of an insecure, violent and scary world, and we have the ingredients for hopelessness and despair.

This is the time for all to reaffirm our conviction that our Redeemer definitely lives — we are not alone, ever. Not only does He walk with us at our side, but we also have one another. In the midst of the experience many discover others in a new way and at the same time rediscover themselves. It is a time for human solidarity and a commitment to encourage and support one another.

Paul became all things to all people. Some might say that he was a sort of chameleon, untrue to himself. But there was definite purpose to Paul’s strategy: saving others. By being all things to all people, he met them where they were.

This is important in our dealings with others. Typically, we want to meet others where we want them to be or think they should be. Meeting them where they are gives us the opportunity to walk with them, growing in our understanding of who they are. At the same time, we are enriched by their experience.

The most difficult ethical choices we make are not always between good and evil. In those cases, the characteristics of each are usually abundantly clear. But wrestling with two good choices is difficult, especially when both seem equal in value.

Upon entering Peter’s house, Jesus encountered human need in the illness of Peter’s mother-in-law. He immediately healed her, and as word spread, desperate crowds came to be healed of illnesses or freed from demons.

It must have been an exhausting evening. Jesus rose before everyone else and went to a deserted place to pray and be alone with God. We can only imagine the content of the prayerful conversation between Jesus and the Father.

After a frantic search Peter found Jesus and blurted out that everyone had been looking for Him. The unspoken assumption was that He would continue His activities from the previous day.

But Jesus stood up with a new clarity of purpose and resolve. He would go on to other towns, spreading His message and teaching and tending to human needs. He had made the choice for the greater and more universal good.

The impact of His ministry had to be felt far and wide, not just in this village. As with Jesus, so with St. Ignatius of Loyola and many others — the greatest good for the greatest number of souls. That was their guiding principle, and it should be ours.

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