God's word on Sunday: We must be ready to change our course

  • February 3, 2018
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 4 (Year B) Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

For those who are suffering, time creeps by ever so slowly. Pain saps joy and energy, as does the burden of heavy toil, and it seems to have no end.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand or empathize with those who struggle just to survive or get by. We may be lost in our own comparatively easy burdens or difficulties.

Just as in the case of Job, however, our lives can change in an instant. Poverty can push prosperity aside and health can be ravaged by disease or injury. Tragedy or personal failure can come calling unannounced. It is hard to accept that much of this is outside of our control.

Job lost everything — family, wealth, health and reputation. There were moments when he fervently wished for death to end it all. Many people can perhaps identify with Job’s feelings at some point in their lives. But Job was made of sterner stuff. He didn’t give up nor did he succumb to the temptation to blame himself for his misfortunes. Job remained convinced that God had not abandoned him and that God could be found even in the suffering.

In one sense, suffering time seems to creep by, but in another sense, life can race by with terrifying speed. The years slip away before we know it, and we wonder where it has gone and what we have accomplished. Job likened the passage of his life to the speed of a weaver’s shuttle — over with before he knew it.

But as the humorous saying goes, “it isn’t over until it’s over!” Job was faithful and persevered, so he was able to experience another reversal of fortunes, ending his life once again in prosperity, health and happiness.

Any given portion of a person’s life may seem absolutely intolerable, but it must be viewed in the context of one’s entire life. To paraphrase other words of Job, we know that our Redeemer lives and that we will experience God in the land of the living.

Paul had a burning message within him. He felt compelled to proclaim the Gospel to as many people as possible. This overpowering sense of mission kept him going through tremendous adversity and hardship.

In proclaiming this Gospel, he became all things to all people. This does not mean that he was a spiritual and moral chameleon, but that he met people where they were rather than making them jump over hurdles.

Paul was able to identify and empathize with people, speaking their language and walking in their sandals. He would have agreed with Pope Francis’ exhortations that ministers of the Gospel “smell like the sheep.”

At the very start of His ministry, Jesus was a spectacular success. A simple act of healing the mother-in-law of Peter of her fever led to a flood of sufferers. Those sick with all sorts of diseases and or afflicted by demons came to him in droves. “The whole town” was encamped outside his door. Human misery and need threatened to overwhelm Him.

Jesus may have considered staying there and continuing His healing ministry. He was in danger of what organizations call “mission drift.” We can almost sense Jesus’ uneasiness. He needed to get away, alone, in quiet, at night, and listen. He was certainly doing a lot of good, but was He doing what God the Father had sent Him to do?

The frantic search of the apostles ended with Simon Peter’s explosive “Everyone has been looking for you!”

Jesus simply rose to His feet with renewed purpose. He declared that His mission was to proclaim the message to the neighbouring towns and villages, and that is what He intended to do. The apostles were perhaps puzzled and disappointed.

We must always be willing to change course should the Spirit demand it. We do not ask what God wants us to do, but what God wants to do with us. This call of God may find us at the beginning of our adult life, halfway through the journey or with the end on the horizon.

No matter. Our lives can change in many directions, even up to the final days. A spiritually sensitive and attuned individual will always be receptive and ready to respond.