5th Sun [B] 2009

Fr. Charles Irvin

Job 7:1-4; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
We cannot watch a television news show, check out the news on the Internet, or read a newspaper without being immersed in reports of people who are suffering in many, many ways. Some are suffering from starvation, others from the violence in Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, or in the tribal wars of Africa. Here in the United States we are awash in stories of people losing their life savings due to the plummeting value of their stock portfolios, losing their jobs as corporations shrivel up, or as a result of Wall Street financiers who have defrauded them in investment scams. Many of us have friends who have lost homes because they can no longer make their monthly mortgage payments, some losing both their jobs and the homes at the same time.
How appropriate it is for us to hear in today’s readings about the terrible losses suffered by the Old Testament figure of Job. Job lost everything… to an almost unimaginable extent. Even his wife and friends turned on him. At end of today’s first reading we hear Job exclaim: “I shall not see happiness again,” words that many around us might likewise utter.
On top of it all we know of people who chide us for being people of faith. What kind of a God would allow all of this, they ask? They and others resort to the blame-game, something we hear a lot in the halls of Congress, in the newspaper columns of the opinion makers, or from the chattering classes we watch in television programs. How, we might ask, can we retain faith in God in the midst of all of these losses while the voices of others take God to task for it all?
Whenever we celebrate holy Mass we pray the Lord’s Prayer and immediately following it we hear the words: Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we reflect on the Lord’s Prayer and on those words that immediately follow it we will come to the realization that God does not want us to suffer, He wants to deliver us from suffering. God does not inflict pain on us; He wants to heal us of our infirmities.
In the Book of Genesis we see that God made the world to be not only good but beautiful, wondrous, and a place of loveliness and happiness. The Garden of Eden was created as a paradise, a garden of delights. It was God’s original gift to us.
Jesus Christ reveals a God who is quite different than what we think He is. Jesus Christ reveals a God who comes to us not to condemn us, but to save us, to heal us of our infirmities, and to deliver us from evil. He wants to deliver us from evil, not inflict it upon us. In the midst of our trials we should turn to Him.
The healing of the mother of Simon and Andrew is one of the first of a long series of healings Jesus performed during His public ministry.
Last Sunday we heard of an inner healing, the healing of a man possessed by a demon. The Jews of Christ’s day thought that outward physical illnesses were the result of inner, spiritual illnesses. God punishes people who sinned, they believed, punished them by inflicting physical pain and suffering on sinners. They were wrong. When asked about such things, and when asked about the existence of evil, Jesus responded by asserting: “An enemy hath done this.”
In His humanity, Christ Jesus took on all of the suffering, pain, and loss that we all endure at the hands of our Ancient Enemy, the Enemy of God, the angelic rebel known as Lucifer, the Light Bearer. With his colossal ego he defied God and then went on to seduce Adam and Eve into joining him in his rebellion against God, the God of love and goodness who created them in order to share His love with them.
There is not a complete disconnect between sin and suffering. Ask anyone who has suffered because of alcoholism or drug addiction what it was that empowered them to deal with their lives of drudgery and pain and they will tell you about their spiritual recovery. Ask people who are managing to deal with their losses and their pain and they will tell you about their faith in God and what God has done for them.
Being born among us, Jesus gave us His Father. Dying among us He gave us His mother. Teaching among us He taught us how to pray; the prayer we know of as the Lord’s Prayer. Because of Jesus we can dare to call God our Father and dare to pray to Him as our Father, Jesus’ Father and ours. Not only that but we can pray in joyful hope even in the midst of our sorrows and losses. Deliver us Lord, we pray, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The people in the villages wherever He went flocked to Him. Time and time again He was sought out; time and time again He healed and delivered. He healed and delivered them not only of their physical maladies but healed their wounded hearts and wearied souls. It was the inner healings that interested Him the most. It was in those inner hearts and souls that He accomplished His greatest miracles.
On Christmas Eve our children await the coming of Jesus… they await in obvious, outer, and radiant joyful hope. It isn’t Santa Claus that we look for, it’s the One who can gift our souls with joy, happiness, and peace.
What kind of a God is God, we ask? The answer is fashioned by what we are looking for. Just what are we expecting from God?
Simon and Andrew’s mother was completely energized. The fiery fever once driven away allowed her resurrect so she could care for her sons and their Guest with renewed energy freed from what had flattened her.
By turning to God in the midst of our trial we can find renewed energy. With it we can find renewed faith in our selves, hope for our futures, and renewed love for the One who created us for happiness and honored us with the task of working with Him to push back the boundaries of chaos and darkness and join in bringing His creation to fulfillment and completion.
Deliver us, we pray, as we wait in joyful hope all the while working with God to overcome all that would tear away our happiness.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”