Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
Jesus and Suffering Humanity.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: As we come together for worship, each of us brings worries, anxieties and fears, made worse by the pandemic all around us. We gather our concerns together and entrust them to the one who heals his suffering people.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Job 7:1-4.6-7
Introduction to the reading: The Book of Job is a long parable which grapples with why bad things happen to good people. This question was especially crucial to people of that time because they didn’t believe in life after death, and therefore one received reward or punishment in this life. Job has lost his children, his property and his health, and he lives at the city dump. In this passage, he gives an understandably pessimistic evaluation of life.
A reading from the Book of Job
Job spoke, saying:
“Has not mankind a hard service upon earth,
and are not his days like the days of a hireling?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like a hireling who looks for his wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing till the dawn.
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and come to their end without hope.
“Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147:1-2.3-4.5-6 (R. see 3a)
Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.
R/. Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted
How good to sing psalms to our God;
how pleasant to chant fitting praise!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem
and brings back Israel’s exiles;
He heals the broken-hearted;
he binds up all their wounds.
He counts out the number of the stars;
he calls each one by its name.
Our Lord is great and almighty;
his wisdom can never be measured.
The Lord lifts up the lowly;
he casts down the wicked to the ground.
R/. Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19.22-23
Introduction to the reading: Paul’s enemies frequently criticized him for the least little thing. At a time when most teachers received compensation from those they instructed, Paul was criticized because he refused financial support from the community. Because of this, they discredited him as not being a legitimate apostle. Today we hear his response.
A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting.
For necessity is laid upon me.
Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!
For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward;
but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.
What then is my reward?
Just this: that in my preaching
I may make the Gospel free of charge,
not making full use of my right in the Gospel.
For though I am free from all people,
I have made myself a slave to all,
that I might win the more.
To the weak, I became weak,
that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people,
that I might by all means save some.
I do it all for the sake of the Gospel,
that I may share in its blessings.
The word of the Lord.
Christ took our infirmities and bore our diseases.
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
At that time:
Leaving the synagogue,
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew,
with James and John.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever,
and immediately they told him of her.
And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up,
and the fever left her; and she served them.
That evening, at sundown,
they brought to him all who were sick|
or possessed with demons.
And the whole city was gathered together about the door.
And he healed many who were sick with various diseases
and cast out many demons;
and he would not permit the demons to speak,
because they knew him.
And in the morning, a great while before day,
he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.
And Simon and those who were with him followed him,
and they found him and said to him,
“Everyone is searching for you.”
And he said to them,
“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also;
for that is why I came out.”
And he went throughout all Galilee,
preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
There is an old anecdote that goes something like this:
An elderly man who was quite ill said to his wife, “You know, Sarah, you’ve always been with me – through the good and the bad. Like the time I lost my job – you were right there by my side. And when the war came, and I enlisted – you became a nurse so that you could be with me. Then I was wounded, and you were there, Sarah, right by my side. Then the stock market crash hit, and we had nothing – but you were there with me. And now here I am, sick as a dog, and, as always, you’re right beside me. You know something, Sarah — you’re a jinx! You always bring me bad luck!”
There is a part of us that is tempted to look for somebody else to blame for all the things that go wrong in our lives. More often than not, we blame the very people we once looked up to for an answer.
Today’s first reading from the book of Job is part of an attempt to answer the perennial question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
The popular thinking of the time would have said that a person who is experiencing suffering is being punished by God for the sins they committed. However, Job feels he has done nothing wrong to deserve such misery.
Job is not meekly accepting his suffering – he is vocal, even eloquent, in his protest.
“so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me”.
Job’s prayer lament encourages those of us who feel life has become too burdensome, especially through this long pandemic, to pray in a similar way. Some people don’t think this is a “proper way to speak to God.” Sometimes it feels like God is the source of their misery. They have led good lives and deserve better, and here is God is standing by doing nothing while they are going through distress. Instead of entering into a “shouting match” with God, they keep silent. But this kind of respectful silence harbours resentment and can create a chill in our relationship with God.
There are plenty of examples in the Old Testament to encourage a more honest expression of our feelings. The psalms often express our anguish.
- “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” Ps 130
- “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” Ps 6
- “All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away.” Ps 38
- “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Ps 10
A complaint to God puts aside false pieties. We try to express honest feelings to the One who has the power to change things but seems uninterested, or even powerless.
But it is hard to get Job’s words out of our heads as we hear them today. For anyone of us might speak them someday, no matter how prosperous or successful our lives – or good. Job said,
“I have been assigned months of misery,”
This sounds like words from a hospital ward or ICU – hooked up to machines to keep me alive. This passage from Job so dismally! Job says,
“my eye will never again see good.” – in other words, “I shall not see happiness again.”
Let us look for grace in this passage. Perhaps the anguished word of Job is a wake-up call to encourage me to keep my eyes and attention fixed on God. It is a reminder not to trust in the externals of life that can be taken away overnight. I might also learn from Job that when life takes a hard turn, I can express myself without inhibition to God and know that God will not strike me dead!
One word of Job’s does stir up hope. He addresses God and says,
“REMEMBER that my life is a breath…”
It is spoken by a person who realizes that he is not the source of his own being, that he is totally dependent on the One who created him. He is telling the Creator, “Remember what you made when you made me, I am vulnerable, impermanent and can blow away and disappear as easily as a breath. Remember I am nothing, insubstantial and need you for my very existence.”
It is a word of faith, a word to remind God of the bond God has with the people. Not that God needs reminding – but I do! Job is saying, “You know how I am, so do something about it!” Bold speech indeed!
In today’s gospel Jesus has just left the synagogue where he has driven an unclean spirit from a man and enters the house of Simon and Andrew. He is told that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Jesus goes over to her, “grasped her hand and helped her up and the fever left her. She immediately began to wait on them.”
Jesus “helped her up” – this is the same expression in the New Testament that is often used in the resurrection stories. Simon’s mother-in-law is being given a new life, a life that only the risen Jesus can give.
What does this new life look like?
Well, we are told when she was healed the woman “began to wait on them.” It sounds like she is doing household chores, “woman’s work.” But the word used in the gospel is “diakoneo,” the word for “church work,” or Christian ministry. We get the English word ‘deacon’ from this word.
Thus, the gospel is implying that she “waits” on the community and does the work of the community. When people experience new life from Jesus, they are willing and able to serve others. What one receives, one wants to share. Simon’s mother-in-law is quick in her response, her “work” isn’t taken on grudgingly. The best ministers among us do their work with a sense of joy that seems to come from their own experience of Jesus “raising them up.”
There is no easy answer to Job’s problems. He is the innocent sufferer. There is no “solution” to the mystery of suffering. But we do hear today’s gospel showing Jesus’ power over suffering.
Job was not a real person out of history. He was a character in a poetic and literary masterpiece. Jesus is very real; Jesus is the sinless one who takes on our suffering; Jesus suffers so others can be set free.
What Jesus did for Simon’s mother-in-law, he does for us, individually and as a community. Jesus extends a hand to us, raising us up from sin and death to a new life. Jesus’ new life gives us the power to see the needs of others and respond with energy and joy.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Jesus about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Jesus is no longer trapped by the limits of time and place. He comes over to us now at this Eucharistic celebration. He extends a hand, as he did for Simon’s mother-in-law, to raise us up from what would press us down and to help us go further on our journey with him.
So, we ask ourselves:
- At this stage of our journey with Christ, how do we experience his hand reaching out to sustain us?
- Who is the outstretched hand of Christ for us?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Gathered here in God’s presence, with faith we ask our loving Father for all that we need for ourselves, for our Church and for our world.
We pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for our bishops and all those who help us to hear God’s word today.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for peace in the world: (pause) that the rights and needs of every person may be respected.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those in authority: (pause) that they may work for the greater good of all those in their care.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for young people, (pause) that they may live in hope; for the elderly, that they may be content.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who are sick, lonely and poor: (pause) that our compassion may bring them comfort.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for a successful coronavirus vaccination program: (pause) that the rollout may be swift and reach all our people.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Joan Gordon-Davis
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Tony de Almeida, who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine on him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us ask for the Intercession of Our Lady as we pray for healing.
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the cross you took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Patroness of South Africa,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection.
We seek refuge under your protection,
O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Out of your power and compassion, O God,
you sent your Son into our afflicted world
to proclaim the day of salvation.
Heal the broken hearted,
bind up our wounds.
Bring us health of body and spirit
and raise us to new life in your service.
We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.