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The Book of Job is the source of this weekend’s first reading.
This book furnishes few details about the identity of Job.
It nonetheless is one of the great literary works in the Old Testament, and one of the best remembered if not always exactly remembered.
Misreading Job has led to a phrase that has gone into English common speech, the “patience of Job.” Clearly, Job was not always so patient with God.
For instance, in this weekend’s reading, Job vents his impatience. He asks if life on Earth is not in reality drudgery.
Each human being, Job writes, is a slave. Personally, Job complains that he has been assigned “months of misery” and “shall not see happiness again.”
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians provides the second reading.
The same source has given earlier weekend liturgies this winter their second readings.
In this passage from First Corinthians, Paul insists that he was free to accept the call to be an Apostle or to spurn the call. He chose to accept the call.
So he proclaims the Good News. He explains the identity and mission of Jesus. It is an act of service and love given for people who otherwise would not know Jesus.
Paul sees nothing as more important than bringing people to the knowledge of Christ and to loving Christ.
For its final reading, the Church offers the story of the Lord’s curing of Peter’s mother-in-law from St. Mark’s Gospel.
The story’s point is clear. Merely by touching her hand, Jesus cured the woman. She was so fully cured, in fact, that she immediately rose from her sick bed and began to wait on Jesus and the disciples. She was healthy again, and she used her health to care for others.
Lest it appear that this woman simply resumed routine domestic chores, it should be noted that the verb used by Mark in this reference is the same verb used to describe the ministry of the angels while Jesus was in the desert, an event soon to be told.
For Christians, serving others, even in their physical needs, is a holy product of union with Christ.
This miracle long has fascinated Christians. Indeed, in the ruins of Capernaum is a site that pious pilgrims identified many centuries ago as the place where the house of Peter’s mother-in-law once stood.
The story continues. Jesus heals the sick and drives demons away. Then, alone, Jesus went to a distant place to pray early the next morning.
Simon and the others long to be near the Lord so they pursue Jesus.
When at last they find Jesus, the Lord reminds them that the messianic role is to reach all people.
The Church continues to introduce us to Jesus, the Lord, the Son of God, with all the power thus implied.
This Liturgy of the Word further puts before us the images of Job, the Apostle Paul, Peter’s mother-in-law and the Apostles accompanying Jesus.
Paul very obviously gave his life to the vocation to which Jesus called him, that of being an Apostle, of being the bearer to people of the Lord’s message and mercy.
It was the mission of all the Apostles, as Jesus told them, and the mission of all Christians.
Peter’s mother-in-law, cured by Jesus, did not simply return to life as usual. As Mark’s use of a particular verb shows, she served others as Jesus served others.
Job brings to mind who and what we are as limited human beings whose limitations at times may test our best intentions.
Amid this reality, the Lord is our strength and our model. The Apostles knew that there is no other model, and none with greater strength and power than the Lord. †