February 6, 2009

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Job is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

This book furnishes few details about the identity of Job. It is nonetheless one of the great literary works in the Old Testament since it so remarkably captures the struggle experienced by many believers as they try to keep their faith in the merciful God despite problems in their lives.

Scholars disagree as to when this book was written.

A misreading of Job has led to a phrase that has become part of English common speech. It is the reference to the “patience of Job.” In many places in this book, it is evident that Job was not always so patient with God. Actually, Job usually was impatient.

In this weekend’s reading, Job vents his impatience. He asks if life on earth is not, in reality, chiefly just drudgery. Each human being, Job writes, is a slave to the vicissitudes of life. Personally, Job says he has been assigned “months of misery.” Drearily, he writes, “I shall not see happiness again.”

St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians provides the second reading.

Paul insists that he was free to accept the call to be an Apostle or to spurn the call. He chose to accept the Lord’s call.

Accepting the call, and because of the call, Paul evangelizes people during his travels. He proclaims the Good News. He goes far and wide to explain the identity and mission of Jesus.

His life as an Apostle is an act of service, and of love, rising from faith. He says, in fact, that he is a “slave” to his faith.

St. Mark’s Gospel provides the last reading.

It is the story of the Lord’s curing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke record their versions of the same story.

The story is clear. Merely by touching her hand, Jesus cured the woman. She was so fully cured, in fact, that she immediately rose from her sickbed and began to wait on Jesus and the disciples. Healthy again, she cared for others.

While the cure is extraordinary, Mark does not make the fortunate mother-in-law the centerpiece of this reading. Rather, Jesus is the focus of the story.

Christians have remembered the miracle. Indeed, archeologists have found traces of this mother-in-law’s house in Capernaum. They confirmed their discovery by the fact that ancient Christian inscriptions were found on the walls.

Jesus heals the sick and drives demons away. Then, alone, Jesus went to a distant place to pray. Since there are no deserts in the vicinity of Capernaum, Jesus must have gone some distance or at least to a barren place. Simon and the others pursue Jesus, longing to be near the Lord, needing to be with the Lord.


The Church continues to introduce us to Jesus, a process begun weeks ago at Christmas and underscored in the lessons of the feast of the Epiphany and the feast of the Lord’s Baptism.

Jesus is the Son of God with all the power thus implied. His role is to bring God’s mercy, strength and life to humanity.

The condition of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the anxiousness with which Peter and the others search for Jesus, tell us about ourselves.

Conditions occur in life as overwhelming as those faced by Job and we are powerless to overcome them. We need the Lord just as the Apostles needed the Lord.

In Jesus, we gain the power to live despite our problems. Earthly problems come and go. In the Lord, we gain eternal life, the only permanent reality.

However, Jesus does not break down the doors of our hearts. We must seek the Lord. He will be awaiting us.

Finding the Lord means that—from then onward—we must imitate Jesus in actively loving others. †

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