5th Sunday Year B
February 8, 2015
DRUDGERY OR DELIGHT?
Tension is the closest word I can find with regards to today’s readings. The opening salvo comes from Job, who is not exactly silent about his plaints and pleadings with the Lord, if not, complaints: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?”
Take it from the news we have been hearing of late. Attacks here and there ... Terrorism everywhere ... Corruption unabated in our beloved country and beyond ... Fake surveys from outfits that have a lot to gain – and lose, for that matter – should the winds of change blow our way. Grinding poverty for more and more people … sore lack of education for millions and millions … The list is tedious. Do we have anything right now to disprove Job and dispute his “survey findings?”
Well, I do … Today’s readings do! And here is where the tension lies. Here is where the capacity to see beyond what we actually see – as part of the fabled Catholic, Christian imagination, finds its most potent antidote to the very real “drudgery,” drivel, and even death.
Just look at the readings … After drooling on Job’s drivel of complaints, we hear the psalmist, and we chimed in, in fact: “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.”
So, what’s the real score? What is really happening in the world? Is there hope for the families of those 44 SAF policemen who were brutally massacred from dawn to dusk two Sundays back?
These questions, at bottom, are no different from the question of Glydel, the young girl who asked the Holy Father, Pope Francis in Manila just a few weeks ago: “Why should children suffer so much?”
The Catholic imagination, born of centuries of reflection on God’s Word, has no answer to the problem of pain and suffering – drudgery, if you will! It only offers a model, an image, a prototype … The Church can only offer us the image of Christ, who Himself, while undeserving of it all, had to suffer so much, and die in the hands of cruel tormentors.
Yes, God and His Church, founded precisely on, and nourished by the blood of Christ, His Son can only offer a Way, a journey, towards a destination that cannot be mathematically and scientifically defined. Its dimensions are not of the here and the now. It is a reality in three dimensions: the here, the now, and the hereafter – the forever!
Here now is the delight that today’s Good News brings for our consideration. What it basically says is that we are called to live our lives in a three-dimensional manner. If we see only the “restlessness until the dawn,” the experiential truth that “I shall not see happiness again,” we live in only two dimensions: here and now.
Today, no less than the Lord shows us the essence of this Catholic imagination … After being hated and despised in pagan territory, where he could not do too many wonders on account of people’s rejection, Jesus came to the house of Peter. There, too, was the proverbial drudgery … Peter’s mother-in-law lay in bed with a fever. This is the classical human condition – what philosophers call “existential pain” – the very object of Glydel’s question – the very reality that makes our lives a daily drudgery!
But this is where the delight also comes in. Jesus is savior. Jesus is healer. Jesus is Lord. “They brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” And he did not ignore them. He did not look the other way. Yes … he even proceeded to do Peter a favor by curing his mother-in-law! (I am not sure, though, whether Peter was happy about it!)
His actions were prophetic, not just therapeutic. After all the wonders and healings and miracles, he sought refuge in something that usually does not offer delight - the desert! That was where he prayed!
Job’s drudgeries and our disappointments now find their proper place – in the desert of delight! – the ultimate sign of tension in any Catholic Christian’s heart. We suffer. By believing, suffering will not and does not necessarily end. But by going to the desert of delight in personal and communal prayer of faith, we find meaning. We find reason to believe and still belong, despite the drudgery.
For God “heals the broken-hearted,” and His Son Jesus Christ “took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Disappointed? Try going to the desert!