On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them (Mark 1:30-31).
A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
If you’re having a bad day, the Book of Job probably isn’t your best starting point…especially the passage that is our First Reading. It’s a low point. Everything bad that is imaginable happened to Job. He’s hit rock bottom. His outlook isn’t good. He wants his life to end. However, Job’s story doesn’t end with the lament that concludes this weekend’s First Reading. Toward the end, Job realizes that his suffering isn’t a punishment, nor is it hopeless. He’s able to see that the suffering he experienced was allowed by God for a purpose: to show the enduring presence of God, no matter what happens. Job’s realization, his epiphany, is bittersweet because although the suffering was unimaginable, he realizes that his fidelity to God allowed him to be an example for others.
This forms the context in which we see Saint Paul, in our Second Reading, refer to himself as a slave. The irony of Paul’s use of the word slave is staggering. Paul was anything but a slave! He was a Roman citizen and was educated. He was the freest of the free in his day, and he chose to surrender all of it for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that the very Empire of which he was a citizen would be the same Empire that would execute him. The radical surrender of the totality of his freedom – including his Birthright – frames the extent for which Paul’s life was configured to Christ’s. And unlike Job, Paul’s focus is always on the way that Christ is using Paul’s suffering and surrender to bear witness to the Gospel. When Paul says in his letters that he gave up everything for the sake of the Gospel, he means it!
Maybe our surrender isn’t quite as intense as Paul’s. Maybe our “rock bottom” isn’t quite a severe as Job’s. But the invitation to fidelity is the same. Even in our most difficult or humiliating moments, and when we sometimes don’t realize it, Christ is active in us, using whatever comes our way as an instrument of grace in our own lives and that of those around us. What’s the point? You and I both know that the extent into which we invest everything that we have and are is the extent that our gifts bear fruit around us. Specifically, the way that we show love for one another, even in the most difficult circumstances, demonstrates the extent to which love and suffering are often united. And this is where the cross of Jesus Christ is on full display in the ordinary experiences of daily life. What’s the point? The point is that the love of Jesus Christ, lived through us, is always redemptive, for us and for those whom we love! All eyes all the time on Christ!