HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: SUFFERING AND SICKNESS
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Recently, I received a pathetic message via social media from a friend a few days ago. My friend started the message with a serious question:
“Father, are you praying for me at all? Things are rough and tough. I am presently homebound because my business has folded up. My present experience is so boring because I am not used to sitting at home. Am presently looking for any job, even a cleaning job because my kids are suffering and I need to work to feed them. I pray God will make a way for me soon. I do not know what to do. Why do I suffer always? Whenever, I am happy a greater fall brings me down.”
I was deeply moved by this message and words were inadequate to reply the message. I managed to scribble a few words in reply. “I pray for you and will continue to pray for you. I pray that you never lose faith despite your condition.”
Afterwards, I thought it was not enough to write a reply but also to speak over the phone and directly to my friend. We had a lively conversation regarding possible ways of lessening the burden of suffering. We all know that suffering is part of life and that life is not a bed of roses. We all experience suffering in different ways. In the Seminary, one of the Seminarians gave himself the nickname “Born to Suffer.” He proudly responded cheerfully to all who called him with this nickname. I never met him in Seminary, but the name lingered long after he completed his training. He was remembered as someone who was hard working and as one who cheerfully endured whatever suffering came his way.
As we listen to daily news over Radio, Television, Newspapers and Social Media we get to know about the suffering condition of people around our locality in the nation and across the world. Human suffering is a mystery. We have a poor understanding of the meaning of suffering and much less, its redemptive nature. Suffering becomes even more mysterious when we see an innocent person suffer and we cannot explain why he has to go through such. It is hard to understand why a good and caring God allows his people to suffer.
The story of Job in the scriptures is one of the most graphic descriptions of an innocent person who suffered. In his story, we see a man who had been faithful to God, but who, at a stage in his life had to go through acute distress. He lost his wealth, health, children, and even social prestige. Many of his friends abandoned him, but a few stood by him to encourage him. Job handled his condition in a human way and in a prayerful manner. He cried out in frustration when he was confined by the burden of his sickness and could not carry on with his normal daily activities. Lying in bed, he wondered, “When will it be day?’ and when it is day, he thinks, ‘How slowly evening comes!” (Job 7:4).
During the time of his sorrow, Job wondered if life was worth living. Job was restless and his miserable condition made him think of death as a better option. What Job was passed through is what St. Theresa refers to as the ‘dark night of the soul.’ Just like Job, when we are passing through suffering we sometimes ask God: ‘why must this happen to me? How long is this going to continue?’ and ‘why must it happen at this time?’ Even though Job voiced his frustration, he also expressed his faith in God. At a crucial point of his suffering, he confidently declares, “I believe my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25).
Jesus came into a world that has been disfigured by sin and suffering. He healed so many who had chronic diseases, sickness, and those who were demonised. Sickness comes in different ways; it can be physical, mental or spiritual. In any case, it deprives us of our physical, mental or spiritual power. In the time of sickness, we need the grace of God for the restoration of health and strength. Peter’s Mother-in-law was one of those lucky people who experienced the healing power of Jesus. She had gone to bed with fever and when Jesus went to her house, ‘he took her by the hand and helped her up.’ This gesture is significant because it shows how the fever has put her down. Jesus defeated the sickness by raising her up. He did not only raise her body up, but he lifted her spirit by putting a smile on her face and as soon as she regained strength she returned to serving people (Mark 1:29-39).
In short, we can say that we are going through trial whenever we face suffering and pain. Those difficult times are moments of making a crucial decision on whether to draw closer to God or to be far away from him. However, the spiritual eye is able to see the sign of God’s love and power even in the most difficult situations. Suffering can make us either bitter or better.
Jesus came into a world that is infested with evil to renew and restore the good work of God. He came to save sinners and to heal the broken hearted. St. Paul, one of the early disciples of Jesus, took the same path of the work of salvation when he declared, “Though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many souls as I could” (I Corinthians 9:19). Jesus remained focussed in his ministry of liberation throughout his life in the world. You and I are also called to look around us and see how we can participate in the liberating work of Jesus. We can bring relief to those who suffer. We can care for the sick and the elderly. We can bring a smile on the faces of those who are in sorrow and we can accompany those who are broken-hearted through the journey of life.
5th Sunday of the Year B;
I Corinthians 9:16-19.22-23;