Saturday, February 4, 2012

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: THE GRACE OF GOD'S TOUCH

Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?

Though this may seem like the status in someone’s wall in Facebook or Twitter account, it does express one reality of the life that we have on earth. As we enter into the readings this Sunday, the evident pessimism in the book of Job would strike us as something quite actual. It is true that life is beautiful and precious, but oftentimes this all the more seems to accentuate the also the fact that not everything in life is rosy. Yes, life is beautiful BUT…there’s always that “but” in everything that we could say about life. This shows how the ancient author of the book of Job knew much about life: the wisdom books of the Bible show us that the life we have here is not perfect, nor can it ever be; the perfection that we can ever perceive and contemplate in this plane of existence is finite, that is, limited and always flawed.

In a society that is governed by laws that are supposed to give to each his due, we have to accept the fact that full justice could never be served. In a world wherein all of us have made a common cause to fight against poverty and hunger, we have to be realistic enough that we could never end with poverty in this life; we could only try as much. The human mind can never be satisfied fully by the manifestations of beauty offered by the arts, nor man’s hunger to know more ever be fulfilled here in this life.

This is the reality that Job in the First Reading shows us. Contemplating this panorama is enough for us to wish for death, for truly enough, the contemplation of the harsh reality of life is an invitation to discouragement and despair.

But the liturgy, though wishing us to keep in mind this reality, suddenly changes its mood as we come upon the Responsorial Psalm. It seems to take us by the hand in order to direct our trustful gaze to the Lord, a trust that finds it full expression in the psalmist’s song: Praise the Lord, who heals the broken hearted! Broken hearted we may be for many reasons, not only because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and we have no one to share it with (I’d say most of the time being alone on that day could be better), but there is never any reason that is good enough for the follower of Christ to be discouraged or be found lacking in hope.

We find the reason for this in the Gospel. Last week we have contemplated on how the words of Jesus affected people with its authority and power. This Sunday we are invited to look at the power and the grace that flowed not only through his words, but also through his touch. The Gospel presents to us a panorama of a suffering humanity: people afflicted with disease, possessed by unclean spirits, people burdened with their doubts, with their problems, with despair. In the midst of this crowd, Jesus passes and touches them. He takes Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and heals her; people bring him their sick, and they are made whole by his touch. By his very presence the possessed are freed from their demons.
Christ healing the mother of Simon Peter 
by Bridges, John (fl.1818-1854)

In scriptural tradition these wonders are indicative of God’s presence among his people: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor have the good news preached to them (cf. Is 35:5/ 61:1/ Lk. 7:22; Mt. 11:5). In Jesus Christ, God touches man and makes him whole; God, who created the universe out of nothing, and imprinting on it that goodness that comes from Him, restores a broken creation to its original goodness.

This is virtually the Good News of our salvation: God had touched us and we can touch God, in Jesus Christ, who is the perfect image of the invisible God (Col 1:15); he is the EMMANUEL! God-with-us! Despite of its imperfection, there is life and hope to had in the world; there is beauty, there is reason to be glad and to be hopeful, no matter how ugly things may turn out to be, because we have been embraced by God in Jesus, and in Jesus Christ, God’s face can be caressed by human hands.

In our life, this presence of the Lord comes to us in the sacraments, sacred signs through which the Lord enters into contact with us in a way that actually affects us. That is why it is important for us Christians to be constant in our reception of the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist and Confession. These sacred signs, these sacraments, usher into our lives the very presence of Christ, source of all joy and peace, the firm rock upon which we may stand as we continue to walk through life with its storms and crises. Furthermore, of no lesser importance is the life of constant union with the Lord that we must have, which is no other than prayer. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us how important it was for him to be always united with His heavenly Father: Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed (Mk. 1:35)

Despite of the drudgery of life, God is with us! This is the Good News to which the Apostles, and then the first Christians, and through them, the Church—catholic  and apostolic—had entrusted their energies in preaching. In the Second Reading, This is why one could just understand St. Paul when he exclaimed: Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor 9:16). This news is too beautiful, too great to be kept personal. Paul—and the Church with him, both then and now—understood the wonderful novelty that this message presented, that it simply had to be shared.

This leads us therefore to reflect if we have recognized this presence of Jesus Christ, and have invited Him into our lives. Not only will his presence make us see things in a different light, but will move us to share it with others, not necessarily through our words, but importantly with our lives. “Preach the Gospel always” said St. Francis of Assisi, “if necessary, use words”.

May the life of Jesus Christ, that flows into use through prayer and in partaking of His own life through the sacraments, always be our strength to go on through life, and take part in the new evangelization of this world!


FIRST READING: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7
SECOND READING: 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23
GOSPEL: Mk 1: 29-39

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