This week we celebrate the Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time. Sickness, disease of body and mind and disharmony in nature are part of the human condition and a sign of the fallen state of sinful humanity. The readings this week call upon us to consider the occurrence of evil in its various forms in our individual and community lives and to look past the evil, itself, to the remedy for all evil in our lives. This remedy is, of course, Jesus Who came to free us from evil in all its forms. Job presents the picture of a good man who suffers and expresses his confusion and pain in a lament to God. The Gospel presents the healing brought by Jesus as the solution to the sickness and evil that plagues the world. The readings invite us to ask Jesus to touch those places in us that need His healing, life-giving grace.
First Reading: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
1 Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of a hireling?
2 He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
3 So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been told off for me.
4 If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
5 My flesh is clothed with worms and scabs;
my skin cracks and festers;
6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
7 Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 7:1-10 The book of Job challenges the traditional Hebrew view of events which usually saw blessings as rewards for good behavior and misfortune as punishment for sin. In Job we have a good or righteous man who suffers great calamities in his life. The basic question of the book of Job is how can such great evils afflict a good man. In the book, this question is never directly answered. The closest thing to an answer that is given is the implied statement that such knowledge is not given to human understanding.
Here in verse 7:1, Job’s appeal of innocence to his friends has been rejected and he is in the depths of depression. Giving up on his friends in disappointment, he ceases to address himself to them at all and returns to his lament which had begun in chapter 3 and was interrupted by Eliphaz’s speech and Job’s response in chapter 5 and 6. The reference to drudgery is often taken to refer to military service. Job compares human life to forced military service, the work of a day laborer, and to slavery. These were three proverbially wretched states of life. See also Job 14:14.
* 7:5 This verse is not included in the lectionary reading. I include it only for completeness.
* 7:7 “Remember” was Eliphaz’s word to Job in 4:7. Now Job addresses it to God. After being accustomed to an untroubled relationship with God whom he sees as a divine benefactor, Job appeals to the love that God has for him and does not doubt that his Divine Friend (God) will look for him but fears that when He does it will be too late. Keep in mind that at this time in Jewish thought there was no expectation of an afterlife.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
16 If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! 17 If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
19 Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law–though I myself am not under the law–to win over those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became like one outside the law–though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ–to win over those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. 23 All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 9:16 Because preaching is Paul’s expression of his being as a Christian he deserves no special credit for it.
* 9:17-18a This pair of verses makes the same point as verse 16 only in a more complex way.
* 9:18 Paul makes a somewhat feeble attempt at a joke in that the reward of one who gets no reward is to work for nothing. At the time, his mission to Corinth was being subsidized by the Christians in Macedonia.
* 9:19-23 Paul deals with the meaning of Christian freedom. In a carefully crafted series of statements Paul uses himself as an example and draws an expanded and generalized picture of apostolic freedom. There is a certain paradox in it as it is not essentially freedom from restraint but freedom for service. It provides the possibility of truly constructive activity. Paul’s basis for integrity is the law of love. Love of God and love of neighbor is the underlying principle for actions.
* 9:21 The main reference here is to the Gentiles although there may also be a secondary reference to the “law-less,” (panta exestin) in Corinth who proclaimed themselves free of law as in 6:12. (See also 10:23.) This was a sizable faction in the Corinthian church who misunderstood and/or misused the freedom that Paul had preached. The “Law of Christ” that is mentioned is the Law of Love exemplified by Christ.
* 9:23 As an apostle, he shares in the fruits of the gospel by sharing it with others.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 29-39
29 On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. 31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. 33 The whole town was gathered at the door. 34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him 37 and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” 39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 1:30 The apostles with the possible exception of John were probably married. Paul seems to say at least implicitly that the other apostles took their wives with them on their missionary trips in 1 Cor 9:5.
* 1:31 The service by Peter’s mother-in-law has always been something of a problem because it should have been his wife that ministered to them. Some have suggested that Mark is trying to emphasize the quickness and completeness of the cure. Others have suggested that he is making the point that the relatives of important Christian leaders are to serve and not to be served.
* 1:32 The mention of sun set indicates that they waited until the Sabbath was over.
* 1:33 The reference to “all the city” is an exaggeration that is typical of Semitic speech.
* 1:34 The word that is translated as “many” might have been better translated as “multitude.” The idea being expressed is that Jesus healed the many that came, not that He healed many of those that came.
* Jesus never allowed the demons to speak. He always refused to hear their testimony even when it was true. Even when the demons spoke the truth it was with a deceitful purpose.
* In the healing and casting out of demons the Rule of God was breaking into history which had previously been under the power of Satan.
* 1:38 Even though Jesus ministry was going very well, He left to go to other villages because the Father wished Him to go to all the people of Israel. The will of the Father is more important than human desires or human logic.
* 1:39 This verse seems to indicate a prolonged time spent in the Galilean ministry.
* Use of the term, “their synagogues,” may indicate that Mark’s gospel was written, at least in its final form, after the split between Christianity and Judaism. This break was not complete or fairly universal until about the time of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.