Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
01 Feb 2021
Marian Diaz, DMin

Reading 1: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

This week we start by hearing from Job in the midst of despair, not only for himself but also for the whole of humanity. His work bears no fruit, his wealth does not grow. He can’t sleep and his days fly by at a relentless pace. Most importantly, his life has no meaning and he has no hope. “My life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Perhaps many of us have had days in the past year where Job’s words resonated with us.

Psalm 147 shifts our focus to recall our God who heals the brokenhearted. Our God gathers us, heals us, and calls us by name. Our God of Wisdom raises up the lowly and subverts those who abuse their power. We not only recall these actions of our God, but we call out for these actions to rain down upon our lives and our world.

The second reading from 1 Corinthians shifts our focus from God’s actions on behalf of all of us to Paul’s self-understanding as an apostle. Paul defends his role as an apostle as he was not one of the twelve chosen to accompany Jesus during his life. He is considered an eyewitness to the resurrection by way of his conversion experience, but he in fact persecuted Christians prior to becoming a Christian. It seems to me that at the historical point when Paul was writing this letter, no stable model has been developed for his financial support. I feel some resentment from Paul around this situation as he impresses on the Corinthians that he is doing this work on behalf of the gospel unwillingly and “free of charge.” He uses comparative imagery to make himself “a slave” to the gospel and to the people when he is trying to form in the good news.

I would just like to raise up for our consideration that Paul actually has freedom and social status both as a Jewish man and as a Roman citizen that he chooses symbolically to “give over” on behalf of winning souls for Christ. Paul did not literally choose economic and social enslavement and its lived experience during the time when he was alive. To literally choose to submit to being owned by a male leader of a paterfamilia would have had meant that he would, in fact, have to stop his itinerant work on behalf of the gospel. For me, something in Paul’s words and this use of a comparison to being a slave smacks of an ancient version of what we might hear as a perspective representing white privilege in the United States today. I hear echoes of the Pharisaic prayer, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:10).

To me, the God of Psalm 147 as expressed in the life of Jesus would not want anyone’s enslavement, oppression, abuse, or neglect.  In the gospel reading today, Jesus’ first healing miracle of Mark’s Gospel is bestowed upon Simon’s mother-in-law who then arises and offers diaconal service to Jesus and to the others present. The account portrays a mutuality of love, care, and compassion between Jesus and Simon’s mother in law. These reciprocal actions of healing and hospitality enabled that home to become the place that facilitated the healing of people with ailments of all kinds – physical, psychological, and spiritual. That home drew in the whole town. The whole town needed the healing love of God that Jesus offered. After a rest and some time away, and having reflected on this experience, Jesus understood the deep needs that existed in the world around him and how he was to respond. He saw the despair of Job in the people around him and responded with the active love of God expressed in Psalm 147.

May we, like Jesus, understand the deep needs that exist in our world and how we are to respond.

Marian Diaz, DMin
Director of Continuing Education, Summer@CTU