5th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

You know Job would have been a horrible basketball coach.  Can you imagine this pre-game speech?  “If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”  Now go out there and get them.

No, it is not much of a pep talk, but it is something that many of us have felt in the deepest breast of our being.  Jesus is having a difficult time in the Gospel as well.  He cured Simon’s mother-in-law and the word of his power quickly gets out.  By that night, everyone who was sick or injured, lost or who had encountered evil was at his door.  If you want to know why Jesus looked at the world the way he did, just imagine what he saw as he opened the door.  The poorest of the poorest and the most hopeless of the hopeless rallying themselves for one last shot.  He felt their pain, how much they wanted him and how much they needed him.    These were the ones who always got him. Who always showed up.   And of course, he goes to all of them expelling demons, curing the sick, healing the disabled and giving encouragement and peace to all.  But it seems his night dragged on as well, for long before the dawn reached him, he had gone to a deserted place to pray.

We catch Job in a different place, not in the midst of tragedy, but just after all had been stripped away from him.  His place now is not in the midst of the storm.  We find him in the sad stillness after the earthquake.  We see Job alone in the world, having just lost everything.   His despair is so deep that even time haunts him.  If he looks back all he can see is tragedy.  Bereft of any hope, his future is a blight.  And the present torments him.  Those days pass so swiftly until he is left alone with his thoughts again all night long – the dark night of the soul.

What are we to do in the face of such pain and loneliness?  Jesus emerges from his prayer with an answer.  His disciples go to find him.  Not surprisingly, more are coming to him for there are always more.  They expect him to return.  But in a subtle turning point of the Gospel, Jesus announces, ““Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”  He knows he has the power to heal and he knows that it is not enough to just have the people come to him.  No, he must go where he is not known and touch those who need his healing elsewhere.  This is a template for the Church that must always go out and find those who need the healing of Christ.  He will not be the well-known miracle worker, the local hero.  He resists the temptation to be the well-liked pastor, which is a pretty nice temptation.  No, he is the savior of the world and he must complete his mission and share the redemption, the power and the peace of God wherever he goes.

St. Paul is describing the same experience to the Corinthians.  He does not choose to preach the Gospel.  The Gospel is what he is.  He is compelled to share Christ because he cannot imagine not doing all he can and giving all he can so that everyone might experience the grace of Christ.  For that, he would serve the Lord; for that he would be a slave to all.  “To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak” for sometimes the best thing we can do for those in pain is to be weak with them.  To hold their hands or to shed a tear.

We now possess that healing power.  We now hold the grace of Christ within us.  We have an answer to the injustice and injury in the world in how we have been blessed, redeemed and graced.  We have been enlightened.  We must share the light.  We have been given precious life.  We must extend that life to all.  And we have been loved.  So we must love one another for only love can cure the pain of the world, a ray of sunlight to pierce the drear of this life.

Someday we will be the ones at the door needing Christ’s healing.  Someday we will simply open the door and see all the hurt that is out there.  If neither ever happens, then truly blessed are you.  They came and pressed upon the door, so desperate they were for Jesus.  Let us press against him again.  Let us press against the table of his word to capture the grace that flows from him.  Let us press against each other and exchange peace.  Let us press against the table of the Eucharist for with a flick of bread and a taste of wine, Jesus touches; Jesus fills us.    Then as healers we heal.  It is our turn to go to the nearby villages and repair the breaches in families and communities and in our society.

This relentless winter reminds us of how heavily the night falls.  It awaits a dawn.  The desperate need the light of hope.  The broken need the healing rays of grace.   And the scourge of injustice and oppression cries for day to break upon it.  We are the people of Christ.  We are the dawn.