BAD NEWS TO GOOD NEWS
1 Cor. 9:16-19,22-23;
We have all been there at some point – feeling low, discouraged, down, depressed. We would prefer not to stay there, however, but to look forward in hope to better times. Today’s readings are a progression from Job’s drudgery and misery to the healing and good news that Jesus brings.
Job had some rough times. He certainly had his share of bad news! Apparently, he was like a “test case” for Satan, who actually challenged God to withdraw some of his blessings from Job to see if he would then blaspheme. The Lord gave Satan permission to attack Job’s possessions, his children, and even his physical health. In all of this, Scripture records, Job did not sin.
Today’s reading is from Job’s first reply to one of his “friends,” in which he bitterly laments his condition. Many of us can identify with Job – if not with his exact situation, at least with his feelings!
Psalm 147, the Responsorial, moves us toward a note of hope in the Lord. We are encouraged to, “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.” This is a very timely first reading and psalm in the midst of the COVID pandemic and related crises we are facing.
After preaching and casting out an evil spirit in the synagogue, Jesus goes to the house of Simon and Andrew (according to the ruins in Capernaum, just across the street). Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law by grasping her hand.
After sunset, when the Sabbath was over, the sick and possessed – indeed the whole town – gathered at the door. It must have been quite a scene! Jesus healed many and cast out many demons. He would not permit the demons to speak because – as we recall from last week’s gospel – they now knew he was indeed “the Holy One of God.”
Jesus rises early for a time of prayer alone before Simon and his companions found him. Jesus says, “Let us go on to the next towns so that I may preach there also, for that it was I have come to do.” This is one of some ten instances in the gospels in which Jesus states explicitly why he came.
Jesus said that he came to preach the gospel. St. Paul says that he can’t help but preach – he is under an obligation and, as it were, has no choice. “Woe to me if I do not preach it!” Paul offers the gospel, the good news, free and without charge. He becomes the slave of all to bring them freedom. He becomes weak for the sake of the weak, to make them strong in Christ. He makes himself omnia omnibus – all things to all, to save at least some.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is his sole motivation.
GOOD NEWS – HOPE AND SALVATION
Today’s readings take us full cycle – from the depression and pessimism of Job to the healing, freedom and hope in the gospel of Jesus. When we are facing trials – and we have been facing a huge global trial for the past year – we need to renew our faith in the gospel. God allows the devil to tempt us, try us, and put us to the test – but only up to a point. God’s word says: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Let us, like Job, keep faith in the Lord both in good times and in hard times. Pray Psalm 147 again: “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.” And the Alleluia Verse, which says: “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Alleluia!