First Reading: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
"Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, `When shall I arise?' But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to their end without hope. "Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 147:1-6
Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names. Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, "Every one is searching for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
When I read today's readings I'm struck with how closely the physical world with all its suffering, crosses, dirt, grime, and hardship cannot be separated from the spiritual world. "But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till dawn." How true those words ring in all our hearts. We have all been there with Job; we've all had times where we didn't think we'd make it through the pain of suffering. It is precisely during those times where we feel most alone and when the spiritual world could not feel farther away.
Mirroring Job's lamentation is the Gospel reading; a light of Jesus in the everyday and tangible, in the physical and surrounded by the failings of this world. Jesus meets and heals Simon's mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. I don't think this fever is meant to be a dramatic disease, but a simple, everyday kind of suffering. And since Jesus is there he heals her. Then, as soon as she is healed she serves. It is a scene from ordinary life that is touched by a divine miracle. This very everyday event is the reason why it should speak to us right now in our everyday lives. Jesus is there, and is still here with us today, and wants to impact our lives in the nitty gritty, very practical, very ordinary parts of life.
But when we are in the midst of suffering like Job we can also be blinded to Jesus' presence. We feel only the darkness and are unable to see any help, and this is a spiritual experience that has been with us since the beginning of time. Job was no stranger to this feeling of the absence of grace, this spiritual abandonment. It is a feeling that completely traps us in our temporal world. Unfortunately there are many times where we give up in ever seeing the light of grace in our lives again. It is so difficult to turn back to prayer when in the midst of the darkness, when anything resembling Christ's love and grace feel completely foreign. But just as Christ returns to prayer after being confronted with so much human suffering and pain, so we must return to prayer in the times of darkness. Jesus turned to prayer in his human life, and when we turn to prayer in ours, even when we feel crushed by the weight of our fallen world, we move closer to Him.
Where is the darkness in our lives we can turn over for Christ to make bright?
Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud children living in the Canadian wilds. You can find out more about her here.