The experience of life articulated by Job in the first reading is something all too familiar to people of all generations, but more so for us living in the challenging contemporary times. What with the drudgery and misery of life made more pronounced by individualism, consumerism, and secularism. All these are false absolutes that has been unsettling and subverting many of the established ways of thinking and doing that heretofore served as immovable anchors in a turbulent world.
We find ourselves grappling for meaning at the seeming randomness of life events. Restlessness and unhappiness set in with so many questions cropping up and remaining unanswered within the framework of long held beliefs. We still contend with the existence of evil despite the much touted advances in the many fields of human endeavors. We are stymied by the dead ends we meet and the circuitous ways we take in life's journey. Difficulties and hardships either trample us or harden us. Either way, it robs us of the zest for life as existential angst and ennui get the better of us. Such is the bleak picture of contemporary life with all it's empty refinements and unjust exclusivity, hopeless and dark in its meaninglessness and in its defiant stance to deny the existence of God.
In a startling contrast, the Psalm represents a worldview that recognizes God actively moving and working among us, carrying with it vivifying hope and confidence in life. The emphasis is not in sickness but on healing. Not on destruction but on rebuilding. Not on brokenness but on binding of wounds. Not on misery but on gladness. Not on dispersal but on gathering. The recognition of God's presence spells the difference in human response to life's difficulties. Living God's presence transforms the empty, barren landscape of human history into a field of possibilities. The cries and groans of pain and suffering is replaced with joyful expectation and songs of praise. Life is not seen as a cosmic accident with uncertain direction, but a purposeful and creative flow of divine activity. Therefore, it is not empty but full, pushing toward the consciousness of its source and destination, its origin and end. The human being, an integral part of this life progression, is the nexus of this consciousness welling up from a deep encounter with God and overflowing into adoration and thanksgiving, which in it's deepest sense is always oriented toward action and mission.
The coming of Christ brings this divine action to it's peak. We have today's Gospel from Mark depicting Jesus in one of his first acts of mercy - divine compassion at work. It showed him healing and liberating a marginalized woman in the household of Simon, his mother-in-law. By strict Jewish tradition her presence is an aberration. Simon was not under any obligation to offer her a place under his roof. Women when widowed were to be in the care of the eldest son not a son-in-law. Widows, we must remember were among the marginalized and neglected members of Jewish society at the time of Jesus. So, this woman was in precarious situation and at the mercy of Simon. Being sick must have turned her into a burden in a family that relied heavily on fishing as source of income and food. Imagine how the family was coping as Simon had just abandoned his occupation to follow Jesus; and now, this illness. Imagine the mother-in-law's anxiety at being useless, helpless and an added weight on the shoulders of Simon and her daughter. She is one woman who had known Job's predicament in the first reading by her own experience. Fortunately, by the same token, she would know the message of the Psalmist through Jesus' healing and liberating presence.
Healed instantaneously, she was restored back to health and back to her sense of well-being as a family member actively participating in its affairs. No wonder, she immediately waited on Jesus and his first disciples. Her experience would be made available to the rest of Capernaum after the Sabbath; and from there to the rest of Galilee.
Like Simon's mother-in-law, all encountered Jesus in a very special and personal way albeit untold and hidden from us now. Through Jesus, divine action is made visible in human terms, revealing that Godtime has broken into humantime, that the uncreated has spilled over into the created with the inauguration of God's reign. Jesus did this with great love and compassion, touching people to the core of their being.
Paul, writing for the first time to the Corinthians, is a case in point. He exuded confidence and enthusiasm about living the new life in Christ, affirmed by the transformation his life took from persecution of those who believe the Gospel to the preaching of this same Gospel to the persecuted and beyond. Filled with new life in Christ, he was driven to share what he had received, preaching the Gospel freely with zest and enthusiasm of one who sees meaning even in the drudgery and miseries of life.
Father, the source and destination of life, through your Son may our lives be songs of hope and praises to you! Amen.