Jesus offers us healing of eternal significance

Tim Irwin

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Feb. 4

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

The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time highlight the tension between our desire for bodily cures and the invitation from Jesus to receive the Gospel and be healed of sin and all of the alienation that sin causes. This tension is illustrated in this week’s Gospel by the healing miracles performed by Jesus and the response that they elicited.

The first reading recounts the lament of Job, a pious man. Once prosperous, he has lost it all. Job cries, “Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” He demands an explanation from God. God answers, not to justify what has occurred, but to tell him that humanity’s default notion of happiness means that we cannot grasp the wisdom of the Divine. Job concurs, repents, and with a deepened sense of piety experiences a healing.

Those who Jesus cured in Capernaum eventually died; those cures were short lived, but the healing of a person’s soul could last an eternity.

In the second reading, Paul says, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Paul seems to tell us to set aside what we think we want, accept the Gospel and find the happiness that transcends anything that this life can ever deliver. Through humility and a deepening sense of piety, we will be healed of sin and all of the deprivation that sin causes.

LOOKING FOR A CURE

After having preached in the local synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus retired to the house of Simon and Andrew accompanied by James and John. Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, an alarming and potentially fatal condition in biblical times. Jesus grasped her hand and the fever left her. Such a cure was bound to light up the neighborhood grapevine.

St. Mark says, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” Later, Jesus goes to a deserted place by himself to pray. His apostles eventually locate him. Simon says, “Everyone is looking for you.”

Of course, they are. The population of Capernaum stood at around 1,500. That’s a lot of instantaneously cured people at a time when good health was the exception. People wanted to find Jesus for the cure itself and not for the message the cure validated. Had Jesus wished, he could have stayed and become the Holy Land’s equivalent of the Mayo Clinic, but that wasn’t his purpose.

Jesus says, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose, have I come.” The Gospels reveal a Jesus who is very willing to cure the sick in miraculous fashion, but his purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, where souls are eternally healed of sin and all of the sadness that sin causes.

Those who Jesus cured in Capernaum eventually died; those cures were short lived, but the healing of a person’s soul could last an eternity.

Through the sacraments, Jesus continues to invite us to experience a healing of eternal significance. This is the purpose for which Jesus comes under the appearance of bread and wine at the Holy Mass. This Sunday, after we have asked the Lord for any cures we may need, let us repent like Job, accept the Gospel like St. Paul and ask in a spirit of humility and ever-deepening piety that we be healed of sin and all of the pain that sin causes.

Tim Irwin teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria.

 

 

POSSIBLE SANDWICH

 

Those who Jesus cured in Capernaum eventually died; those cures were short lived, but the healing of a person’s soul could last an eternity.

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