March 4, 2018
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in this Sunday’s Gospel passage gave us a clue why Peter denied Jesus three times at his Passion, an amateur biblical scholar reminded me, don’t you agree? Well, the first reading this week is taken from the Book of Job. Have you read it yet? It’s a beautiful piece of literature in our history. Human suffering is discussed throughout. Although Job refuses to believe that his suffering is a consequence of sin, he has no answer to satisfy himself. He shares the universal question of those who are in pain: Why me? As he also shares the absence of an answer. He holds fast to his faith in God but loses all his reasons for hoping that things will ever change. He settles in despair and, as we heard in today's first reading, turns to a weary philosophy. When Jesus is confronted with concrete human suffering, he does not stay with the question "Why suffering?" but he moves to heal the afflicted. Almost every time we meet Jesus in the Gospels, he is either actually healing someone, or has just come from healing someone, or on his way to it.
The questions of suffering in the book of Job are not answered in the Gospel. Jesus just stays committed to caring for the sick. That is his witness. Through his witness we hold fast to the truth that God loves us in our weakness and fragility, in our sickness and suffering. We can see a reflection of God's care in the commitment of doctors, nurses, hospital chaplains, pastoral care volunteers, and all the people who tend to the suffering of others. They are God's compassion in the flesh, God's care in motion. No doubt all of them
have reason to wonder, to protest, even to be angry when they see the innocent suffer; but they carry on. That is their enduring witness. And they know that only the Lord Jesus, with his death on the cross and his resurrection, can heal and make sense out of suffering.