The Sacred Mystery of the Kingdom of God

02-04-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Sometimes we are so busy completing what is on our list for each day, that our focus is to get to the end of everything. As a result we often miss the very good and wonderful that is right in front of us. We are engaged in frantic activity that is purely frantic because we fail to enjoy what is going on in the moment in front of us. We race about to get to the future and do not recognize or enjoy the present.

Our Old Testament reading this weekend comes from the great and powerful Book of Job. This powerful book should make any one of us pause as we read the tale of his life. Job, a good and upright man, has lost everything, all his stuff. In today's passage we discover him on a dung heap putting up with the hot air pep talks by his friends. They do not know what they are talking about and yet they keep talking! They have no understanding of the suffering in Job's life. They cannot figure out the meaning of an innocent man and his suffering. Job, at least, has a clear view. He does not believe in the afterlife and that simply put life is hard, very hard.

This passage gives us the flavor of Job's suffering. We also know that there are thirty-six chapters of his friends and their worthless opinions, and that then God speaks to Job. When God speaks, Job is vindicated. Hear this vindication in the responsorial psalm that follows the reading of the Book of Job "Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted." Job is a powerful symbol of all those who suffer long and patiently, who struggle to understand their life and God's life. The brokenhearted can sing praise.

In reading the Gospel we recognize that it possesses the tone and feel of the first two readings. Can you see a gathering of the hopeful poor hearing Jesus' words in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath? See Jesus taking the short Sabbath walk to the home of Simon Peter, whose mother-in-law is so ill that she cannot offer the simple hospitality permitted on the Jewish Sabbath. There are groups of people impatiently assembled at the door gawking and waiting. Jesus helps her up. Peter's mother-in-law is so returned to health that she is now able to be hospitable! She welcomes and serves the one who restored her. As the day lengthens and evening comes, people arrive nonstop. They, however, want immediate physical healing. Jesus doesn't only heal, but he also forgives. His heart seeks to lead those who are close-by deeper and deeper into the sacred mystery of the Kingdom of God that is now present among them. Note that those who believe are raised to life, to physical health, to the renewal of the humanspirit.

It's the ideal world where all homilies last seven minutes exactly, where gourmet organic, vegan, locally sourced meals are on the table within thirty minutes, and every problem of the day is solved by a search on Google. We know that Job's world wasn't like that and he was getting discouraged. It is interesting that the people who came to Peter's house looking for Jesus wanted an instant cure for their ills and problems. We know from the Gospel passage that Jesus was the one who knew that these things take time, yet he also sensed the urgent needs of these seekers, and responded in charity and kindness.

Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus take time away to revitalize himself in thought and energy through prayer and contemplation. We are expected to learn from the words and actions of Jesus. Taking time to pray and place ourselves in God's presence is one of the many important actions we witness and follow through Jesus' good example. Patience in the presence of "the holy" will make our lives more meaningful and peaceful.