First Reading (Job 7:1-4, 6-7).
The Book of Job is a reflection on human suffering. It ponders the age-old mystery, ‘Why does the just person suffer?’ Job’s so-called ‘comforters’ are locked into a mindset that considers human suffering to be God’s punishment for sin. Job’s experience dictates otherwise. Sadly, millions of good people across our planet know the experience that Job describes: hard labour, little return for hard work, a sense of emptiness, sleepless nights. What can this little vignette offer us? Job complains, but does not lose faith in God. Sometimes we need to complain, even bitterly, and to unburden our hearts in safe places. Simply naming the pain can bring some relief.
Second Reading (1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23).
In the verses preceding this passage, Paul has made it clear that those who preach the gospel have a right to financial support from the community. In his concern to ‘win’ all for the sake of the gospel, he is prepared to forego this right and make a living as a tentmaker. In various parts of his correspondence with the Corinthian community, there are hints that some of his readers are more mature in their faith and moral development than others. Paul does not condemn ‘the weak’. Rather, he accommodates their lack of maturity and at the same time challenges them to grow in their faith and moral commitment. He also challenges the more sophisticated who think they have all the answers. It is sometimes the less well off in our communities who contribute most in financial terms and subsidise those who take the gospel ministry for granted.
Gospel Reading (Mark 1:29-39). Today’s gospel presents Jesus healing a woman who is identified only in relation to her son-in-law, Peter. She may not be named, but she is the first human character in the Markan gospel story who is said to ‘minister’. In other words, the love of God working through Jesus draws her beyond herself to engage in a ministry of bringing the bread of life, of caring for God’s people. A little earlier in Mark’s gospel we hear that angels ministered to Jesus in the desert: in other words God looked after Jesus as he embarked on his mission of bringing God’s healing love to a broken world. Now this woman is caught up in the same mission. The many people healed by Jesus come a little closer to knowing the happiness that is the goal of all being, the realisation of God’s ‘empire’.