Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024 – 10:30 AM
Señor Sadrac Camacho
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 | Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
I Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23 | Mk 1:29-39

+In the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Recently, and surprisingly at the age of 23, I’ve been going through some health troubles. I’m sure many of us here who are older than me understand the feeling of knowing something is wrong but not quite at the answers or diagnostic stage of our illness. Going into doctor’s offices and not coming out of them not feeling immediately better is a new experience for me. It’s quite difficult. It can be quite lonely. It can even feel unfair. “Why me” kind of thoughts creep up.

In light of today, though, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, and what I’ve come to reflect about Ordinary Time, I found maybe not the answers to what’s fundamentally wrong with me, but I did find a comfort no medication could bring.

While Christmas and Easter are preeminent within the Paschal mystery, Ordinary Time plays a different role. We are called to examine the life of Christ. We are called to live out his Earthly ministry. And we are called to place Jesus within the fold of human history, past, present, and future.

It is a fundamental truth of our Catholic tradition that all history, at bottom, orients towards God. I must admit, though, that to understand this is quite a challenge. Compared to human history, I am a rounding error.

Even humanity is but a speck in this vast cosmos. And yet still, we see how delicately we’ve been placed in this sop of floating nuclear furnaces and orbiting rocks. God is intricately intersected in every facet of history within this Island home. God is finely woven within every facet of our personal lives. Of this, I have no doubt. However, for many, this acknowledgment is the precursor to a paradox, one we see instantiated in none other than Job from our first reading.

If God is infinitely loving, why is there evil in the world? If I am a child of God, why does he allow me to suffer? Open up a history book and you’ll quickly be struck by some of the dark legacies of humankind– subjugation, usurpation, conquest, and genocide. I know that life can be quite harsh. I won’t be the first nor the last who has lost a loved one or has been struck by an ailment. Sometimes it’s hard to wake up in the morning. Sometimes it’s hard to get through the day. It’s an inexorable component of the human experience that we will someday come to say and think what Job thought. That our days come to an end without hope and that we can hardly imagine a future where we will feel happiness again. We know that God is infinitely loving, so we feel as though there is an incongruity between the life we merit and the life we’ve been dealt.

In Jesus, however, we see that the kind of linear calculus between what we “deserve” and what we “receive” is not found in God’s ways. Jesus, perfect and sinless, infinitely merited, the Son of God, nevertheless suffered on the Cross for us. How am I, a child of God, then supposed to come around and say to God, you’ve messed up your math, I haven’t sinned enough to suffer this much, when the Son of God, God incarnate, suffered so much? Likewise, the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of Grace, wasn’t otherwise spared from watching her Son die. I cannot discern with all my devices why it is that suffering exists. What I do know, however, is that while God’s infinite plan for humanity comes to fruition, and we at times face tribulations, God does not abandon us.

Just as we sang in the Psalm, “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.” In the redemptive work of Jesus, we have been promised somebody to hold our hand through hard times and a future where all ills will be resolved, where God will wipe away every tear, where Death shall be vanquished, where there will be no sorrow, no crying, and no more pain, where the former world passes away. We will see it done unto us as was done unto Job, who in his patience found himself later renewed to a better life. That is the hope and the promise of our new covenant with God.

Last week, Father David gave an excellent homily that touched upon demons. Now, what demons are and how exactly they come to effectuate evil and sin in the world, as Father David made clear, is a bit of a mystery. However, what is clear is that the forces of darkness in this world are legion.

Certainly, sometimes we feel like Job, our problems seem to arise out of the blue and are outside of our control. We did not precipitate them. Though, at other times, it’s a bit more difficult. At times, we get sick due to our neglect of our bodies. At times, we become ensnared by our proclivities and curiosities. At times, we want to break maladaptive cycles of behavior but inertia makes such a feat seem impossible.

At work are such evils like substance abuse, domestic violence, and rage disorders, among many others. We see here a complex interplay between our own personal failures and our inability to change despite the will to change. Catalysts or not of our own demise, more than sinners, we are children of God and the same promise is made to all of us. That when the burden of our troubles becomes too strong, he who carried the heaviest burden in redeeming humanity can redeem us from our troubles. This is who Jesus is. The Gospel reading evinces this. About curing illness and exorcizing demons, Jesus said “For this purpose I have come.”

As such, we finally see two different ends of the spectrum. Perhaps on one end, we feel as though we don’t merit our suffering. Here, God does not abandon us. And then on the other end, we might think that perhaps, to some extent, that we do merit our suffering. That there is some proportionality between what we “deserve” and what we “receive.” That we are not worthy of Jesus’ guiding hand. The response here is the same: God does not abandon us. Christ came into the world to save sinners. That Christ came to redeem means that we sin. What we must do is accept him and allow him to fortify us and drive away the forces of darkness he was called to overcome.

And lastly let us not forget the duty we have to others, to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who are currently being afflicted by the harshness of life. As I said in the beginning, Ordinary Time is caught between the lines of the Paschal mystery. It is a time to live out the ministry and life of Jesus.

Jesus came to defeat the forces of evil that keep us from the love of God. That alone presents us with the onus we have concerning our neighbor. As Paul outlines in his first epistle to the Corinthians, in authentically preaching the Gospel, we must identify ourselves with the serf and the weak, we must “become all things to all, to save at least some.” Paul himself, once caught up in the forces of darkness, persecuting Christians, became an Apostle.

Likewise, our duty as people who have fallen short of the stature of Christ before, who will continue to fall short in the future as is our nature, when we see others similarly situated as we once have ourselves been, caught up in sin or simply in the harshness of life, our instinct must not be to outright condemn or abandon. But rather stretch out our hands and help lift out our neighbors from the problems that weigh them down. In doing so, evil is defeated and the forces of darkness are vanquished. In doing so, we see God at work. AMEN.