This lectionary reflection is a guest post by Dr. Victor Carmona, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. The readings for this week may be found on the USCCB website here.
First Reading: Job 7:1-4,6-7
Psalm: 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
As the pandemic rages on and deepens the inequality that many in our immigrant and Latinx communities suffer, we continue to experience broken-heartedness. In that context, the task of discipleship calls us to address the temptation to dismiss such suffering or to attempt an explanation for it.
In the first reading, Job’s wisdom tethers us to the woundedness that many are experiencing as they, their friends and family face the pandemic’s physical, psychological, spiritual, and economic impacts. Job’s raw words are intimately true for many who join him from the hospital, at work, or from home in saying: “my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Job speaks those words to his friends who, as Gustavo Gutierrez reminds us, are attempting to explain his suffering as right and just in the eyes of God. While well-meaning, they are sorry comforters and friends. What Job had asked them to do was, after all, something that is hard to do. Job wanted them to sit with him and truly listen. Only then could they take in the lament that came from the depth of his knowing heart.
The silence that is necessary to truly listen tethers us to the God who ultimately thunders with love in response to Job’s woundedness and to a people who place their hope in that same God. It is that people whose words we read in today’s Psalms. They know the experience of exile firsthand and the cross-generational struggles it entails. Struggles they had not forgotten. It is out of those memories that they remind us to trust that God heals the brokenhearted “and binds up their wounds.” A reminder they extend to us without justifying the trauma those wounds both cause and reflect. If today’s psalms invite humility before the wounds that God’s people suffer, then the second reading invites humility before the task of proclaiming the good news of the incarnate God who, as Mark shows, heals those wounds. A task, Paul writes, before which we should place no obstacles.
The humility before the experiences of the brokenhearted that Job, the Psalms, and Paul nurture in us today tethers our hope to Mark’s Jesus. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus wastes no time—he is almost in a hurry—in healing Simon’s mother-in-law and curing the many who show up outside their door later that evening. The following day, Jesus rises before dawn to pray. He then goes preaching in nearby villages. It is almost as if Simon and Andrew can barely keep up with him. Amidst such a frenetic pace, though, we should not lose sight of what Mark sees: fevers and demons are responding to the power of God in Jesus. It is as if the God of Job and the psalmist is acting more intensely still in response to human suffering. And yet, even then, Mark’s Jesus does not diminish their suffering by offering an explanation for it. Instead, at the sight of that suffering Jesus feels moved to bind their wounds.
The invitation to humility and silence before the suffering of the brokenhearted during this pandemic is difficult—if not nearly impossible—for many of us, more so when we see so much injustice across our communities. And yet, perhaps it is an invitation that we desperately need today so we may more fully hear and see and touch each other and our wounds. Perhaps then we may know how to participate with God in healing each other’s wounds.