February 7, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/020721.cfm)
Who among us here who experienced pain and suffering? Or a failure or a heartbreak? I am certain each of us has these experiences in one way or another. There might be some of us here who have also experienced being humiliated, oppressed or abused. Perhaps there are those who are ill at the moment, or in trouble at work, have lost a job, failed in a business or in a relationship or who are in great sorrow for losing a loved one.
It has been a year when the first report of death from Covid-19 has been revealed. Since then, the outbreak of the virus brought so much difficulty to many of us particularly those who have health issues and those whose source of income are already unstable even before the pandemic. Aside from these, there are also others who suffered very much because of the surrounding circumstances in their life.
This happened to Joy (not her real name). She was working in a big hospital and when Covid-19 Pandemic made the first infection in the City, the hospital became busier. All medical staff felt the pressure as well as the fear and anxiety in working in a very toxic environment.
Joy has a boyfriend. She was happy with him and he too was happy with her. They have been together for several years and thought that the relationship was going to the stage of a life-long commitment. One day, Joy found that she was pregnant. At first, she was surprised and at the same time felt afraid. Though she was happy with her boyfriend, but, she felt not sure after all. Few weeks later, when she was ready to inform her boyfriend, the relationship suddenly became unstable. As she expected it, the relationship was broken and Joy was not able to tell her boyfriend that she was pregnant. Her boyfriend broke-up with her and left her. And she kept her pregnancy to herself.
But, the New Corona Virus came, and the national government declared lockdown in major cities. People were advised to stay home. Hospitals became busier. Herself and her colleagues felt not only the pressure of work but also the emotional burden. With this, the more Joy decided to keep her pregnancy a secret.
For Joy, the situations surrounding her pregnancy, the recent break-up, the pandemic, the pressures at work, the emotional stress brought so much confusion to her. Her heart and mind now filled with darkness. She could not understand herself and her situation anymore. She felt not ready too to become a mother. She was afraid. She was terrified of raising the child alone and bringing the child in the midst of this pandemic and broken-relationship.
With so much emotional/psychological stress from all aspects of her life, Joy aborted the baby after her third month of pregnancy. She thought it would solve the problem, end her troubles, her fears and anxieties, her pain and anguish. However, that was just the beginning of more pain and guilt, of shame and deep sorrow in the heart of Joy.
She could not sleep anymore. Her colleagues began to notice changes in her attitude. She would break-down and sob even at work and even in public places. Joy was lost. She has been carrying a truck of guilt in her heart. She was searching for forgiveness, looking for God, yet, she could not forgive herself. Yet, deep within, Joy desired to find comfort and peace, light and hope in her heart.
Joy has been keeping all those painful experiences in her heart alone. Joy needed a listening ear and heart that will only keep listening to her story without judgment and without any biases. Joy needed a big amount of understanding and it can only be given to her by listening fully to her story, to her anxieties and fears, to her broken-relationship and pregnancy, to her struggles at work and to her sins. And at some point of her life, she began to open up and allowed herself to be touched by the presence of those around her. She took the risk and let herself be embraced by her friends
As Joy was assisted to recognize all of those circumstances that have happened in her life, this paved the way to forgiveness, to the road of healing and freedom.
A reality such as this reminds me of today’s readings. So, allow me to bring you a bit deeper into our readings and let us discover how God unfolds His invitations for us today.
Our first reading tells us about the misery and hopelessness of Job who lost everything, not just his material possessions but especially his family and health. But what was intriguing was that Job seemed to be a good and righteous man. He never oppressed anybody. He had been honest to God. However, being good and righteous did not make him immune to human pain and suffering, to misery and hopelessness. With that horrible experience of Job, he said, “I shall not see happinness again.” This is Job’s testimony of that bitterness in a life filled with so much pain and darkness.
Nevertheless, Job’s story did not end there. He actually saw and experienced joy again in his life because God showed mercy to him. This mercy is what we find in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus, as he began his public ministry, went from one town to another in order to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the diseases that plagued the people of his time and freed those who were possessed by demons. Jesus came in order to let the people know that God has come and is not blind to our suffering and difficulties. God wants to free us from those that enslaved us, that make us suffer and hopeless.
This is what Jesus did to the mother-in-law of Peter and to those people who have been brought to Jesus. Jesus healed and freed them by touching them. This is what our Psalm proclaimed to us, “The Lord heals the broken-hearted.” Our Psalm testifies that God is a healer. God brings completeness, wholeness and healing to the broken-hearted, to the wounded and to the miserable. God brings hope and light to us who find life hopeless, bitter and dark.
Indeed, it is when we allow God to touch us that God also brings healing into our life. God’s touch is showed to us in many ways. And this is what I realized in the life of Joy. God touched her through her friends who showed concern to her. God also touched her through the sacraments that Joy received. Peter’s mother-in-law was touched by Jesus through Peter himself who brought Jesus to their home. The sick and the possessed were touched by Jesus and were healed through the people who brought them to Jesus.
It is in this way that God works wonders in us and also through us. This is the invitation for us today which I summed in two points.
First, God wants to heal us, to make us complete and joyful. Jesus is letting us know that our God is for us the wounded, for the broken, for the sick and for the hopeless. We might be like Job who find life miserable – come closer to the Lord, then, do not lose hope but rather seek healing and ask what you need from God because our God is, indeed, a God of healing.
Second, each of us can be an instrument of healing too. We can be a friend who will be able to bring healing to others by bringing them closer to God. We can show it by being generous of ourselves to others, that is, by offering a helping hand to those in need, by making our ears available to a person who wants to be heard, by assuring a sick friend of our prayers and company, by letting a person know that you are there to support and give comfort. Yes, we don’t have to look far, just be aware of those people around us because he or she might just be one of our friends who has been hiding his/her suffering from a smiling façade, or could just be a family member who has been making himself/herself busy with work or worst indulging themselves in their own rooms with their gadgets or with chemical substances. Let us be instruments of God’s healing presence today. Hinaut pa.