Homily for Febrary 4

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Job is feeling hopeless, abandoned, troubled, miserable and defeated.
(Just how some folks in these parts
are hoping the Eagles will feel later tonight!)

Job wonders if God has forgotten him.
It’s a long reach from Job’s despair in the first reading
to the scenes of Jesus at Simon’s house,
healing Simon’s mother-in-law
and anyone else who showed up at the front door
and Mark tells us in the gospel that the “whole town”
was at Simon’s front steps!

In the first instance we find Job feeling abandoned by everyone;
on then: crowds clamoring to be close to Jesus
and his healing touch - a remarkable contrast.
And the truth is: we live, all of us, you and I,
we live somewhere between those two points.

We’ve known – or perhaps we’re experiencing right now –
the dark thoughts weighing heavily on Job’s heart
and his sense that there will be no end to his sadness.
We can pray with Job:
“My nights are troubled
and I am filled with restlessness until the dawn…
my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”

And we’ve known in the past
– or perhaps we’re hoping and praying right now –
for the time when Jesus draws near, close enough to touch us,
to heal our pain, to drive out the demons of our fears and anxiety,
confusion and doubts, loneliness and heartaches –
in ourselves or in someone we love.
Job thought all was lost
and the more he longed for things to get better,
the worse they seemed to become.
And yet, he remained faithful in his belief in God.

Job’s friends insisted that he must have done something terribly wrong
to be suffering as much as he was – but Job held fast to his innocence.
(And aren’t there times in our own difficulties when you and I wonder,
“What did I do to deserve this?”)

Of all Job’s words, perhaps the best known are these: “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that I shall see God.”
But Job doesn’t say this at the conclusion of his story
when, in Chapter 42, his well being is restored.
Rather, Job speaks these words in Chapter 19,
when things are really bad and getting worse.

And here’s the context of his bold confidence in his Redeemer.
He says, My neighbors have withdrawn from me,
and my friends are totally estranged.
My family neglects me… my breath is abhorred by my wife;
I am loathsome to the men of my family.
The young children despise me…
All my closest friends look on me in horror;
those whom I loved have turned against me!
Pity me, pity me, my friends, for the hand of God has struck me!
But -- as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and from my own flesh I shall see God.
My inmost being is consumed with longing for God
whom I myself shall see:
with my own eyes I shall behold my God…

Job’s faith is strong even in the worst of times
because his faith is rooted
not in a promise of a reward or happy ending -
his faith is rooted simply in his love of God.

Job doesn’t understand his suffering.
Nor does he understand why God is silent.
And in fact, when God does finally speak at the end of Job’s story,
although he restores Job’s prosperity,
-- he answers not one of Job’s questions about his suffering.

There is so much mystery in our relationship with God
and in God’s relationship with us.
And in the mystery, there is struggle,
and in the struggle - there is where we find love.
And often the struggle is great
– and the true love that comes from it is even greater.
The mystery invites us to engage the struggle
and the struggle opens us to God’s love.

Job looked and longed for God’s peace.
His being was consumed with this longing.
Still, he feared that he’d never be happy again,
that his life was “like the wind.”
A friend of mine once told me,
 “You can’t change the wind… but you can adjust your sails…”
Job stood with his face to the wind and worked his sails, faithfully.

Our Church, our parish, is meant to be a safe harbor
where our very gathering can help us adjust our sails,
where the faith of others can help us navigate the rough seas,
where, at least for a while, here on a Sunday morning,
there is calm and peace,
enough to hear the Lord’s voice, to hear his word,
and share his company at this table.

Our struggles may be like Job’s but we are not alone:
here we have the prayer and support of others,
like those gathered on Simon’s front steps: the company of others
who are also seeking the Lord and his healing.

Jesus, like Job, had his moment on the Cross
when he felt abandoned by his Father,
when he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”
But the Father had not forgotten, had not forsaken Jesus
and he never forgets any one of us.
We are always and ever in the mind and heart of God.

If any one here has lost their way in finding God,
- if it seems that God has lost his way in finding you -
then come to this table and know
that “For us, our Redeemer lives…”
that we believe
“our inmost beings are consumed with this longing…”
and that one day “we shall see God with our own eyes…”


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