The 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
First Reading: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147:1-6
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: According to St. Mark 1:29-39
There are those who do not read the Bible because they feel that it is so old that it is out of touch with the world in which we live. It is understandable that someone might believe that writings from between two and three millennia ago are not be applicable in a post-industrial, post-modern, post-Christian, post-[fill in the blank] world.
Yet, all one need do is look at the Book of Job, especially the section quoted in this weekend’s first reading, to find enough angst, ennui, weltschmerz, or [again, fill in the blank] to make any disaffected product of 21st century Western culture recognize a true kindred spirit.
Lines like, “Is not man's life on earth a drudgery?” can’t help but resonate with those who have been indoctrinated in the bread-and-circuses world created and controlled by those who took to heart the works of thinkers like Nietzsche, Bernays, and Foucault. The search for meaning in a world that seemingly has none is the primal desire within all of us, but especially the young who were born in a time when culture’s moral compass has been not so much smashed as it has been de-magnetized.
The world that has not yet experienced Christ and the one that no longer experiences Him can be amazingly similar, and the story of Job brings that fact into sharp focus. Terrible tragedies have befallen Job and he, in discussion with his friends, is trying to figure out exactly what is going on. Job perceived himself to be an upright man upon whom God’s good graces should be bestowed, yet the reality of his situation causes his friends to conclude that he must have committed some great evil and his suffering is a call to repentance.
In a world where Jesus has not yet appeared, the problem of pain and suffering has no definitive answer, and therein lies the great similarity between our time and that of Job. Both ages ask the great questions of life without the benefit of the compass that points directly to the Person of Jesus Christ. Yet the two situations are different: Job is like a man on a train platform wondering if the train will ever arrive, while those in the 21st century look for a train that has already left the station. Both platforms are train-less, yet one carries with it the optimism of meaningful expectation while the other carries the pessimism of meaningless futility.
And that is why Job can be the patron saint of those who seek meaning and value in life despite the constant message that in a world where all is random maybe the best approach is that of condescending irony. If any man has the right to succumb to a nihilistic vision of reality it is Job, yet he trudges on, and is finally given the opportunity to confront God face-to-face.
In God’s response Job is able to get a glimpse of what will be fully revealed in the Good News of Jesus. Suffering and pain do have meaning, yet without knowledge of the complete expression of that meaning in the Cross of Christ, Job’s itch can’t be satisfactorily scratched. Job is the everyman of the dimly lit world before the Incarnation. So too is he a man of our era where the dimness of the light is not related to the first glimpse of sunlight in its rising, but rather to the last rays just before its setting.
In this weekend’s Gospel the Apostles went out looking for Jesus in the early hours of the day as He was off by Himself in prayer. Upon finding Him they exclaim, “Everyone is looking for You.” They are indeed, and for those searchers trapped in a world cluttered with the often deadly labyrinth of ideologies antithetical to the Gospel and its Old Testament foundation, the Book of Job would be a great place to start.