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Healed In Love
by Krista Peterson | February 2, 2012
Scripture Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 5, 2012)
1 Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
The readings for this Sunday, though they begin in a dark place, have a truly redeeming message. They speak of Simon's Mother In-Law, lying in bed, sick with fever, while Job is suffering from his own kind of fever as well, though he doesn't describe it that way. The illnesses here are not altogether different. Physical and spiritual suffering are closely related, and we now understand with modern medical science that one can easily cause the other. These passages do not refer specifically to the cause of the pain, only to the fact that these ailments are deep and long suffering. If we take a moment to see ourselves in the pain of Job, we can see they are beyond day-to-day grievances. In truth, we are discussing the pains and longings of a life that is filled with emptiness, a void of beauty and humanity. Job's passage ends pointedly, “Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” This is the struggle of a man without hope.
Let's read this Gospel passage again. “Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” Instantaneous. This healing is transformative. One moment, great and deep pain has overtaken her, and the touch of love has awakened a woman to return to her day. This event reminded me of one of our celebrated sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick, wherein a priest prays over a person while making a cross of oil on the forehead. My curiosity about this practice led me to consult a book by Scott Hahn, entitled “Signs of Life.” In it, he shares his impressions about the Anointing of the Sick, one of my favorite sacraments to witness. Hahn states,
Sometimes, the sacramental anointing will bring about a physical healing as well, if healing will be conducive to the salvation of the soul. That's wonderful, but unusual; and actually, it's far less a marvel than the sacrament's ordinary effects. Anointing is far more likely to give us what we really need: humble acceptance of our suffering, in union with the suffering of Christ and in atonement for sins, especially our own. Anointing helps us transform physical suffering into something more deeply remedial, something truly redemptive.
So we see that there is more than one sort of healing, and perhaps what a suffering person requires is different than we would remember during our own times of inner conflict. Lest we forget the importance of seeking God to heal our suffering, Paul begins to light the way in the Second Reading. We are familiar with St. Paul’s story. He was born in Tarsus and converted on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians (Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16). Paul changed radically to become the man who we know to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Having seen others and himself struggle with sorrow, he has seen the pure light of Christ in the world, and declares that he knows very well his purpose in life. He is to find weakness, to seek out where he is needed and give himself over to others with humility, with wisdom, with great love. God has shown His strength in Paul, despite his past, despite who he once was or the great forgiveness he needed to ask of God. It is Paul's strength, compassion, and truth that guide him forward to be a beacon of light for God and for his community. “My strength will find scope in your weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). In short, Paul has been healed, redemptively, and it is apparent in his actions, his motivations, and his character. This is a greater healing than that of physical suffering, presumably it is one that will transcend this life and carry us into a permanent relationship with Christ Himself.
Our “fevers” can represent many ways of being misaligned with our true nature, be it our jealousies, petty grievances, or the way we let ourselves fall into old patterns of behavior. Sometimes it’s as simple as not being aware of our influence on others' moods, or being blind to the ways we are needed to our loved ones. Whatever our personal poison, it will continue to harm us unless we seek to redeem ourselves, to acknowledge the pain and ask for our Father's love to heal us.
Image: James Joseph Jacques Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Krista is a 2011 Catholics on Call alumna and currently a student at DePaul University studying Human-Computer Interaction. She has been Catholics on Call Regional Coordinator since March 2012.