Today’s First Reading portrays the brokenhearted Job. He has lost everything: wealth, family and health. He has every right to complain. The rest of the story is that his friends try to convince him that he has somehow offended God and is being punished. Job, however, maintains his innocence and trust in God. He realizes that he came into this world with nothing and will leave it with nothing. He has enjoyed a blessed life and now it is his turn to suffer life’s misery. Confident that his destiny lies in God’s hands, he entrusts himself to God. In the end he will receive from God even more than he had before. The Responsorial Psalm praises God as the one who delivers us from the evil that life too often affords us, because he is good and gracious.
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as our good and gracious God healing the sick and casting out demons. He continues to speak with authority, confronting and overpowering the forces of evil. That cosmic confrontation will ultimately be won by his death and resurrection; but for now he must preach: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Cf. Mark 1:15—the Gospel we heard two Sundays ago.)
In today’s Second Reading Saint Paul speaks of his obligation to preach the gospel. It is also an obligation for all Christians. In baptism and confirmation we are anointed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to share in the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ. We may not carry out this ministry as formally as a priest or deacon, or as forcefully as Saint Paul; but we all have an obligation to witness to our faith, whether by word or in deed. A life lived well is the most eloquent sermon of a Christian.
This coming Thursday, February 11, is the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 29th annual World Day of the Sick. Because of the restrictions from the pandemic, we will not administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during the Mass. However Father Hokamp and I are always happy to go to anyone at home who calls and requests the sacrament.
Pope Francis has chosen Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:8 as this year’s theme: “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers.” In his message for this year’s observance, he explains the theme:
The theme of this Day is drawn from the Gospel passage in which Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of those who fail to practice what they preach (cf. Mt 23:1-12). When our faith is reduced to empty words, unconcerned with the lives and needs of others, the creed we profess proves inconsistent with the life we lead. The danger is real. That is why Jesus uses strong language about the peril of falling into self-idolatry. He tells us: “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (v. 8).
He also addresses the experience of all of us during the current pandemic:
The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner. This is the result of political decisions, resource management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good. Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbor. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbors and members of our one human family.
You may find the full text of the Holy Father’s message on the Vatican website <w2.vatican.va> under “Messages.”
Pray the Rosary this week for people who are seriously ill and all who care for them. Pray for the success of vaccines in bringing an end to the pandemic and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.