07 February 2015


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:29-39 (Job 7:1-4.8-7/ Ps 147 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23)

The question of suffering has haunted the human race from time immemorial.  It is as old as humanity itself.  It continues begging for answers both from God and us.  But the many “why’s” of human suffering remain unanswered today.  This is because human suffering is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be enlightened on.

A problem seeks for a solution.  A problem is a problem precisely because it can be solved.  It may take a long while and entail great difficulties in solving a problem, but, always, a problem has a solution.  Take for example, in the mathematical equation 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 1 is a problem and 2 is its solution.  You may have many problems of great mathematical proportions, but whatever those problems are, they always have a corresponding solution because a solution awaits its problem just as a problem searches for its solution.

Because a mystery is not a problem, a mystery cannot be solved.  Thus, a mystery does not seek for a solution; rather, it begs for enlightenment.  Mysterious does not mean we know nothing about but that we know something not everything.  One classic example of this is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity: the very mystery of God who is one and indivisible but three in person.  We know something about God but we do not and can never know everything about Him.

Human suffering is not a problem to be solved.  Human suffering is a mystery we beg to be enlightened on.  Having the necessary knowledge and skills, we solve problems.  But only with faith – that believes, that trusts, and that obeys – can we be enlightened on mysteries, including the mystery of human suffering.

While the suffering of anyone in general is already very difficult to accept and understand, the suffering of a good person is more than twice the pain.  Why do good people suffer?

The first reading today tells us the story of a good man who did not deserve the suffering he went through.  His name was Job.  He was very wealthy but also upright and blameless before God and man.  He and his wife had seven sons and three daughters, the largest estate in the kingdom, the biggest number of cattle, and the pinkest – so to speak – of health.  So wealthy were they that his sons and daughters could party every single night while he, Job, rose very early every single morning to offer burn offering to God for any sin his children might have committed while partying.

But Job’s fidelity to God was put to a test by a series of calamities that took away from him his children, his friends, and his wealth, one after the other.  With tattered clothes and shaven head, Job fell to the ground and all he could say was “The Lord gives and the Lord takes; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

As if his anguish was not enough, boils suddenly appeared on Job’s body, from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Thereupon, even his wife told him to just die but not without first cursing God.  But Job did not.  Instead, he endured all the pain, certainly not with a good laugh but with one agonizing question: “What did I do to deserve this dreadful fate?”

All of Job’s friends left him, except three.  But, sadly, his three remaining friends proved to be not consolation at all for him: they kept pestering him with their suspicion that Job must have done something evil to suffer so greatly.  They nagged him to confess his guilt so that his misfortune might end.  But Job confessed his innocence instead.  He was a man fair to all and God-fearing.

But Job’s moral integrity does not answer our question as it did not answer his: Why did Job suffer so much?  It is tremendously edifying to see Job’s example of fidelity to God even in the midst of undeserved and great suffering, but even he ran out of reasons to hope that his life would change for the better.  Falling into despair, Job let out a sigh from the very deepest recesses of his heart.  That sigh is first reading today.

In the parable of his life, Job’s fortune changed for the better.  But Job never received answers from God or from anyone for the questions his sufferings excruciatingly made him ask.

Indeed, while he represents many of us who wonder at our pain, Job personifies the eternal question of the suffering: “Why me?”  You and I are familiar with Job because while few of us mirror his innocence, all of us, nonetheless, reflect his hurt and agony and confusion and despair and dilemma as we either go through great afflictions or witness the unspeakable sufferings of others.  We too ask, “Why this pain and why me?”  Not a few lives echo the eternal question that even the Holy Bible shouts about: “Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?”

The Lord Jesus Himself had no ready-made answer to every affliction brought to Him.  He, too, had to drink from the cup of human suffering.  In Mt 27:46, while hanging on a cross, quoting a prayer from the Psalms, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  Jesus, indeed, is the Son of God, but He shared in human affliction, including death.  Dying He was consumed by the mystery of human suffering but rising again He was not overcome by it.  The resurrection of Jesus enlightens human suffering.

As mysteries beg for enlightenment, so was enlightenment Jesus brought with Him each time He came face-to-face with a suffering soul.  After all, Jesus Himself is the Light of the world.  As He did during His public ministry, so does Jesus continue doing today: sometimes the healing He brings to a person in pain is physical, actual, literal, but always it is spiritual.  It is the kind of healing that enlightens the spirit of the sufferer so as to receive not only strength to bear every sorrow but also to find profound meaning even in what seems to be a suffering unequal to the human mind and heart.  And Jesus does this not always by taking away the pain of the suffering person but always by Himself suffering with the person in pain.  In 1 Pt 2:24, the Apostle Peter declares, “By His wounds we have been healed.”

St. Paul the Apostle once grappled with the great mystery of human suffering.  And the suffering he wrestled with was not any kind of suffering but the one that comes from bearing witness to Jesus.  In the second reading today, he sees everything he does as all done “for the sake of the Gospel.”  Indeed the most meritorious affliction we can ever endure is that which suffer on account of living like Jesus, loving like Jesus, and becoming like Jesus to all – both friend and foe.  In Col 1:24, the Apostle Paul even finds joy in this kind of suffering when he says, “I rejoice in my afflictions for your sake, and in my body I complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church.”

Jesus suffers with us.  Jesus suffers in us.  Jesus suffers through us.  But we, too, triumph with Jesus.  We, too, rejoice in Jesus.  We, too, are healed through Jesus.  And because Jesus identifies Himself with the suffering, we meet Jesus in one another and are graced with the privilege of attending to Jesus’ needs present in each of us.  Thus, the words of the apostles in the Gospel today, though originally addressed to Jesus, are likewise directed to you and me: “Everyone is looking for you.”


At 10:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suffering.. Problem.. Why me? Why this pain? What did I do to deserve this? Why do good people suffer? All of us gone through, going through and will go through sufferings and problems as we journey in life.
Why me? I think many of us will come up with different answers. But I have three things to say on "Why me?". First, because God knows I can; I can endure and stand. Second, so that I can continue living and hoping. Third, for me to know God is always beside me and never abandons.
Why this pain? Our sufferings and problems are on different cases and levels but the pain is not given to be so overwhelming for us to succumb to it. The pain is just exact for us to be stronger than before.
What did I do to deserve this? Looking at this in optimistic side will answer the question "Why do good people suffer?". We did good that's why God wants us to be better person than we had been.

Pope Francis said it exactly and I quote "When the heart is able to ask itself and cry, then we can understand something". When I heard this, I cried; I cried because I've gone through it. After I pour out my heart in crying, one after the other the gray areas became so visible and the perspective became wider and clearer.

Yes problems are meant to be solve and in the process we learn things and understands more. Yes Sufferings are mysteries and enlightenment is our way to liberation.

Thanks Father, this reflection gives me also a good reflection to be shared with you and everyone. Lent is here; its time to sit, meditate, cry (maybe)..be still to check ourselves.


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