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SOME SUFFERINGS ARE UNNECESSARY: A reflection for 5th Sunday in the Ordinary Time, Year B.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 03 Feb 2018

As we proclaim the Lord Jesus who takes the sick by the hand, curing and lifting them up, let us equally ponder the book of Job: the story of the righteous man who suffers total disaster. Our response in the psalm – 'praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted', is equally matched by the grandeur of today's Gospel acclamation: 'He bore our sickness and endured our suffering'. But there is more!


How can the almighty power of God be defended in the face of sickness and disease in the world? How does one believe in a good, loving and caring God when faced with naked evil? With unexplainable pain and suffering? Job says: “Lying in my bed I wonder, when will it be day? Risen I think, how slowly evening comes!” This is quite touching, and it brings home to us, the stack realities of the human experience of suffering - not only at the time or person of Job, but today in our times and persons too.


For many people, suffering in the world is a reason for blaming God. For others, sickness and death in the world suggest that there is no God. However, for us the book of Job has other aims. First, it is a reminder that the best possible world is not necessarily, a world without any pain or challenges, but a world in which we learn – through pain and gain, how to deal with various situations and be the better from them. Second, the book of Job teaches us to be wise even in our pain and suffering in the world. Third, Job the righteous Sufferer is revelation that at times, even the innocent does suffer. Christ himself, is a conclusive evidence of this; reminding us that God alone must be our ultimate justice.


What the book of Job does not suggest is a 'quick-fix' answer to pain and suffering. There is hardly a quick-fix, authentic answer to a real, human problem. Consequently, in our difficult times, we must emulate Paul who, at Corinth, spoke in a manner that encourages us to employ positive action in the face of a challenging circumstance. One can say that Paul lived the wisdom and mystery of suffering in the world, by voluntarily making himself 'all things to all people'


Drawing from both Jesus and Paul, we equally notice that in and outside the Synagogue, Jesus combines teaching and miracles of healing and exorcisms. In his mediation, Jesus shows not only that pain, suffering and death are realities which find final explanation more in God; but also, in this imperfect world, certain things may be the way they are, so that the will of God might be displayed in and through them (Mk 1:32-34; Jn 9:3).


Yet, no one may be right to advocate for a simplistic, blind or passive acceptance, when suffering can be removed or at least, alleviated. The discernment must therefore, begin from the realisation that, there are quite unnecessary and avoidable sufferings. Today, the sicknesses constantly brought to us due to substance abuse, domestic violence, meddling demonic forces and occult powers, bring the near-incurable sufferings to our doorsteps. Moreover, at the root of today’ base habits, is the concomitant arrogance of a godless permissiveness which blinds its victim to the part of regeneration daily made both possible and available, through openness to God’s mercy. Such an absence of the sense of faith, worsens our spiritual sicknesses, even killing us faster than the biological illness!


At the close of our discernment, is our invitation to Christian discipleship which demands of us: 'carry your cross and follow’ (Lk 14:27). In some ways, we all have our share in this suffering, whether it takes the form of the diminutive ill-health, or where our suffering is presented from the demands of our Christian discipline. When sufferings and sacrifices come as a part of our witness to God's will, then the Job in us must also seek the Christ. We, like Christ need to face it with some manner of courage. Indeed, pains often arise when we stand before our detractors in connection to God’s honour. Yet, in and through the positive endurance, what we suffer may also come to enrich and transform us.


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