THEME: THE PANDEMIC AS A FAITH-BOOSTER
READINGS: Job 7:1-4, 6-7/ 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mark 1:29-39
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The devasting CoViD-19 pandemic could be considered from different angles by people of faith. It could be seen from a negative angle or a positive angle. The Bible story of Job who is mentioned in today’s first reading and the awesome healing power of Jesus Christ in today’s gospel reading prompt us to consider the current pandemic from a positive perspective. That is, the pandemic is an occurrence which alerts us to focus more on God who alone is Almighty and Supreme. In other words, despite its devastating impact, the pandemic could be a faith-booster.
JOB’S AFFLICTIONS AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The impact of a pandemic is, firstly, devastating: many are afflicted with a deadly disease, and there is loss of lives and businesses on a large scale. Secondly, the impact of a pandemic is dramatic in the sense that these afflictions or losses happen in a short space of time. In this perspective, then, the afflictions of Job mentioned in the Bible were a pandemic, though on a domestic scale. This is because, the impact of the afflictions on Job and his family were both devastating and dramatic: just in a single day, he lost all his 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 donkeys and 500 yoke of oxen, as well as his shepherds, servants, seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2-3, 14-19). Not long after these calamities, Job was afflicted with festering sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 2:7). As a consequence, there was a confusion between him and his wife (Job 2:9-10). Similarly, the impact of the CoViD-19 pandemic has been both devastating and dramatic, and moreover it has been global scale: there has been inestimable loss of property and businesses across the Globe; and so far, more than two million lives have been lost, over a hundred million have been infected with the coronavirus and many marriages/families have not been the same.
LESSONS FROM HOW JOB DEALT WITH HIS AFFLICTIONS
By seeing a similarity between the “domestic pandemic” of Job and the CoViD-19 pandemic, we could draw some lessons from how he dealt with his calamities. Firstly, as a righteous man (Job 1:1) who had committed no sin (Job 2:3), Job knew that his “domestic pandemic” was not a punishment from God. Similarly, the CoViD-19 pandemic is not a punishment, for even if we have sinned, what God the Father sees now is not our guilt but the righteousness of Jesus Christ who shed His precious blood on the cross of calvary.
Secondly, Job believed that God should be appreciated in good times and in bad times: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Beloved, we should likewise praise and thank God even in these difficult times.
Thirdly, we learn from Job’s experience that being humans, we could be distressed or depressed by our afflictions (cf. Job 7:1-4, 6-7; first reading). Beloved, if we are distressed or depressed, let us not waste our energy on the havoc of the pandemic but rather channel it to trust in God while we seek professional help.
Fourthly, while Job was wondering why a good man like him should suffer, God asked him a series of questions which he could not answer (Job 38-39). For instance, God asked Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). When Job realized that the human mind could not understand all the mysteries of life, and he became more conscious that only God is Supreme and Almighty, he submitted to the will of God. Then, God restored the fortunes of Job, giving him twice as much as he had before, and he lived till the ripe old age of 140 years (Job 42:10-17). So, the story of Job teaches us that our deliverance from God comes when we stop questioning Him, and rather refocus our faith in Him as the only Supreme and Almighty Being.
THE SICK WHO BELIEVED IN JESUS WERE HEALED
Jesus Christ, whom the Father has sent, demonstrated to many in His earthly life time that God delivers those who keep their faith in Him. Thus, in today’s gospel reading, for instance, all the sick and the spiritually possessed who approach Him with faith or who were brought to Him with faith were healed (cf. Mark1:29-39).
The coronavirus cannot be seen with the naked eye, but we have devised medical or scientific instruments (e.g., microscope) by which the virus can be seen. Though we have managed to detect the coronavirus, we have been struggling for more than a year now to deal with the pandemic it has caused. This clearly reveals our human limitations.
It is, therefore, time we turn to the Lord who has no limitations; He is Almighty. The Lord, who easily handles the spiritually possessed which no medical instrument can detect, can more easily deal with the coronavirus. In short, the pandemic, like the experience of Job, could be seen as a call to trust more in God who will eventually provide the world a lasting solution. Let us all, therefore, pray always saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis