Job 7:1-4,6-7; Mark 1:29-39
No one has more right to live a “woe is me” life than that of Job. The story we hear in the first reading today sounds dismal, dark, lost, whatever you want to call it. He says life is a drudgery. He says he shall never see happiness again. How hopeless to us Sunday listeners of the word! Yet, it’s where Job was at, where we are often at in our own lives, living outside this place of hurt, suffering, and our own lostness in life, pleading with God and for God’s grace to break through into our world and lives.
Yet, we are all too familiar with Job’s story. We know suffering in many different ways, but maybe he provides us today a chance to look at it differently and what’s going on interiorly with Job. It’s safe to say, over the course of this archetype’s life that the God that Job thought he believed in was not the God that he encountered. Such suffering comes when this begins to break down in his life and in ours as well. From the time we are kids, we hold onto what we think God is about and for some, they never move beyond that. We live in this constant fear, that like Job, somehow God is going to strike us down, continue to test us, push us down until we break. And maybe all along that’s exactly what God is trying to do by breaking us down. Not in the sense of being beaten up and pushed into the ground, but to begin to allow the grace of God to break through into our lives and through us into the world to let go of a god that no longer is. It’s painful and hard stuff for all of us because the story of Job is my story and it is your story because the God we grew up with, and for that matter, created for ourselves over the course of our lives, isn’t the God that is going to transform us and free us from the pain and suffering of the moment. Quite honestly, that god only leaves us trapped in our suffering so that it begins to feel like Job, where life is a drudgery and we start to think that we will never see happiness again because we aren’t living out of the place of grace and freedom, precisely where the true God, who heals the brokenhearted, is trying to lead Job and each of us.
Jesus once again this week goes to that sacred space as he did last week with the disciples. He once again is going to model to the disciples the life they are to lead. He goes on to heal Simon’s mother-in-law and many others who are afflicted with suffering, illness, and once again, demons. He again tries to lead them to that interior place within their souls, but not before the journey of the cross in breaking down their own ideas and images of God, like with Job, because for the disciples as well, the god they thought they knew won’t be the God of their experience and the God that is going to call them to the deep waters of their own souls and to begin to live life from this true place, the place within, where the grace of God flows and heals our own brokenness and those who come seeking healing in their own lives. Jesus then goes on to model for them the necessity of prayer on this journey to the true God. He goes off to find solitude and silence, despite the searching of all, as the gospel tell us. He knows that already and continues on, leading us forward to that place we desire.
My experience, personally and also as a priest, is one that a great deal of the suffering that we experience daily is brought on by ourselves. We hold so tightly, as Job does, to things that aren’t real or may not exist or certainly don’t bring fulfillment into our lives because it’s all we know. Like the cast of characters we meet today, we too are called to live the journey to the true God because we too hold onto images of god that we have created for ourselves, our survival god, if you wish, who isn’t the true God to begin with. The journey to and of the cross is an experience of letting go of these gods and finding the love of the true God, the God that calls us to live our lives from a different place, a place within that leads to fulfillment. Until then, we will remain restless and desiring and wanting something more out of our lives, often feeling like Job because we aren’t living out the call God has placed within. God calls us to live out of our own sacred space and calls us to let go of the life of drudgery and unhappiness, not a life God has given us, but a life we so often have created for ourselves but now is being broken down so we may live fully in God’s grace and love. God is breaking in at this very moment of our lives, desiring for us to accept it and ultimately, to live it faithfully and with great hope to the world.