Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 5 February 2012
Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147:1-6; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
The image of Jesus praying in a deserted place in the predawn darkness is a powerful reminder of the importance of carving out time and space to be by ourselves in God’s presence in the midst of busyness. If Jesus, with his great compassion and patience, his strong sense of mission and closeness to God, needed those times, how much more do I! Amidst all the excitement of seeing God at work, of being the conduit for the healing and restoring and liberating power of God, Jesus needed time for stillness. He emerges energised and focused. It would have been so easy to have his movements dictated to by the needs and desires of others or by their acclaim and approval. He could have chosen to stay where he was comfortable – let the people come to him. But instead he goes on to other villages seeking those in need and proclaiming in word and in deed the Kingdom of God.
Paul shared this sense of calling. Like Jesus, he has been given the task of proclaiming the good news of God. He feels himself to be both bound and free. On the one hand, God’s call is something which shapes his life whether he likes it or not – it is an obligation as well as a privilege. On the other hand he is free to live it out to the full. He is not bound by insecurities or by having to please others. It is precisely this freedom that allows him to accommodate himself to the needs of others. When he choses to do something or not to do it, he is not operating out of his own neediness or from a sense that he needs to keep a whole bunch of rules. He is free to act out of love, to create a hospitable space for others.
Job’s despairing words remind me how desperately at times people need that hospitable space. And Job’s friends are a good example of how one’s own agendas and insecurities can prevent one from providing it. Their uselessness as comforters is legendary. As they listened to Job pouring out words like this, their own sense of the world was threatened, and so they tried to impose interpretations on Job and his experience. They did not respond to Job’s need, but to their own need for order and meaning in life. The didn’t have the freedom of which Paul speaks, the self-forgetfulness that would have enabled them to be the supportive presence and the containers for Job’s grief and rage which he so desperately needed.