Suffering and Healing: A Way to Salvation
Date Published: February 7, 2015
Gospel Reflection on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) Mark 1:29-39
JB 7:1-4, 6-7
PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-61
COR 9:16-19, 22-23
Suffering is one of the most mysterious reality in human life. We cannot fathom suffering; we can only feel it. St. John Paul II once wrote saying: “suffering is as deep as man himself…” (Salvifici Doloris 2). We cannot gauge the reality because as much as there are wonders in human life that we cannot understand, human suffering is twice difficult to comprehend.
Fathoming Human Suffering. In the first reading, we find Job voicing his pains and sufferings; he describes his fate. This is only a part of the whole picture of Job. If we see the whole panorama of his fate, we unveil the whole mystery of suffering. And so, in Job, we can see that suffering is not only of bad people. There are also – and this is the irony – good people who have dedicated their lives in service to God, are afflicted by suffering. The questions of Job are also our questions. But the more we question suffering, the more it opens another questions in life. The first reading is obviously not the answer to our questions. Job himself had not received an explanation about why he suffered despite living a virtuous life. God just told him: Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance? (Job 38:2). God reminded us of our littleness in the greater scheme of life in the vast universe of which we cannot simply understand. With Job, we can only say in front of suffering: “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know” (Job 42:3). In the end, we really do not know something about it.
While there is no definite explanation, God did not abandon us in our sufferings. This is what the gospel tells us of the role of Jesus as he preaches the Kingdom of God. Saint Mark’s Gospel present us Jesus as a healer. The prominent activity of Jesus in his preaching is no other than healing the sick and the possessed. In the many questions we produce in the moment of sickness and pain – in sufferings – God gives us no ready-made answers. Explanations why we suffer do not bring healing to us. But God brings himself to us in order to be our relief in our sufferings. He is our healing. That is why, Jesus heals the sick and he did not primarily explains why humans suffer. He held Peter’s mother-in-law by hand and brought her to recovery without necessary words of explanation. There is no need for such, God himself is an answer to our suffering. The tendency of us in the face of suffering is to question. We need to understand, we need to give meaning to what is happening to us. But we fail to realize that God’s closeness to us is already enough as an answer. Like those who wanted to be healed in the gospel, they brought their sick to the front door of Jesus. In this life, when sickness becomes also complicated and advanced, our tendency is to be easily drowned by the anxieties of human suffering. But we forget to bring ourselves or others who are suffering in front of Jesus. Yes, there is no wrong in questioning but let us not be drowned by our anxieties. Allow ourselves to reserve a part of us to be touched by Jesus as we approach him.
Surely, God must have understood and felt the pain of human suffering. He did not only touch us to be healed. He did not stand high above us in our sufferings. He was also able to suffer for us and with us. Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, tells us: “To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some” (1Co 9:22 NAB). Paul assumed the same situation as his flock were because Jesus himself assumed our weakness, too. God is not only near by means of sympathizing with us. Jesus has also empathized with us: he wore also our flesh so that he can suffer with us.
Jesus wore suffering in order to sanctify it. By bringing suffering to himself, Jesus does not only heal; he makes suffering a way towards sanctification. By this, healing is not only “dole out”. That even in the present time, when the physical touch of Jesus cannot be experienced today, by our faith, we can continue to experience Jesus’ healing by linking our suffering to his sufferings. Suffering and pain today may have its own advancements, but in the aspect of our spiritual life and faith, human suffering is not always an evil experience. By Jesus’ own suffering, our pain can become a way of salvation and purification. Jesus thus gives purpose to our sufferings today. We may question, we may cry. But believe that he can bring relief to our suffering because by his own sufferings, he gives us hope that our miseries, by using it as a step towards healing and salvation. (Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA)