5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 7 February 2021; Bible Readings for Mass: I: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Responsorial: Psalm 147; II: I Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

“The Church should be like a field hospital” stated Pope Francis sometime ago. God has always called the People of God, the Body of Christ, to recognize it is about so much more than sacred buildings or spiritual practices. The Body of Christ has always been called to be and continue His healing Presence in a world with lives soul-sick, world-wounded and struggling for hope, for mercy, to be sharing …with lives struggling for God. The Scripture readings for this Sunday affirm that this reality of suffering is present not just among those apparently bound in sin but in souls of faith and holy service. The Church is clearly called to be a place and people of sacred, holy beauty and liturgy expressed in worship rooted in tradition and alive in the life of the Holy Spirit. But it also is a people and place where the wounded, suffering and dying can find care and mercy. This calling to be a people and place of healing with God can be dirty, messy and exhausting. For it is then we are sharing Christ’s hands, words, mercy and hope.

The wounded are treated in a field hospital set up in Neuvilly-en-Argonne, eastern France, in a photograph dated September 1918 (Left) and (Right) the Church 100 years on. – National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP Photo/ Laurent Rebours

Our Bible readings this winter Sunday illustrate the full scope of affliction found in humanity. In the Book and life of Job we share the story of a good and faithful man who nevertheless encountered heartbreaking loss and sickness. The despondency and pain we hear in the few short verses of our first reading eloquently share the heart-rending pain of souls throughout humanity. They share the soul-sickness that people, good and bad, faithful and doubt-filled have encountered in the journeys of life. This may lead us to question how much affliction we bring into our own lives by choices and behaviors conflicted with God. Scripture and life, in loving truth, show us that a life contrary to God’s design can face greater sorrow and struggle. But they both also show great sorrows can assault holy lives (such as Job) as well. And Scripture is vibrantly clear that His healing mercies would avail for all. “Praise the Lord, who heals the broken-hearted” proclaims our refrain from the Psalm of the day. “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He tell the numbers of the stars; He calls each by name.” The healing graces of God would be for all brought into His mercy and Presence. The infinite designs and dimensions of this grace far exceed our understanding or paradigms as is shown by the analogy of the stars each known by name, only to God.

This holy work of Life we are called to share in Christ is illustrated in the Gospel as Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Scripture indicates she was very seriously ill yet as Jesus takes her hand she is raised up and immediately goes on to serve our Lord and those with Him. This teaches us two crucial aspects of our care for the wounded and ill. The work of our hands and the words we speak…do they share the healing touch and words of Jesus? Do our words, spoken to others and to God; do our actions lived among others and before our Lord place lives into His healing Presence?

This is fairly easy of which to write or speak. But it is rarely so clean and easy to do. We must remember this healing work is essentially in a field hospital, places not known for beauty and appeal. It is usually among souls not at their best, souls, like each of us, truth be told, that come for healing with all kinds of baggage.

Old luggage belonging to patients in an abandoned hospital.

Having been blessed to work pre-hospital care many years in the field as a firefighter I cannot think of the sick or injured who were usually pleasant to encounter. Wounds, sickness simply and tragically disfigure even the most beautiful (or ugly) of souls. But it was never our task to judge. While we would respond to a traffic accident caused by a substance impaired driver or a crime scene involving cruel mayhem full care would be given and the people involved would be handed up to the next level of care.

So it is (or should be) in the Church. The afflicted in our world are NOT in need of our judgement. They are in need of the mercy and care we would want IF we truly follow the words of Christ to “to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” There are clear and deadly sins and practices in our world at this time. Abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, illicit and promiscuous sexual cultures, crippling greed and materialism, abuse of the planet, our common home are just a few these sins. It is easy to simply condemn these deadly practices and those who do them. But instead of simple condemnation (a faculty for God alone) what if we see those bound or wounded by these sorrows as souls that Christ loves and longs to heal? What if we became the Body of Jesus who would be willing to HEAR..to see WHY such sin occurs so that the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit could then extricate that person into the healing hands of Christ? In the care of the sick and wounded, in the care we need of our own wounds and ills, the Holy Spirit will work to free us of the baggage, the burdens we may carry in heart and soul that can cripple in soul and body. Such is the healing work proclaimed in the readings for today. Such would be the work of the Body of Christ to be a people, a place of healing in Christ. None of us is exempt from this holy call and privilege. Whatever our place and station in life our words, our hands are sought by Christ to be His Words and Hands for healing.