Today’s Readings speak very especially to the mind and heart of modern man. They dwell on suffering, which in our times has assumed unprecedented proportions; they show how Jesus tackled people’s pain and anguish through His many miracles; and finally, they point to what our response to suffering ought to be in the humdrum of our lives.

The First Reading is taken from the Book of Job (7: 1-4, 6-7), which is a gem of world literature. Not only does it portray a deeply human drama of suffering and a very sublime response, it uses language with warmth of feeling and a healing touch. Job, an honourable man, rich and happy, is mysteriously disgraced. His friends take this to be a punishment for sin but Job, without claiming to be sinless, insists that his life’s horrendous disasters are inexplicable.

The point is that suffering in not necessarily a result of personal sin; it can simply be a situation by which God wishes to test our faith. We may fail to understand it, but the Church teaches that suffering purifies and strengthens the souls that God loves. And he loves them all. So, it would be in the fitness of things to accept His rulings and go as far as to love and praise Him in all circumstances. Eventually, suffering works to the advantage of those who have accepted it with resignation.

Job’s story is both contemporary and eternal. He laments the drudgery of life just as we do: aren’t we but slaves to the world, moving from one day to another with chronic feelings of emptiness? Like him, we too long to rest, but then, aren’t we somehow anxious to start another day and get going? ‘I am full of tossing till the dawn,’ says Job, foreshadowing the predicament of the business executive of our times. Our ‘life is a breath’, and there is no denying – paradoxical though it may seem – that bondage to God alone is truly liberating!

The good news in Job’s case is that his health was restored, and he was blessed with twice as much wealth as before, ten new children, and a very long life. A miracle! Mind you, your life and mine may not be as dramatic, yet every moment of it is a wonder. If only we cared to think of the troubles that we have not been subjected to, our hearts would rise up to bless God’s name in thankfulness! We would break out singing ‘I’ve got something that the world can’t give and the world can’t take it away!’ Modern man is speechless vis-à-vis the Lord’s marvellous miracles.

In the Old Testament, miracles were aimed at moulding the Jewish people as servants of God Most High. Great marvels were performed by Prophets Elijah and Elisha, for instance, but alas, Jewish life was continually marked by unbelief, sin and unfaithfulness. Mercifully, God responded with faithfulness. To have humankind believe, He even sent His Only Son, who also wrought wonders – so many, so great and with such great ease – as only God could.

In the Gospel text (Mk 1: 29-39), Jesus, at the very beginning of His public ministry in Capernaum, cures Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and hordes of sick or possessed people. And why? To make known His divine authority and win souls: ‘That you know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ (Mk 2: 10-11). Seeking such relief in also a top priority in our days. But Jesus shows us that none of this is possible without a life of intense prayer – something for modern man to mull over – so, He rises early and goes out to a lonely place to commune with His Father in Heaven.

Let’s face it, our souls are like long cramped scrolls waiting to be smoothed out and soothed. Why not entrust our disordered and miserable selves to God? We would soon see His glory and spread the Good News of Salvation! St Paul makes it clear in the Second Reading (1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23) that preaching the Gospel ought to become second nature to us; we must proclaim it through thick and thin, without ever making it a ground for boasting or material gains, like the Scribes of old who used to cite texts for their own convenience and extort money from credulous souls.

For his part, the Apostle of the Gentiles made himself ‘a slave to all, that I might win the more.’ It does not mean that he acted in an unprincipled manner; rather, by diminishing himself, he became ‘all things to all men’, to achieve a greater good, that is, win souls for Christ. After all, we are called to be light of the world and salt of the earth – and that is the greatest miracle we may hope to witness in our mission here on earth!