Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


By Emily VanBerkum

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law from a debilitating fever. I can imagine this scene playing out in my mind vividly. The Gospel tells us that Jesus “took her by the hand, and lifted her up…and she began to serve them.” This woman’s encounter with Jesus rid her of her physical suffering so that she could serve those who entered her home in a spirit of hospitality. Word certainly traveled quickly. Before long “the whole city was gathered around the door” and Jesus began to heal the sick and those possessed by demons.

I am struck by how powerfully this biblical story resonates with our own lives today. It is incredible that Christ uses human suffering as a point of encounter with those who are called to serve Him. Even Job in the first reading did not lose sight of God working in him despite feeling hopeless, lost, and miserable. I am sure that many of us can empathize with Job’s feeling like “a slave who longs for their shadow.” But what are we to learn from suffering? Last week in the R.C.I.A program, we discussed the role of evangelization in the Church. Our presenter claimed that in order to have a mission and serve God, we must first have a personal relationship with Christ. But to commit to this type of relationship involves truly getting to know ourselves as well as undergoing a certain struggle. We may struggle with our own distractions, feelings of isolation, hopelessness, or illness. But these feelings separate us from hearing God’s invitation to love Him and serve Him more deeply.

When we are overcome by these feelings we must turn to God and allow Him to speak to us. God does not turn his back on us when we experience pain or loss; rather, He loves us so much that He uses our human struggles as a special moment of encounter- a profound freely given invitation- in which we learn something about ourselves, our creator, and the Kingdom of God. Are we ready to listen?