The following is a reflection by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU on the readings for Sunday, February 7, 2021.
Seems to me that all the main characters in this past Sunday’s readings on February 7th are a bit testy. Job is really in a bad mood. Hasn’t been sleeping, sees life as drudgery, and thinks he will never see happiness again. He is definitely crabby. Along with Alexander, in the children’s book, Job is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Then there is Paul. He is not a happy camper either. In the passages just before what we heard on Sunday, Paul is telling the Corinthians that he would at least like a meal or two from them for all the work he has been doing among them. He says not to get him wrong…that he is proclaiming the Gospel not to get anything out of it. He has to do it. He is compelled to do it! But a sandwich or two wouldn’t hurt. Paul is trying to become all things to all people. That could make one testy.
And then there is Jesus. He is tired. He had a busy day in the synagogue healing and casting out devils. Then when he got to his new friend’s home to rest, and the first thing he is asked to do before he even sits down is a private healing of his new friend’s mother-in-law. Healing of a woman in her room when all he wanted was to eat supper? Then, He works well into the night healing all the people who have turned up at the door. Exhausted, He sleeps a bit and tries to get some private time to pray. And what happens? The guys come and say in a testy way, “Where did you go? Everyone is looking for you.” Enough to make even Jesus testy. He ignores his guys and says, “I’ve got to get out of here. I have more villages to go to and more preaching to do.” Now everyone is a little testy.
But there is glimmer of happiness in these readings, and that is in the Psalm that says “Praise our God who heals the broken hearted.” And I think about the broken hearted…about Job and Paul and, yes, even Jesus. All of then turned to God at one time or another to heal their broken hearts. Job, when he had lost everything. Paul, when he was stoned and whipped and put in prison. And Jesus, when he wept over Jerusalem, and in the garden and on the cross when he called out to Abba. But, praise our God who heals the broken hearted!
And then I wonder about us. What about us? It makes me think, “When was I broken hearted?” When were you broken hearted? When we heard or parents yelling at one another or at us…when we realized that they were hanging it up and going their separate ways…when we lost a parent to death way too soon? When were we broken hearted?
Were we broken-hearted when we realized that we were being treated differently because of the color of our skin or because we did not have money for lunch or a field trip when all the other kids did? Did we even know that God heals the broken-hearted then? When did you come to that realization?
When were we broken-hearted? When we let drugs or alcohol control our lives or when we saw a sibling or child taken down by these chemicals? When we sent a loved one into a war that was useless or immoral? Or were we broken-hearted when we saw someone from another country than the U.S. turned away from our borders…or taken back across those borders? Were we broken-hearted when we “came out” to family, and we were told to get out of their lives? Did we then grab onto today’s Psalm and say, “God, heal my broken heart! Heal my broken heart!”
And then I thought about Mother Earth! How must she be broken-hearted! How her heart must break when she knows her surface marred and scared and poisoned so that human beings can get to her precious minerals, coal, diamonds, gold, oil, natural gas. Is her heart broken when she feels her ice caps melting and her seas rising and her streams running with red and black water where there used to be clear, blue, and sweet water? And how her heart must break when she sees her natural life especially her beautiful and unique animals killed for gain and glory and not for sustenance—and even then, even then? And how she must grieve when she sees her forests taken down to clear the way for mega-industries that want to use the land for bigger farms and more genetically engineered crops. But we do believe that through us, God will heal her broken heart.
And how our world’s heart must break! Our world, a human race, that was meant from the start to live in harmony, but was soon broken with brother killing brother and then tribes fighting tribes and nations destroying nations and countries now consuming their own people. The heart of our world must be broken with so many people running from oppression or dying from starvation or diseases. But the glimmer of hope that we have is that our God will heal the broken-hearted.
And so the next time we are testy in our own personal lives, or about what is happening to Mother Earth or when we hear the news of what is going on in the human race…when we get testy about these things, we just need to remember that our God heals the broken-hearted.
Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.
Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.
On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.