July 23, 2018, 3:25 am
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Jesus walks with us in the most difficult moments of life

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.

***

A French proverb declares, “Life is an onion and one peels it crying.” Indeed, people are born crying, live through life with a series of complaints, and die often with disappointment, if not with fear and great anxiety. It is not for nothing that this world is called a “valley of tears.” In the First Reading, stricken with misfortune and covered all over with sores, Job laments: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?... I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me.”
It is not a pleasant sight that greets Jesus in Capernaum. In the synagogue, he comes upon a man possessed by an unclean spirit. Entering the house of Simon Peter, he sees Simon’s mother-in-law in bed sick with fever. In the evening, at the close of the Sabbath, because the news has spread that he is around, the whole town is gathered at Simon’s house, bringing people afflicted with various diseases or possessed by demons. Jesus attends to them all, alleviating their suffering. His healings and his miracles show that in him, God has visited his people to bring them relief. The Kingdom has come upon them.

And yet in the midst of a busy day, with its demands and burdens, Jesus does not sacrifice communing with the Father. He rises very early before dawn and goes to a “deserted place” to pray. Capernaum is a cultivated place and so the “deserted place” may simply refer to a place of solitude which, however, takes Jesus back to the desert where he was tempted by Satan (MK 1:13). Matthew and Luke relate that there Jesus was tempted to use his power so he could be acclaimed as the Son of God, as a divine man who meets their needs and so wins their following. Using this power, his work will be easy for him. But in his communion with the Father, Jesus knows that he will fulfill the will of God to save the people, not so much by a show of power, but through the cross - in humility and obedience. Simon and the other disciples do not yet understand this, and so they excitedly inform Jesus: “Everyone is looking for you.” But at the height of his popularity, Jesus decides, “Let us go on to nearby villages.” He cannot be detained by the multitude clamoring for him. Yes, indeed, he heals… but the preaching of the Kingdom of God also demands a decision, which is a turning to God that involves repentance of sins on the part of the people. The Gospel involves healing, but also a carrying of one’s cross, accepting to “peel onions” in solidarity with the Savior who has redeemed the world by his cross and resurrection.

Human pain and suffering become bearable if they are borne with Christ. Jesus carries our pain with us and nails it to his cross, thus transforming it into redeeming pain. This is the message of Pope Francis when he visited Tacloban City on 17 January 2015. In the midst of heavy rain and howling winds, he told the people: “Jesus always goes before us and when we pass an experience, a cross, he passed there before us. And if today we find ourselves here, 14 months afterwards, 14 months precisely after the Typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing we will not weaken in our faith because Jesus has been here before us. In his Passion he assumed all our pain. Therefore he is capable of understanding us…

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that, and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything, the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.”

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Fr. Gil A. Alinsangan, SSP
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