Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes. This week we open with the first reading from the Old Testament Book of Job where we see Job’s cry to God about the futility and brevity of life. Although his ancient message is somber it provides us with tremendous wisdom in our day. Then we move to the second reading from First Corinthians and close with the Gospel lesson from Saint Mark that continues from last week.
Introduction to the First Reading:
The first reading is from the Book of Job that recorded events which happened during the Patriarchal Period (the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). This Book records a story about a man named Job who was a victim of an invisible spiritual battle with Satan. Job was a godly man that God has blessed with a large family as well as many material possessions (Job 1:1-3). At some point Satan approached God and told Him that if He removed these blessings from him that Job would curse Him. God allowed Satan’s challenge, yet after his family and possessions were taken from him he still praised God (Job 1:20-11). Next, Satan approached God and told him that if his good health were taken away from him that this would cause him to curse God. God then allowed Satan to bring about “sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Even though Job’s wife urged him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:7), Job persisted in his reverence of God and went about scraping his wounds with a potsherd (2:8). The next scenes alternate between Job’s lament to God (Job 3), the false wisdom of his friends (Job 4 – 5), his response to his friends (Job 6), and then the section of today’s reading in which he again cries out to God. Job’s friend Eliphaz was the first to speak and incorrectly made the case that people who are innocent do not suffer. Job’s response was to tell Eliphaz and the others gathered with him, “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:17). Second, he said, “My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, Like the torrents of wadis which vanish” (6:17) and he continued in this same vain in the subsequent verses. Even during this time of terrible affliction Job affirmed the just nature of God, saying “But as for me, I would seek God, And I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number” (Job 5:8-9). We pick up in Chapter 7 with today’s reading, noting the previously mentioned condition of Job’s skin that appears in verse 5.
1 “Is not man forced to labor on earth, And are not his days like the days of a hired man? 2 As a slave who pants for the shade, And as a hired man who eagerly waits for his wages, 3 So am I allotted months of vanity, And nights of trouble are appointed me. 4 When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues, And I am continually tossing until dawn. 5 My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt, My skin hardens and runs. 6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, And come to an end without hope. 7 Remember that my life is but breath; My eye will not again see good. ” (Job 7:1-7)
Job lamented to God that his days were in vain, and no better than those of a bond servant (vv. 1 – 2). Even when he attempted to rest at night even this solstice was taken from him (v. 5), probably in part because of his painful sores (v. 5). The reading culminates with wisdom in verse 7 where Job observed that his “life is but breath” and because he had lost hope (v. 6) he felt that his “eye will not again see good” (v 7b). It is because of verses like this that this Book of the Bible is categorized as a Book of wisdom. Job is wise to understand that in the large scope of the world, his life is short and that when a person loses hope they have nothing good to look forward to. In reality Job should have hoped that God would resupply his wealth. If you read ahead you know how the story ends with God restoring to Job two times that of what he had before (Job 42:10), along with seven new sons and three daughters. The double portion of children were evidently granted to him because if you think about it the first portion of his family was already awaiting for Job to join them in heaven.
What does the reading mean to us today? First, we must recognize as did Job that our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). We must make the most of our service to God regardless of our circumstances during the brief time that He has granted to us. Whether we receive physical blessings from God and regardless of our health, we are still called to glorify the Lord Jesus in our hearts. Second, there is a true, unseen spiritual battle that rages on around us. Saint Peter said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Saint Paul urged Christians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Even though Job never knew the cause of his tumultuous trials, we can learn from this Book that when we experience trials they may arise from a spiritual source.
A third point is that we are to be on alert for the false doctrine presented by Eliphaz that the innocent do not suffer. The innocent most certainly do suffer, and this is to serve God’s purposes. Job, himself an example of an innocent man suffering, had a very humble spirit who even after he was afflicted he still maintained his integrity before God. In contrast, Job’s friend Eliphaz sat with him and attempted to show his superiority over Job by proclaiming Job’s guilt because he knew that somehow innocent people couldn’t suffer. If the innocent cannot suffer, he mused, then Job must not be innocent! The best example of the innocent suffering is the Lord Jesus Himself. In general, all of humanity is far from innocent, because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God “Romans 3:23). However, regardless of our perception of our own level of innocence, suffering is allowed by God as a supreme mystery in order to bring about His perfect will in our lives.
Finally, we see from the text that spiritual warfare can result in both physical illness as well as the manifestation of psychological illness and suffering. Although Job was not aware of either the cause of his physical loss or bodily affliction, both were from a spiritual cause – Satan himself. Finally, we are called to live humbly as servants and see ourselves as no better than common day laborers or bondservants in the ancient world. Again, we see the example of the Lord Jesus who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).
Introduction to the Second Reading:
The second reading is from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The context is Paul’s teaching on the calling for believers to follow his pattern of self-denial and service to the Lord. Paul is providing a defense of his ministry during which he mostly provided for his own means even though as a ministry worker he was due wages in this position (1 Corinthians 9:9). Paul paid his own way through his tent making business (Acts 18:3). “Tentmaking” is a term that has arisen since then which refers to a minister that makes a living off a different occupation while at the same time working as a minister without a salary from that position. Note: We have included all of the intervening verses between verses 16 and 23 in order to provide the full meaning and context.
16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:16-23)
Paul said that the reward for his ministry wasn’t money but the privilege of preaching the Gospel without financial support (v. 18). Paul said that he willfully set aside his right to be paid as a minister and therefore became “enslaved” to this form of “tentmaking” ministry in order to remove any possible offence that anyone might have in him being paid (v. 19). Second, Paul forced himself to confirm to the Jewish customs within biblical limits, without being bound to the Law (vv. 19 – 21). He became as a Jew to win the Jews, and continued this principle by becoming as a weak person to win the weak person (v. 22).
If we look back and compare these passages with what we learned from the first reading, Paul had a godly attitude towards winning others to the Lord Jesus Christ, much in the same way that Job had a humble way of responding to his friends as well as to God during his affliction. Had Job’s friends acted to become weak in order to win the weak, they would have been commended by God instead of cursed (Job 42:7).
Introduction to the Gospel Reading:
The Gospel lesson is from Mark Chapter one which continues from last week. The context is Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, a fishing village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, and the home of Saint Peter.
29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. 32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. 35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mark 1:29-39)
Several points arise from the text. First, even this early on in His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus has the power to heal the sick. His healing of Peter’s mother was in fact so complete that upon her being raised up from her sick bed she immediately began to serve them (v. 31). Jesus fame became evident because after the Sabbath day had concluded the people brought those sick or possessed by demons to be healed even at night (v. 33 – 34). This continued throughout the night and Peter’s home became a regular hospital for those afflicted both physically as well as spiritually. Second, in a related point, Jesus’ ministry was the occasion of an intense spiritual war that brought about both spiritual suffering and outright demonization of the people. The text doesn’t say whether the cause of Peter’s mom’s affliction was spiritual, but regardless the outcome of Jesus’ healing of her was for the glory of God. This is the same theme that we saw in the first reading with God allowing Job’s suffering for the ultimate glory of Himself. This was also the case in the second reading with Paul suffering in being a tentmaker working without financial support for his ministry in order to remove any stumbling stones in the way of potential believers. In both cases God allowed suffering for the purpose of expressing His glory.
A final point in the reading is Jesus conscious and intentional prayer ministry before God. Even after spending much of the night healing people in the vicinity of Peter’s home, early in the morning while it was still dark Jesus set out to find an isolated place at which to pray (v. 35). Jesus made it a habit throughout His ministry to seek an isolated place at which to pray. By means of application, if Jesus felt that prayer was at least as important of a ministry as was his divine healing, how much more important should prayer be in our lives as a source or our own divine power in our lives and for the intercession of others?
1. With what are you being tempted? Write down a list of one or two things (and then destroy it!).
We suggest starting this week with a conscious effort to remember that this world is under the control of dark, spiritual forces until it is delivered back into the hands of Jesus as His Second Coming. We are to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Putting on the armor of God means a variety of things, but foremost it is both knowing and holding to the promises of God that we find in the Bible. One such promise is that “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1Corinthians 10:13).
2. In the second reading we read that Paul said, “21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:21-23).
Think about the application of this verse in your own life and complete the sentence below.
I will become as ___________ in order that I may win ____________ to the Lord Jesus Christ.