SUNDAY SCRIPTURE

Readings for dark times

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Today we hear from Job, who lost all his children in a disaster and contracted a painful disease. I picture him as a character in a play, seated on a dimly lit stage, with other members of the cast standing around in him in darkness.

“Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” Job asks.

“You’ve got that right,” another player murmurs.

“If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on.”

“Brother, that happens to me too,” another sighs.

“I shall not see happiness again.”

“You’re depressed, man, you’re out of hope. We all know what that’s like.”

Today’s psalm speaks of another Job-like experience: brokenheartedness. We could all say, “Been there,” or even, “There I am.”

So, what do our readings say to us about being on the dark side of life, when that’s where we find ourselves?

The psalm declares that the Lord heals the brokenhearted. The Gospel shows Jesus going to his friend Peter’s house and healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, then curing a whole village of “various diseases.”

But what does that mean to the burdened employee, to the one who lies awake at 3 a.m., to the parents of a son lost to drugs, of a daughter lost to suicide?

Years ago, my wife Mary was in the hospital at the end of an exhausting battle with cancer. There was Mass one evening in the chapel, and for some reason — it wasn’t the Gospel of the day — I remembered the story of Jesus going to Peter’s house and curing his mother-in-law.

As Mass went on, I silently prayed, over and over, “Jesus, come to my house.”

Mary unexpectedly rallied and was able to come home. There was no miraculous healing. She was in hospice care for a few months. It was a precious time and unbelievably sad. Mary and I had a chance to say goodbye. She died. It was crushing for me. The children were heartbroken.

To describe how, in this disaster, Jesus came to my house is more than I could manage. But I can affirm, he was there. He was with us.

What light does Jesus want to give us in the drudgery and darkness? What healing? What comfort? I doubt that anyone but Jesus can answer that question. You can discover it only by asking him.