February 4, 2024

Greetings and blessings in the Lord Jesus. The scriptural readings for this weekend touch on the issue of suffering. Sometimes we see or hear from the news or from a friend that certain bad people are getting away with criminal acts, while good people are being persecuted and suffer heavily.

The First Reading from the Book of Job is a good example of how a good and devout person like Job suffered from various catastrophes. The Book of Job describes Job as a blameless and upright person, who had a loving wife, seven sons and three daughters, and the largest estate in the kingdom. “He never abused the power and privilege he enjoyed: he used all his wealth for hospitality and his influence for helping the needy. But Job’s piety and sanity are put to the test” (McBride, Seasons of the Word, p. 198). In a series of disasters, he lost everything. Despite losing everything, Job shaved his head, tore his clothes, and fell to the ground praying: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Scriptures even testified that, despite facing huge losses, Job did not sin. In other words, Job might have lost everything, but he did not lose his faith in God.

Suffering is terrible to us humans. Even though the Book of Job or the bible does not offer us a clear answer to the mystery of sufferings, the bible encourages us to hope and to trust in God in times of difficulties. We do not hear that Jesus promised to get rid of our cross. Rather, he asked us to “Take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthews 16: 24-26). That is to say, Jesus is the answer to our life miseries and hardships. To join Jesus in every aspect of our life is the remedy, or the solution. Saint Pope John Paul II during the last stage of his life, in which he suffered greatly from his physical ailments, was criticized by some for not relinquish his papacy and retired. The great Pope simply responded that he offered his sufferings and ailments to join in the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.

It is difficult for those who suffer heavily in this life to accept the “Cross” and to follow Jesus. Yet, the Gospel of this Fifth Sunday offers us this truth: the mother-in-law of Simon Peter was sick with a terrible fever. Jesus approached her, took her hand, and the fever left her. In this particular action of healing, Jesus tells us not to focus on the question “Why suffering?” but he invites us to move to healing of the afflicted.
To those who suffer and are waiting for a solution, be assured of our prayers for you. To those who have received healing, be grateful to God for “His love and mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136: 1), and for His healing power.

Lastly, to those Asians, especially to the Vietnamese Community at our Saint Polycarp parish, who are preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year or TET on the weekend of February 10, my brother priests (Fathers Nicolas and Saul) and I wish you a year full of joy, prosperity, good health, and stronger faith in God.

Father Viet Peter Ho

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