“When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed…” (Mark 1:32)
If you came today and only hear or paid attention to the first reading from Job, you would walk out of church simply depressed. Listen to the cry of Job at the beginning and end of the reading: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?...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.” (Job 1:1,6-7) Pretty depressing, right? As with all passages from Sacred Scripture, you have to read them within a greater context. The first reading only illustrates for us that for the people of the Old Testament life without Christ had no meaning, no purpose, and no fulfilling or happy goal. Job is full of hopelessness because everything had been taken away from him andin our lives, we know people that have the same attitude as Job. We all know a Debbie Downer or two who sees life as half empty instead of half full. These are people that bring us down and do not dare to hope. As Christians, we are a people of hope. We are a people that see beyond the darkness of this world and dare to dream of a life, a society, a world filled the peace, love and joy of Jesus Christ.
The people that were following Jesus in today’s gospel recognized that there was Hope. That is why they brought the sick to Him. This is what jumped out at me when reading this gospel yesterday: the people brought the sick to Jesus. The ill and possessed in Jesus’ time were people without hope. They were ostracized from society, not taken care of, and yet the followers of Jesus laid them at his feet. They brought hope to the hopeless. We are called to do the same. Scratch that! We are obligated to do the same. If we listen carefully to the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in the second reading: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me (1 Cor 9:16).” Paul recognizes the urgency to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim the hope that Jesus brings and he concludes by saying “and woe to me if I don’t preach it!” Yet obligation is a word we don’t like. We’ve been conditioned by society to do as we please, to do what makes us happy not considering the consequences of our actions. Obligations are tedious, burdensome, and get in the way of happiness. But this particular obligation leads to pure joy. There is no greater joy than to bring a friend who has given up hope to Jesus and watch their hearts be transformed. There is no greater joy than to watch the ill be healed, to watch those possessed by the demons of addiction and vice be liberated by Christ. This obligation to preach the gospel truly brings us pure joy.
This is why we need to start being more proactive on filling that empty seat next to you, on filling this church as it deserves to be filled, and on approaching those who have no hope and offering them the hope of Jesus Christ. Notice a great line in the middle of the gospel: “The whole town was gathered at the door (v33).” This should be our church! This obligation falls on all of us. So many are hurting. So many are lost. So many are possessed and seduced by the hedonistic pleasures of this world. I sometimes look at my kids that I have had in youth group and school over the years navigating through a soulless, hopeless, drug-infected, over-sexualized, amoral, “anything goes” world and I know they are not happy. Some of them claim to be, but I don’t buy it. Which is why I still look at them with hope-filled eyes. I still nudge them towards Jesus. Still pray for them. Still try to get them to see the joy I have in my heart and the hope that fuels me every single day. We need to bring them to Jesus. He is the reason for our hope. He is the cause of our joy. He is what will fill a Job-like hopeless soul with pure life. As one of my 7th graders is fond of saying: “Y’all Need Jesus!”