At some stage during every week, I open my dog-eared twenty-year old Sunday Missal and read the Liturgy of the Word for the following Sunday. There are pencil marks all over the pages, either simply underlining sentences or phrases or unreadable comments I have made over the years. They are a distraction to my already feeble concentration and inability to think, and so I have started to rub out these ‘highlights’ which at some time in the past made sense but now resemble graffiti, or doodling at best. Of course, the typed word of God remains on the page, and is always relevant to the peoples of the world, so that every day the word of God is at hand to lead his people to the truth, all truth.
Is scripture relevant? Well, let’s consider the reading from the book of Job, Job a man I have tremendous sympathy with and compassion for. He expresses emotions that resonate in my heart and soul, and when I read his wonderful descriptive honesty, I think to myself ‘I know exactly what you mean pal! I’m with you all the way!’ and yet I have never had to sit in a cesspit, homeless, treated with the same contempt as the obnoxious dung I sleep on, mocked and told by my friends that ‘I deserve every boil and putrid scab that covers my body!’ Some friends!
The point is, Job was innocent of any offence against God. I can never claim to be innocent of offences against God. However, Job has every right to complain about the misery of life to which he is subjected, and the world is heavy with people who suffer such miseries of life and who do not deserve them. What is more, the miseries they suffer are inflicted on them by their fellow man. Practically every news bulletin carries such an item.
There was a news item during the week which horrified me. It concerned the vile treatment inflicted on the Uighur Muslims in the so called ‘re-education camps’ in China, in this case ill-treatment against women. If it’s true, which the BBC assures us that it is, it has to be at the top of the bestiality league for a dehumanising vileness perpetrated against women since the beginning of time. The perpetrators were, one assumes, prison guards, or prison re-educators or whatever they are called. The Chinese government denies any wrong-doing and calls it fake news; if that is so, they should welcome U N representatives, or any similar body, freedom of access to investigate the facts. The perpetrators are servants of the Chinese State, and you and I know that the world will stand by and do nothing to try and get justice for suffering these vile crimes against humanity.
The Uighur Muslims are our brothers and sisters, children of God, and the hopelessness that they are currently experiencing, is that same sense of hopelessness Job also experienced! .... ‘Nights of grief,’ ... he says; ... ‘my days have passed and vanished, leaving no hope behind.’ How much more torture will the Uighur Muslims have to suffer before the world does anything?
As you know, in Myanmar, the military has seized power, has detained Aung San Suu Kyi, ... and detained other democratically elected leaders. To quite from The Tablet, ‘In a 26 January open letter, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon wrote: “I plead, lay aside the futile pursuit of military solutions. You each have the capacity to transform Myanmar’s divisive political culture. Renew your commitment to face the truths of our history.” Any reply will be a statement denying wrongdoing.
In the gospel, Mark, rather than talk of imprisonment, talks of freedom, the freedom that is more powerful than the chaos generated by the greed for power or the control of society, including sick people plagued by the demons of society. [Lohfink. Jesus of Nazareth CH 1. p 9] In reading this section of Marks gospel, we become aware of the extent of the calmness Jesus brings to the chaos that is part of so many lives. To quote Lohfink again: “[Today’s world, as yesterday’s world] is, in fact, alienated from itself and without hope. But with Jesus that state of things comes back to plumb, people sink into rest, chaos is transformed, the demons of society to which individuals are helplessly surrendered are banished. The evening and the morning are no longer full of disappointment but are overflowing with messianic salvation.”
Jesus brings hope through healing and salvation, and that positive state of affairs is there for the asking. Our duty is to continue to pray that God’s healing may envelope his wonderful creation of humanity.