Why? Why suffering? Why me?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Job 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. 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.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.

Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.


When I was told that there is no theoretical answer to human sufferings and miseries, honestly I was not only disappointed but I started to doubt and query my faith in God. When I read about Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris which addresses this question of suffering from a Christian understanding, then what once seemed senseless suddenly becomes meaningful. In fact, it is because suffering itself is such a mystery that one cannot explain purely by human reasoning. It has to be dealt with spiritually and theologically.

Pope St. John Paul II offered many insights into this mystery by beginning to look at the Book of Job as in today’s First Reading. Though the Book of Job did not explain satisfactorily Job’s unnecessary suffering, it did offer another way of looking at suffering. In ancient times, suffering was understood to be caused by sin and sin deserved punishment, but this was not Job’s case for he was a just and honest man. Despite Job lamented and complained about his misfortunes, he did not give up either on himself or on God. Instead, he maintained a positive way of responding to his adversities: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) “For I know that my Redeemer lives…….then in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). Job taught us endurance and hope in times of trials and tribulations.

All these became clearer when Jesus came and suffered for us. From our human point of view His “substitutive” suffering was illogical if not crazy. During His ministry (and even now), people were bound by the belief of “retributive justice” (cf John 9:2-3, Lk 13:2-4). As in today’s Gospel, people came from all places to be cured by Jesus in order to get rid of their earthly miseries and bodily pains. Like them, we too, would like to avoid suffering as best as we could. Little do we know that by Jesus’ own suffering, He has turned suffering into a tool for redemption and not only this, He has added something new to it——“it has been linked to love” (Salvifici Doloris par.8).

What makes us different from non believers is that each of us can make use of our own sufferings and add value to them by our willingness to share in Christ’s redemptive work. Instead of bitterness, we respond with love. Instead of acquiescence, we respond with hope. Instead of despair, we respond with faith and instead of asking why me, we respond: why not.

Other Sunday Reflections

Spiritual Talk – Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B) 何庭耀神父

This Sunday is the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B) and Fr. Anthony Ho explains to us the reading in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

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May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)