Poor little February! Even in its better leap years, it still has fewer days than its calendar mates. Besides that, at least in the Northern hemisphere, it comes at that time of year when the weather offers a tiresome repeat of its neighbor January. Gone is the charm of that first snowfall when others arrive.
There is no significant holiday to prepare for as the previous three months offered. That is unless one gives an extraordinary rating to Valentine’s Day right in February’s middle. Consequently, nobody rushes around the mall for gifts to liven its days.
Speaking of gifts, it’s now the bills for same arrive. No special decorating for most houses.
There is no list of favorite songs for February. And, unless you or a loved one celebrates a birthday or an anniversary this month, there are no large gatherings for a special meal. Add to all this the somewhat unwelcome news that Lent soon arrives, with all its purple weeks of fasting and other penances.
But wait! Isn’t a convinced Christian an automatic optimist, no matter the season? Theologically, yes. Psychologically, I am not so sure. Whatever problem, Life doles out, it just seems that we’re less likely to handle it well in February.
This Sunday’s First Reading from the Book of Job makes explicit what we might be thinking about in February. We get little comfort.
Along comes the timeless “Good News” in today’s Gospel passage. It can lift us from any “downer” we may experi- ence this month. The Holy Word offers not just a palliative but a pain killer. That’s because it highlights how a certain Jesus, the same we met as a mere babe two short months ago, comes to us with the very reason for our optimism. We re-learn that He is the cure for all our ills.
At this point, the demons have a temporary advantage over the good people around Jesus, who are seeking cures from various maladies. But Jesus orders their silence. He prefers a gradual realization among His newfound followers.
As a result, “little February” is not as forlorn as it may have seemed at first. For here, only seven days in, she presents a Gospel passage that gives us the whole reason for our main Christian claim. Bishop Robert Barron explains it this way:
Christianity is, first and foremost, a religion of the concrete and not the abstract. It takes its power not from a general religious consciousness, not from an ethical conviction, not from a comfortable abstraction, but from the person Jesus Christ. It is Christ…that moves the believer to change of Life and gift of self.”
Of course, pessimists are always to be found. Usually, they have a hard time believing in anything, much less Jesus. When someone is convinced that things can’t be done, he will cling to that conviction in the face of the most obvious contradiction.
The story is told of the time when Robert Fulton gave the first public demonstration of his steamboat. One of those “can’t be done” fellows stood in the crowd along the shore, repeating, “He can’t start it.”
Suddenly, there was a belch of steam, and the big boat began to move. Startled, the man stared for a moment and then began to chant, “He can’t stop it!”
God love you and give you His peace!
Reading I: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Job temporarily pauses his dialogue with his three friends and turns to lament about human life in general. He mentions three pro- verbially unhappy states in life and shows it is only with dependence on God that man has lasting happiness.
Reading II: I Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
Preaching is Paul’s acknowledged calling as a Christian, so he does not deserve credit for using the gift. His integrity is based on his love for all persons, no matter their situation.
The Gospel: Mark I: 29-39
Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law so completely that she gets up from bed to serve all in the house. Later, Jesus cures all the peo- ple who crowd Peter’s door. We learn that the demons knew who Jesus was, but they were silenced by Him. The disciples will gradually come to know Jesus’ identity.