The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
My father said he didn’t care what my brother and I did for a living as long as we were happy, but – he did not want us working in a factory like he had to. My father was an artist. His high school teachers wanted him to go to college but as he said, he didn’t know where his next pair of shoes were coming from. College could not have even been dreamed of in the realm of his future.
How many of us have or had employment that stemmed from our talents? That we enjoy and find energizing? Or would we say something in line with my father…but I don’t want you working in…
Work is a necessity to raise a family, put a roof over our heads, and give our children a better future. And the deal of life’s cards isn’t always promising for everyone. Not all opportunities are open to us and working in a factory is drudgery. It has to be done. Though wrapped in love and commitment, there is the day to day toil of caring for a spouse who is deteriorating with age and illness. It grinds a care-giver down; doubly weighed by the feelings of guilt for doing anything just for yourself. But it has to be done. The churning out of papers, the readings, assignments and tests – no wonder students let loose on the weekends. Can you blame them? But it has to be done.
There are the sleepless nights worrying about your job, concerned about the children – however old they are – about relationships, broken and estranged, the worrying over a misread look or tone of voice, a sick member of the family, the chill of winter that invades the bones, the heaviness of life that weights like a blanket* on the elderly or just plain tired.
In our culture, we expect and search for happiness as if happiness is a consumer product that we can buy. And so we buy: various forms of entertainment, video games, the latest styles, alcohol, the gym memberships for that sculpted body, more apps on our phones to make us feel important and thus happy. Happiness – as if it were an object outside of us rather than arising from within us.
The words of the anonymous author of Job speak to us over two and a half millennia.
“Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? …troubled nights have been allotted to me. …the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until dawn. I shall not see happiness again. [Job 7:1, 3-4]
The human experience of life hasn’t much changed. Each generation, every person, must deal with the same questions, the same worries, the same routines and ordinariness of our lives. Each of us is not very special. Our culture, like the leaders of past empires, has always felt that life is to be easy. Modern science and technology have given us many conveniences but without answering the deep questions of humanity; has offered us as many burdens as conveniences and raised more questions. Surrounded by so much wealth, technology, science, communications, human wonders and “stuff”, happiness should be right in our grasp and yet we are as restless and anxious a people as Job. If we are honest with ourselves none of the culture’s fruits appease us or offer us happiness; just a veneer with which to fool ourselves.
Even Jesus experiences this restlessness: people hunting him down, pursuing him, asking and wanting more and more. After a while, like us, Jesus is running on empty. He goes off to pray alone but, “Everyone is looking for you.” [Mark 1: 37] He tiredly gets up and moves on to the next village and the next village. It has to be done. There is no respite even for the Son of Man.
I am reminded of the scene in the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, after having cleansed the Temple of the merchants and money changers; Jesus is tired by his burden. He rests and falls asleep which conjures up a chilling nightmare in which he is confronted by lepers, cripples, and beggars, all wanting to be healed. He is overwhelmed and cries out: “There’s too many of you. There’s too little of me. Leave me alone!”
Jesus is overwhelmed. The Church is overwhelmed. Our lives are overwhelmed.
I believe that somehow God is in this mundane, tiresome mix of our lives but…we must move to the next village because it has to be done.
We might ask ourselves, what is it that we have come to?