This past Monday, my seven-year-old daughter approached me and excitedly noted that a new movie was premiering on Friday. Unable to contain her excitement, she blurted out, “Would you like to take me?” I hesitated for a moment; I had a lot of things to do. But I eagerly replied, “Absolutely”!
Friday finally arrived, and her small voice said, “Dad, you promised to take me. Do you remember?” And we were off on what I described as our “daddy-daughter” date, although she gently reminded me that should anyone ask, she would describe it differently.
At the theater, I happily purchased tickets and food, and then we chose our seats. The lights dimmed, and the movie began.
Enjoying the movie was a secondary benefit for me; being in my daughter’s company and looking at her was, well, to steal from a commercial, priceless. As she enjoyed her Milk-Duds, her smiles, giggles, rolling eyes, and facial expressions filled me with joy. I truly believe that God had wanted me to share that moment with her.
I began with this story because the readings before us this Sunday are filled with busy moments, ranging from Job’s lamentations to Paul’s preaching to Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and driving out demons from those who were possessed. Clearly, much is going on. But what can we learn from all this?
First, let’s look at Job. How many of us now feel, or have felt, the way he did? How often have his words been ours? “Is not our life on earth a drudgery? Are not our days those of hirelings?” Job’s feelings about life resonate with us because, without a proper perspective, it would be easy to characterize life as a drudgery. Aside from work concerns, there are children to feed and clothe, dishes to be washed, vacuums to be run, sporting events or dance classes to attend, and a myriad of other things “that must get done.” And for those with large families, the work never ends. At the end of the day, we collapse in our bed, and our last conscious thought is, “In just a few more hours, I get to do it all again.” So much for a purpose-driven life!
Next, look at the life of Saint Paul. Prior to his conversion, this great Apostle thought he had life figured out. He knew the Scriptures, and he knew the Law. This new religion based on a silly myth about a man rising from the dead was an affront to God. And so he became a ferocious enemy of the early Christians.
But then something happened. He encountered Jesus and heard his voice on that dusty road to Damascus. Suddenly he had a new mission. In his Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle forcefully declares that “. . . an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.”
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus shows us how to view the world in a way that escaped Job and perhaps, you and me, as well. Like many of us, Jesus was busy and on the move. To say the least, His schedule was full. As the Evangelist recounts, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and drove out demons from those who were possessed. It is clear that Jesus usually had an eighteen-hour day.
“What did Jesus do before dawn?” you might ask. Mark writes, “He left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” This is where Jesus was energized and provided the deepest insights of the Father. After a time, Peter and the others find Him and declare, “Everyone is looking for you!” Having rested in the arms of the Father, Jesus then rises and proceeds to fulfill His mission: “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
Jesus and Paul had positive missions. On the other hand, Job was a professional whiner. Because of the gift of free will, we choose how we are going to view the world. We can complain about everything we see, or we can see everything as an opportunity to love and change the world and have that as our mission. To steal from another commercial, it’s not what’s in your wallet; it’s what’s in your heart.