On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, our first reading (1 Sm 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A) details how God called David to be King of Israel. Prior to that calling, David tended the sheep for his father, Jesse. Tending sheep was certainly a needed and worthwhile activity, but God had other priorities to which He was calling David. And from that day forward, David’s life was devoted to that new, God given, priority in his life.
In our second reading (Eph 5:8-14), Paul tells his readers to, “Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” As a faithful follower of Christ, we are to live each and every day of our lives in unity with Christ, guided by the divine Spirit of our Creator. Just as God called David and defined the priorities to which God was calling him, we too are called to attend to the priorities that God has placed in each and every one of our lives.
In our Gospel text (Jn 9:1-41), Jesus’ disciples question the reason why the poor beggar would have been stricken with blindness from birth. And Jesus’ answer was, “It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” What a marvelous calling. The entire life of this man born blind was to stand as a witness to the awesome power of God. I find this Gospel story to be particularly meaningful to me because my mother was blind. Many people in our world are forced to live their life with challenges that the rest of us will never fully understand or ever experience. Their calling involves a whole list of priorities that make many of our own concerns to appear trivial.
Every one of us was placed here on this earth for a purpose. Each of us has a God given task that we are to fulfill in life. Our task may be unchanging, as it was with the man born blind; or that task may change from time to time, as it did for King David. In order for us to do, “What is pleasing to God” we must attend to the priorities that God places before us daily.
Imagine that you have a big glass jar and a pile of rocks that are about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger. Now put as many of those rocks as you possibly can into the glass jar. Fill it up to the brim. Can we now assume that the jar is full and that it is impossible to fit anything else into it? No; because we can now take some small gravel and put that into the jar. By shaking the jar, we can work the gravel into the spaces between the big rocks. Again, let’s fill the jar up to the brim. Can we now assume that our jar is full? Again the answer would be no because we can now use sand and do the same thing, putting the sand into the jar and shaking the jar to work the sand into the spaces between the big rocks and small stones. Again, we will fill the jar up to the brim. Can we now assume that our jar is full? Again our answer would have be no because we can now add water and fill our jar up to the brim. Now, finally, we can safely say that our jar is full.
Using this jar as an example of our everyday life and activities, what conclusion and comparison can we draw from it? Conversational wisdom would say that just as the jar was not truly full till we added the sand and the water, similarly we can say that we are never too busy to do more, to do something good for someone else. You can always make something else fit into your everyday life.
If that was the conclusion that you derived from this little example, you would be wrong. I say that you would be wrong in reaching that conclusion because if we had put the water, sand and gravel into the jar first, we would not have been able to make the big rocks fit into the jar. The only way to make the big rocks fit would be to put them in first.
Similarly, if we don’t take care of the priorities in our life first, if we fill our days with lots of well intentioned activities, there wouldn’t be any time left for those truly important priorities in our life. In order to make everything fit into our daily activities, we must start with those priorities first.
Everyone’s life is different. We all have different responsibilities and priorities in life. If each and every one of us would take the time to take a serious look at the world around us, we would see many demands. People in need! Things that need and deserve our attention! And I am not saying that we should ignore all of those things. What I am saying is that there is a time and place for everything. God has placed certain priorities in each and every one of our lives. It is our responsibility to make sure that we attend to those priorities first.
What are the real priorities in your life? What are the things and who are the people that are truly important in your life? When we are filling our days with activities, we need to make a conscious effort to put the big rocks in first.
What are the big rocks in your life?