Saturday, February 3, 2018

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 04.02.2018

Job 7:1-4, 6-7 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mark 1:29-39

Some names in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, are not that easy to pronounce. Some are tongue-twisters, while others seem to have at least two ways of pronunciation, e.g. the name of the prophet Isaiah.

But the name of the character in the 1st reading should be easy to pronounce. His name has only three letters –        J-O-B. So it’s pronounced as “job” as in “office-job”.

Now, about the character called Job in the 1st reading, what he said in the passage seems to be like a description of his life which sounds like some kind of lousy job: “Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? Like the slave sighing for the shade, or the workman with no thought but his wages”.

That may somewhat make us think about our jobs. Do we love our jobs, or do we just need our jobs? Seems like we just need it more than we love it.

We can tell our boss to give us a raise because there are three companies after us. Well, that’s no lie, because the three companies are the PUB, HDB and Singtel. But they are after us for other reasons.

Someone else that has a similar name as Job is the late Steve Jobs. He has this to say: The only way to do a great job is to love what you do. 
Of course he can say that. He is Steve Jobs, and he did a great job with the iPad and the iPhone.

But we are no Steve Jobs. On the contrary, we may have no job satisfaction, no job security and no job suits us. So in short, it is “no job, no hope, no cash”.

And even if we get a new job, we may probably not like it any better, and so as we begin Monday, we long for Friday.

So Job said it quite right in the 1st reading – Life on earth is nothing more than pressed service, no better than hired drudgery, like a slave sighing for the shade.

And then at the end of that 1st reading, we say “Thanks be to God”. Seriously? But it is the Word of the Lord, so we better say “Thanks be to God”. Seriously!

So the 1st reading seems to say that life is like a lousy job. And we might want to chip in and say that life is not just like a lousy job; life is just lousy.

The pessimistic summary of life can be put into just three words – hard, suffering, pain. Yes, life is hard, there is suffering, there is pain.

In the gospel, Peter’s mother-in-law would initially agree with that. As she lay in bed with fever, she would be thinking about how hard life is, and now she is suffering from fever that weakened her and made her lie in bed.

But the fever could just be the symptom. There could probably be a fire burning within that is consuming all her joy and happiness in life. In other words, life had become like a lousy job, having to always give, give, give and being taken for granted, always having to be around the house to make sure things are provided for and yet not a word of thanks.

That could also be our complaint about life. As the fire burns and consumes within, we become dissatisfied about our jobs, unhappy about our family and relationships, unsure about the present and uncertain about the future. Yes, life has become like a lousy job.

But in the gospel, we hear that Jesus went to the mother-in-law, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Interestingly, if it was the fever, we would think that Jesus would have laid His hand on her head to cure her fever. Yet, He took her hand. Seems like the fever is just a symptom. Seems like there is a fire burning within and Jesus came to heal that. So when Jesus took her by the hand, the fever left her.

Maybe there is also a fire burning within that makes us feel that life is like a lousy job. 

But just as Jesus cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another and cast out many demons, He also want to do the same for us.

Jesus came to confront our suffering and pain and to cast out the demons of selfishness, greed, pride, unfaithfulness and disobedience so that we will realise that life is not like a lousy job.

Some people have a job because they need it. But Jesus wants to take us by the hand so raise us to life so that we can love and serve.

The difference between a job and a loving life is that if we are doing it because no one else will, then it is just a job. But if we are doing it because of Jesus, then it is a service.

If we quit because someone criticized us, then it is a job. If we keep on serving, then it is love.

If we do it as long as it does not interfere with our other activities, then it is a job. But if we are committed to serving even if it means letting go of other things, then it is a life lived with love.

If we quit because no one thanked us or praised us, then it is a job. If we stick with it even though no one recognized our efforts, then our reward is in God’s blessings.

God calls us to a life of love and service. Let us not make it into a job.

But let us first stretch out our hand and let Jesus take us by the hand to lead us to that quiet place of prayer where He will heal us and drive away those demons and turn that consuming fire within into a flame of love and service.

Conversion begins by first being with God in prayer, and only then can we be of love and service to others.

God is calling us to repentance and conversion, so that He can give us a life to be lived in love and service.

Let us not turn our life into a job, and then make it into a lousy job.