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February 7, 2021 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our contemporary culture forces us to be busy. We keep inventing machines to save time, but we keep complaining: there is no time! Whether our time is spent productively or not, we are simply busy. We are busy checking emails. We are busy talking on the phone. We are busy tweeting. When we are not busy, we are planning how to be busy. Are you a busy person? How do you feel about your busyness? Do you feel restless?

The gospel passage of today describes the busy schedule of Jesus as his public ministry gathers momentum. The story picks up from where we left him in the gospel text of last Sunday – it was the Sabbath and Jesus was in the synagogue “he taught them with authority” and cured a man possessed by an unclean spirit.

Jesus leaves the synagogue; and enters Peter’s house, cures his mother-in-law; has a meal and she serves them. In the evening he engages with those who are sick and those who are possessed, and the whole town came to him. This must have happened after sunset, because it was the Sabbath. It is not clear what time he went to bed, but he did go to bed. Then “long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed.” Simon and his companions go in search of him, when they find him, Jesus decides to move on to other towns. Busy? He was indeed. Restless? It doesn’t seem so!

In the first reading we hear the lamentations of Job. Poor guy! He is restless. It is not just the loss of his wealth, the loss of his friends and family, not even the sickness that has afflicted him, but his inner condition that really pains him. The reading of today describes his inner turmoil. Job morns: “Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’ ‘How slowly morning comes’. Rising ” How slowly evening comes” The words of Job seem to suggest that he actually has all the time in the world. Time seems so slow. Yet, internally he is restless. Job continues to lament: “Restlessly I fret till twilight falls. Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind”.

Are you a busy person? Your busyness in itself may not be a problem, but it is your restlessness to be careful about. Restlessness can deprive us of meaning and hope: “Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind”.

So how can we give meaning to our busyness? How does Jesus handle his busy schedule? Jesus does not create a picture of being restless, but engaged. What do I mean? I find three important aspects that provide meaning and gratification to what Jesus is busy with.

  1. He is engaged in enhancing the life of people.

Evidence from several studies in contemporary psychology suggest that happiness and life-satisfaction are highly connected to being engaged in the lives of other people. Even, our sense of purpose is seen as being engaged with something larger than ourrself. For those engaged in service of others time passes swiftly, bringing much satisfaction and hope. It provides the reason for them to wake up every morning.

This is why Jesus is busy. He is enhancing the lives of the people around him. This becomes the sign of the messianic times. This is how he assures the Kingdom of God. This is the Good News.

In some professions, work itself might involve direct interaction with people, other jobs maybe not. Maybe you are working in a garage eight hours a day! Maybe you are busy with numbers in your accounting department? Maybe you are driving most of your working hours? There is not direct interaction in most of these activities? Ultimately, there is no substitute for quality, physical time spent with people – friends and family. They provide meaning to our busyness.

  1. Are you seeking popularity or inner gratification?

Why do I do what I do all day? Do I want to be recognized, to be praised, and to be acclaimed, to become popular?

For Jesus, popularity was not on his agenda. In fact, the gospel tells us  That after curing people and casting out devils, “he would not allow them to speak…”. Jesus  is telling the people he cured not to speak about it. Jesus did not want to be a celebrity, but instead lead them to the understanding of his passion death and resurrection.

For us being busy could be led by external motivation – applause from others. When we don’t get that praise and honor, we get discouraged. When we are lucky to get applause, adrenaline gets into our system, and then we want more of it. We fight for it. We over-work. And sadly, we might even get consumed by it.

On the other hand, if we do what we do out of service to others – we keep working. We might become busy, but we know where to draw the line. We are detached from the external fruits of the work. We are free.

  1. Taking time with God

And this is the last aspect that we see in the busyness of Jesus. “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed.” Jesus spends quality time with God. We too need this time with God. To meet Him, talk to Him, receive Him. It is time to re-energize our batteries. This time of silence and prayer is also a time to enjoy the inner fruits of our work. It is time to purify our intentions. To psychologically rest and slow down. It is a time to remind ourselves why we do what we do. Yes, it is for our family, for the people around us. And yet it is more than that.

In the 2nd reading of today, St. Paul tells us why he is busy preaching the Good News: “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me”.  He preaches not for praise of others, not for any pay, but “to have a share in the blessings of the gospel”.

Yes, we are busy doing what we do for the glory of God. To allow the life of God to flow in us! To give us sense and purpose. When there is motivation for the glory of God, everything falls in place. We are not restless. We are engaged – with others and God!

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