Christ in the Desert, by Ivan Kramskoi, 1872. © Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
“Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings . . .
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. . .
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.”
From Sunday’s First Reading Job 7:1-4, 6-7
How do you feel when the alarm goes off on a Monday morning? The weekend may have given you some rest and repose, but then the next work week comes before you know it! Then if we are having struggles with our health, job, ministry, or relationships, we can feel the pressures of life weighing on us even more! There are times when that alarm goes off we might long for the day we can retire or change our routine. Job struggled with what all wisdom literature does, namely the meaning and purpose of life. Implicit in his musings is the reality that his life, like the wind, will be over one day, so is all of this toil worth it?
St. Paul, in the second reading, 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23, struggles with the obligation imposed upon him to preach the gospel. He mentions at times, he does it with enthusiasm and willingness; at other times, it is a duty. Paul, however, has a clear drive and purpose, knowing that preaching the gospel bears great fruit as he does so in a manner in which he adapts himself to those he ministers to as he has “become all things to all, to save at least some.” [verse 22]. In the Gospel, Jesus, on the cusp of his ministry, heals Simon’s mother-in-law and then all from the town who are ill or possessed by demons.
What fueled Jesus to have the energy to minister to so many? In this same gospel, we hear how early in the morning Jesus goes to a deserted place to pray. His relationship with the Father and time spent in prayer reinforced his mission: to spread the Good News, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce a year of favor from the Lord. In our lives, we may, like Job and Paul, question what we are doing and whether it is out of obligation or freely chosen. May we seek to find those deserted places in our hectic schedules to carve out time to rest in the presence of God and be reinvigorated in our mission to be instruments of peace and goodwill towards others.