the following amazingly inspiring reflection comes from the archbishop (and thanks a for sharing this with me :))
SCRIPTURE READINGS: JOB 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 COR 9:16-19, 22-23; MK 1:29-39
When Job remarked, “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”, isn’t it true that he was but expressing the frustrations and disappointments with life of many people? Isn’t it true that for many of us, life is a real boredom because it is simply going through the routine of work, eat, sleep and play?
Yes, life does not seem to have meaning. Making a living and making money alone cannot bring us life. Eating and recreation alone cannot give us fulfillment in life. That is why; many of us drift through life, living on the superficial level, the level of animals. We wake up each day, not knowing what to do next. We are so bored and so we want to get back to bed. But when we are in bed, we cannot sleep. We have no vision or direction. Thus Job expressing his frustration sighed, “Lying in bed I wonder, when will it be day? Risen I think, how slowly evening comes! Restlessly I fret till twilight falls.” Such is the irony of life.
(actually no... when i finally sleep, i sleep really well on night calls. those precious hours of sleep til the morning rounds come.. but then there are those nights i prowl the ward checking and rechecking my stuff just to make sure i dont miss things and sleep eludes me)
The good news is that God wants to raise us up and give us meaning. The liturgy invites us to be open to God who comes to give us a sense of direction and purpose especially when we lose connection with ourselves. Like Job who prayed in his disillusionment, we too must pray from the depth of our hearts saying, “Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.” This prayer made with confidence will be heard. How can this be a reality?
If we were to recover our meaning in life, then we must look to Jesus and St Paul. For in them, they show us that the meaning of life is not to be found in work in itself but in having a vocation. Both readings from the New Testament impress upon us that Jesus and St Paul, because they were people who had a vocation and mission, were also people who lived lives of joy, enthusiasm, dynamism, commitment and meaning. In fact, so vibrant were their lives that they did not even have time to think about their own needs.
What, then, is the difference between work and vocation? It is work when we are only concerned about earning a living for ourselves. If work is seen purely as a means to be remunerated so that one can acquire more wealth, power, status and recognition, work becomes drudgery. One might satisfy one’s physical needs but not one’s spiritual and personal needs. He is not working for a higher goal in life.
The truth is that because our goal is finite, the happiness we attain, if at all, falls short of what we are seeking in our spirit. We are not doing something that we like or meaningful. Our spirit longs for something greater. We know that we are meant for something more. Hence, we have to confront ourselves by asking the fundamental question: are we seeking for security or meaning? Security can be provided to some extent by having money, power etc. Even then, there is no real security.
To live well we must live for meaning. Not only just meaning but the higher the meaning, the more alive we become. When there is meaning and purpose, no sacrifices would be too difficult. With meaning, we can forget about our security. That is why Jesus, the apostles and many missionaries could leave everything and their security for the higher values of life. This is because their meaning is their security. So long as there is meaning, there is real security. Where can this meaning be found? When we search the vocation and mission that God has given to us in life!
What is a vocation? A vocation implies a calling in the depth of our being to do something for the good of humankind. This calling is translated as possessing a sense of mission. St Paul certainly felt a deep calling from within to proclaim the Good News. So a vocation speaks of an imperative within us, urging us to do something for the good of others. This calling comes from within, not from without; not drawn out by people but stirs up from within by God who places that desire in our heart. A vocation therefore always implies a commitment not out of duty but with a sense of mission, like Jesus.
Secondly a vocation implies that we are given a transcendent calling. A vocation is our calling from God to serve the people of God. It is an invitation from the Lord to each one of us to have a sense of service to others around us. A vocation goes beyond earning money or seeking for power or for things. But we work basically for the service of love. Of course, the labourer is worthy of his hire. But money becomes only a means for us to live a decent life but not a luxurious life. For happiness cannot come from money and luxury but meaningful service to people. In this way, our work becomes our meaning. It is a direct encounter of God in the work not indirect as in our career. In fact, the remuneration becomes just the opposite and secondary to what we are doing.
Thirdly, we know it is a vocation when do everything with freedom. So freedom for love must be complemented by freedom in love. When it is a vocation, it is chosen freely. It must be a choice to serve not out of obligation or compulsion but out of conviction and love.
When a service is done in freedom and in love, we choose to become all things to all men because losing ourselves; we learn to empathize with them. Such service makes us free to feel with others because we have forgotten about ourselves.
Finally, a vocation is primarily in response to the love of God for us. Without this prior experience, the divine call would not be stirred up within us. \When God touches us, we respond with love in service because of our gratitude. Only when we are conscious of God’s love and blessings for us, will we begin to use our good health and other resources for the good of others. The reason why some of us do not have the capacity to reach out in love and service to others is because we are not grateful for what we have. The lack of ingratitude boils down to the fact that we have not or are not aware of the love of God for us. Only grateful people can love because when they realize how they have been loved unconditionally in spite of their nothingness, they too want to share that love in the same way to those who are not deserving of love.
And what is empowering in such a love is that the effect of such outward looking attitude makes us forget about ourselves. We begin to focus on others more and more. If we are always thinking about our needs and ourselves, it is because, like a sick person, we tend to be inward looking and thinking of our pain. But when we begin to reach out, we forget about our own problems or at least see them in perspective. So service is the way to bring us out of our problems and misery. It adds meaning and challenge to our lives.
Today, let us find inspiration and encouragement from the lives of Jesus and St Paul. The gospel today gives us a typical day in the life of Jesus showing us what a life of vocation entails. Certainly we can see that the life of Jesus was surely interesting and fulfilling. This too was the kind of life that St Paul lived. He lived a life that was totally dependent on the Lord. He was always a man of mission with a sense of urgency in him. In fact, St Paul compares our mission and goal to runners taking part in the race. “So that is how I run, not without a clear goal; and how I box, not wasting blows on air. I punish my body and bring it under control, to avoid any risk that, having acted as herald for others, I myself may be disqualified.”
Not only must we have a goal, St Paul says that there is a difference between that of the world and ours: “Every athlete concentrates completely on training … to win a wreath that will wither whereas ours will never wither.” (1 Cor 9:24-27) Indeed, we must find a mission in life, a vocation that helps us to live beyond this world or for ourselves. Unless we live for God and for others, we cannot find true meaning because we fail to go beyond ourselves. Yes, without a sense of mission or vocation in life, everything loses its meaning and connection. By choosing to live our life as a vocation with a sense of mission, then our lives become integrated, wholesome and purposeful. Such a life is always inspiring, liberating and meaningful.
:) so inspiring. keep on running & hoping that one day the picture of the endpoint comes. the endpoint being the place where God wants me to be. (and yeah as i read this, i kept thinking DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS)