Is your Faith a Job, Career or a Vocation?

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HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Readings:  Jonah 3:1-5,10/ 1Cor. 7:29-31

Psalm:  25:4-9

Gospel:  Mk. 1:14-20

As we go through our lives, we are asked by our family or society or even ourselves to do something that will make a difference in the world.  It is an activity that not only produces a needed benefit to ourselves, but also sends out ripples out into the world for their benefit.   In a word, this thing that is asked of us is what is called “work.”  The term is to mean any sort of “exertion of body or mind in performing or accomplishing something…that is either easy or hard.”[1]

This thing we call work can be described in many ways (good or bad) but they generally fall in three distinct categories:  a job, a career or a vocation.  A job is something we do to make money.  You don’t care to be there and the boss doesn’t care if you are there or not.  It is nothing but a paycheck.  A career takes a job and, in finding something that we may or may not like doing but have an aptitude for it and can make a living doing it.  It can be fun and enjoyable, but the work is still just for a paycheck.

However, when we do something for which we develop a skill, have a passion for it, believe we are doing it for more than just a paycheck, and are making a true difference to society, then that is a vocation.  While we try to make us believe that what we do is to help others, it can take more than just a belief to turn a job into a vocation.  It takes a calling from within that allows us to think of others before ourselves.

Now, with that in mind, what does all this have to do with the Readings proclaimed today?  When we say we have faith in God, what sort of faith do we have?  Some people have a faith that is more of a job than it is a belief.  In the First Reading today from the Book of Jonah, God tells Jonah to walk through the city of Nineveh and tell the citizens that God will destroy their city if they did not repent of their sins.  It took him three days to go through the town, but they did repent by fasting and putting on sackcloth.

Did Jonah take on this task with joy and enthusiasm?  Not in the slightest.  When God came to Jonah with this task, he took one look in the direction of Nineveh, took a deep breath, turned around and went the other way.  He got on a boat sailing for Tarshish, the farthest away from Nineveh as he could.  But God caused the sea to toss and turn the boat to the point that the sailors, in fear for their life, threw Jonah out of the boat. When that happened the sea calmed down, the boat stayed afloat and the sailors on board got on their knees and worshipped God.

And we all know about the great fish that swallowed Jonah.  He stayed in the belly of that fish for three days.  He prayed to God for deliverance and was delivered on dry land so he could complete the task God wanted him to make.  After he went through the city, and after they had repented, was Jonah satisfied that God had spared them?  No.  He wanted God to destroy them, because they were the enemies of his homeland.  Despite the blessings God gave this town, it did not expand his faith any more than he had before.  To Jonah, this was no more than a job.  But to the people that he converted, their faith in God grew deeper.  While the scriptures do not mention them after this story, one can say that their faith went from a job to a career.  Our faith is like a mustard seed.  It just takes the right amount of nurturing to turn that seed into a mighty bush.

When Jesus started his ministry, he also went to the sea to proclaim to all the time to repent is at hand.  He went to the sea and found those who were followers of John the Baptist, Andrew and his brother Simon.  He went further and called James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  He told them that if they followed him, they would be “fishers of men.” [2] For them, having their faith was like a “career,” but now by following Christ, it will become a vocation.  And if they needed an example of what they would be in store for them by following Jesus, they only had to look at their former teacher, John the Baptist.

At the beginning of the Gospel, it mentions that John had been arrested, which was the cue for Jesus to begin his ministry in earnest.  After John pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, he knew that it was time for him to move on.  But he had one more task.  He called out the King for marrying his brother’s wife, which John saw as unlawful.  When they arrested him, King Herod would come to his cell and listen to him.  It was Herod’s wife, Herodias, who would become upset and in a cunning plan forced the King to have John beheaded.  In John’s life, preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah was more than a job, like Jonah.  It was more than the career the disciples were being asked to do.  John gave his entire life for the work of God.  This is the true nature of a vocation.

To become a fully-devoted disciple of Christ, one must be willing to see their entire world turned upside down.  What was left is now right.  What is white is now black.  When Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, he wanted them to be aware that what was originally thought in regards to being a disciple of God versus a disciple of Man is not one of love for one and despising the other.  Being a disciple of Christ is a transformational action.  It means that while we live, work and act in the society that idolizes the individual, we are giving our worship to God and his call to love one another as we love Him.  “The time is running out,” says Paul. “The world in its present form is passing away.  (So) from now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing …” and on and on and so forth.[3]  Paul saw a vocation to God as THE singular act one must have to enter Paradise, but he thought if one wanted to get married, then OK.  We now see that the vocation of service to God is parallel to the vocation of marriage to another.  Both are pleasing to God and are intended for the betterment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

Where are you in your faith?  Is it a job (something that you do just because you always do it)?  Do you just show up to mass not caring what is going on and waiting for it to be over? Or is your faith a career (something you have some aptitude for and have done it for some time)?  You pay attention to what is going on; know all the buzzwords and will lend a hand from time to time to get things moving.  What is taught is somewhat important, but keeping the church from going bankrupt and avoiding all the headaches is all that you want.  Or is your faith a vocation (something that consumes your every action every moment of every day)?  It is not a curse or a burden to believe in God.  On the contrary, it is a lifestyle that carries with you throughout your entire life.  You enjoy the pleasures the world has to offer, but understand that those pleasures come from God.  And the best way to show your appreciation is to take part in the Liturgy of the Church and partaking of her Sacraments.

So, do you know where you are in your faith?  How can you tell?  When you are confused or unsure, it is at those moments that you slow yourself down, close your eyes and listen for the voice of God (this would be preferable if in doing this you were not behind the wheel of any moving vehicle, obviously).  Listen to the voice of God.  He will let you know.  Then you can make your plans to be better than you thought you were.

When our work is for ourselves, we can only satisfy ourselves.  When our work is for others, our work satisfies them and us.  But when our work is for God, the blessings that comes from God is returned to Him for the satisfaction that our work does for Him and for all of His creation. “This is the time of fulfillment,” says Christ.  “The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.”[4]  This is our employee orientation. Our shift has started.   Let us begin the work of the Lord.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

[1] http://www.Dictionary.com.

[2] Mk. 1:14-20.

[3] 1Cor. 7:29-31.

[4] Mk. 1:15.

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