A Vocation may be joyful, but not always happy

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Readings: Job 7:1-4,6-7/1Cor. 9:16-19,22-23

Psalm:  147: 1-6

Gospel:  Mk. 1:29-39  


In our journey to find our life’s work-moving from a job to a career to a vocation-we have a tendency to see this progression from sadness to acceptance to joy.  Indeed, finding the thing that uses our abilities in the best possible way is a reason for joy in our lives.  We are put in a situation where the gifts of God gives are used for our benefit as well as the benefit of others.  It becomes a win-win situation for all concerned.

Unfortunately, there is a fine line between moving from a career into a vocation.  That line means that we have to move beyond our comfort zone; that area where we live our lives on cruise control and have no desire to do more.  We live our lives from Point A to Point B doing the same thing over and over and being compensated the same amount time and time again.  We are content, but our desires to do better are set on the back burner.  Only when we move out of our comfort zone do we move from a career into a vocation.  It may be a joyful time, but sometimes it is not a happy one.

Each of the readings today reflect a moment where moving past their comfort zone causes discomfort and uncertainty in those who are doing the work of God.  In the First Reading from the Book of Job, Job is distraught in his desire to do God’s work at the cost of his friendship with those he grew up with.  He feels abandoned and the weight of the world has come upon him because he is a Prophet of God.

In the Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul laments that what he is doing for God is an obligation that he cannot ignore.  If he does ignore it, then his life would not be what it is supposed to be.  When we first met him, he was an agent of the Jews to eliminate this Christian sect from existence.  Yet after his conversion, he became its biggest advocate.  His life changed from one of great wealth and importance to one of drudgery and obligation; it was his burden to proclaim the Good News to those he had once persecuted.  “If I preach the gospel,” Paul said, “this is no reason for me to boast.”  While he saw his vocation to proclaim the Good News was something that came from God, Paul understood that his life was not one that he envisioned.

When we hear of Jesus healing the sick at the house of Simon and Andrew in the Gospel, we finally see the purpose of making our vocation doing the work of God.  It was not just to take care of those for who we know, but to care for those for who we do not know, but yet still desire to understand the Word of God.  Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in law, who was very ill.  While the translations may causes one to think that the only reason that Jesus healed her was so that she could cook for all of them, the meaning of this pericope was meant to display someone who was considered to be in a less-than-perfect condition brought up to the status of Jesus, in that he came not to be served, but to serve. And it was in that manner that Jesus went to the other villages, because they were entitled to hear the Good News, have their illnesses cured and their Demons expelled.  “For this purpose,” Jesus said, “have I come.”  Jesus moved his disciples from being in their comfort zones to a life of uncertainty because in order to spread the Good News, one must go out to the world; the world will not come to them.

When we venture out of our comfort zone, our area of anonymity, the actions we take can benefit those around us.  These past few days, the Church has honored two of those people who risked leaving their comfort zones to work for God as their true vocation.  On February 1st, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Brigid of Ireland.  She was a woman born into slavery and began performing miracles at a time she could have kept her gifts to herself.  After she was received into Religious orders, she founded a monastery in Kildare.  She and her community were credited with organizing Consecrated Religious Life for women in Ireland.  Had she lived a life that was in front of her as a slave, she could not have done the work of God to promote the faith in a land that, at the time, was in great spiritual conflict.

Another saint in which we honor is St. Blaise, physician, bishop and martyr. He lived in what is modern-day Armenia in the 4th Century.  Little is known about him, only that he was a doctor, specializing in throat ailments.  When he became a bishop, he left that life and retreated into a cave, where he remained in constant prayer.  He was arrested by the governor of the region on the charge of being a Christian.

There are two stories that lead to his remembrance in the Church.  In one story, he was being led to jail when a child was choking to death on a fish bone.  Blaise took the child and, offering prayers to God, prevented the child from choking.  In another tale, an old woman began screaming that a wolf had stolen one of her pigs.  Blaise found the wolf and ordered him to return the pig.  To everyone’s amazement, the wolf returned the pig, safe and unharmed.  As a thank you for this act, the woman gave Blaise two wax candles in which to dispel the gloom of his cell.  The governor was so amazed at these acts that he wanted Blaise to help him.  But before Blaise could join him, the governor commanded Blaise to renounce his faith.  When Blaise refused, he ordered that he was beaten by heavy combs used in sheep shearing before having him beheaded.

If Blaise had left his vocation and led the life of a physician-his comfort zone-we would not be able to achieve his blessings today in the crossing of candles, placing them on either side of the throat and invoking the blessing:  “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from any disease or defect, Amen.”  So we honor those whose vocations have taken them out of their comfort zone; out of the state of anonymity and into the state of grace so that we may come to share that same grace that is given to us by God.




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