Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

This week we are presented with two sharply contrasting pictures of life. The setting in which these pictures are presented is the workplace and we are challenged to examine our attitude towards life from the vantage point of the spirit in which we do our work.

The first reading presents with a picture of a life without God. If there were no God in our life to give us purpose, mission and a sense of direction, what would provide the fuel to drive us forward? What would direct us so that we didn’t get hopelessly lost? Job suggests that such a life would be one of hired drudgery and pressed service. After all what else would there be to look forward to, beside the wages earned and thinking of how best to spend it? If life were that shallow, one could well imagine feeling as Job suggests – waiting for the endless night to end, only to wait for the night to return once dawn breaks. The most tragic thing about such a life is the absence of hope. What is there to look forward to? The only thing that we know will happen to each and every one of us is that our earthly lives will one day end. And then what? The picture is a bleak one.

In the second reading, Paul paints a dramatically different picture. After his encounter with the Risen Lord, Paul devoted his life to serving God and spreading the Gospel, most notably to the Gentiles. Unlike the paid worker who undertakes a job for a wage, Paul saw his work as a duty and a responsibility that had been entrusted to him by God. For Paul, his work as an apostle was a continuation of his relationship with God. This was not a separate space of his life and person where God took a back seat. On the contrary, God was at the forefront of everything he did, including his work. And this in turn gave him the invaluable perspective and satisfaction of knowing that his work was ultimately to bring God’s gift of life to as many people as possible. For him, this was essential because if there were people who had not heard of Jesus, how were they going to ever discover the joy of salvation and God’s grace. And so for Paul, the reward lay in the work itself and the satisfaction of being able to participate in building God’s Kingdom.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus at work. His work consisted of healing. There is both a literal and a figurative sense in this. Of course, Jesus healed people of all manner of physical ailments and illnesses. But illness is also a manifestation of our fallen condition and our being separated from God. Jesus’ work ultimately consisted of restoring fallen creation and bringing us not just from illness to good health but from death to life. Throughout His ministry, the disciples worked alongside Jesus, just as we are called to do. Jesus also saw His work in this world as a fulfillment of the will of His Father – this is inevitable because Jesus is God and He came into His creation for the specific purpose of salvation.

Christianity offers us true freedom and invites us to a life of service to God marked by a clear sense of purpose, direction and motivation. We are driven not by the pursuit of material rewards, but by the eternal truth that we are God’s. The Christian Gospel challenges us to believe in the incomparable wealth of eternal happiness through being at peace with our Creator God, living the life He always meant for us.

Some points for reflection as you read the passages:

  • Is Job’s description of the godless life still relevant today when we are besieged by so many distractions? What things do people place their hope in today?

  • Why did Paul think it was wrong for him to boast of preaching the Gospel? What are some Christian duties that you feel you have? How have you carried these out?

  • In what ways did the disciples help Jesus in His ministry? Did Jesus need their help? Why did God turn to humans for help? How has He turned to you for help?