Mark 1, 29-39. Jesus’ Time Management
As promised: a new homily for this Sunday.
Today, we hear about a typical day in the life of Jesus. St. Benedict summarizes it with his motto, Ora et Labora (Work and Pray). First, Ora (a time to pray). Jesus’ schedule was hectic, rising early in the morning (the Gospels says before dawn) to pray wherever he can. He looks for places where he can be alone. The Gospel calls it a deserted place. Second, Labora (a time to work). His work revolves around teaching in venues like the synagogue and open places, healing the sick and expelling demons. Even in the evenings, he was in demand: the Gospel said that the whole town was gathered at the door even when it was already evening. In addition to all these, he also took time to teach and spend some time for his disciples. The demand of Jesus' work is described by this: Even if he looked for a place to be alone, his disciples pursued him, telling him that “everyone is looking for you.”
If we desire to pattern our lives with Jesus, then it is also possible that our lives can revolve around St. Benedict’s motto: Ora et Labora. Today, I will not delve into Labora because it is one familiar to us. Nevertheless, I still find it necessary to begin with Labora in order to arrive at the main emphasis today, Ora. We begin, by way of introducing the importance of Ora, with our daily tasks which is Labora. As we should know, authentic prayer simply begins from where we are: in our families, on our jobs, with our friends, with our colleagues, and in our most ordinary junctions of daily life. These are the stuff of prayer.
Nowadays, we are pursued differently, not like the disciples during Jesus’ time. But we are pursued nonetheless. Our work is texted to us. Our boss places a stack of paper to pore over during the day. A teacher gives us an assignment to keep ourselves busy during the weekend, not knowing that all other teachers think the same way, and so we find ourselves spending sleepless nights at the dorm, than spending Friday nights partying. A friend of mine once said that we will never be able to escape from work. They will constantly pursue and occupy our lives --- like the mob of Jesus demanding his entire attention, his entire day, his entire life. And while in the midst of work, we all become bruised and broken by the pressures of life, scarred and crest-fallen by the disappointments from unmet demands. And in all our busyness, we yearn for a time to calm ourselves down, to relax and recoup our energies. I guess, we are no different from Jesus: if he tried to find a deserted place to pray, to calm and recoup his energies before he dives into the pressures of ministry, we too should not deny the desire to find a place to pray and de-stress ourselves (in today’s business, it is the spa concept).
Then Ora becomes a serious matter. I remember when I was a child. I was a precocious, fussing, talkative, and energetic little kid. My father would scoop me up in his arms, holding me close to his chest, and then, I would begin to calm down and fall into sleep. It is still my idea of rest --- and I guess, the idea for each member of my family: when in the midst of a problem my brothers and sisters would just seek out our embrace (literally!). This is prayer to me. I can imagine Jesus talking to his Abba, Father. And in the intimate conversation, His father calms him down and embracing Him.
To go to a deserted place, a setting secluded from our ordinary activities of daily life, in order to pray and to reflect, is the concept of a retreat. We literally ‘retreat’ from ordinary lives: withdrawing from one’s ordinary affairs in silence and solitude, in personal prayer, and discerning the presence of the Spirit in our journey. Time magazine has it that those who spend some time meditating before plunging into work, physically transforms their brain’s cerebral cortex. And scientific study affirms the importance of a balance life: a time to work, and a time for relaxation and recreation (in Christian terms it is Ora, a time to quiet and calm down, a time to pray). The brain needs to recuperate, and it can only do so when it is rest. Ergo, nakakabobo din ang puro trabaho. I got the following from email. The title is, The Difference:
I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day:
I had so much to accomplish
that I didn't have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask."
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn't show me.
He said, "But you didn't seek."
I tried to come into God's presence;
I tried all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child, you didn't knock."
I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I had to take time to pray.
And so concretely, we should look into our organizers, date books, time management schedules and examine our lives: First, daily. Do I spend some time in quiet and prayer? Do I give God some of my attention even for a minute daily? Second, weekly. Do I have a day for rest? Do I take advantage of Sunday as a time for God and for those I love? Third, yearly. Do I spend a time to look back at the year inorder for me to re-align all that I do towards God? Finally, in a lifetime. Did I ever go on a retreat at some point in my life?
And just in case, you find that your life has been the exact opposite of the work horse, then perhaps ask yourself the opposite of the above questions, by concentrating on the Labora. The idea is balance between work and prayer. Nonetheless, the important object of Ora et Labora should never be undermined: God. St. Benedict has this to end, “That in all things God may be glorified.”