January 24, 2021 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time; National Bible Sunday
Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012421.cfm)
A holy rabbi used to live in a small but prosperous town. In one section of that town were the houses of the rich. Practically every house in that section had a security guard employed to watch over the house and the property especially at night or when the owner was out-of-town. This holy rabbi had to pass through that area daily.
One day he approached and asked one of the guards: “For whom are you working?” Satisfied with the guard’s answer, the guard in turn, also asked the rabbi: “I notice that every day you pass by this area, for whom are you, working?” The surprised rabbi was taken aback. After regaining his composure, the rabbi replied: “Well to be honest with you, I am not working for any particular person!” But after pausing to reflect for a while, the rabbi said to the guard: “May I ask you a favor? Time and again, when you see me pass by, ask me this question: ‘For whom are you working, Rabbi?’” The guard agreed.
On many occasions, I have asked people about their work and whether they enjoy their work. Sometimes I get the following answer: “It is not a question of whether I like or enjoy my work. Whether I like my job or not is beside the point. I have to work because I have a family to support. My loved ones depend on me!” Some see their job as a way of financially supporting themselves and realizing their dream in life! Many OFWs would still choose to work in their home country, if only the job opportunity is as good as what is offered them abroad! Others see work as an opportunity for self-advancement, or as a way of getting a better promotion and earning a bigger salary! So generally many think they know “why and for whom” they are working?
But today’s Gospel draws our attention to a deeper understanding as to the “why” and the “for whom” we are working? Today’s Gospel shows us that although there is a difference between a “career” and a “vocation” yet these two need not be in conflict with each other! Before Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John, their work and source of livelihood was fishing! They had already their job, a career in life!
When the four fishermen were called by Christ “to fish people” Jesus did not ask them to give up altogether their career, and to stop supporting their loves ones. Rather, Jesus gave them a deeper understanding and awareness as for whom and for what they have to work from now on! To their career, Jesus added a vocation! They are now disciples working for Christ; and like Jesus, their work are primarily for the service of others.
A vocation however is deeper than a career. Vocation is a personal calling from Christ. Vocation involves having a particular way of looking at life, a correct motivation and being totally committed to one’s specific calling in life. At the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis reminded priests, religious, and the members of the Roman Curia, not to turn their priestly and religious vocation into a “career”. They should not use their positions in the church for their own personal ambition and advancement because theirs is a “vocation” and not a “career”! Vocation to the priesthood and/or the religious life is not a “career” but a special calling!
Except for priests and religious who have a special calling, when Christians are called to be Christ’s disciples, their respective careers or jobs are not taken away from them. But these are now to be clearly aligned to Jesus’ teaching, and values! Their career or job must not promote or support what is evil, unjust, exploitative of others, but honest, with integrity, and service-oriented! For an example, a Christian in a teaching or health or business profession should now practice his/her profession not primarily to earn more money but in order to give a better service to others. It should be clear now that he/she is primarily working for Christ! The purpose of his/her work must be in accordance with the values, and example of Jesus Christ! The rabbi requested the security guard to ask him time and again the questions:
“For whom are you working?” and “What are you working for?” Have you also asked someone to remind you as “for whom” and “for what” are you working?