5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
How do I preserve my identity as a human being and as a Christian?
After his ordination to the priesthood a newly ordained priest was called by his Bishop and was given an appointment in a far remote place of the diocese, a God-forsaken place indeed. From that day till the actual day of resuming his duties he was upset. He always excelled in his studies and did well throughout his seminary formation.
He made a name in the academics as well as in many other areas of his life. Every one looked up to him as a genius and thought that one day he will be a great resource person in the areas of theology. It was a little wonder that this new appointment had come to him as a shock. A year later he approached the authority who was responsible for
his appointment and thanked him for a lovely experience which he had with the tribals and had resolved to spend at least a full term of six years in that locality. He concluded saying that he had discovered his true identity as a priest for the whole human race, going beyond a narrow understanding of priesthood that limited its services to only Christians across the globe. While identifying himself with the tribals he had discovered his true identity.
All the readings of today’s liturgy speak of identifying ourselves with others while protecting our own identity and they give us four insights into such identification with others.
a) The first insight is provided by Job who does not lose focus of his identity while going through a trial sent by God himself (Job 7:1-4,6-7). As a human being he does express his pain and suffering but he does not sin during this time of testing. His depression does not lead him to abandon his faith in God.
b) The second insight is provided by St Paul who was ready to become all things for all people but for the sake of the Gospel. The Second Reading (1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23) underlines the message that one should not identify oneself with the others without a noble intention.
c) The Gospel of today (Mark 1:29-39) provides us with other two insights into our identification with others: first, one’s readiness to reach out to maximum people: Jesus heals not only the mother-in-law of Peter on account of his close association with him, he is also available for people from all walks of life even after the sunset.
d) Finally, one’s self-discipline concerning one’s charitable acts. While catering to the needs of his people he does not lose focus of the source of his power, namely God. He went to a lonely place and prayed there the whole night, a beautiful blend of Ekanta (solitude) and Lokanta (multitude).
Why do I identify myself with others? How do I preserve my identity as a human being and as a Christian?