Homily (Reflection) for the Fifth Sunday of the Year (B) (04th February, 2018) on the Gospel
Ps 146:1-6 (R. v. 3);
In the seminary, every aspect of the formation is as serious as the other – prayers, studies, singing, labour, and so on. There are stipulated times for each of them. However, labour can also come up as an emergency at any time. Because emergency labours are not in the timetable, they always encroach into other activities. Those days, when it encroaches into the time for prayers, some would not like to leave it for prayers because it must be done. They normally cite a maxim wrongly attributed to Saint Benedict of Nursia: ‘to work is to pray’.
Topic: Work and Pray.
The earthly life of Jesus is one characterized mainly by working and praying. Right from the beginning of His ministry to its’ end, Jesus’ life was punctuated with prayers, cf. Mk 1:35. 9:29; Lk 5:16. 6:12-13. 22:32, 41-45; Matt 26:36-44.
Jesus wants us to toe the same path. Hence, He enjoins us, “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk 21:36). Prayer is also a weapon against temptation, cf. Lk 22:40, 46. His disciples followed His injunction together with the women and Mary, Jesus’ mother, cf. Acts 1:14. The apostles also went up to the temple for prayers, cf. Acts 3:1; Ac 16:16. And they did not allow anything to distract them from praying, cf. Acts 6:4. The early Church also prayed for each other especially when in trouble, cf. Acts 12:5; 2Cor 1:11.
And to be able to do this, it is good to remember, “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done” (Gen 2:2). God wants us to rest as he did. Hence, “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work” (Ex 20:9; cf. Ex 31:15; Ex 34:21). It reads further,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates (Ex 20:10; Lev 23:3).
Again, “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest, and the son of your bondmaid, and the alien, may be refreshed” (Ex 23:12).
Jesus in today’s gospel cured many starting from Simon’s mother-in-law of different ailments, cf. Mk 1:30-34. Yet he got up while it was still very dark and went out to a deserted place and prayed, cf. Mk. 1:35. We see in Jesus the correct quotation the seminarians do wrongly use. It is not ‘to work is to pray’ but ‘to work and pray’.
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us pray at all times and at the same time not neglecting our responsibilities (cf. Eph 6:18; 2Thess 3:10-12). Francis Cardinal Spellman rightly said, “Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended upon man”. The book of Proverbs reads, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3). Again, “He who is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Prov 18:9). We cannot do anything on our own without God, Jn 15:5. “Prayer” in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “is a confession of one’s own unworthiness and weakness” but we must also do our work. Let us uphold the correct maxim of Saint Benedict of Nursia, “Ora et labora” meaning “work and pray.” That is what Jesus did.
Bible Reading: 2Thess 3:6-15; Matt 26:36-44.
Silent Moment: Pray and work.
Let us Pray: Lord, give us the grace to work and pray in right proportion as we ought – Amen.
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