5th Sunday in Ordinary time

‘If you want something done ask a busy person.’ This popular saying seems to be counter-intuitive. But its popularity is in itself a proof of its veracity. Busyness is quite commonly considered a sign of the right attitude, responsibility for one’s own life and so on. Busy people usually are reliable, because they have developed all the necessary skills to deal with multiple tasks. Skills like planning ahead, dividing the whole challenge into smaller, manageable sub-tasks, steps necessary to achieve their goal or to solve the problem. On the other hand, people found to be reliable are getting busier, because we all prefer to work with individuals who’ve proven themselves trustworthy. So, busyness and reliability go hand in hand. (https://bit.ly/2Gxq826)

However, busyness can have a dark side. It’s not accidental that we have and use the term ‘workaholic.’ Keeping oneself busy can be a way of escaping from real challenges or from facing difficult situations. This kind of busyness can suck up one’s vital resources and deprive others of the fulfilment of their legitimate expectations. And last but not least, this kind of disorderly busyness can be very disruptive to other people’s busy lives. How can we discern the right and the wrong kind of busyness? I think today’s gospel can give us some clues.

Picture the scene. On the shore of a massive lake there are two groups of people. One of them has gathered around an itinerant preacher and listen to him attentively. The other group, some distance away, have their boats dragged out of the water, their fishing nets fully spread on the shore, and the men are busy cleaning them. It’s a rather tedious, manual task; this time it’s particularly thankless as their hard work overnight has brought them no fish. We can imagine that the fishermen aren’t particularly cheerful and – perhaps – grumble under their breath about those ‘time-wasters’ who listen to some religious twaddle instead of doing proper work. Now things get worse. The preacher sits in one of the boats and politely asks the fishermen to float it and sail a little from the shore – supposedly to avoid being crushed by the crowd. Simon, one of the fishermen, is too respectful and polite to decline. Suddenly, he finds himself unable to do his work (cleaning the nets) and forced to listen to Jesus. Something must have happened in Simon’s heart, because when Jesus tells him to cast the net, he does it against his knowledge, experience and expertise: ‘We worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ We know the result.

Like Simon and his business partners, we need to stop in our tracks and listen. Sometimes we are forced to reassess our lives, priorities, schedules and so on by unexpected and usually unpleasant incidents. It can be an illness, or dramatic events, or loss of someone close to us… The list can be very long indeed. But we don’t have to wait for such traumatic events happening to stop and think. In fact, every 7 days we have an opportunity created for us, an opportunity to stop and listen to Jesus. Sunday Mass is a perfect opportunity to put brakes on our busy lives and listen. It doesn’t always have to be outwardly attractive, interesting or exciting – particularly when I’m conducting the service. But Jesus can be very effective at resetting our priorities or even changing the direction of travel through life. If you’re worried about such a change, heed Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: ‘Do not be afraid.’

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