R. 1: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; R. 2: 1 Corinthians  9:16-19, 22-23; Gospel: Mark 1:29-39)



There was a protest in my home country, Nigeria a few years ago. The protesters were chanting, “We no go gree o, we no go gree,” which is a chant in Pidgin English that can be translated as, “We won’t agree,” or “We won’t accept,” or “We won’t take it.” A passer-by asked one of those who seemed to be very active in the chanting and protest, “What is it that you are protesting against?” The protester replied, “I really don’t know.” The puzzled passer-by asked further, “Why then are you so involved if you don’t know what the protest is all about?” The protester replied, “I was actually on an errand for my mom when I ran into this group of young men and women protesting, and I liked the chant, so I joined them.” Before he completed his explanation, he was back to the group and he continued with the same chant, “We no go gree o, we no go gree…”

Funny as the story may sound, are many, if not all of us like the young man? Do we not sometimes join in chants that we have no idea what they are all about? Do we not sometimes join crowds that we have no idea what they are all about? Do we not live lives without taking the time to reflect and ask questions about the purpose of life? According to the Greek Philosopher, Socrates, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Many times, we are too busy to take a moment to think; we think that thinking is so costly, and so we keep going, only to realize that we have wasted a lot of resources because we did not take the time to think.

Sometimes, I fight with my bunch of keys because I think I have no time to think. Some of my keys look alike, when I get to the door, without taking time to think, I insert one of my keys into the key hole, and I spend time trying to force it, but as long as I keep using the wrong key, it will never open. Then, I take the time to think and re-center myself, and I figure out the right key and, in a moment, the door opens. At that point, I regret, “If only I took time to think the first time, I would not have wasted the time I spent on the wrong key.” Sometimes, I get angry the whole day because of something someone did to me, or because of something someone said behind my back. After brooding over it for the whole day, I sit back to think about it, and I realize that it was not even worth the time and the energy I spent on it. Then I begin to regret, “If only I took the time to think about the issue, I would not have wasted the time, the energy and the resources I spent brooding over the issue.”

In today’s Gospel passage, Simon and others said to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” The decision that Jesus is making at this point is formed by the fact that he had taken time to reflect on the purpose for which he came. Recall that before Jesus said those words, he had been up very early before dawn and had withdrawn to a deserted place, where he prayed. The prayer must have included some form of reflection where he must have grappled with the question of “Why?” the question of his purpose.

If we take more time to reflect on the bigger picture, to ask such questions as: Why am I here and not there? Why did I choose this career? What do I want to be known for? Where do I want to be tomorrow? What is the most important thing for me in life?  We will be able to choose our battles and spend less resources on things that do not contribute to the bigger picture. Reflecting on such questions will help us to stop throwing stones at every barking dog, it will help us to see opportunities for growth in every challenge that comes our way.

A friend of mine complained severally to me that her teenage daughter had become rebellious and turned against her. I listened for the most part and said nothing. One day, she came to me weeping and said, “Father, you won’t believe this; within the past few days, for not less than three times, my daughter said to me, “Mom, I hate you.”  I paused for a while, and I said to her, “The next time your daughter tells you that she hates you, look straight into her eyes, call her name and say, “I love you too.” She felt that did not make any sense, but she thought about it more and left. After two weeks, she came back to me smiling and she said, “Father, I hate it when you are correct.” I said to her, “Yes, that is what I do for a living; being correct is what I do for a living,” and we all laughed about it. She explained that it worked like magic. On that day, her daughter was angry and said, “Mom, I hate you.” The mom looked at her straight in the eyes, called her by name, and said, “I love you too.” The daughter was shocked, she broke down in tears, hugged her mom, and both were swimming in an ocean of tears. She said, “Father, now, I have a daughter back.”

I then went on to explain to her that all she needed was to have taken the time to read in-between the lines of her daughter’s words. Behind the words, “Mom, I hate you,” was a deep cry of a daughter who loved her mom but did not know how to express it.”

My dearly beloved in Christ, let us take the time to think, let us take the time to reflect, let us take the time to pray. It pays! As scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When we know that we are not God, we will have no need to worry because worrying is not part of our job description.

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Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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