The specter of heavy equipment at work was enough to stop me in my tracks a few weeks back.
For a few moments, I turned into a little boy – fascinated by the raw power of a big Cat track loader, carving the foundation excavation for a new home being built in my neighborhood. Having battled the local soil by hand, I knew from personal experience how effectively this area’s compacted clay resists the spade. But on this day, it was no match for the dozer: A few passes back and forth – and an impressive rectangular hole quickly took shape.
I didn’t stick around for the entire dig, but I’m guessing it took far less than a full-day’s work. And I suspect the Cat operator felt a true sense of satisfaction in that outcome: ‘Excellence in excavation,’ or something along those lines.
A stark contrast to the world-weary prophet we encounter in Sunday’s first reading. Right from the git-go, Job seems to have his dauber down.
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
…a hireling who waits for his wages.
Fair enough, I suppose: If you’re ‘waiting on wages,’ it can certainly afflict your spirit. The guy digging that foundation will want to get paid for his work at some point. He and his family can’t dine on the satisfaction of a job well done.
At the same time, there’s a subtle danger in dwelling on pay. If we’re not careful, daily wages can become an idol of sorts, narrowing our vision and clouding our appreciation of God’s bounty and providence.
Jesus seems to have found a good way to keep this temptation at bay. In the gospel passage, we’re treated to a recap of his typical workday (at least in the early part of his public ministry). After teaching in the synagogue, he spends the evening with friends…and manages to find it in his heart to cure the ill who are brought to him ‘after hours.’
There’s more of the same on his to-do list the next day. But notice how things get started:
‘Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.’
Connecting with God, first thing. This spiritual practice seems to have an effect on him. Jesus sets out focused and full of energy for the demands of the day: ‘For this purpose have I come.’
There’s a freedom to be found in God. A freedom we don’t find when we turn wages into our idol. And Jesus shows us how to begin the excavation…turning first to a spirit of trust and gratitude to clear away even the most stubborn, compacted loads we carry on our hearts.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.