Purpose in Life
(Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Job 7:1-7; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39)
“Woe to me,” writes St. Paul, “if I do not preach the Gospel.” He is not complaining, just stating the fact that this responsibility, laid on him without his being consulted, had become the all-consuming purpose of his existence.
Jesus says something similar: “For this purpose I have come,” namely his preaching.
Job takes us to the other extreme. His life has become a drudgery, and he finds no purpose in it. He expects that he will never know happiness again.
The tears of Mary at La Salette, such a beautiful and powerful image, are troubling in a way. They can make us repent our sins; that is good. But some wonder how Mary, in heaven, can experience unhappiness.
And yet she talks about the trouble her people’s infidelity have caused her personally: “How long a time I have suffered for you! … You pay no heed… You will never be able to recompense the pains I have taken for you.” More than a sign of unhappiness, her tears are a sign of her compassion, which she cannot possibly have set aside in heaven.
Peter’s mother-in-law can help us understand the situation. Once healed, what does she do? She waits on Jesus and his companions. In her illness she was, so to speak, enslaved and without purpose. The Lord restored her to her dignity as the lady of the house. Her honor lay in honoring her guests. The same could probably be said of all the persons Jesus cured that day, especially those he delivered from demons.
The purpose of the Beautiful Lady is the same: to restore us to our dignity as Christians. She came to speak to those who were Catholics in name only—including Mélanie and Maximin. Were they even aware of the promises made on their behalf at baptism?
We might paraphrase St. Paul and the message of La Salette together by saying, “Woe to me if I do not live the Gospel.” Mary lists her people’s woes, the consequence of their religious indifference.
In 1980, St. Pope John Paul II issued a challenge to the Christians of France: “France, eldest daughter of the Church, are you faithful to your baptismal promises?”
Indeed, what purpose can Christians find in not living and practicing their faith?