Selfish pre-occupation leads to depression … while being available and generous to others leads to good health and joy!


Selfish pre-occupation leads to depression … while being available and generous to others leads to good health and joy!

Wow, it’s a big contrast between the Gospel and the First Reading!  And that helps us recognise there is a serious teaching here today.

Reading between the lines in the Gospel, we learn about the character of Jesus:
1) He is interested in people = respectful;
2) He is available to give his time for, and shares his talents to help, others = generous;
3) He does not draw too much attention to himself, and avoids being popular = humble;
4) He works long hours to help others = hard-working;
5) He is does not try to become a threat to the King or Emperor = prudent and smart.

We see that his life is no longer his own, in a sense: he is ever available for the needs of others.  But, he is happy!  Why?  Because he was able to re-integrate so many people back into their community: empowering them to be active in the lives of their families,
by taking away the isolation caused by disease, sickness and rejection.

In contrast, we see poor old Job going through a period of isolation and depression.  At this stage of Job’s life, he was still blind from the bird droppings in his eyes, and was able to do little to help his family or community.  In fact, when you read the story of Job we hear that he was even criticising and misjudging his wife who was trying to care for him!

The First Reading reminds us of two important things (at least):
1) people who suffer sickness also experience a sense of isolation from their families;
2) people who are not contributing to family and community life are often depressed.

People who are sick, need our presence to give them a sense of healing from their isolation.  But, who is sick?  What is sickness?  Sickness is not just confined to medical health issues.  But people can also make others ‘sick’ due to their upbringing or negative experiences.

One of our Oblate youth shared the following story: I went to a butcher’s shop with my child.  The child grabbed a small bottle of soda and ran outside to drink it.  I was also feeling thirsty and took a bottle of water.  Later the child came back with the empty bottle and grabbed my half-finished water.  While waiting to be served behind three other customs I forgot about the water and soda and arrived home before realising I had not paid for them.  The following week, I went back to the shop and apologised to the lady at the checkout and told her what had happened.  Before I could pay, the supervisor or owner looked over at the young lady and gave her a bad look.  When I tried to explain to him that there were several customers ahead of me, he cut me off rudely and said the lady should have seen it and not forgotten.  I suggested he should correct her in private and not humiliate her in public.  I felt bad for getting her into trouble by doing the right thing.  She is always welcoming and makes me happy when she takes time to talk to my child: she also has a child at home.  What should I do?

Here we see the owner or supervisor (not very old) has a sickness!  He humiliated the lady in public and did not appreciate the honesty of our youth member, who told us that the lady is always joyful and smiling at the customers.  This attracts more people to the shop.  The young lady is now ‘sick’ because she was harshly criticised and publically humiliated.

A challenge for all of us!  How many times do we make people feel sick by our rudeness?  Are we aware of the isolation we push people into because of our judgemental attitudes and lack of appreciation for the good a person might be doing?

My first response to the youth member’s question was, “look for a small gift to give the lady or child, and appreciate her for her friendly smiling welcome she always gives to people.

Later I thought of this further advice: write a short letter to the owner, explaining how you come to that shop because the lady makes her feel welcome, with a joyful smile and is thoughtful to your child: otherwise I might go elsewhere.  Then, finish the letter warning that his behaviour the other day has turned you off coming to the shop.  But that you will continue coming simply because the lady who works for him makes you feel welcome.  It will be a good warning to him and hopefully help him appreciate the lady working for him.

It is easy to criticise the owner, but perhaps he has no training in supervising workers, and may have been criticised harshly by his own father while growing up.  Like father, like son.

Let’s be available, generous and prudent, not only to help people come back to serve the community (like Simon’s mother-in-law), but to also give ourselves good mental health!

By Gerard Conlan, OMI