What is a balanced life? All of us feel that we could do with a life that is more in balance. I read letters in the newspapers written to counsellors or life coaches, in which readers worry about their lifestyle and how to find a balance. So many things have to be fitted into life: work, family, relaxation, physical exercise, study, friendship. Reading the gospel this week (Mark 1.29-39) we find in the example of Jesus some important hints about how to find that difficult balance.
First of all, we see Jesus engaged in acts of service. He has spoken grand words about a new way of living, and almost immediately he has to put it into practice. The sick come crowding around the door of Peter's house in Capernaum. It is the start of a ministry of healing for Jesus. That may sound romantic to us, but it must have been exhausting. Just imagine the tumult at that doorway in Capernaum. Sometimes Jesus and his disciples were so besieged by those wanting help that there was no time to eat (Mark 6.31). Acts of service are often tiring, demanding and lacking in glamour, but there is no balanced life without them. Words without deeds lack substance. Acts of service jolt us out of self-pity, and give us a sense of proportion.
Second, we see Jesus rise long before dawn and go out to pray privately. Let us call this communion with God. Again, a balanced life demands this. For a Catholic this will mean joining others at Mass, so that we can praise God and share the bread of life. Here we find that time touches eternity and that material things allow the grace of God to nourish us spiritually. We are one with Christ, and through him with each other. There are other ways of extending that prayerful moment of communion in daily life, and you have to find what works for you. A tape of the rosary in the car, sacredspace.ie/ or http://www.pray-as-you-go.org on your computer or ipod, or even simply a holy picture that allows a turning aside in the chores of the day. Communion: we are impoverished without it.
Finally, there is that elusive thing, a sense of purpose. Every life needs it. The first reading from Job gives us a sobering picture of how crushing life can be when it seems meaningless. By contrast the gospel ends with sense of exhilaration as Jesus launches his ministry. But notice that he has the company of a band of companions, and that he goes to the synagogues, the meeting places of the day. You can rarely find a sense of purpose on your own. You need people with whom you can ask questions, and share a vision. You need in some way to be part of the community. You need to be aware of the needs around you, and for that matter, the needs within you. True spirituality always demands honesty. Be honest as you stand before God and ask his guidance. Join with others of faith. Be faithful in small things. And you will find yourself part of God's kingdom.
Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.