February 8, 2015 – Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Job had it bad, certainly a lot worse than what most of us experience. However, what made Job’s predicament worse were two major issues.

1. His focus on self

2. His focus on what he could not change

3. He dwelled on his own situation instead of God’s abilities and how he (Job) could be of service to others

We are often led to believe that focusing on ourselves will lead to joy. Nothing could be further from the Gospel. Jesus leads us by abandoning himself to God and giving himself extravagantly to others.

In the second reading, Paul pens that we would be better served if our focus was on gratitude and humility. In the third reading, Jesus adds a third component, that of service. Therein lie the three secrets of Gospel joy.

1. Gratitude

2. Humility

3. Service

On July 5th, 2014, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health released a study that said 25% of Americans were experiencing extreme stress, so much stress that it altered their health or ability to perform well in daily tasks.

My work includes incarcerated teens and adults from all over North America. It has taught me that stress is more of an internal perspective than an outward event. When we focus entirely on our own lives or what we cannot change, our level of stress increases (distress) and our ability to direct stress decreases (eustress). Pretty soon we find ourselves stressing about events that are not crises. For example, not finding a parking place or being cut off in traffic.

I’ve seen miraculous changes in people who were able to focus on gratitude, humility and service. Their world becomes larger and their perspective of stress changes.

In your prayer times, ask the following questions:

1. What am I grateful for today?

2. Do I really believe that God is all-powerful and able to assist me if I give my stress to him through prayer?
3. Who really needs to be served today and how can I help them?

If you practice this prayer for ninety days, you will find it becomes a habit and your level of stress will be significantly lower.

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