Let us start this week with our NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 CORINTHIANS 7: 32 – 35]. We should remember what was said last week in relation to Paul’s inference that even in the day-to-day routine there needs to be that sense of urgency in ‘learning the ways and truth of the Lord.

This week the Apostle speaks about the married man and woman who have to bother about material matters and those people to whom they are committed. Yet, he does not teach that the same folk cannot be bothered about the Lord!

Most of us are in the category of bothered people!AND, but we are also ‘bothered’ about the Lord and his ways! AMEN! SO BE IT. SO IT IS! Whatever you do, do not change!

I, myself, benefited enormously {thank you, Jesus!} from the initial learning curve presented at the start of the previous eight years. There was (and is!) no domestic help, and I, suddenly, discovered, that I had to learn how to be ‘bothered’ by the paying of accounts, a strict budget, the housekeeping, cooking, the welfare of two canines, gardening, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and no secretary! At the same time I had to DISCOVER(remember, last week?) new ways of continuing, in a new format, my priestly ministry! What a valuable experience it has all been!

Never forget how Paul expressed his reasoning: “I say this only to help you, not to put a halter around your neck.” In all our ‘bothers’ we must never forget the message from THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [94 or 95].

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Harden not your hearts.

Our ‘bothers’ must not harden us and, as a result, become an excuse for not being authentic disciples. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE BOTHERED AS WELL AS A DISCIPLE.A ‘BOTHERED’ DISCIPLE HAS MUCH TO OFFER! Here, as THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 1: 21 – 28] informs us, we are able to make “a deep impression.” Discipleship is NOT about ‘saving my soul and going to heaven’. Rather, it is about making a difference – a difference to my own life, as well as the life of others. I need to be ‘bothered’ about this fact, and to be ‘bothered’ with a sense of urgency (recall last week’s reflection!). Our ‘bothers’ are not supposed to either harden us or stop us listening to HIS voice!

Hear for yourself the question posed to Jesus in our Marcan extract: “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

The question is not from us.” All through our discipleship (even in the times we falter {perhaps especially when we do?}) the Lord is WITH US! Jesus’ answer will always be, “I want to be with you!” The encounter in the synagogue needs to be carefully analysed. See how there is only ONE person who is possessed, but thequestion posed expresses a PAIR!What do you want with US? It was the individual with whom the Christ wanted to be. Jesus cannot share with anything that prevents us listening to his voice, or which hardens our hearts. He wants to be with us in order to keep us liberated from permanent preoccupations which so easily become a barrier. The Lord is well able to cope with our ‘bothers’. It is the barriers we erect or allow that present the basic problem.

In addition, notice how there is a sense of urgency in the Lord’s response. Here was an opportunity to be with someone, and the barrier had to be removed. “But Jesus said sharply, ….”

Very often we have to recognise the urgent need to be sharp with ourselves!

By analogy (and with some poetic licence!?) The OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [DEUTERONOMY 18: 15 – 20] provides much encouragement. We may easily recognise that the ‘alter ego’ of the man possessed was presuming to speak for the individual, and was expelled? However, if we accept the Lord’s authority when he is WITH us, he raises us up, and what we communicate as bothered disciples is always well said!

Even bothered disciples, as the Psalm reminds us, “belong to his pasture …. (and) are led by his hand.”