Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus immersed in the work of healing. Mark notes that after healing Simon’s mother-in-law, it is after sunset when ALL who were ill are brought to him. In fact, the whole town came out! Being human, Jesus must have been exhausted by the time he was able to lay down to rest a bit. But what does He do? He rises very early and goes off to pray. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I have a late night, I often have trouble getting up in the morning. And to get up before dawn to pray when I am so tired from the night before seems almost impossible. But not for Jesus, who first thing is up and going off to pray. Alone. In a deserted place. Jesus knew that his work depended on not just the renewal of his body through rest, but the renewal of his spirit through prayer. This Gospel model of work and prayer is the foundation for a way of life for many religious communities, including the Passionists. It’s often referred to as active contemplation. A life that is about ministry and hard work, but also about taking the time to have a deep spiritual life, to meditate and pray, to contemplate the Word of God.
We are all called to have lives that reflect this principle as best we can. Keeping the Sabbath is one way that to do this. Our society places so much emphasis on hard work, on achievement, on reaching our potential and accomplishing much that we often forget our need to stop, to pray, to spend time with family, to just be quiet and listen for God’s voice. Keeping the Sabbath can help us accomplish this at least one day a week!
Another way to bring prayer and contemplation into our lives is by making an annual retreat. Like Jesus, we need to set aside time to go off to a quiet place, to be alone with God, to shut out all the distracting noises and bask in the silence, giving God the time and space to reach us.
It is so important for us to remember that while our work, providing for our families, and caring for others is important, it is essential to also make room for God. In just 10 day, the season of Lent begins. May this Lent serve all of us as a time for a renewed prayer life, for a new dedication to keeping the Sabbath and perhaps for scheduling a retreat.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.