The Gospel reading for this Sunday, September 4, Mark 1:29-39, has three remarkable details for us to ponder. I will mention all three and comment on one.
First, the disciples have returned from their evangelization tour and they are spent. Jesus says in effect, let’s go away by ourselves so you can review, relax and rest.
Next, A crowd gathers at the shore where the boat will moor. So instead of resting there, they visit Peter’s house. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, the word gets out, and neighbors near and far show up for their share of the mercy of Jesus. Predictably, they are not disappointed.
Third, Jesus gets up to go off by Himself ‘very early before dawn,’ to pray. This is the verse I would like to ponder with you.
Jesus is concerned for His apostles, and He wants to spend some time alone with them, but He is prevented from doing so. So they take refuge in a safe place, until Jesus is suddenly beset by people needing Him, so He reaches out to each one who comes.
By then, Jesus Himself needs time to pray, so he rises [from sleep], slips out of the house while everyone else is still asleep, and goes to a deserted place. And He prays.
I think I have mentioned this before but it bears repeating: one of our first grade teachers was telling the story of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. “This is how Jesus prayed,” Sister said: Father, if it is your will…” Before Sister could finish, one little person jumped out of his seat and said in awe, “Sister! That’s God praying to God! That’s so cool!” Besides being good theology, it is a beautiful thought he had: Jesus, the Son of God, prayed to God, His Father. He didn’t pray just to show us that prayer is important. He prayed because He needed to pray, to be in communion with His Father. I don’t know exactly how He prayed, or what He prayed for (though, at the last supper He did tell the apostle I have prayed for you, Simon, that you would not lose faith…). It was His communion with the Father that carried Him through the work of redemption.
So we have Jesus healing, casting out evil spirits, sleeping and going out alone to pray. Our Redeemer, who is human enough to need to sleep in His divinity He casts out devils, and He prays.
We’ve all had the experience of meeting someone who impresses us so profoundly that we decide to try to be like her. We might decide to imitate her kindness, her generosity or her confidence in the face of contradiction. If you are reading this, you have a heart for God. You are seeking Him, waiting for the sound of His coming in your life, eager to be like Him. Though we can’t cast out demons as Jesus did, we can imitate Him in His compassion for those in need–an older person having trouble crossing the street. We can listen kindly to the person seated next to us on the plane though we would a thousand times rather catch up on our sleep. We can reach out to our neighbor who can’t shovel the snow any longer, and we can pass our newspaper on at the cafe where we have coffee so someone else can read it.
And, we can find a time to be alone to pray. Each of us knows where to find the time to pray in our busy day, and how to get to the place where He waits for us–even in the unfinished room in the basement or the car on the way to work. As I wrote last week, Lent will soon be here. It’s a very good time to begin. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the way to intimate conversation with God. Think of your Lord and Master getting up ‘very early before dawn’ to pray–and allow yourself the luxury of a few minutes with Him before you head into your day. If you feel you don’t know how to pray, perhaps your idea of prayer is more complicated than it needs to be. Simply place yourself before God and invite Him in. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10) is a good way to pray. Ponder this verse like this:
Be still and know that I am God. Think of who God is for you, at this moment. Whatever your answer, it’s alright….
Be still and know that I am. God IS–not He was, or He will be. He just IS, with all His ‘AM’ness loving you. He wants it that way. Come as you are.
Be still and know. What does my heart know about God? That He loves me. That He loves being with me, in this moment.
Be still. How still am I at this moment, here with God? What keeps me from being still in His presence? Let it go, into His hands, into His Heart.
Be. Yes: I can just be, just as I am, because I know I am safe with you, my God. No judgments of me, no scolding. Just loving me. I love you, too, my God.
Have a wonderful week.