February 6, 2000 -- 5th Sunday "B"

Job 7,1...7; 1 Cor 9,16...23; Mk 1,29-39




    In last Sunday's Gospel Mark announced, right at the beginning of his Gospel, what would be two of the important aspects of Jesus' activity: healing and preaching of the Good News.  Today, he mentions them again, but add another ingredient of Jesus' life: his long hours in prayer.  But this is not simply another element more.  It is very intimately related to the two other elements.  It is in his long hours ‑‑ even his long days and nights of prayer, that Jesus discovers his own mission.


    Let's go back a little in time.  The arrest of John the Baptist was a turning point in Jesus' life.  After forty days and nights of prayer in the desert Jesus made an important decision.  John had been a sort of traditional rabbi around whom a group of disciples lived, who had come to be formed by him.  Jesus renounces that style.  He will not wait for disciples to come to him; he will go to the crowds. And when he calls disciples, it is to send them in mission.


    He also makes the important decision to return to backward Galilee instead of staying in the flourishing Judea. His first day of preaching and healing, as we saw last Sunday, were very successful.  People wondered at that boy from the place who returned home after a short absence and now was acting as a prophet and speaking with authority to men and to demons.  At Peter's home he heals Peter's mother‑in‑law; and in the evening, after the end of the Sabbath rest, the whole town starts bringing him all their sick. And he performs many healing.


    That's almost too much for a start.  Jesus must make another important decision about the nature of his ministry.  Is he going to stay in Capernaum, the large city of Galilee or go to all the small towns and take care of the simple and poor people living there?  How does he come to such a decision: ‑‑ spending a full night of prayer in solitude.  When Peter comes to fetch him in the morning, his decision is made.


    This tells us a lot about the way God expects us to make our decisions.  And first of all, he expects us to make them. Sometimes we don't have the courage to make our own decisions and we expect God to make them for us.  We may start praying a lot, asking God to tell us what to do; we may even ask Him to give us signs; we may also see a lot of signs in what other people consider as ordinary events of life.  That is really a tricky business. Because this can be easily a way to confirm our unconscious expectations or our unconscious fears.  What God wants us to do is to make intelligent, rational decisions, taking into account all the aspects of reality in us and around us.  And this can be done only if we reach a sufficient degree of freedom.


    In our daily life, in the fire of our activities, we are conditioned by many things.  And not least of all, we are conditioned by what people around us expect of us, which often is not the best of what we have to offer them. Jesus himself had to make a choice about what people expected of him.  People often expect of us monks all kind of things or service that are not the best that we, as monks, have to offer them.  The time of prayer, like the time Jesus spent on the mountain at night, is a time when we enter into our hearts, and being in touch with our real self, we are in touch with God, who is the Creator and the Source of our Self, and can be honest with ourselves and with Him.  Then, we begin to see everything in our lives from His perspective.  Then we can make the important decisions.  They will be entirely our decisions;  but they will also be an act of radical obedience to God, because they will be an answer to the whole reality in us and around us, seen from the perspective of God, and, so to say, with the eyes of God.  It is what Paul calls the Obedience of faith; and what John calls the Communion (Koinonia) with the Father.  Obedience that does not consist in doing something that was ordered, but in sharing the same will. It is not so much a question of doing what he wants as of wanting what he wants.  And this can be achieved only through a personal encounter in the communion of a contemplative prayer.


    May this Eucharist be one of those moments, when, freed temporarily from many of the things that make us slaves of ourselves, of others, of our passions and ambitions, we can make at least one decision that will make the rest of our life more conform to the plan of God on us and on the whole humankind.