In the first chapter of his Gospel, St. Mark intends to offer his audience a portrait of Jesus, both His person and His mission. This week’s Gospel reading emphasizes three important aspects of the life of the Lord.
First, we are told that, “On leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew” where Simon’s mother-in-law “lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.” Even at this early moment in Jesus’ public life, the disciples recognize in Him, a compassion, a solicitude and a power that inspires them to reveal their deepest needs to Him. They trust that Jesus will care and that He will make their need His own priority.
This compassion and power of Jesus are not restricted, though, only to His own disciples. After sunset, “the whole town was gathered at the door,” with the ill and the possessed. Jesus’ power to heal is a sign of His divine authority and His mission to bring salvation. In the dark of night, Jesus is the light of hope. His presence in the midst of sickness and suffering moves the crowd to believe that these afflictions are not the end. If they can get close to Jesus, they can get away from despair and hopelessness. And Jesus is eager to respond to their hope: “He cured many who were sick with various diseases and he drove out many demons.”
Jesus’ life, however, is not one of unending activity. Rather, He rises early in the morning and goes off “to a deserted place, where he prayed.” And even though everyone was looking for Him, Jesus gives Himself fully to this consecrated time with His Father. In prayer, we find the energy, the purity and the insight to know, love and serve God by devoting ourselves to His will. Jesus never limits Himself to those who are looking for Him. What He has come to do is to preach and reach out to those whom God is looking for. The prayer of Jesus — His contemplation of the Father — impels Him to extend the offer of grace and salvation to “the nearby villages,” indeed, to every human person.
In St. Mark’s portrait of Jesus, we are given a reflection of what we are called to be. Like Jesus, our lives should be marked with integrity, so that what we profess in our faith is made real and active in the daily works and witness of our life. The light of hope we should radiate as followers of Christ should draw others out of the darkness of sorrow and misery and help them to take a risk in trusting the goodness and mercy of God. Finally, as it was for Jesus Himself, prayer must remain the foundation of every Christian life. Prayer is the principle for our every action, the motivating force that drives us to continue the mission of Christ Himself, the wellspring that fills our life with clarity, purpose and holy inspiration.
Fr. de Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)