5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39) “A Typical Day for Jesus Christ?” PDF Version
Homily for the 5th Sunday of OT, Year B (2018): 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1: 29-39
Can one say that there was ever a typical day during the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth? The 4 Gospel accounts are structured in such a way to show us that no day passed by without some incredible work being done by Our Lord, be it a teaching given with authority, the miraculous cure of someone afflicted in body and spirit, the exorcism of a person held in bondage to a demon, a victory over the hypocrisy and machinations of the scribes and Pharisees, and countless other deeds of mercy and divine power. The day-to-day life of Jesus Christ during His public ministry was a perpetual revelation of the coming of the Kingdom of God to a people who had waited for the Messiah of The Lord.
In fact, St. John tells us at the end of his Gospel that even more deeds of power, miracles, and works of Christ were done which are not included in the 4 Gospels, noting that were all of the deeds of Jesus recorded that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25) of all that the Lord had done in those 33 years He walked upon the world He had long ago created with His Heavenly Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Nonetheless, we can detect certain practices in Our Lord that appear to have been undertaken by Him on a daily basis and so could be called the typical day to day activities of Jesus Christ. One of them is that Jesus was frequently known to have prayed, thus leading one to assume that this was something He did on a daily basis.
We know from the 4 Gospels that He prayed before important occasions during His public ministry, such as His baptism (Lk 3:1), the choosing of the 12 Apostles (Lk 6:12), the multiplication of the fish and loaves (Mk 6:46), the Transfiguration (Lk 9:29), and in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His Passion (Mk 26:39).
In the Gospel of St Mark, the evangelist refers to three solemn moments when Jesus prayed: at the beginning of His public ministry (Mk 1:35) which we heard today, midway through His ministry (Mk 6:46) when He was about to perform the miracles of the fish and loaves, and at the end of His ministry (Mk 14:32) when in the Garden on the Mount of Olives he asked His Father to let the chalice of suffering pass from Him, but that God’s will be done as He prepared His heart for the agony of the Cross.
Our Lord then offers us an important lesson in taking time to pray before the most important moments of His public ministry. He did not act without having first brought these matters to His Father, asking in the silence of His own perfect dialogue with God to be with Him as He made decisions which would be pivotal in the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Likewise, we should not fail to pray before we make important decisions in our lives, placing them before God, asking that He help us discern if we have made the right decision, whether we should revise our plans and above all else to seek His permission to act in a way that is both pleasing in His sight and for the genuine good of all who will be impacted by the decisions we are about to make.
But we should also consider that Jesus did not pray only when He needed to make important decisions. He also prayed because He loved His Father and it was in prayer that He could abide in that perfect communion of love that we call the Most Holy Trinity, the love that is eternally shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Having been blessed with the opportunity to spent 3 days on the top of the Mount of the Beatitudes, I can testify from personal experience that to pray in the early hours of the morning near the sea of Galilee, when the birds are starting to sing, the night chill beginning to depart and the rising sun painting the eastern sky with an explosion of morning light and peace, that you are in a place where prayer is the perfect response to the beauty you see unfolding before you and where you can imagine Jesus found joy in speaking, praising, and above all else loving His Father before He began yet another day of hard work of being about the Work of God.
One biblical commentator described the prayer of Jesus as “the prayer of perfect praise to the Father; it is prayer of petition for Himself and for us; and it is also a model for His disciples. It is a prayer of perfect praise and thanksgiving because He is God’s beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. It is a prayer of petition because the first spontaneous movement of a soul who recognizes God as Father is to ask Him for things. Jesus’ prayer…was a continuous petition to the Father for the work of redemption which He had to achieve through prayer and sacrifice.” (The Navarre Bible, The Gospel of St Mark, Pgs. 74-5)
If Jesus could make the time in what would be an otherwise insanely busy life of ministry, never failing to daily bring His prayer of perfect praise, petition and love to His Father in Heaven, then surely we too must do likewise, most especially when life is insanely busy and we are objectively unable to fit in time to pray!
And if we at times struggle to know what to say when we pray, then consider these words from St Josemaria Escriva: “You write, to pray is to talk with God. But about what? About what? About Him, about yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, noble ambitions, daily worries, weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions: and love and reparation. In a word: to get to know Him and to get to know yourself: to get acquainted!” (St Josemaria, The Way, 91).
Our Lord desires that like St Paul, we learn become all things to all people, that we might work with Our Lord to save some. But it will only be through making the time to pray, and get to know God with greater intimacy and to see ourselves truly as we are, which is can be a rather frightening ordeal, that we will know that His call to be His disciples is not a noble ideal for perfect few, but the necessary vocation of any Christian, with all their strengths and weaknesses, who truly desires to love God in this life so as to be with Him forever in Heaven.
Lord Jesus, teach us how to pray, help us to put aside the things, both noble and foolish, that prevent us from making the time to pray, and help us to become all things to all people so that we can to help bring many to salvation in You.