Three things occur in today’s gospel that reveal the basic shape and purpose of Jesus’ life; and three things that form the basis of the life of faith for any Christian disciple. What are they? Jesus prays; Jesus heals; Jesus proclaims. So, let me say a few words about each of these, as we see them in Jesus; and then a few words about what we might do with them.
Jesus praying: In such a short gospel passage, we find Jesus praying in three different ways. Firstly, we learn that Jesus had come from the Synagogue, where his prayer would have been in the form of public worship and praise of God in the midst of the assembled people. Jesus may have been the Son of God, but he did not abandon his place among God’s people in communal prayer. Then we learn of Jesus’ prayer of care and intercession over the unwell mother-in-law of Peter. It is a prayer of concern and tenderness, focused on the needs of others. And finally, we learn that Jesus needed to find time and space in personal prayer with his Heavenly Father. This prayer is intimate in nature: heart speaking to heart.
All of these forms of prayer are both possible and do-able, and for us to practice. Our gathering as God’s People on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) is an essential dimension of how we pray as Christians; it is not an ‘optional extra’ but something at the heart of giving expression to our faith. In our Sunday worship (which I encourage you to return to, if health allows), we assemble together in worship of the God who is our Creator and Redeemer. By regularly praying for others, we break through from any temptation towards self-focus. By taking 10 minutes out of our busy days to find a moment of silence with the Lord, we expand the capacity of our hearts. In prayer we discover that faith is not an individual thing, but something we share in with others; we discover who we are, and how we are to be. Everyone can pray, because everyone can love.
Jesus healing: From praying, Jesus immediately moves to doing – more specifically, doing for others. Generous attentiveness to those among us who are in need – whatever that need might be – is core to the Christian life. It, too, is an essential. Elsewhere in the gospel, Jesus goes so far as to say it is those who attend to the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned, and the poor who will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. These are all things we can each do, in our own circumstances. Who can’t reach out to someone in need? Who can’t make a call, or write an email, or knock on a door, or provide a meal, or offer some time in service, or reach out to a family member or neighbour? With faith, we are all frontline healers, even while we carry our own wounds.
Jesus proclaiming: What Jesus brought with him from his Father he wanted to then give to his sisters and brothers. So, he did not stay fixed in one place, like a guru, waiting for people to come to him. Rather, Jesus went out to share with others the news of God’s Kingdom. Again, this is not some complicated and heavy thing to do. Bearing witness to our faith in Jesus is the sharing of what gives us meaning and purpose. It is an invitational way of living. A missionary disciple – the name Pope Francis gives us who seek to share our faith – is someone who has good news to propose to their neighbours and friends, humbly, but truthfully. It is possible for all of us to be do-ers of God’s Word of mercy, tenderness, forgiveness and hope.
To pray; to heal; to proclaim. The three things Jesus did; and the three things we can do.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli27 January 2021
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli26 January 2021