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But First, Prayer

Gospel Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:29-39

Though I could say a lot about the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law after the beautiful depiction of this miracle in The Chosen TV series, I feel lead to reflect on Jesus’ boundaries surrounding the miracles. One of the most common books that I recommend to clients is Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The authors beautifully highlight how Jesus modeled healthy boundaries in His life and ministry. While some think boundaries hinder generosity, boundaries actually foster generosity.

As human beings, we have a limited capacity of time and energy we can give each day. Though we are ultimately made for community, we are predominantly made by God and for God alone. If God comes first in our mind, heart, and life, all other people and things will be put in their right place.

Two truths that have become more evident to me as I learn about my humanity are:

  1. I can’t do everything

  2. I need solitude and rest

I can fall into a daily trap of grasping at more time, more affection, more approval, more attention, and more time with others. Jesus invites me to instead seek rest and assurance in Him alone.

A phrase that challenges and convicts me is “Word before the world.” Before taking on the world each day, it’s essential to marinate in the Word of God. Without receiving “marching orders,” we will wander and labor aimlessly in this world addicted to being “busy.”

In the Office of Readings today I read:

“Whom would you say I am trying to please at this point—men or God? Is this how I seek to ingratiate myself with men? If I were trying to win man’s approval, I would surely not be serving Christ!” (Galatians 1:10)

Jesus calls us to draw near to the Father for our strength. Rather than finding our meaning solely in doing, we are invited to find purpose in being… with the Lord.

“At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Matthew 11:25-30)

Jesus wants to help us and heal us. Sometimes that help (aka grace) and healing don’t look like what we think it will. Throughout my life, I have always added more to my agenda. Being more connected and involved made me feel worthy. In this year of quarantine, I have learned to slow down and be renewed in my prayer life. When the world was running full speed ahead, I did not have the awareness or the excuse to slow down. I felt like I had to keep up. This restless approach does not work in maintaining my mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical health.

In this pandemic, I have learned a lot about silence and the importance of taking time away from my routine and my responsibilities in order to draw near to God - the God who gives me strength and hope each and every day. Though it seems that taking breaks would decrease productivity, it actually increases productivity. Prayer helps me to be more focused, more energized, and better able to hear the voice of the Lord and His will for me.

Jesus himself had good boundaries physically, emotionally, and mentally. Though He was the Son of God and the Word-Made-Flesh, He needed rest. He knew when to say “yes” and when to say “no”. He always knew what His priorities were, and because of that, He was able to be a model for others.

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus coming from synagogue to the home where Simon’s mother-in-law was bed-ridden. Typically, I would skip over those first few words. I actually didn’t notice them until I started writing this reflection about rest. Every word in Scripture tells us something. So, it’s important to recognize that Jesus went to the Father’s house before He healed so He was fully strengthened and filled up with the Father’s love, wisdom, and grace.

Jesus relied on the Father rather than His own strength. He calls us to follow suit and depend on our Father each and every day. There is so much grace that comes from a regular prayer life. I’ve personally noticed a huge difference in the flow of my day after starting my day in prayer. I try my best to begin each day slowly by acknowledging the Lord of my life as I sip my coffee on the couch while praying Morning Prayer, reading Scripture, or journaling. This produces more fruitfulness in the day ahead than when I roll out of bed and out the door faster than I can say the Lord’s Prayer.

When Jesus was praying in the morning, the apostles came and found him and said, “everyone is looking for you.” I don’t know about you, but this line really overwhelms me and I’m not even a parent yet. All the parents out there can most certainly appreciate being sought after all. of. the. time. Everyone seems to need you, especially when you are sleeping, eating, praying, or using the restroom. It’s hard to come up with time for yourself.

Jesus needed to be filled up with the Father’s love, patience, and grace so that He could receive others with love and patience rather than bitterness and resentment.

Jesus wants to heal us and He knows what we need before we ask. In The Chosen TV series depiction of this miracle, Simon is distracted in his journey with Christ because of his sick mother-in-law at home. Jesus is very aware of the burden her illness has on Simon on the road and Simon’s wife at home. In the Father’s perfect will, Jesus enters into Simon’s home to heal his mother-in-law so that both he and his wife can serve the Lord with renewed spirits.

Jesus wants us to seek him. We look for answers in so many different ways for the problems in our minds, our hearts, and our relationships. God knows that He is the answer. If we seek God, all will be put in its right place. By starting the day in prayer, we put God in that first place before engaging with anything or anyone else. Though we can be disheartened and discouraged by the sufferings in this world, we can be assured that Jesus does heal and He wants to heal. As the Suffering Servant, He heals us of all kinds of afflictions and gives of Himself for us.

Though He may have liked to have a few more moments of quiet time before duty called, He answers lovingly just like a parent does with his or her children. He teaches us about selfless love. In order to love others, we need to love ourselves. If we neglect caring for ourselves and spending time with the Father, we will be depleted of all energy. God wants to fill us up. Without that full tank, we’re not able to live the purpose that God has destined for us.

In a recent workshop on margin, I was reminded that having breathing room in our schedules allows us to be available to move when and how the Lord wills. Because Jesus prioritized this quiet time as He began another busy day, He was able to recognize the Father’s voice in His call to serve. Without that “white space” in His day, the Apostles’ interruption may not have been interpreted as a blessing, but rather as an annoyance.

At the beginning of this Gospel, Jesus was in the synagogue. After a busy day, He knew He had to start the next day in prayer as well. When He was found by the apostles and asked to heal more people, He headed back to the synagogue. Jesus wants to heal us, and He knows exactly where to point us. He doesn’t want to just heal temporarily either; He wants to heal us eternally. That healing may not look like what we think it will. We may think healing will be some material or physical experience. Yet, healing can be found in the quiet, in the solitude, alone with God.

Jesus can remind us who we are and whose we are. This time in quarantine has taught me to slow down and really lean in to listen to the Father’s voice. Because of this time in quarantine, I have experienced deep insights into what I am called to do for the Kingdom. I finally have the practice that I’ve dreamed up. I am writing more. I am finding unique ways to minister to God’s people. I have decreased my overall social interaction in general in order to cultivate my most important relationships. I have fallen in love with the rosary, Office of Readings, and different forms of prayer.

Since things have been canceled throughout this pandemic, I have more margin in my calendar so that I can learn to find quiet time with God. As things are beginning to open up, let us not forget the invitation that God has given us in this past year. We shall never forget time with Him comes before service. As the saying goes we “can’t give what we don’t have.”

God wants to give us grace upon grace. Are we accepting it?

How is God filling your tank?

Where can you add margin to your schedule?

What does your morning routine look like?

What are you saying “yes” to? What are you saying “no” to?

When and where do you seem to hear God’s voice clearest?

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