In this Gospel Jesus gives us a prescription for daily life: He performs exorcisms, then healings, and then before moving on he takes time to pray. In Fr. Michael’s words, “He finds balance in his ministry.”
On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons
throughout the whole of Galilee.
Transcript – A Busy Day in the Life of Jesus
The selection from Mark chapter 1 presents a busy day in the life of Jesus. What we hear earlier, but it isn’t part of the gospel reading today, is that this takes place in Capernaum where Jesus centered his ministry right along the Sea of Galilee. Today’s Scripture begins with saying, “on leaving the Synagogue.” Well Jesus has just cast out a demon in the Synagogue, and he moves from there to the house of Simon and Andrew. An interesting little historical detail: They’ve done excavations in Capernaum and they’ve uncovered what they believe to be the house of Simon and Andrew. So we actually know the place where this took place. We know that from the markings in the building. It’s now a church for pilgrims there in Capernaum. It’s a historical detail that underlines that this is not just a fanciful story, that this is an actual historical event that St. Mark chronicles.
You might might look at this day and what does this day in the life of Jesus entail? Well it begins with this exorcism in the Synagogue and then it moves to the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and then it moves to Jesus healing so many within the town—the whole town gathering at the door of Simon and Andrew—and Jesus healing and exorcising so many and then early the next morning Jesus is at prayer and then he moves on to another town. Exorcising. Healing. Praying. Finding balance in his ministry.
Those are all aspects that I think we need to come to Jesus for and pray for the grace to be able to imitate. We need to pray to recognize the ways in which each one of us are attacked spiritually. We need to recognize the ways in which the demon demeans us—tears us down—makes it hard to believe that we are God’s beloved; makes it hard to believe that there’s any Good News in the gospel.
Jesus’ ministry today—as Mark records it—is one of exorcising those demons, freeing us to believe in our identity as God’s beloved and in turn to be able to reach out to one another and to see see our neighbors as our brothers and sisters. We don’t see them simply as “the other” but see them as members of God’s family, treating one another as worthy of respect.
I find it to be true and I suspect you would as well that when we’re feeling bad about ourselves, when we’re down on on ourselves, it is so easy to be critical of others. When we believe in our own goodness, it makes it easier to be able to treat others with kindness and generosity. That’s Jesus’ ministry of exorcism. So much of the gospel today talks about Jesus’ healing ministry. It’s important for each one of us to bring our own hurts and pains—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to continue to bring them to Jesus, to ask for his healing grace. That same power that flowed from the hands of Jesus 2,000 years ago is available to us. It’s not like it was all used up or just some event in times past. Jesus’ healing grace comes to us through the Scripture. It comes to us through the holy sacraments. It comes to us in our prayer. We need to ask for that grace and believe in its power.
Jesus himself gets up early in the morning before the busyness of his day to find that time to go into the sanctuary of his soul and hear the father’s voice speaking to him. It is that sweet harmony that guides us through the storms of life. God wants each one of us to be able to hear that sweet music. God wants each one of us to be able to find that solace and that peace. We have to make prayer a priority in our lives and that’s difficult. It’s difficult for you. It’s difficult for me. There’s so many things that pull for our attention.
Even in retirement … have lots of friends who are retired and they say, “I don’t know how I ever had any time to work. I’m so busy with all the things that are going on in my schedule.” We have to make prayer a priority, to put God first in our lives and not let all of these other things—important as they are—crowd in and steal away that time to find the balance and the harmony—that sweet music—that will guide us through the storms of life.
The last aspect is that Jesus moves onto the next town. For me that’s a symbol of balance. There are so many things that compete for our time and attention. It’s not as if everybody in this the city of Capernaum was healed on that one evening, but Jesus knew that he had to balance his time and that’s the call for each one of us: family and friends, and employment, and neighbors, and church obligations, and prayer.
We need to pray to be able to find that holy balance that is not static. It’s dynamic. It’s going to change from from day to day. I don’t think any of us can expect that we’re just going to find a pattern and we’re going to continue on. Life is filled with unexpected things that pull us in this direction or that.
When we take the time to pray, the Lord will guide us in how much of this, and how much of that, in continuing to heal the deep wounds in our hearts to find that peace he wants us to have. Amen? Amen.