Without prayer, the interior life falls apart.
Saint Mark presents a number of incidents relating to the beginnings of our Lord’s public life – the three years that followed the thirty years of his hidden life, which for Christians who live in the middle of the world have so much meaning. Those thirty years of hidden life could also be called the “ordinary life” of Jesus.
We are offered a brief summary of how this new phase in his life began, which will end with his Passion, redeeming Death, and glorious Resurrection, the principal reason for the Son of God becoming man. These eleven short verses offer us a summary of a day in our Lord’s life. It takes place on the Sabbath, since the chapter opens with the synagogue service and we see the people of Capernaum waiting until sunset to bring him their sick, out of respect for the Sabbath day of rest. At the end of such a busy day, Jesus receives everyone: “he healed many who were sick” and “cast out many demons.” This scene should encourage us to have recourse to him whenever we meet up with difficulties or problems, without thinking that we are “bothering him.” Jesus is always available. And we too want to be available for those around us.
St Mark also tells us that “a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed,” thus stressing the importance that our Lord gives to prayer. Without prayer, the interior life falls apart, as does what Saint Josemaria used to call the “unity of life” of a Christian. He often insisted: “There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God” Hence this Gospel passage presents us with a clear example of our Lord’s own unity of life and how he makes good use of the time he has available each day. Many of his parables (for example, those of the talents and of the ten virgins) stress the importance of taking good advantage of the time God allows us.
Sacred Scripture often points to the “time limits” God places on the tasks he entrusts to people. He is displeased when out of shallowness or selfishness they fail to act promptly since the salvation of souls is at stake. Let us ask our Mother Mary to obtain for us the same docility and promptness she showed when responding to the annunciation of Saint Gabriel: “let it be done to me according to your word.”
Of late, I’ve been thinking about all of difficulties associated with the pandemic and also about how the Church has been responding to the absence of Masses and confession times and what she needs to do in post-pandemic world within societies so needful of sound instruction and example—to show the world that the Church is living, real, and relevant, when things do not go back to normal. For, if the given value of “normal” means fairly crowded pews, a sign of peace, and the physical reception of Holy Communion, we may see our worship remain somewhat “abnormal” for quite a while—Bishops will have to wrestle with determining how best to offer the Holy Mass to the faithful while social distancing, masks, will still be required
There is much to think about as the COVID-19 conversations begin to turn toward how we can live our faith beyond the live-stream offerings of the internet: how we may worship-as-community-while-social-distancing.
Because these questions are important, I have been praying for our bishops, that they may be guided in wisdom by the Holy Spirit—that the God Who Creates will enlighten them with creative answers that will help us feel like the Church is once again active and offering everything it can to the world, just as the early Church did: through evangelisation sacramental worship and consolation, community witness and prayer, social outreach.