Life has a natural ebb and flow to it, we soon come to discover. Just as we cycle through the seasons, so too do we cycle through the seasons of our own lives. Most of us (myself included) in a spirit of trying to be in control of things in our lives don’t “go with the flow”. We seek to orchestrate things the way we want them to go and find a lack of peace at times; then we need to reassess how we live our lives. Life takes on a greater peace and calmness when we realize that despite having our ups and downs, trials and tribulations, busy times and calm times – we must do what we can and then trust and entrust the rest to the Lord our God.
In today’s Gospel; we hear another account of Jesus healing; this time it’s Peter’s mother-in-law from what ails her. Jesus is constantly healing, we hear it accounted again and again. He is constantly and tirelessly (it seems) extending the love, mercy and compassion of God to everyone He meets. The Son of God invites everyone He heals to a deeper and more commitment life with God but then we hear in today’s Gospel as we hear again and again He withdraws to a “lonely place”.
I feel a sense of conviction, but also happily a deeper sense of calling when I reflect on the healing miracles of Christ. Jesus is always generous in His Ministry, which I remind myself is supposed to be the ministry I share in, in whatever way I am called to. But He retreats: He withdraws to a quiet, lonely, “away” place, a place of solitude; essentially a place to pray and to be in uninterrupted communion with the Father. Jesus models the ebb and flow of the Christian life, not simply in what He does but also in His disposition, His disposition of prayer. I feel a sense of conviction because I value myself by what I am doing and I have since my teenage years.
I had a part-time job when I was 14, working in landscaping, then at a gas station, then many other jobs, some more interesting than others but I have for more than thirty years of my life put a lot of personal worth and value on how hard I work. This is a quality that I have been praised by many people for and even as a Catholic priest, I take great satisfaction on working hard and a hard day’s work. I find myself convicted, because I easily let go of my own prayerful nourishing at the first opportunity to do some more work. I generally fulfil my priestly obligations and do pray because I have wrapped my head around “the work” of praying as a priest. Thanks be to God, by His Word He convicts me to withdraw and be with Him. My priesthood is better for it. My life is much better for my own communion and conversation with the God who loves me.
It’s not one or the other. It’s always both, in the ebb and flow of life. We all must acknowledge that. The Lord values both, we must too. In my own life I have, for many years found great value in a strong work ethic. That is the person I came to be. Now as a Christian man and a Catholic priest, I acknowledge the Lord is calling me to see His value in being close to Him; to fostering now and always a strong prayer ethic. The foundation for this helped me see clearly that the Lord was calling me to the priesthood. Seminary formation helped remind me of this, but old habits die hard. If my story resonates with you: let’s both be reminded and reflect on today’s Gospel as a deeper calling to both generosity in our Discipleship and generosity in prayer. Let us pray for that for one other today and every day.