5th Sunday Ordinary Time
February 4, 2018
“Rising 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!"
-- from Mark 1:29-39
In this Sunday's gospel Jesus has spent the entire evening with an overwhelming number of people who came to Peter’s family home for healing. Finally, everyone is sent home to bed. Jesus must have been exhausted, just like the rest of them. But Jesus has a deep need to pray, and is willing to go to great lengths to do it, even if it means forgoing sleep and sneaking out. Even though he seems to be surrounded by people, Jesus makes time for personal prayer whenever he can. Do you?
These stories are not in the gospels for our entertainment! In them, we learn how Jesus acts in our lives as well. Look at how this gospel reflects our own experience of God! Jesus spends all day with the people of Capernaum; it would seem that the whole town was at the door. But then, while everyone is asleep, Jesus rises early and goes off to a deserted place in order to pray. In the same way, at times in our lives God can seem very close to us, our faith easy. At other times God can seem distant, far away. We wonder if it's something that we have done? Where has he gone? Why does he not answer?
See how he hides from us, so that we must seek him again, after manifesting himself so clearly! When God is distant from us, then the soul has a choice: it will either go off in search of God once again, or will give up in despair. If the soul gives up, the Lord will turn and seek the soul again! God regularly takes these risks in his relationship with us, because it is the only way in which we can grow in faith, grow in desire for him. These periodic absences are a part of God's normal plan for our lives.
Notice in the gospel that our Lord does not go so far away; he does not hide himself so well that he cannot be found. He knows that the other disciples are going to go looking for him. We see this same behavior when Jesus is lost at the age of 12, making Mary and Joseph look for him for three days. One does begin to sense a pattern here – a pattern that should sound familiar to anyone who is striving to have a relationship with Jesus, for Jesus is a real person with a real personality. When we realize that Jesus made his disciples go through the same thing when Jesus walked the earth, we will not be so easily discouraged when he treats us the same way.