Homily February 4th, 2023

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus revealing His Mercy as He calls the Apostles and tells them to “come away by themselves.” We can reflect on how this is borne out in our lives: how do we “go off with Jesus”?

Jesus calls the apostles to Himself after they return from their missions: they’ve just healed many sick people, cast out demons, and preached the Good News. Yet, in spite and indeed because of this, they can’t take a break; there’s no time even for them to eat! We can imagine that they were experiencing the whole range of emotions: they were tired, emotionally and physically, yet happy, yet stressed out at going without rest and food for so long. . . .[1]  Jesus’ solution for this, for all of this, is that they come away with Him to a deserted place. So they get in the boat, and off they go.

We too have the opportunity to “get in the boat” with Jesus, to go away with Him, away from our daily lives and a society that seems always to be pressuring us to do more things, go more places, acquire more stuff, and get more accomplished. We get into that boat with Jesus when we stop running that frantic race and instead focus on being with Jesus, and we do this in prayer.

Prayer is simply the “raising of our hearts and minds to God,” as Saint John Damascene said.[2] Saint John Chrysostom wrote that “prayer is the place of refuge from every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, and a protection against sadness.” It is a refuge from worry, because when we pray, we begin to see things as God sees them; we come to know and, more importantly, to believe with all our hearts that, no matter what happens to us, God has willed it or at least permitted it so we can become saints and live with Him forever in heaven.

Notice that when Jesus called the Apostles to the boat, He didn’t fix the world that the Apostles were in: no, the people were still seeking them, and they wouldn’t have any rest, even in what they thought would be a deserted place. No, Jesus didn’t fix the world; what He fixed, and what He healed, were His disciples as they sat with Him in that boat. We can get frustrated in a world where everything seems to be turning against the Church and against our faith. Even within our own families, and, yes, even within the Church, we see divisions, anger, frustrations, misunderstandings. . . .  Once, a journalist asked Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Mother Teresa, what’s wrong with the Church today?” Immediately she answered, “You and me!” “You and me!”[3] In short, to give time to prayer is to recognize this truth: to realize our sins, our weaknesses, and to humble ourselves before God, realizing that we need to be healed in order to heal the world around us. We need God’s grace, and we ask for it in prayer.

This taking time in prayer also reminds us that it’s not simply our efforts that matter; all of our works must be watered with prayer, since it is God who is responsible for making them bear fruit, and not us. Any sort of work we undertake will never touch hearts unless we water it with prayer. We work as though everything depended on us, but knowing that really everything depends on God.

We can ask ourselves: do we have a routine of prayer? Today, let us ask for the grace, through the intercession of Mary, Model of Prayer, to truly “come away with Jesus,” to meet Him in prayer so as to be able bring healing to the world around us.

[1] “Jesus and the disciples, tired from their ceaseless work among the people, felt the need every so often for a moment of calm” (Pope Saint John Paul II, Angelus of 23 July 2000); “After they had gone into the villages to spread the message of the Gospel, they returned happy about their success; but Jesus took them aside, to a lonely place to stay with them for a while (cf. Mk 6:31)” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, 19 September 2014) “Recall a scene from Mark, chapter 6, where the disciples are ‘stressed out,’ they want to do everything, and the Lord says: ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while’” (Pope Benedict XVI, Dialogue on the Vigil of the International Meeting of Priests, 10 June 2010)

[2] CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), 2559.

[3] Cf. Maasburg, Leo, Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait, 194.



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