Lectio Divina for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 7, 2021
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.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
Think of all the eyewitnesses who must have experienced Jesus’ miracles firsthand. It’s hard to dismiss such a large crowd of people who would be willing to testify about what they saw Jesus do. Yet, when we are entrenched within sin, even the most conspicuous signs and evidence do not convince us of the truth. With Truth standing right before him, Pontius Pilate would later ask, “What is Truth?” With all of the wonder Truth performed in the sight of so many people, still there were those who would not accept Jesus as the son of God. This is because many of us would rather remain ignorant so that we may continue to live in our sins rather than give them up to live for God.
“he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.”
There is a time and place for everything, we read in Ecclesiastes, “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Jesus knew that the moment his identity became known, the plotting and scheming to have him killed would begin. Here he is not simply trying to avoid his death, but delaying it so he may complete his earthly ministry as the Father willed for it to be completed, by proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand, calling people to repentance, healing the sick, casting out demons, and--most importantly--preaching the good news. Some Bible critics argue that Jesus never claims to be God. There are many adequate answers that can quell that suspicion, but take into consideration how Jesus had to keep his identity hidden to avoid being sentenced to death before his time had come. Many truths fall into place much better when we read the Gospel story and the Bible as a whole, rather than taking them piece by piece.
“he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”
Prayer was central to Jesus’ life on earth. We often talk about his miracles and teachings, but how often do we consider how frequently he took time to pray, to strengthen his relationship with his Father? His times in prayer are not empty devotions, but genuine meetings with God, as we can see, where he apparently must have received deeper instruction from the Father regarding how to conduct his earthly ministry. He and the Father are one, but the Christological mystery does not separate his human nature from his divine nature. He is both fully human and fully divine, and in his human nature he needs the Father’s guidance just as we do.
“Everyone is looking for you.”
In a humorous dialogue from Forrest Gump, Lieutenant Daniel Taylor asks Forrest, “Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?” And Forrest responds, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.” Perhaps if Jesus still walked about the earth performing miracles and preaching astonishing teachings, everyone would be looking for him as in this Gospel story. Many moments we spend in prayer may be spent asking, “Where are you, God?” For others, their quest for God may not be as obvious. They search for him in a bottle of wine, or by flipping through hundreds of channels, or browsing the internet for hours. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is searching for God.” Let’s consider his reason for leaving the needy crowd in this Gospel passage. He left them to pray to the Father. While he may not walk on earth as he once did, and while he may now be seated at the Father’s right hand, the reason he may be difficult for us to find today is similar to the reason no one could find him in this story from Mark. By retiring from his healing ministry to enter into prayer, he is demonstrating with his own actions how we need to put God before all things, even when it seems as if we are needed somewhere else. Without a consistent prayer life, we lose touch with Love and our charity becomes subject to vain ambitions.
“For this purpose have I come.”
Jesus just got done healing people from illnesses and demonic possession, and he says his purpose for coming to earth is to preach. Really? Preaching is more important than healing people? That’s why he came, to preach? One can infer that the Father told him in prayer that, despite his desire to heal people all day, his purpose is to tell them about heaven and eternal life, because that is what is going to help prevent the effects of sin in future generations. And indeed the gospel has mitigated the effects of sin. Jesus’ gospel message is what led people to care for the sick and establish hospitals, and compose the rite of exorcism for driving out demons. Also, the ascetic life of monks who follow Christ’s example and teaching is among the most healthy lifestyles one can adopt. In saying, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach,” Jesus is telling his disciples he has to offer people the cure (the gospel) and not just treatment (healing the sick and demon-possessed). He could have lived on earth to this present day healing people, but he came so that the Word of Life which he planted in his followers may take root, so that when he left we could receive the Holy Spirit, and know the power we have in him as sons and daughters of God.
LORD, help us to put you first in all things. People need you more than anything else. If we do not build the foundations of our life upon you, then anything that becomes of it is in vain. We cry out to you, longing for the clarity of heart that will make your Truth known to us intimately. Make your dwelling within our hearts so our ways become your ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What is apparent to Jesus confounds even his closest followers. Only by listening to the Son of God do they come to understand the truth. Take some time now to listen. God wants to speak to you, but the distractions of the world, the flesh, and the devil so often get in the way. If we could learn how God speaks in silence, we can see how he is existence and everything else gives him glory.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and editor of Catholic World Report.
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