Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 438

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.

Jesus had triumphed in the wilderness over the temptations of Satan. Energized by that success he threw himself into the ministries. Saint Luke describes Jesus’ furious mission of preaching and healing and the consequent pushback from opponents before he tells us of Jesus withdrawing to prayer. It’s not clear that he needs a break when, in chapter six, he “departed to the mountain to pray.”
But we can well imagine his relief in solitude, away from the madding crowd. His night in prayer refocuses and redirects his ministry, which will now include “twelve, whom he also named apostles.”

Saint Luke wants us to notice Jesus’ personal prayer. It is simply impossible to remain faithful to oneself, one’s mission or God without that solitary practice of communion.  If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.
And yet it’s so easy to become distracted and distraught over innumerable burdens and responsibilities. Even when the busy, anxious person has a few extra minutes she cannot settle into that “beta wave state” where the mind experiences refreshment. The fevered brain will seize the moment to recall, “OMG, I was supposed to take care of that yesterday!”

Perhaps even Jesus felt that urgency during his night of prayer; but, Saint Luke says, he waited until the morning to call his disciples. If he felt any anxiety, the Obedient One remained in the darkness until tranquility returned.
A friend of mine asked me once about Centering Prayer, a form of meditation. After my brief explanation she said, “My cats would never let me do that.” Apparently they would take up their position outside her bedroom door and howl until she opened it. I let the topic drop.

From what I hear, children big and small do the same thing and some parents find their demands irresistible.
I suppose this old bachelor is not qualified to raise an eyebrow, much less an objection, about the obsessive care of demanding children. Nor should I observe that some foreigners have remarked how scared American parents are of their wards. They fear the future adults will complain of neglect, trauma and dysfunction, and their parents will be called failures. I’ll leave that to the other American priesthood, child psychologists.

However, I do recall this past Sunday's gospel and Jesus’ demand: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
In pursuit of prayer, his disciples subject all relationships – including cats and children – to his divine authority. These dependents must learn that neither their owners nor their parents hover around them. Perhaps, on that blessed day when children discover their lives do not belong to them, they will remember the witness of their parents. (Cats, however, will never get it.)

I watched an old farmer chop wood one day, and I saw a college boy try the same thing. The farmer let the axe do the work. His motion was smooth, direct and focused. After a few strokes the log fell apart. The student seemed to hurt himself with extravagant effort. He chopped with all the wrong body parts and the damaged log would not split. Jesus not only teaches his prayerful disciple how to work effectively; he also directs the effort, so that God’s will might be accomplished. 

Isn't that what we're here for?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.