FRIDAY HOMILY: A Life of Devotion
The importance of the times between ministry
When things are really rolling along, it seems very hard to pull back and spend time in prayer. We may know it with our hearts. Our minds are often still fastened to the tried-and-true "strike while the iron is hot" mentality, but...
Pope Benedict XVI prays underneath the Saint Damian Crucifix.
The Lord was in an unnamed city near the Sea of Galilee when he was approached by a leper. "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," the man called out as he fell on his face.
Jesus then stretched out and touched the man and said, "I am willing; be clean." The leprosy immediately left.
Onlookers must have been astounded! When someone touches a leper, they become unclean. Instead, here was a situation where the touch did not transmit uncleanness but cleansing. At the words of the Savior, the man was freed from this hideous disease.
Just think what this would have been like. The man was healed of leprosy, his skin again normal and his body no longer racked with sores and infections. The crowd saw the change and, while there was no doubt that a miracle had occurred, the man was instructed to present himself to the priest for confirmation.
Obviously, this ministry had made an impact in the region. "The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments." I know if I had been there, I'd be telling everyone!
This is the point where Jesus' ministry could really have taken off. He had their ear and, with some more miracles, he'd be able to build a following. All he needed to was harness the momentum and move ahead.
However, this was not the case for our Lord. The final - and most important verse in the section states that "he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed." Just think - all this excitement, all this energy and he left. He didn't just stop for a moment and pray; he departed for the wilderness - he got away from all the activity - and spent time with the Father.
What an amazing response and one that we should embrace fully - though it goes completely opposite of our normal reaction - or perhaps I should make it more personal and say at least my normal reaction.
When things are really rolling along, it seems very hard to pull back and spend time in prayer. We may know it with our hearts, but our minds are often still fastened to the tried-and-true "strike while the iron is hot" mentality.
Years ago while serving on staff at a parish in a small city in the upper Midwest, a local pastor made headlines when he was pulled over for speeding. In the article, the cleric was quoted by the officer that "he was so busy doing the work of the ministry, he didn't have time to slow down."
This can be true in other parts of life as well - not just ministry. I only have to look back to my recent years prior to re-entering ordained ministry to see examples of this. Communications projects and short deadlines could squeeze out times of prayer from my schedule so that those minutes would be re-directed to the urgent work ahead.
What we find in this passage is not an observation of a unique activity but a reference to something that was a commonplace occurrence - Jesus prayed. a lot. Luke, in particular, paid attention to this detail. In addition to today's passage, the evangelist highlights other times when our Lord went away to pray either by himself or with some of his disciples.
- Luke 6:12 - In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God.
- Luke 9:18 - Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?"
- Luke 9:28 - Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.
- Luke 11:1 - He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
- Luke 21:31, 32 - "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."
Having looked at all this, we could be tempted to jump off into all kinds of theological rabbit trails of why he prayed. Rather, it would do us much more good to ask the question - how did he pray?
Three essential words come to mind: interaction, demonstration and preparation.
First, His prayer is interaction - where He maintains His relationship with His heavenly Father. He wants to be about His Father's business and the best way to know what that ...
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