Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus’ call to prayer and service | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Feb. 4—Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Job 7: 1-4,6-7; Psalm 147, R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Gospel—Mark 1: 29-39

In a Feb. 11, 2022 letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, Pope Francis wrote: “In this time of preparation, I would greatly desire that we devote 2024, the year preceding the Jubilee event, to a great ‘symphony’ of prayer. Prayer, above all else, to renew our desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to listen to Him and to adore Him. Prayer, moreover, to thank God for the many gifts of His love for us … ”

This Sunday, I invite you to reflect on our prayer life as a way of entering more deeply into the grace of this year of prayer.

Today’s Gospel is a beautiful triptych of the persona of Jesus as one dedicated to service, prayer, and mission. Jesus’ dedication to service and his clarity of mission will be our first point for reflection. Prayer will be the second point, and integrity will be our third and last point.

The narrative in the Gospel places service and mission as bookends. It begins with Jesus rendering service to the crowd that gathered around Peter’s house, setting aside his down time to rest. Then it ends with Him showing His clarity of mission: “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” (cf. Mark 1:29-39)

In several of the Gospel episodes, we see Jesus setting aside His personal needs to respond to the needs of the people. There is a beautiful Filipino saying that describes this virtue: “Isusubo na lamang ibibigay pa sa iba.” This is generous, selfless service.

Compassionate action

His service made Jesus very popular because of how He generously He gave of Himself. As St. Ignatius of Loyola put it, God is not only present in the graces he gives us, but he gives his very self, actively working for us through these graces.

Years ago, I saw this same grace working through one of the grand dames of Philippines high society. The house of one of her household staff burned down, and when she was told about it, I saw her face very visibly change into sadness and concern.Immediately she jumped into “action” and mobilized her resources. She called one of her staff and asked to check what things the family needed—clothes, kitchen utensils, personal toiletries, towels, beds, sheets, etc.

When she saw the staff member, for the first time after the fire, she wept with him. No words, they just wept together.

It reminded me of Jesus’ service, compassionate, caring, very personal and generous. This was why crowds sought Him.

Yet, his clarity of mission gave Him the vision and freedom not to be overwhelmed by all the attention and adulation. He remained grounded and focused. Attention and adulation are some of the most insidious temptations as they directly appeal to the ego.

“Let us go to other villages” was His response when told there was great clamor for more. He was clear that His proclaiming the good news to all the world was His mission, not the success of adoring crowds.

How was He able to balance this—the adulation as a result of the success of His service and ministry, and the clarity of mission, keeping the ego at bay, given His tremendous success and effect on people? Constant prayer. He often went off to a place of solitude to pray, to be present to the Father.

Core grace

We saw that in today’s Gospel. Not only did the Lord know the what and the why of His mission, but He also constantly prayed and discerned with the Father the how. Was He doing it according to the Father’s will and plan?

Prayer as a moment of solitude, presence, listening and discernment is our second point for reflection. “Prayer, above all else, to renew our desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to listen to Him and to adore Him. Prayer, moreover, to thank God for the many gifts of His love for us …” (Pope Francis)

Presence and listening—and to add from St. Ignatius of Loyola, seeing or knowing—lead to discernment to find and know God and His will in all things. Finding God and encountering Him is also always a moment of thanksgiving and praise.

Gratitude is a core grace that becomes the source of generous and loving service. It opens our mind, heart and spirit to the gracious love of God, and inspires us to desire to give back and ask what His will is for us, his mission for us.

I have always believed and advocated that our wholeness and thus our integrity and holiness lie in knowing our mission and committing to it. Saying “yes” to God.

Mark Twain, Parker Palmer and the Enneagram tell us, in one way or another, that we come into this world whole as a person, a wholeness rooted in great part in why we came into this world, what our mission is.

This is the pattern of Jesus’ life, from the Incarnation to the public ministry to his Cross and Resurrection. It was His fidelity and constancy, loving obedience and magnanimity in living out and fulfilling His mission that made Him, for us, the epitome and model of integrity.

The wholeness, holiness and perfection of His humanity shines through in the fulfillment of His mission—the Cross and Resurrection.

This is the invitation for us in today’s Gospel, to be men and women of prayer, service and mission. May we be generous and loving in saying “yes.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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