Is 8:23-9:3; Cor 1; 10-13, 17: Matt 4: 12-17
Two words could sum up today’s gospel passage: prayer and action. Jesus is the model of that in today’s gospel. Let’s look at what he is doing and ask yourself: “What are the places of renewal and rest and healing for you? In these places we can find God. Today we have Jesus by the sea. It is just before he begins his public ministry and calls his disciples. Jesus no doubt has been shaken by the arrest of John the Baptist, his cousin. In going to the sea, he goes to ponder his future, to hear the Father’s will for him and to decide what he will do. No doubt he derives strength from its beauty. Alice Camille says: “If you have ever seen the Sea of Galilee at sunrise, you would never have wanted to leave it….It was like waking to the dawn of creation each [morning].” It probably had the same effect on Jesus. Scholars tell us not many Jews were there in Capernaum so Jesus didn’t go there to begin his ministry. He went there because he needed to time to ponder what John’s death meant for him in His Father’s will. Perhaps the beauty of the sea gave him clarity in his own mission and the hope to begin it. Here is a lesson for us. Yes, we are called to follow Christ in our corner of the world. But we must first spend time with him in the places that strengthen and renew us. Think of winter’s first snow in a thick, wooded area, branch upon branch, covered with snow; so beautiful that you didn’t want to leave. It was “the long, loving look” that defines contemplation. The winter wonderland is pure gift as in Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” but I had to get back here, my “promises to keep.”
We all have places of spiritual sensitivity. For Jesus in this case it’s the sea. Spending time there precedes his period of intense ministry with the people. To all of us, Jesus calls; to each of us Jesus says, “Come follow me.” Each of us follows in a different way, according to our state in life. We all have moments of decision making that mark our lives into before and after periods such as Jesus.’ As with him, a time of pondering often precedes the decision. Places of personal sensitivity can clarify and strengthen. One spiritual writer calls it “a strength beyond my own.” They can give us rest and healing, too. Jesus experienced moments like this when he entered fully into the human condition. From prayer and contemplation in a place of beauty came his action, his saving action. This is what we see in this gospel scene. What is the place for you for rest and renewal? Do you find Jesus there companioning you? We need to spend time in places like this so we can then “Come, follow” where Christ calls us.