One way to look at the Christian life is to see it as a life lived in the footsteps of Jesus, which means we try to understand the life and acts of Jesus and then to live and do as he did, to model our life on his. This Gospel is the only place in all four Gospels where we see a full 24 hours in the life of Jesus, except for the last day of his life.
A lot happens on this day. Jesus is very busy. God is very busy. It’s the Sabbath, the day when we rest but God keeps working for us. Jesus is in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee. I’d like to look at the four things that Jesus does on a typical day to get to know him better and then see how we can live our days like him.
First, Jesus enters the synagogue, teaches the people about God and the scriptures and is interrupted by a possessed man. So Jesus confronts evil, expels the demon of death, drives out the unclean spirit, heals the possessed man and infuriates the religious leaders because they say he violates the Sabbath law. For the rest of the day, he continues to break the law and drive out demons of violence and death.
Second, Jesus goes to Simon Peter’s house, and Simon tells him that his wife’s mother is sick, so Jesus goes to her, takes her by the hand, helps her up, heals her, the fever leaves her and she immediately waits on him. Notice here that the first pope, St. Peter is married with a family and a mother-in-law! I like that Jesus takes her by the hand. Jesus is gentle, kind, compassionate, nonviolent and helpful. By saying he “helped her up,” Mark implies that Jesus is raising her to life. Once people experience new life from Jesus, they immediately want to serve others. What Jesus did for Simon’s mother-in-law, he does for us, individually and communally. He extends a hand to us, raises us from sin and death to new life and resurrection, and wants us to serve others, as he does.
Third, after healing everyone and driving out demons, Jesus gets up at 3 a.m. and goes off to the desert, to a lonely place by himself and prays for five or ten hours all alone, by himself, in solitude and silence. He is a contemplative. He lives his whole life in relationship to God his father. He spends quality time alone with God, sits in silence with God, feels God’s peace, talks to God, and listens to what God wants to tell him. For Jesus, prayer is serious business. It is hard work. Most of us get up in the morning and maybe whisper a one minute prayer or as we fall asleep say a one minute prayer, and that is good, but Jesus goes off into the desert and prays all morning long, and this is a typical day in his life.
Finally, the disciples find him and say, “Hey, everyone is looking for you, come on back, you’ve got a good thing going here, let’s keep at it.” But Jesus has been praying all morning. He has been talking to God and listening to God and he has heard something new from God. “Let us go to the other towns to proclaim God’s reign of justice and peace and compassion and love, for that is why I have come,” Jesus says. He has been asking God, “What do you want me to do?” And he heard an answer, “I want you to go to all the towns and announce the coming of my reign.” So, contrary to what the disciples want, Jesus moves on to proclaim God’s reign everywhere.
As we think about a day in the life of Jesus, we can also reflect on an average day in our own lives, and ask, “How can we make our days more and more like a day in the life of Jesus? The Gospel suggests four ways:
First, the Gospel calls us to let Jesus expels demons from us, to free us, to drive out whatever is not of God from within us, so that we are no longer possessed by the demons of violence, hatred, despair, war, and nuclear weapons. Then, like Jesus, the Gospel calls us to expel demons from one another, to help each other not be possessed by this culture’s lust for war, to help each other by free in the Holy Spirit of nonviolence and love and peace.
Second, the Gospel calls us to let Jesus take us by the hand, help us up, raise us up and heal us, and then, like Jesus, to heal one another, to take one another by the hand and to raise each other up, and so that we can all immediately start serving one another.
Third, the Gospel calls us to be like Jesus people of contemplative prayer, people who spend quality time in quiet meditation, in solitude and silence, in deserted places, to be in communion with God, to love God and let God love us, to listen for God’s voice, to let God guide and direct us. If Jesus needed to pray for several hours a day alone in the desert, prayer must be a priority for us too. We need to spend quality time each day alone with God, listening to God, being with God, loving God, and letting God love us and guide our lives. If not five hours, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes!
And finally, the Gospel calls us to let Jesus preach to us and announce God’s reign in our midst, and then, like Jesus to be people who welcome God’s reign of nonviolence and peace and justice and love, people who proclaim reign of peace to one another and everywhere. Our allegiance is to God’s reign of peace and nonviolence, not America’s tyranny of war, nuclear weapons, killing Iraqis and global domination for corporate billionaires.
No matter what we are going through, with our children or our parents, at school or at work or in retirement, in good health or poor health, we can live more and more like Jesus and heal one another, expel the demons from one another, and welcome God’s kingdom of love and peace in our hearts, our community and our world, and be people who make prayer a real priority in our lives, who go off in solitude and silence to be alone with God.
So we turn to the altar, bring our prayers to God, let God expel any demons in us, allow Jesus to take us by the hand and heal us and raise us, and welcome God’s reign of peace and love in our hearts, our community and our world.