One of the dangers of our society is that many people believe that unless they fill up every minute of their day with work or other activity, they are wasting time. This leaves them with very little time for themselves. People can suffer burnout or a break down. We need to take care of ourselves by paying attention to our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Even Jesus needed to take time for himself. Today’s Gospel account tells us how he was surrounded by the physically and mentally sick. Everybody was clamoring for him. Jesus was in danger of being consumed by the demands people were placing on him. Yet in the middle of all of this activity the Gospel says, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”
What did the lonely place do for Jesus? First, it helped him to recover lost energy, thereby taking care of his physical self. Then it helped him to keep focused on the mission for which he was sent into the world. But above all, it was during these times of solitude that he maintained and fostered the most important thing in his life, that being, his relationship with his Father. This is where the secret of his successful ministry lies.
The most beneficial prayer of all is just to be in the presence of God, without saying or doing anything. This may sound easy, but in practice is a real challenge. When we allow ourselves to sit still and be quiet in God’s presence, our work and activities lose power over us, and we experience our true worth, which consists in not doing but in being. This is where Psalm 139 can help us.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works.
When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”
We need to learn from Jesus’ example how to combine action and contemplation. We are made up of both Martha and Mary. There is a time to give and a time to receive. For a healthy life we need to take care of both.
— Fr. Dennis, February 7, 2021