A sermon by Rev. Kenneth Shuping of St. Jude Catholic Church, Christiansburg, Virginia, U.S.A., given February 8, 2009 (source link here).
Jesus cured those who were sick. He healed those possessed. He traveled all over the countryside preaching the Word of God. He spent His life giving of Himself, caring for others. And we hear how he rose early in the morning, the only quiet time of the day that was left to Him, and found time to pray.
That's so important in a busy life: to find time to pray. Jesus remains centered on His mission, on His relationship with His Father in heaven, taking time to feel that communion in prayer.
In the story of Job, we hear of a man who suffers so much, who asks "Is not life on earth a drudgery?" where the work never seems to end and yet, he continues to turn to God, asking, seeking understanding, and remaining in faith. Without faith, the endless trials of life can leave us hopeless.
In the writings of St. Paul today, we hear of a man who offers himself completely as a slave to all for the sake of the gospel; a man who's driven to work constantly for the coming for the kingdom. His work has purpose. His work has a foundation in Christ. So, even though his work is tiring, Paul feels the reward. His need to preach, his obligation to share the word of God, is a burning desire inside of him that he can't silence. It comes from the realization that God has loved him, and has become man for Paul's salvation. And in feeling that love from God, which is totally selfless and totally giving, Paul needs to return that love. Paul feels the need to love in a way that's totally giving. So, he tries to become "all things to all, to save at least some." He tries to imitate the love he's found in God. This is what motivates his work, and sustains him so that life is not just a drudgery.
This centering on the reality of God's love for us helps us to understand what life is all about. It reminds us that God has loved us first, so that we can know what love truly is and respond in love to God. Remember that God is love: a deep, personal love of each one of us; a love that comes to us without merit, unearned, when we're still in our mother's womb still unable to recognize and appreciate that love; a love that remains with us even when we've proven our lack of merit by turning away from God through selfishness, through sinfulness; a love that always offers forgiveness; a love that risks itself by standing by us even in our sinful condition and following us into death.
This is the kind of God we have. God is love. How often do we remember that? How often do we take time from our busy day to reflect on how much God loves us?
"Rising very early before dawn, Jesus went off to a deserted place where he prayed."
When's our quiet time, when we can reflect on God's love for us? Where's our deserted place where we can set aside the anxieties and the noise and the urgency of trivia, and remember the depth of meaning in our lives?
And once we've carved that space out of each busy day to remember God's love, to pray, how do we respond to that love? How do we bring that reality of love into the rest of our day?
When Jesus had finished His prayer, He said, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." To share that love with others. Because loving our neighbor, is the way that we return that love that God's showered on us. And yes, Jesus had a very busy day and become tired from His work. And yes, St. Paul was constantly at work and suffered hardships. But they weren't slaves to the drudgery of life, waiting for their wages. Their work came from a burning desire within them to share the love that is God.
Love of neighbor leads us deeper into that encounter with God, because it leads us deeper into love. Closing our eyes to our neighbor blinds us from the love of God.
Find your own deserted place where you can get away from distractions. Find your own time before dawn, or after school, or in the quiet of the night when you can pray and remember God's love for you. Then take that love with you into your busy day and share it with everyone