January 16, 2019
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 307

Hebrews 2:14-18
Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
Mark 1:29-39

Praying Ordinary Time

During my studies at Fordham University I frequently went to the nearby Botanical Gardens and its neighbor, the Bronx Zoo.  On one of my expeditions to the Zoo, I watched a Polar Bear in the pool just outside his house.  The big white fellow was playing with an empty beer keg, just pushing it around his pool randomly. 

I watched him for a long time and began to consider the point of his exercise.  Seemed to me he was simply enjoying himself with his keg.  Just playing around with nothing else to do but enjoy.  His activities allowed me to simply relax and enjoy his leisurely movements.  But I was conscious of something more important and deeper was happening to me.

We read in Mark’s gospel today of the activities of Jesus; these early verses of Mark are a kind of summary of what Jesus committed himself to throughout his public life: healing of people’s ills.  Healing, preaching God’s Kingdom, and simply being the attractive person he was, by drawing wide interest among “the crowds” and especially among his special friends, the disciples.  “he cured many who were sick. . . and he drove out many demons not permitting them to speak. . .”

Following a cure of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus was beleaguered by crowds of her neighbors, “They brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  The whole town gathered at the door.”  Jesus deals with them as they need him to minister to their ills.

The next morning, he arose and went to a deserted place where he prayed.  I finally understood what my Polar Bear friend was telling me.  Relax; don’t take life so seriously; give way to and thoroughly enjoy the presence of God who generously provides for your welfare.

Jesus recognizes the interplay between his gracious activity among those in need and the need himself to acknowledge the relationship with his Father God.  That relationship is central to his work, his words, and especially to himself as God’s son.

So today I am taught by Jesus himself and by a beautiful white Bear to seek out the center of my own life.  My relationship with God is the very centerpiece of my life, whatever its contours, its ups and downs.  My call to discipleship is to acknowledge that centrality by doing what Jesus does (“he prayed”).

Loving God help me to learn slowly but surely that you are the source of my life.  Be with me as I relax into your presence and acknowledge and praise you as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.  Quiet me by your presence and let your love prevail.  Let me find Polar Bear like enjoyment of your goodness, love and presence in my sometimes-chaotic life.

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