And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.–Mark 1:35 (read 29-45 for full context; from the Daily Office for the Wednesday after the First Sunday of Lent.)
I keep coming back to this passage in Mark. Maybe it’s because I’m a spiritual director and “professional Christian,” or maybe it is simply because it’s so noteworthy; in the midst of his busy schedule, Jesus gets away to pray. Musically, this is a whole rest in the middle of a frenetic passage.
Different translations use different words to describe where Jesus went. I happen to like to think of Jesus in a “desolate” place, but the words “deserted,” “secluded,” and “solitary” are all useful. Suffice it to say that Jesus went off to a distraction-free environment. He did this in order to pray, i.e. meet with God, his Father.
Have you ever thought about what Jesus’ relationship with Our Father must have been like? If “prayer without ceasing” is one of the things we were called to, certainly Jesus was doing this. And we know that Jesus had the Holy Spirit (see Mark 1:11), so presumably Jesus could be in constant mind-meld contact with God the Father at all times. Yet even with that being the case, he got away from his mission/work to spend quiet, dedicated, uninterrupted time with the Father.
How much more then, brothers and sisters, do we need this?
To me, the other striking thing in this passage is that Jesus made a change after this early morning conference. He moved from Capernaum to “other towns.” I was reading this recently and realized Jesus could have just stayed in Capernaum. He had a good audience for his teaching and there were many to heal–certainly he hadn’t healed the whole town from Simon’s doorway. There was unfinished business in Capernaum, and everyone was looking for him. Jesus’ time alone with the Father helped him to say no to the pressing needs and move on to spread the Gospel. It was not a change in his mission, but a change in how he accomplished it. A very humbling reminder for those of us who think we know our mission.
Lord, teach us to listen to you carefully and give us a willingness to change our plans each day in accordance to what we hear. Amen.