5th Sunday in Ordinary Time           

            Somebody said that our society is filled with urgencies and emergencies. And true enough a lot of people have adopted or developed a very busy way of living. Many people live their lives by being busy or preoccupied attending to ‘urgencies’ and ‘emergencies’ in many aspects of life. Being busy has become a status symbol today. “Being busy” is equated to “being productive.” Being busy has become a social title of productivity.

            Our society has conditioned us to live with this idea: that we are what we produce or what we do. Our value or worth as a person is measured based on how much we produce and how much we have. In our desire to be productive and to be esteemed by society, we work very hard – harder than we can – we work to death.

            Isang bagay na madalas nating marinig – at tayo mismo ay nagsasabi nito: “Masyado akong busy… Kulang ang panahon ko, kulang ang 24/7, sa lahat ng bagay na gusto ko at dapat kong gawin.” Lagi akong pinapaalalahanan ng spiritual director ko: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”

            Today’s gospel tells us that in the midst of his very busy schedule – healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to the demand of impatient disciples, traveling from village to village, preaching from synagogue to synagogue – Jesus always found time to pray. “Rising very early before dawn, (Jesus) left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”

            For Jesus, the “deserted place” is simply a place of silence and reflection, a place of peace and solitude, a place of prayer and communion with God. It is in this deserted place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father, that his ministry is born. It is in this deserted place that Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own.

            May this “deserted place” be descriptive of our personal prayer life. I hope we realize that our day is not focused unless we begin with prayer. I hope we realize that in prayer we find our best friend… That in prayer we find ourselves… That in prayer we are reminded that no matter what the world says, God says our true identity is our being God’s beloved children, our being brothers and sisters in Christ, our being heirs of the Kingdom.

            Sad to say, we always excuse ourselves by saying, “I am so busy; I cannot find time to pray.” According to Fr. Nil Guillemette, a Christian should not thinkin terms of finding time for prayer, because that never works. “A Christian should think of making time for prayer.” “This means that prayer becomes the first item in one’s agenda.”

            Prayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence with open hands, naked, and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominant advice is, “Do your best and God will do the rest.” But, as Henri Nouwen says, “When life is divided into ‘our best’ and ‘God’s rest’, we have turned prayer into a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted.”

            Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.

            If we really want to pray, we plan our day with this attitude: “Today I will pray. Maybe I will not have time to eat… or to sleep… or to work… But one thing is sure: I will pray.” “Eating, sleeping, playing, working, resting is important, but not as important as praying.” “Prayer is the oxygen of my soul.”

            “Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” May this become a pattern in our life: We rise early… We go to Jesus… We come with him to a deserted place… And we spend time in communion and intimacy with God. Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, lead us to that deserted place where we can enter into intimacy with God. Make us realize that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure… that without a deserted place our actions quickly become empty gestures. We need a place and time to lay our worries before You and let Your Spirit heal us. We need a place and time to sort out our experiences and see things with greater clarity. Lord Jesus, bring us with You to that deserted place. Amen.      

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