The First Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s readings, God gives us some idea of his mind and heart, of his desire to become like us in every way. We are people of flesh and blood, and afraid of death, and so God sent his Son to become a human being like us, and to go through death himself. Because of Jesus, death is no longer something to be afraid of, for perfect friendship with him casts out fear. He had to become like us in every way so that he might be a “merciful and faithful” Friend, someone we can count on when we are tempted because he himself knows what it means to be tempted. Friendship with Jesus is possible because he is a human being like us; he knows us better than we do ourselves and keeps in touch with us by means of the Eucharist. In the readings, we hear his voice, and in communion, we receive his body and blood.
The Gospel shows us what Jesus does as God’s closest friend. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Conversation with God is necessary for the same reason that conversation with a friend is necessary: when we love someone, we have to tell them so sometimes; it’s not enough to know that there are bonds of mutual affection between us. Prayer is the language of friendship with God: Jesus came to show us how to live, not as servants, but as friends. His knowledge of prayer came from his knowledge of human friendship. When a friendship comes from God, that friendship is something that gives new life to all that we are and all that we do, it deserves to have time devoted to it which is given up entirely to rediscovering it with trust and gratitude.
Friendship with God works the same way. If we are really friends with Jesus, and if his God is to be our God, then we must set apart some time for prayer, when we share with God the insights he has given us of what we are for him and what he is for us. Jesus himself made a point of going off to a lonely place in order to pray, and we too need to renew our friendship with God by setting aside some time for prayer during all the events of the day.
That is how Christ lived. He had so much trust in his Father, and valued his friendship so much, that he found hours to spend with his Father in silence. Certainly, he was also at prayer when he was healing Simon’s mother-in-law and preaching in the synagogues, but he always found time when prayer was his only activity when he could renew his friendship with God in the secret places of his heart. He valued these times because they were filled with God, and made their influence felt in everything he did. This time we spend at Mass is one of those times for renewing our friendship with God. Let us ask Jesus, on the grounds of our friendship with him, to make us completely like him, disciples who are like their Master.
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