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THE INTEGRATION OF CONTEMPLATION WITH MINISTRY
Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Sunday, 5th Week of the Year, February 08, 2009
Job 7:1-4,6-7; Ps 146; 1 Cor 9:16-19,22-23; Mk 1:29-39


"And in the morning a great while before day, he rose and went out to a desert place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him, Everyone is searching for you. And he said to them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out. And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons" (Mk 1:35-39).


We see here how Jesus integrates his preaching with silent, contemplative prayer. First he was preaching, casting out demons, and curing the sick. Then, "in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a desert place, and there he prayed" (Mk 1:35). Then immediately after praying alone "in a desert place," he said that he wanted to extend and expand his ministry and begin preaching in many other places as well. And he ended up preaching in the synagogues "throughout all Galilee" (Mk 1:39). We see also that his was a ministry that had power to cure the sick and cast out demons.


There are various things that we can learn from this Gospel passage. First of all, we see the connection between Jesus' ministry and his contemplative prayer. Then we see his zeal to broaden and expand his preaching ministry to reach more people. And finally, we see that he preached and ministered with power, and was even able to cure the sick and cast out demons.


Christ has also given us a ministry to preach the good news to the sick and to those who are troubled by demons, and he has also called us to silent, contemplative prayer "in a desert place," to which we are to withdraw very early in the morning, "a great while before day" (Mk 1:35). His prayer was, furthermore, the source of his power in his ministry and in his preaching; and it will be the same for us.


It is in silent, contemplative communion with God that we receive the power to preach Christ, to preach God's salvation in him. In order to preach well, we have to withdraw from other people and activities, and go to a solitary, "desert place," and be alone there with God, seated in silence and peace, praying in our heart, even without words or thoughts, and thus be refreshed by the love and presence of God as a light in our heart. After this, it is logical that we will want to do what Jesus wanted to do and did, namely, expand and broaden our preaching ministry to reach more and more people with the message of salvation.


We are new men in Jesus Christ through our faith in him (Eph 4:22-24). We are made a new creation, new creatures in him for the renewal and regeneration of the human race through our preaching. We are justified and made resplendent before God through our faith in Jesus Christ when we invoke the merits of his sacrificial and propitiatory death on the cross for us. And we walk in the new light of his resurrection when we believe in him, for his resurrection is his victory over our death and sin. Victorious in his death, his sacrifice for our sake having been accepted by God and our debt having been paid, God raised him glorious from the dead, thus demonstrating his victory, so that he might shine upon all who have been reborn in him through faith.


It is by faith, and in silent, contemplative prayer that we realize and experience this new creation and interior light that streams from the risen Christ. From this comes our zeal to preach Christ to others for their forgiveness, transformation, and illumination, that they too might be saved through Jesus Christ. Contemplative prayer gives us the power and the zeal to preach Christ and minister this salvation; and this ministry is one which has power to cure those who are sick in their hearts and depressed, and those troubled by demons. It can even cast out demons.


But we need to withdraw from the world and its entertainments in order to have an undivided heart in our love for Jesus Christ. He wants all of us, not just part of us. He wants all of our love, and wants us to seek only him in this world, that he be our only source of joy, sacrificing the delicacies and delights which the world offers, for only in this way will we be properly disposed for contemplative prayer with an undivided heart. Only in this way will we serve but one Lord only (Mt 6:24), and will we have but one treasure only (Mt 6:19-21). This is the way in which we leave all to obtain the buried treasure and the pearl of great price (Mt 13:44-46), and in this way we will respond positively to the call to perfection, given to the rich young man, to leave all to follow Christ (Mt 19:21). Only in this way will we be able to preach Christ with power, cast out demons, and cure the sick and those lying in sadness, depression, and sunk in their sin and guilt.


So we see that contemplation and the renunciation of the world and its delights have to be integrated with each other and with our preaching and ministry for them to have power.


 


 


 

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