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He got up and went to pray | Gospel of February 4

By 31 January, 2024No Comments
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Gospel according to Saint Mark 1:29-39:

On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

He got up and went to pray

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, February 04, 2024 | V Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 7: 1-4.6-7; 1Cor 9: 16-19.22-23; Mk 1: 29-39

Visiting our community in Terni (Italy) two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to dialogue with a group of Idente Youth. I had prepared a dialogue on the person of Christ and I began with a question: What was the occupation of Jesus? hoping that they would answer “carpenter’s apprentice” or something like that, in order to lead them little by little to see the deeper reality of his person. But my strategy was fulminated by the first little girl’s blunt and accurate answer: Jesus’ occupation was prayer.

Listening to today’s Gospel, we adults may not have the purity and insight of that little girl, and we may dwell on the amazing series of wonders Christ performed, healing multitudes of the sick and casting out demons. However, there is one line that cannot be overlooked: While it was still very dark he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

St. Francis de Sales humorously compares the human being to a pendulum clock, saying that regardless of its quality, it must always be recharged and set on time twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. Furthermore, in answer to the question about how to pray, he replied: Only half an hour is necessary, but if you are very busy, an hour is necessary. This is reflected in today’s Gospel: Jesus does not retire to pray when he finds free time, but in the midst of intense activity, when everyone is looking for Him.

We are well aware that this is NOT a problem of priorities or use of time. The key is to live a state of continuous prayer, in which there may be moments, which may be seconds, minutes, perhaps an hour or several days, in which we vigorously unite ourselves to Christ in his essential plea: To know the will of the Father. However, let us not lose sight of what the Gospels suggest to us, that Jesus was systematic in his prayer life. During the day he preached, he healed… and during the night he prayed. The Founders of all religious communities have taken this up in many different ways.

To continue with one of the metaphors of the holy Bishop of Geneva, prayer should resemble what happens in a boat: sometimes we row with the strength of our arms and at other times we feel the strength of the Holy Spirit, who pushes our sails.

Our father Founder never ceased to insist on continuous attention, subject to the silence that we impose on our preoccupations: If you do not have that intimate prayer and that moral conduct of integrity, in the midst of the dispersion of the many things of each day, because they are inevitable, you will never be able to hear Him (…) Know that all the prayer of this world is summed up in a single word: Father, I am listening to you (The Idente Charism).

A farmer was once asked why his sheep kept getting lost, even though they were inside a fence. His answer was: All they do is eat… until they get lost. They duck their heads and wander from one green area to another. They graze a bramble and wander off somewhere else. Sometimes they come to a hole in the fence, go through it, but never find their way back. But there is a parallel between the sheep and us: We eat and we get lost; we work and we get lost; we think and we get lost. Getting lost seems to be our favorite activity. We do not look up. We wander from one illusion or desire to another. We stick our heads in the cave and cannot see our way back.

Christ, together with his disciples, worked intensely, even at moments without time to rest or eat (Mk. 6:31). But they did not lose themselves, not even in this sublime task of evangelization.

It is important to insist that prayer is not only for critical or desperate moments. Nor is it exclusively for people in difficulty. Christ did not grow up in a dysfunctional family, nor did he suffer from emotional conflicts or personality disorders. He was not depressed nor did He have doubts about His mission. However, He prayed and we do not.

There are too many issues in our lives that we do NOT imagine can become prayer. That explains why people who do live in prayer make an effort to explain by how many ways, in how many ways prayer leads us to unite ourselves with the Divine Persons; we speak therefore of apostolic prayer, prayer of gratitude, prayer of forgiveness, prayer of intercession… every instant demands a form of prayer which, essentially, means a form of offering, as all religions have intuited by offering sacrifices of many kinds.

Today is a very appropriate day to discern how, in the midst of our activity and concerns, without leaving this world, we can share everything with the Divine Persons. They will take care of purifying our intentions. Perhaps, in order to avoid getting lost like sheep, the first step is to ask: How can I now eat, sleep, suffer, study, clean, walk, talk, listen, laugh, cry… so that it may be of some use in your kingdom?


The Second Reading fits well with the Gospel’s description of Jesus’ activity today. St. Paul, too, feels pushed relentlessly to proclaim the Gospel that he once hated and persecuted. Many of us do not feel this passion, this deep need. Some Christians and religious want to proclaim the Gospel “so that we will be more numerous,” or because they really speak well and feel comfortable being listened to, or out of obligation. St. Paul confesses that he does not do it for pleasure, nor to receive payment or remuneration.

Without using fancy or sophisticated words, St. Paul recognizes that the prize received is precisely… to proclaim the Gospel. It is not difficult to understand. It is the satisfaction of one who knows that he is doing the greatest possible good. A teacher who finishes his class satisfied, a doctor who successfully completes his operation or a writer who finishes a novel that pleases him, feel gratified… but they always have the impression that they can do something greater.

Going beyond professional activities, mothers and fathers who sacrifice themselves for a child, accepting very hard work, ingratitude or loneliness, or the person who dedicates the whole day to take care of a sick person, who requires physical, affective and spiritual attention, feel that their life is fulfilling, even if it is fraught with discomfort and unrealized projects.

Witnessing to the Gospel, by word, by being an example of mercy or by forgiving any offense, is a privilege that provides the highest level of fulfillment, because it certainly demands the total surrender of one’s life.

Of course, not all those called to propagate the Gospel spirit are willing to live with detachment from their judgments, desires and parallel intentions, which always leads to some form of scandal, especially the double life, which always comes to light with devastating effects.

In some countries, or in certain cultures, it is easy for a consecrated person to abuse this condition, because it represents a social status or provides notable material comforts. This is only one of the ways in which the mission of transmitting the Gospel can be corrupted and St. Paul makes mention today of this danger, carrying out his mission gratuitously, without using the right that the preaching of the Gospel gives him. For others, the corruption can consist in the fact that their preaching, or their supposedly consecrated life, is only a way of evading the responsibility that a family or a demanding job demands.

When do I – like St. Paul, like Peter’s mother-in-law – feel enthusiastic about service?

– When I see that, in spite of appearances, my efforts always bear fruit, they never remain sterile. Even if my eyes do not see the conversion of a single person, the seed will not die. It remains in the eyes and hearts of people the fact that another way of living is possible, because Christ is a historical figure who, moreover, becomes visible in those who are faithful.

– When I remember that I am not alone in my task, but that, despite my limitations and my sins, it is the Spirit who makes my perseverance possible. The awareness that I can be an instrument used by God to draw people to himself, is comparable to no other consolation, regardless of the fact that I live this task with perennial fear and trembling: I was among you in weakness and fear and much trembling and my message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1Cor 2: 3-5).

– When I realize that NOTHING could replace this mission of living and transmitting the Gospel, if I really do it with the sacrifice of my life and my fame, which is NOT a possibility, but a constant. The experience of the disciples confirmed the truth of the Master’s words. One day He asked them, “When I sent you without purse and scrip and sandals, did you lack anything?” They answered, “No” (Lk 22: 35).


The First Reading is a look at the problem of evil, pain and suffering. It is something ancient, universal and permanent. Twenty-two centuries before Christ, an Egyptian author wrote the well-known Dialogue of a desperate man with his soul, where the possibility of suicide is contemplated.

In Job’s case, misfortune comes to him as the loss of his children, his health, his property… and his wife encourages him to take his own life, because, like the four friends who visit Job, she thinks that everything is a punishment from Yahweh, according to the terrible interpretation of illness and pain that prevailed in his time.

Of course, it is admirable the faith and patience of this colossus of the Old Testament, who finds in this world the consolation and the confirmation that God listens to him, accompanies him and is not the source of any curse.

In today’s Gospel, Christ does not give lessons on pain, nor does He eliminate it from the face of the earth. In fact, at another time He will declare: The poor you will always have with you (Jn 12: 8). But, at the same time, He is sensitive to all suffering and that is why he heals the physical and mental ailments of those who come to him. However, He immediately decides to go to other places where they hope to hear the message that will allow them to live with hope in the midst of pain and difficulties. That is why he reminds the disciples: For this purpose I have come.

Peter’s mother-in-law, whom Christ cured, had to die, we do not know how or when, but what is certain is that when she met Jesus she put herself at the service of others. That is the most important characteristic of those who are healed by Christ.

Those who suffer abandonment, the afflicted, the sick, those with disabilities, are not second-class disciples, but have the opportunity to show, more clearly than the healthy, patience and life in limitation and suffering. And, not least, their weakness is a call for our lukewarm compassion to be transformed into vigorous Christian mercy as we approach them. God is not going to replace us; he expects from us the active mercy that transforms us and makes us authentic messengers of His.

We must fight against pain and sickness by every means, but Christ subjected himself to terrible sufferings, demonstrating that pain is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.


In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,