Towards the end of today’s gospel passage, Simon and those with him found Jesus and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus replied, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” What is the source of this conviction that Jesus has about the purpose for which he came? He did many things before this time. Now, more people are seeking his attention. But Jesus would not give in; he instead redirected Simon to where he felt he was supposed to be at that time. How was Jesus so convinced of the next step in his ministry? I found the answer a few lines before Simon spoke to Jesus. Mark writes, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”

So, the key to Jesus’ conviction is prayer. He woke up very early to consult with his Father before facing the day’s task. From prayer, he got the clarity he needed for the job ahead of him.

As a little child growing up in Nigeria, I learned to sing, “Prayer is the key, prayer is the key, prayer is the master key; Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer; prayer is the master key.” From prayer, Jesus found answers to questions; from prayer, Jesus found his directions and his directives. Jesus was not lazy. I shared last Sunday that in Mark’s account of the Gospel, Jesus was a man of action. From one action, he moved immediately to another. However, he had time for his prayer. St. Francis de Sales once said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”

St. Francis’ saying implies that the heavier our workload, the more help we need from God. That is why those who do not come to Mass because they are very busy or because they have many jobs need to have a rethink. St. Augustine once said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Jesus was a man of action, yet that did not keep him away from prayer, especially praying very early in the morning before taking any action.

Prayer does not mean running away from the problems of this world. Prayer does not mean running away from our responsibilities. Prayer does not mean living an unrealistic life. Prayer is going to God so that we may discover the meaning behind our actions. Prayer is going to God so that we may see things through God’s eyes. Sometimes, the things that weigh us down, if we look at them through God’s eyes, may no longer have the weight we accord them.

In prayer, we get the grace of discernment to know which is necessary of the many things calling our attention. In prayer, we also find divine favor, the favor that brings about the fruition of the seeds we plant. Scripture says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Sometimes, we think our success comes just by the number of hours we work or the number of jobs we do. But if God does not bless the works of our hands, our hard work may look like pouring water in a basket, working so hard, and yet finding no results.

Jesus relied on his Father through prayer. As such, he knew what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. And his works bore fruits. His public ministry lasted only three years, yet it still bears fruits. My dearly beloved in Christ, as we take pride in the so many things we do, we must remember that our help ultimately comes from God. As we continue through the changes and chances of this life, may God continue to bless the works of our hands until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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