We can all make so many airtight excuses for skipping or shortening our time of prayer: I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I already know what God wants me to do.
If anyone was entitled to use these excuses, surely it was Our Lord himself. Today’s gospel tells us that he had stayed up late healing every person who came to his doorstep, an effort that must have exhausted him. Our Lord already lived in complete union with the Father, so he clearly knew the fullness of the divine plan and his central role in it. And yet at daybreak he went away to find a lonely place where he could focus his complete attention upon God.
In that solitude, Our Lord made an important decision. Even though there were plenty of people right there in need—people determined enough to discover his solitary place—it was time for him to move on.
At this point, Our Lord may not have had a clear picture of how his ministry would develop. He only knew that the next step was to leave Capernaum. In the next chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, we see him extending God’s forgiveness as a channel to healing, ministering to spiritual as well as physical needs. He calls apostles to share in his life and be formed to take up his work. This was a slow and often frustrating process, but essential if his message is to continue after his death. And already Our Lord begins to come into conflict with the religious establishment.
We too are bombarded with needs and demands. The needs are real, and God may be inviting us to take action in order to meet them. But we may not be God’s answer to every one of them. Sometimes these very genuine demands represent a distraction from what God really wants us to do. Discerning the difference requires prayerful solitude and silent listening. It may require a willingness to say “no” to one thing before we have a clearer picture of the next time we say “yes.”