In our Gospel today, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was in the southern part of Palestine, near the Jordan River when he heard that John been arrested. So he made a decision: he left the Province of Judea and his hometown of Nazareth and he moved to a city in Galilee called Capernaum. That city was to become his home, his base of operations for the next three years, and those three years that followed that decision were going to be the most influential years ever spent by a human being: they would change history dramatically forever. So how did that happen? How did Jesus go from being a young 30 year old man, barely known outside of his home town, who had never drawn particular attention to himself of done anything extraordinary, to this? I ask the question because if we think over the last three years of our lives, I would bet that we would say that we were quite busy, we did many things, but did they change history, even a little? Or perhaps more realistically, did they change the lives of at least some people for the better? If our answer is no, or at least not very much, what were we doing?
The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all speak about Jesus’ decision as the birth of a new light for the people: the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. I suppose we too would like to think our lives are, or have been, a light for people around us. But this decision of Jesus just didn’t happen: his decision to begin his public ministry, and the way he spent his next three years, wasn’t automatic. One all important thing preceded those three years, and was the cause of it. Do you know what that was? If you go back to the Gospels and read what Jesus did before this decision, you will see it. First, He had just finished forty days of prayer in the desert; second, He had been baptised by John, where he also was praying. And before that? Before that Jesus spent about 30 years of his life in the longest retreat ever recorded, with Mary and Joseph, learning how to pray, read the scriptures, and understand Himself and what He was supposed to do in the world.
We spend most of our lives as very busy people; perhaps some of us have even been quite successful, made a lot of money, or have a certain status. But if we ever want to really do something that will become a light for the world, I am convinced that will come about only if make our decisions after doing just what Jesus did: pray. It certainly worked for Jesus, and if even Jesus had to do so, how much more must this be for us? So I think that a very good resolution for this New Year would be to schedule in a retreat, and the longer the better. And don’t make excuses, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at prayer, or know how to pray like some saintly mystic: just give yourself some time to try. There is no better investment of our time if we want to do something important with our lives that really would help our loved ones and the world around us.