When I was ordained to the diaconate in December 1990, the Bishop called us each by name. “Why have you come to this place?” Each of us stood up in turn and said: “I have come to serve.” [In fact, the word “Deacon” in Greek means “one who serves.”] I have to remember those words, uttered in New York 22 years ago, when I’m tired of people and just want to be left alone in my room. All of us are happiest when we help others; we are hard wired for the stewardship of service.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is weary of the crowds and just wanted to get away by himself. The previous day the “whole town was gathered at his door.” Everyone wanted a free cure, he must’ve been exhausted. You have had days like that, perhaps, when everyone needs you to do something for them. So the next day Jesus gets up very early and goes alone to a deserted place to pray. But soon enough Peter and the others found him, and said “everyone is looking for you.” Jesus simply says, “let us go…for this purpose I have come.” He had taken his time for prayer, and now it was time to get back to work. “Prayer and work,” the rhythm of any Christian life. Mother Teresa expressed this beautifully on the little cards she would give out: “Prayer is the fruit of silence; faith is the fruit of prayer; love is the fruit of faith; service is the fruit of love.” Prayer leads us to serve others. A Christian who prays but does not serve is kind of a dud, a “failure to launch.”
Jesus cures Peter’s mother in law, and immediately she “waited on them.” And St. Paul in the second reading: “I have been entrusted with a stewardship.” Yes, each of us has been entrusted with a stewardship. In the first reading, Job complains that he cannot sleep at night, that his life is a misery. He is suffering from a long-term situational depression. Many of us go through dark periods when just getting out of bed is the greatest struggle. We’ve lost any reason to get up. That’s when we’ve got to recall those words: “I have come to serve.” Jesus calls me out of bed, even after a sleepless night, to serve the world with Him. Get up, the sun is rising, and Jesus is with us!