February 9, 2003
Today’s gospel passage is a tremendously important one, because in today’s gospel, Jesus recognizes that he cannot do everything. As great as Jesus was, he shared fully in our humanity. Therefore, he had to live with limitations. He could not meet every need. This is what today’s gospel addresses. It describes the first day of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum. It was a very successful day. All of the sick, all those possessed by demons came to him. Soon, Mark tells us, that the whole city was standing outside of his door. As the word of Jesus’ power began to spread, it became likely that the next day would be an even more demanding day.
This is why when Jesus sneaks out early in the morning to pray, Simon and his companions hunt him down. For they know that there are more sick, more possessed who need to be healed. They say, “Everyone is looking for you.” Get to work! But Jesus surprises them, for he says, “No, we are not going to stay here in Capernaum. We are going to move on and preach the Good News in other towns as well.” Now it certainly would be great if Jesus could have done everything. It would be wonderful if he could have stayed in Capernaum and healed all the sick and possessed there, and also gone out to the other towns and villages in Galilee and done the same. But he had limited time, limited energy. He had to choose, and Jesus chose to move on.
Now here is the question that comes from today’s gospel: If Jesus knew that he could not do everything, why do we think we can? At this point it is probably clear that today’s homily does not intend to address everyone gathered here today. Those of you who are lazy and inactive can stop listening now. Those of you who spend the day simply taking up space, watching television and eating bon bons, this homily is not for you. But I have been pastor here long enough to know that there are very few people like that at St. Noel. Most of the people that I know are dedicated, committed people who give themselves day after day, hour after hour, to others. People who are committed to their job, to their children, to their family, to their neighbors, to their church, to their friends. Filled with generosity, they give and give, and sometimes live in the illusion that they can do everything.
If you are one of these people, then this homily is for you. Because if Jesus knew he could not do everything, why do you think you can? You see there is no shortage of need in the world. There are plenty of good deeds that could be done. The minute you say to others, “Here I am to meet your every need,” the city will gather outside your door, just at it did for Jesus. Therefore, the secret of living is not simply finding a good thing and doing it, but choosing what are the important good things that I have been asked to do. The secret of living is to prioritize, to decide what is most important in my life.
This is why Jesus seeks out a quiet place to pray, because with all the needs pressing in around him, he needs to discern, he needs to ask himself, “What is God calling me to do? Is God calling me to stay in Capernaum and heal all the needy people there? Or is God calling me to move on?” Out of that reflection, out of that prayer, Jesus came to the conclusion that his mission was to move on and spread the gospel. He had to choose. He had to say “no” to some people. He had to prioritize because he could not do everything.
So the message of today’s gospel, at least for some of us, is clear: We need to take time to ask ourselves what are the things that God is really calling us to do. Once we locate those things, we must take steps to assure that we do not short-change them. We should never feel guilty about saying “no” to other good things no matter how much other people want us to do them. We need to know our call and our responsibility to God. Jesus could not do everything. Neither can we.