“So much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
After healing of the leper in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told him; “Go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded….” It is interesting to note that this was the same thing Jesus said to the ten lepers who received their healing while they were going to the priest. In this incidence, Jesus shows the depth of his respect for the priesthood as well his willingness to abide by the rules.
Jesus never joked with his devotions. As our Gospel passage concludes, whenever he was done attending to the great crowds, he always withdrew to the wilderness all by himself to pray! Jesus had a regular pattern of prayers. He never missed the meetings in the synagogues. As Luke puts it: “he went to the synagogue, as his custom was…” (Luke 4:16)
To be devoted to our religious customs and traditions is one precious gift we can offer to God. Serving God should never be a matter of convenience. It demands personal discipline. If you always wait to “feel like” doing something before you do it, then that thing is not important to you. If you only pray when you feel like, it means that to you, God is just like ice cream or pizza. Devotion is a commitment to something you consider to be higher than you.
Every devotional activity requires a large dose of faith. If you must pray or obey the laws of the church (as Jesus instructed the leper to do), then you must first believe that God exists and that even if you can’t see Him physically, God is in his ministers. Faith keeps us going. As St. John teaches us, faith is our victory over the world. “Who is it that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1st John 5:5).
Without faith, our acts of devotion become lifeless. No wonder the book of Hebrews teaches us that without faith, we cannot please God “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace to carry on my devotions when I feel burdened by the cross. Amen.
Bible Study: 1st John 5:5-13, Psalm 72 and Luke 5:12-16).