Today’s gospel (MK 1:29-39) finds Jesus very busy. The text recounts his ministry in this manner: he goes to synagogue (likely to preach) with some of his disciples, then to the house of Simon Peter whose mother-in-law lies ill. He heals her, eats a meal, maybe has a little respite and then spends what appears to be a very long time healing all those who came to him with various maladies. Hoping for a little time to himself and God, he gets up before dawn the next day and goes to a deserted place to pray where, hopefully he got a brief chance to recharge. Nevertheless, he was interrupted by his friends who found him and said, “Everyone is looking for you.” His response sounds immediate and affirmative. “Let us go on to nearby villages,” he said, “that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
I often feel sorry for Jesus who always seemed to be at the mercy of others – often large crowds – as he performed the ministry of itinerant preacher and inspired teacher. But then I think of what ministry is about. I’m not just thinking of people who work for a church or a charitable organization. Rather, ministry engages those who follow the dictum of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself knowing that ministry isn’t always easy or conformable to a schedule. Responding to needs can be a messy business and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish what is correct action in the moment. In the long run, however, the example of Jesus is quite convincing that following his lead is its own reward.