By Mark chapter nine, Jesus is a big deal, a very big deal. He is the kind of prophet/miracle worker/wonderworker that had not been seen in Israel in quite a long time. John the Baptist was a prophet, there are no miracles attributed to him, and still, it says that “all of Judea” went to see him. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches with authority. He raises people from the dead and feeds thousands. So, yeah, you can understand why he would draw a crowd. Also, just to give a little context, we are talking about a period of history in which people went to the Oracle of Delphi to hear “prophesies” from a woman who sat over a fisher in the earth the releases gasses similar in composition to the fumes the modeling glue gives off. Large crowds traveled great distances to hear a woman, who was most likely quite stoned, say incomprehensible things.
My point is, the appetite for prophets, prophesy and miracles was big at the time.
Jesus could have easily set up shop and spoken to thousands every day. He could’ve lived a very comfortable life that way, and then gone to Jerusalem to walk the passion. But, he didn’t do that. What did he do instead? Mark chapter nine gives us some insight. It says that Jesus leaves for a trip through Galilee with his disciples, “but he did not wish anyone to know about it.”
Why the secret?
Jesus wasn’t about the show. Yes, he preached to large crowds. But, most of his time was spent in relationship with the twelve. There is something important there that we should really take notice of. The experience of life with Jesus was not about emotional highs and lows. It was not all about the mighty deeds or works of wonder. Yes, those things happened, and they are important, but the majority of the time that he spent with the apostles was spent just being together and talking, teaching in small groups.
How does that line up with your idea of life with Christ? For most of us, our practical experience of Christ is a once a week, rather large group celebration in which a mighty work of wonder takes place. If we are not careful, it can be like we are in the crowd at the multiplication of the loaves, not on the walk to Galilee. The Sunday Mass is absolutely part of our experience of faith, and it is essential. I’m not discounting that at all. But, I am saying that Jesus is also looking for intimate time with us as well. So, how do we find that?
Daily mass is a great place to start. If you have never been to daily mass, and only attend on Sundays with the large group, you are in for a surprise. Daily Mass is quieter. It is more reflective. It is...well, a lot less crowded. Because of that, it lends itself to a more intimate experience. Please note: I am not saying daily mass is better than the Sunday celebration. It is just different.
A daily time of prayer is vital in having intimate, meaningful time with the Lord. Setting aside even as little as 15 minutes makes a huge difference. Setting up a daily time of prayer sounds terrific, but in practice, it can be a little harder. Fr. Michael Scanlan wrote an excellent book on this called appointment with God. If you are looking to set up a daily time of prayer, Fr. Mike’s book could be a really valuable tool.
Think about it. Twelve guys. That’s a small group. If you really look at Jesus ministry, he often walked and taught in what we would call small groups. Maybe, as we read this passage of Mark, where Jesus makes a point to pull away and just be with the small group, we need to be challenged. Maybe we need to ask if we have a small group of people in our lives that we can walk with, in intimacy with the Lord?. Again, that can sound like a great idea, but in practice can be more difficult to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just call a couple people and get coffee. Pray together. Ask God to inform the conversation, and then share life. Share victories, share struggles and listen as much as you talk. Also, read some scripture together. Invite God to build his Kingdom among you, and you will find he wants to do just that.
Jesus knew the importance of speaking to large crowds. He knew the importance of miracles and prophecy. But, he also invested in relationships with an intimate group of followers. Maybe its time we added that to our Everyday Catholic lives as well.