Balance and Focus

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 — Week of 3 Easter

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 960)

Psalms 38 (morning) // 119:25-48 (evening)

Daniel 5:1-12

1 John 5:1-12

Luke 4:38-44

We see a pattern in Luke’s account of Jesus’ work. As the sun sets on the sabbath, a new week begins, not unlike our Monday morning. People who are sick come to Jesus, and he does his primary work as a healer. The emotionally or mentally troubled come into his presence and find coherence. We assume that at some time later in the evening he goes to sleep.

Early in the morning, at daybreak, Luke tells us that Jesus “departed and went into a deserted place.” This is one of a number of times in Luke’s account when he speaks of Jesus’ praying. Jesus finds time alone with God. In that time alone, he is able to find direction and clear self-definition.

Some people find him from the crowds he had served in previous night. They urge him to return. But Jesus sets an intentional boundary. “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So Jesus leaves to take the good news to the other villages and to their synagogues.

We are reminded of his teaching, as Luke introduced it earlier in this chapter. It is a message of liberation, primarily directed toward the poor and oppressed. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (I wrote Monday of the profound economic and political weight of this message. Jesus was challenging economic and political powers with his words.)

Work, rest, prayer, focus. There is a healthy pattern in this illustration of a day in the life of Jesus. There is balance in his day. Benedictine spirituality makes daily balance a central practice. In a balanced day there is adequate time for work, for rest and recreation, for prayer, for study, for relationships.

If Jesus needed to depart and to go into a deserted place, how much more do we? Daily renewal through prayer, meditation, and reflection — maybe exercise and study as well — these are things that help fill our bodies, minds and spirits.

I am looking forward soon to a retreat that I take with some friends each year. It will be time away. There will be time for prayer, for rest, for reflection on my life and my work. If past experience is any clue, I will return re-energized and more focused. Sometimes going on from demand to demand can make us pretty blurry. Rest and prayer helps restore focus.

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