As soon as [Jesus and the disciples] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
When fame begins to catch up with him Jesus heads for the mountains or for a lonely place (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16; 6:12; Jn 6:3, 15). See also tomorrow’s reading. In today's reading, when they told him everyone was looking for him he said, ‘Let’s go somewhere else.’ There is a wrong kind of fame. Many people do everything they can to be famous, and some even resort to criminal acts. Having perhaps a deficient sense of identity they crave notice: the notice of a crowd will persuade them that they exist.
But on a smaller scale we all want to have our existence noted by at least a few people. Anyone who can live even for a while in a desert must get over the need for recognition. Many have gone to live in solitude because they needed to get over it completely. Their hope is that they will discover their true identity, which is, if we are to believe Julian of Norwich, as deep as God. “I saw most surely that it is quicker for us and easier to come to the knowledge of God than it is to know our own soul. For our soul is so deeply grounded in God and so endlessly treasured that we cannot come to knowledge of it until we first have knowledge of God, who is the Creator to whom it is united.”
But for very self-conscious people, their own self is audience enough. Bishop Fénelon (1651 – 1715) wrote, “By fixing the mind wholly upon God, [abandonment to God] takes away the disposition of the soul to occupy itself with reflex acts; that is, with the undue examination and analysis of its own feelings.” And again, “"The one who prays perfectly is never thinking how well he prays." External solitude is not enough; we have to get rid of the invisible audience that follows us around; we have to enter into inner solitude. It was because he was able to enter into inner solitude that Jesus was able to be so fully present to people when he came down from the mountain.
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