Dec. 6: The ministry of presence

(Luke Ellis Craven / Unsplash)

Dec. 6: First Wednesday of Advent

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Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. (Mt 15:29).

The Jesus of Matthew’s Gospel is a man of action. He traverses the towns of his disciples, proclaiming his message and healing the sick. He strides through grain fields on the Sabbath, crosses the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and even travels outside Israel to Tyre and Sidon. Yet some of the most important moments of Jesus’ ministry—including the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5—occur when he is sitting down.

On one level, writing for a Jewish audience, the evangelist Matthew is indicating that Jesus teaches as a rabbi would teach (following the ancient custom of standing for the reading of the Scripture scroll and sitting afterwards to expound on what had been read). But for us, the lesson in our busy, even frenetic lives, is that sometimes the best thing to do is . . . nothing. Jesus’ quiet and unmoving presence on the mountain renders him approachable and available.

Paradoxically, Christ’s formidable power derives from his calm stasis. For us, it can be a challenge to sit still. Our culture seems to value activity over essence, doing over being, and our human tendency is to want to fix a problem or resolve a difficult situation—right now.

This small vignette of Jesus climbing up onto the mountain and sitting as the crowds flock to him is a reminder that staying busy is not always the best way to heal the broken world. The ministry of presence—simply being available to others and listening for the call that is embedded in the situation at hand—can be a powerful ministry.

O God of peace, speak to us in the quiet spaces of our lives and help us find the balance between doing and being. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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