As soon as they 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.’
Simon’s mother-in-law was not the only person to be made well that day. Jesus had been in the synagogue in Capernaum, teaching. While there, he commanded an unclean spirit to leave the one it had afflicted. Later, he took Simon’s mother-in-law’s hand and lifted her up, and she was healed, renewed. Such action demonstrated Jesus’ active involvement in the process of healing and renewal. Now, he himself needed to be renewed. Getting up early, he went to a deserted place where, through time alone in prayer, he could be renewed in both physical and mental strength.
Jesus was renewed through prayer. We can do likewise, though we may simultaneously be sorting recycling, turning compost or doing other tasks. Everyone needs to recharge. It is not always easy to recognise when we need to recharge to be renewed.
Like us, the earth is a finite resource. We need to ask ourselves, if we take fish from the sea, mine minerals and only replace loss with pollution and profit, where is the renewal? Renewal of the earth is not new to this century: Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century coined the term ‘viriditas’, the greening power of the Divine, connecting it closely with creativity. Isaiah, too, recognised the renewing power of hoping in God (Isaiah 40:31).
Our churches need renewal. Agricultural land is renewed by leaving it fallow. There’s renewal when we use renewable energy sources. ‘The Task of Renewal is a responsibility for us all, encompassing all aspects of our lives, family, race, economy, politics, education, equality [and health], including the whole planet and everything in it, on it and surrounding it.’¹
More than that, prayer leads to us better understanding our role in the world. At the COP in 2015, we got commitments. 2021 needs positive, prayerful action. Jesus renewed through healing and prayer. He is renewing the Earth by his resurrection. Let us fulfil his mission of renewal.
¹ ‘The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review’, February 2021
Renew us to the task here and now.
We have polluted the earth;
harming, starving, exploiting, exterminating;
concurring with systems where few gain and most lose.
Renew us to a just equilibrium for all your Creation.
Forgiving Lord, guide us.
Renew us to the task we must face.