In this week’s Gospel, we witnessed the miraculous healing powers of Jesus. He healed Simon’s mother-in-law, cured many others and drove out demons throughout Galilee. Since the world has been riddled with deadly sickness for almost a year now, this Gospel seems so fitting; it serves as comfort, inspiration, and hope for healing in the midst of the pandemic, as the distribution of vaccines continues to expand.
In addition to Jesus’ tireless work to cure all types of disease, I was also struck by his quiet and intentional prayer. After a day of healing the entire town, Jesus rose before dawn “and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Undoubtedly exhausted, Jesus still carved out time to pray before another long day of work. I believe Jesus is modeling the Ignatian value of being a contemplative in action for us.
In March 2020, I had the privilege of traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border for an immersion experience with a group of John Carroll University students. We spent one week humanizing the highly politicized issue of immigration with the Kino Border Initiative. Through this experience, I realized the importance of centering prayer and reflection in working for justice.
We spent most of our time at El Comedor, where migrant families can get hot meals, clothing, personal care items and social service assistance. The group was divided into two teams. One team worked in the kitchen while the other spoke to the migrants waiting to enter. The kitchen was fast-paced. We worked as quickly as possible to make room for the long line of people. The environment outside was the opposite. We engaged in thoughtful conversations with the migrants who were generous enough to share their stories with strangers.
We also ended each night in prayer. We recounted our experiences, shared people’s stories, and reflected on how they impacted us and our understanding of immigration. We prayed for the safety and well-being of the migrants we met and set intentions for the following day.
Listening to the migrants’ stories and praying about them with my immersion community is what fueled our work. These reflective practices transformed the seemingly mundane task of serving food into serving people made in the image of God.
Being a contemplative in action means staying grounded in our beliefs, purpose, and vision while we fight for justice on the ground. Prayer enables us to do this. Prayer is unifying, energizing, lifegiving and, above all, healing.
Only after praying to our heavenly Father did Jesus boldly proclaim, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” We are called to follow Jesus’ example by allowing the power of prayerful contemplation to inform our radical actions.
Josie Schuman is a former ISN intern and graduate of John Carroll University. She is currently a member of the Urban Catholic Teacher Corp at Boston College, pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction while teaching 5th grade English. Josie is passionate about faith-based antiracist education and hopes to inspire students of color to use reading and writing as tool for social change.